Polish Club's recipe for Now We're Cookin' went through several taste tests

JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS: Polish Club's John-Henry Pajak and David Novak didn't take it personally when their label rejected their initial set of demos.
JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS: Polish Club's John-Henry Pajak and David Novak didn't take it personally when their label rejected their initial set of demos.

IT'S ironic that the cover of Polish Club's album Now We're Cookin' depicts David Novak (guitar, vocals) and John-Henry Pajak (drums) as meat sandwiched inside a hamburger ready to be devoured.

The Sydney indie two-piece felt pressure from their label, Island Records, to deliver a sizzling slice of indie-pop hits on their third full-length effort.

The success of the track Clarity, from 2019's Iguana, had everyone buoyed that more pop hooks were coming.

Perhaps a break-out single, which could feature high in triple j's Hottest 100 and even cross-over to commercial radio.

Instead Polish Club decided to write a classic rock album after gorging themselves on AC/DC and Thin Lizzy.

"We did want this album to be more of a classic rock vibe, but really quickly figured out the people who work around our band weren't interested in that at all," Pajak laughs over a three-way Zoom call, that includes Novak, from lockdown in Sydney.

"We quickly switched back into the pop thing. I don't know why we assumed our label would want a classic rock album?"

According to Novak the label's response was, "I don't get it."

What is refreshingly apparent is the lack of pretension Novak and Pajak hold for their music.

While Pajak admits the duo initially threw "the toys out of the cot", but they picked them up and "put it back in again."

Novak agrees they were "massively shitted off". However, he's also a pragmatist and realises the label "pay for it."

"We're not really precious about anything," Pajak says. "Some songwriters spend a lot of time crafting and have passion and emotion and put personal experience into the song, every lyric and song is very personally important.

"If someone says it's no good, it's like, 'it came from me, so f--k you'.

"When we did this record and our first 12 demos, our team has gone 'this is all shit' and we're like 'oh well, we'll write more, I suppose'."

After taking their label's criticism on board Novak and Pajak searched for inspiration in the pop charts from the likes of Canadian superstar The Weeknd.

It led to a feverish writing period and almost 90 demos, in varying degrees of completion.

TASTY: The cover of Now We're Cookin'.

TASTY: The cover of Now We're Cookin'.

The first half of Now We're Cookin' is undoubtedly the poppiest record Polish Club have produced, while still maintaining elements of garage soul rock that caught fire on their self-titled EP (2015) and debut album Alright Already (2017).

Lead single Stop For A Minute with its disco beat and warnings about misogynistic behaviour hidden under a commercial hook, is the album's answer to Clarity.

Then there's another pop moment in No Heaven, which begins as a slow jam before exploding into a strings-backed slice of Britpop.

"It's no coincidence we landed on a happy medium of really straight-forward pop-rock songs," Novak says.

"Whenever I say that, it sounds like a bad thing, but I wouldn't write it if I didn't like catchy pop songs.

"It's not like they're forcing a metal band to play pop, it's still in our wheelhouse. It's fun to try and write songs that are made to be as catchy as possible."

Writing pop songs is also a challenge that's eternally elusive. It's a mystery that continually excites Polish Club.

Stop For A Minute - Polish Club

"With John, in particular, there's this fascination with what sets those huge songs apart and trying to figure out the point of difference in those pop songs," Novak says.

"It's really hard to articulate what that is and it's different in every one of them.

"For us to find our own version of that, it isn't going to be Dance Monkey [by Tones and I], because it's still going to be a rock song as that's all we know how to do right now, but to capture the most catchy version of that is interesting to think about and deconstruct."

When we did this record and our first 12 demos our team has gone, 'this is all shit' and we're like, 'oh well, we'll write more, I suppose'.

John-Henry Pajak

Polish Club have been slowly building since their low-fi tracks Beeping and Don't F--k Me Over introduced a sound reminiscent of The Strokes mixed with raw '60s soul rock, capped off by Novak's growling Little Richard-style vocal.

There's been a raft of soul-rocker bangers like Come Party and Shark Attack and a healthy dose of hype, helped along by their growing reputation as tight live act.

Then in 2019 Iguana saw Polish Club expand and modernise their sound with an album of epic rockers, most notably Clarity.

The track opened doors and Pajak admits there was pressure to produce another Clarity, only bigger and better.

"I guess we haven't had a massive hit, so it's nice to have something to aim towards," Pajak laughs.

"We probably never will. A global f-king-power hit. It's nice to think it's still in you."

Novak has a smaller aim, and one that's probably more profitable.

"I rather have a global car ad or something, that would be much easier," he smiles.

Polish Club release Now We're Cookin' on Friday.

This story Polish Club get cooking with gas in pop kitchen first appeared on Newcastle Herald.