What's Up! Magazine

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Polecat: New Fathoms album released this month


Locally loved and perennial What’s Up! Award winners, Polecat, release their new album Fathoms this month. Out May 11, this is the band’s third recording, following a self-titled EP released in 2010 and the 2011 full-length Fire on the Hill, which went on to win the Best Silver Platter (best local album) at that year’s What’s Up! awards show.

Over the past three years, the band has played more than 200 shows, according to lead vocalist/ guitar player Aaron Guest, and in the process has garnered a solid following in Bellingham and among Americana-lovers all across the Pacific Northwest and points beyond. The band includes Guest, Cayley Schmid on fiddle, Richard Reeves on stand-up bass, Karl Olson on drums and Jeremy Elliott on lead guitar and vocals.

In many ways, the new album is a combination of the new and old for Polecat. The album features much of the sound that the band is known for – namely Americana/ roots music with tinges of Irish music and rock – but the album also features new sides of the band. There are more orchestral parts, a refined sound and some flirtations with percussion that meets reggae and other genres that people may not associate the band with at first.

“When people ask us what genre we perform in, I just call it ‘roots music,’” Guest said. “It’s the people’s music. There is something in it for fans of every genre, I think.”

Fathoms was recorded at famed Bear Creek Studios, as well as at Fairhaven Studios and The Roost during last winter. The Bear Creek experience was especially exciting for the band, Schmid said. Bear Creek is located in a cabin in Woodinville and has been the site of notable recordings, including The Lumineer’s self-titled breakout album, Helplessness Blues by the Fleet Foxes, Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden and Dancing of the Ceiling by Lionel Richie, among many others.

Polecat said that they recorded all of the “guts” of the album at Bear Creek, and then fleshed out the 12 songs on the album at the other studios.

“There is definitely a sound and a vibe at that studio that could not compare to places we have recorded at in the past,” Elliott said. “They just had tons of great gear and it really allowed us to expand our sounds and explore new tones.”

Guest said that the songs on the album have been ones that they’ve been working on and playing live for the better part of the two years since their last album, and while they are known for their live show, they wanted to approach the album with the goal of a more worldly approach.

The worldly approach that the band speaks of includes the addition on classical guitars, vocal harmonies, keyboards, mandolins and piano. While the band can not play all of the instruments in a live setting, they said that they could not help but take full advantage of the opportunity they had in the studio.

“It’s true: most of our fans are fans because of our live shows, so what we did with the album is record all the basic parts of the track live, together in the studio playing at the same time,” Guest said. “The additional instrumentation was all about doing it tastefully and making it subtle enough to not hinder the live aspect of our music.”

The album was funded in part via IndieGogo, which is a crowdfunding site similar to Kickstarter. The campaign ended up providing the band with $3,045 for recording. Guest said the money raised was enough to pay for recording time at Bear Creek, and the rest of the costs for the album were paid out of pocket by the band members. In total, the band has pressed and packaged 1,000 copies of Fathoms, which will be for sale at the CD release show on May 11, as well as available for purchase at Everyday Music and Avalon.

As part of perks on the Indiegogo page, the band has been required to cover two songs. The song choice was entirely up the two anonymous donors who donated at least $375 to the cause. Guest said one of the song requests was “Stay All Night” by Willy Nelson, which can be found on YouTube, and the band declined to say what the other song was, but did say they will be playing it at the CD release show for anyone that is interested.

After the CD release in Bellingham, the band plans on playing shows in Idaho, Oregon and in Washington, including appearances at Ski to Sea and the Strait of Juan De Fuca Festival on May 27.

“We really feel good about this album. It is our most epic album, and our most expensive album to make,” Elliott said. “There was a lot that went into this album and we can’t wait for people to get their hands on it and to hear what we have been up to.”

The band will be hosting an all-ages CD release show for Fathoms on May 11 at the Majestic Ballroom located at 1027 N. Forest Street. The release party will start at 7 p.m., with Polecat playing at 8:30 p.m., and plenty of other entertainment scheduled before the performance, including face painting, a photo booth, a beer garden for those of drinking age and food provided by Kurly’s Kart. The cover is $5 and children under the age of 12 will not be charged admission.

“This is our most epic album and we really wanted to host the largest CD release show we have ever done,” Elliott, the lead guitarist, said. “So, instead of just playing at a music venue, we decided to find a space that will cater to all of our fans- both young and old.”

-Rod Lotter 05/01/13

The News Tribune

Visit the article HERE

Arts enthusiasts from across the region will make their way to the 42nd annual Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle for three days of music, food and entertainment this weekend. One of the largest (and oldest) urban arts festival in North America, this year’s musical lineup features headliners from a variety of genres – including pop classic Tony Bennett, rock ’n’ roll veterans Jane’s Addiction and electronic music producer Skrillex.

For those not interested in braving crowds at the main stage at KeyArena, the fest features a crop of up-and-coming Northwest acts. Here’s the scoop on five acts you don’t want to miss:
Polecat

For Bellingham-based act Polecat, getting people to dance is just part of the job.

Formed in March 2010, the bluegrass/Americana five-piece has been making a name for itself throughout the Northwest for its expressive roots tracks and explosive live shows.

Consisting of Aaron Guest (vocals, 12 string acoustic), Jeremy Elliott (electric guitar and vocals), Karl Olson (drums), Cayley Schmid (fiddle), and Richard Reeves (upright bass), Polecat got its start playing weekly gigs at Boundary Bay Brewing & Bistro in Bellingham before the group even established itself as a band – or had a name.

“I just went in (to the restaurant) and said I’m gonna have a band, and I think it’s gonna be fun,” Guest said.

Five months and several gigs later, the weekly show had become one of the most sought after parties in town. The band has since recorded a self-titled EP, a full-length album called “Fire On The Hill,” and played more than 200 shows in the past two years. The group, represented by In the Pocket Artists, is scheduled to record its next full-length release at Bear Creek Studio in December.

Rooted in bluegrass tradition, Polecat’s music delves into a variety of moods. Some of it is triumphant and celebrates life, love and spending time with friends, and some of it is dark.

“I think we really respect our audience,” said Schmid, whose mastery of the fiddle and familiarity with traditional Irish music, have become driving forces behind the group’s live show. “We don’t just play the same thing for three whole minutes and expect them to be entertained. We mix it up every 30 seconds.”

This, along with the band’s conscious effort to set itself apart from other acts in the Americana genre, has found the group experimenting with fuller, percussion-driven tracks alongside rhythms of the Eastern European and Caribbean variety.

Known for producing stomp-­worthy dance tracks, Polecat’s live show is an experience. It’s sweaty and loud in all the right ways – and it’s sure to get you on your feet.

Having recently played sets at the Subdued Stringband Jamboree and Summer Meltdown festivals to rave reviews, the group’s debut slot at Bumbershoot is sure to be another stomping good time.

“We would like for people to leave the show saying, ‘They belong at Bumbershoot. They belong at a festival with crowds this big – and that’s what they should be doing,’ ” Elliott said.

-Keegan Prosser 08/31/12
 

The Bulletin

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If you visit Polecat’s website, www.polecatbluegrass.com, and scroll down a bit you’ll see a photo of Cayley Schmid, the band’s fiddler, posing with three What’s Up awards.

What’s Up awards, for those wondering, are given to bands and musicians in the Bellingham, Wash., music scene by Bellingham’s own What’s Up magazine, which covers said scene.

One of the What’s Up awards Polecat took home was “Best Silver Platter” for its 2011 album “Fire on the Hill.”

The second What’s Up award the band won is probably the most instructive: “Best Highway Americana.” That’s because this relatively young quintet makes music with momentum. The tracks you can hear at the website have a worldly perspective and a wandering spirit, as if they were written specifically for windshield-gazing.

Polecat’s music is rooted in bluegrass, without question, but like many stringbending bands in this half of the United States, they stretch that genre’s boundaries by incorporating easygoing rock, grey-skied blues, jazzy jams and a hint of reggae and Celtic flavor. Imagine a long, strange trip around either Yonder or Moon mountains, and you have some idea of Polecat’s proclivities.

The band has shared the stage with some big names — Infamous Stringdusters, Hackensaw Boys, Trampled By Turtles among them — but it’s what goes on in front of the stage that keeps Polecat gigging. Scroll down further on the website and you’ll find the band playing in front of a tangled dance floor full of giant grins.

And that brings us back to that photo of Schmid and those three What’s Up awards. The third was called “Best Up Close and Personal,” given to the best live band in Bellingham.

Indeed, it’s on stage where Polecat shines. You can visit their various online homes and listen to “Fire on the Hill” and hear that they have chops. But to get the full picture of this band, hit McMenamins on Wednesday.

- 03/09/12
 

83 Music

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This past weekend at Bend Oregon’s Summerfest, Bellingham Washington’s bluegrass band, Polecat put on one heck of a summertime show! The only shame was that their music seemed like it could have provided a great Central Oregon style dance party, yet wasn’t able to get one going with the crowd at such an early time slot (also probably because everyone was taking refuge from the intense sun under the peripheral umbrellas). Yet maybe what Bend needed first was to get to know the prowess of this band from up North… and with a couple hundred people listening intently to their set, that’s probably just what happened. The group’s fiddle player Cayley Schmid definitely set the bar high early on with her sometimes traditional and sometimes contemporary style of boot stompin’ bow work and other Polecat Members were not about to be outdone. Jeremy Elliott, the band’s electric guitar player, had some fancy finger work of his own going and at times you could honestly barely even see his hands moving! With Aaron Guest Polecat’s lead vocalist and acoustic guitar player closing his eyes and getting lost in the music quite often, Karl Olson banging out some light and sweet bluegrass drum beats, and Richard Reeves perfectly adhering all the members together with his upright bass, Polecat harnessed that seamless quality great bands are made of.

The best part about Polecat’s performance were the instrumental pieces played that really showcased the depth that bluegrass music has to offer. Guitar and fiddle became the lyrics and told stories with out anyone saying a word. One such song can be found in this video from that very show. Take it in and get ready to see them in Bend Oregon again when they come back through town Thursday, July 14th at McMenamin’s Father Luke’s Room. (7pm Free) And this time… be ready for an old fashioned dance party!

- Ethan Maffey 07/11/11
 

Wenatchee World

Read the full article HERE

Success may not happen overnight, but for Bellingham five-piece Polecat, it seems like it has.

The bluegrass band’s been together for just a little more than a year, and has already released one EP, opened for several established groups, including Seattle’s the Moondoggies, and is currently taking to the road in promotion of its debut full-length album, “Fire on the Hill.” North Central Washington fans can catch an album release show at Caffé Mela on Thursday, Chelan’s Vogue Liquid Lounge on Friday and the Twisp River Pub on Saturday.

Lead guitarist Jeremy Elliott suggests the band’s quick success is based on a surge of general interest in Americana music.

“As soon as we hit the scene here, we were doing something I think that’s very relevant to the music industry right now, with the Americana, especially with festival touring and the roots music coming back,” he says. “We’ve achieved the sound that people are just really interested in, because it’s not too subdued but it’s also not overly powerful. It’s got a good mix of everything.”

After less than a year together, the band was recognized in Bellingham’s What’s Up! magazine’s 2011 What’s Up Awards for Best Newby and Best Highway Americana.

Self-managed and self-produced, Polecat is led by vocalist/guitarist Aaron Guest, and includes drummer Karl Olsen, fiddler Cayley Schmid and bassist Richard Reeves.

Elliott comments that “heavily produced pop music’s always gonna have a place, because there’s always gonna be a demographic for it, but I think that because people are so interested in the more rootsy styles of music, they like to see that these guys are out making the music and producing the music themselves.”

What's Up! Magazine

What's Up! Magazine's September Pin-Up: Polecat

Check out the article HERE
You can also see other photos from the shoot with Jun Nakamuro on our 'photos' page!
 

Polecat: Serving Up More Stomping Hits

Polecat is a model for what most bands strive (or should strive) to be. Sitting together in Boundary Bay Brewery, front man Aaron Guest and company share a beer before Guest heads into the bar for his weekly piano gig serenading the brewery’s patrons. “I just came in every week and bugged them until they let me start playing here,” says Guest.

The reason we sit in Boundary Bay is simple: Guest’s persistence and the good graces of this bar helped give birth to one of the hardest working bands in Bellingham.

The five-piece bluegrass outfit premiered on March 1, 2010 with a weekly Monday night slot, building a strong foundation and expansive musical repertoire. They also happen to be experts on the menu and seasonal beer selection. “Just can’t get away from the lamb burger,” says electric guitarist Jeremy Elliott. “You should try it.”

Polecat has been remarkably busy and will be celebrating their 100th show in just over one year as a band on St. Patrick’s Day at the Wild Buffalo. “Of course, 75 of those shows have been here (at Boundary),” jokes Elliott. “Well, we all used the connections we’ve made over the years in Bellingham,” explains Guest. “We really hit the ground running with this project.”

Each member is a Bellingham music scene veteran, playing in one or more projects around town while devoting a huge amount of time to constant regional touring. With a series of weekend tours around central Washington and the San Juan Islands, Polecat is spreading the good word and good feelings of their unique brand of bluegrass.

“We busk on all the ferries,” Guest says about their travels to their gigs in the islands. “They love it…sometimes we can make our ferry money back.” Elliott adds that there have been several impromptu ferry gigs that have been more productive than the actual gig they were going to. “They can’t go anywhere, they’re stuck, so it’s a really big novelty for passengers,” says drummer Karl Olson.

Guest (12 string guitar/vocals) and Elliott are joined by drummer/percussionist Karl Olson, upright bassist Richard Reeves and fiddle player Caley Schmid. Each bringing a series of different influences, Polecat comes together to create an unparalleled approach to bluegrass music. “We’re really proud of what we’ve done,” says Guest. “But I think a lot of folk and bluegrass musicians may get mad at that classification. We’re a rock band that plays fast.”

“I guess we’re really just trying to straddle that genre of being a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll,” adds Olson.

Brainchild of Guest, Polecat has evolved and continues to change their sound since their inception. Guest initially envisioned an all-string classic bluegrass band, which is what enticed Elliott to join in the first place. Once they got together and started working on the songs, they began to take on a life of their own, inspiring Elliott to pick up the electric instead of acoustic guitar. Shortly after the project took shape and all members were in place, the band went into the Fairhaven studios to record an EP.

“With the EP, we just added the first thing that came to mind to fit with Aaron’s original song,” says fiddle player Caley Schmid. But as time went by and they began writing their follow up record, things began to take shape in a different way. “A lot more thought goes into what we’re playing and how we’re doing it now.” She says Guest will bring songs to the band, which they’ll play with for a while, but things have changed a bit. “If it doesn’t sound like a Polecat song, we won’t do it.” Guest jokes, “Before it was like a dictatorship, but not anymore.”

Olson attributes much of their success to band’s instrumentation. “A lot of people don’t see an upright bass, or even a violin, so just seeing that can be amazing and something new for people. We try to have a simple setup but drive as hard as you can.”

“When it’s a five piece band, I feel it drives harder,” agrees bassist Richard Reeves. “It’s like a wall of sound that most bluegrass bands don’t usually bring.” Guest says they approach their music with the same tenacity and energy as, say, a polecat.

Inspiration for the band’s unofficial mascot and namesake came from Reeves. “I was in Arlington in this guy’s log cabin and he had a bunch of skins on his wall…and this guy’s alright, he’s not that weird. One I didn’t recognize, stripe down its back, and he’s like, ‘That’s a polecat’.” After researching the weasel-like creature (and the various other meanings that ‘polecat’ has), the name was chosen.

“Our first album was very basic as far as instrumentation,” says Olson. “On this one, we’ve got a basic foundation, but the parts are a lot more calculated.”

When Polecat recorded their EP, they were meeting each other for the first time and learning to work with one another. The band has been writing and honing these songs for months until they have gotten to the place they are now. “We’ve grown a ton,” says Elliott.

The upcoming album has several songwriting voices featured, including Schmid and Elliott. “It’s nice to have Caley as a different sound for the lead,” says Guest. “But we don’t sound like an Irish band backing her.”

Schmid has devoted much of her life to Irish music and dance. “When I’m writing, that’s what I hear,” she says. “So it’s cool, all of a sudden it becomes a different song.”

Once the album is complete, Polecat will be holding a CD release show at the American Museum of Radio & Electricity on Friday, April 8. “We are going to play several sets of our most stomping hits,” says Guest, adding the band wants to showcase the new album in a unique venue.”

“We like to try to create something that’s different for our fans, everywhere we’ve gone so far,” adds Elliott. “Polecat’s doing something that not a lot of others around are doing.”

- Adam Bates 3/15/11
 

Polecat: Music to Your Monday Night Ears

Officially assembled about two months back, Polecat has been playing consistently at Boundary Bay Brewery Monday nights. This is mostly thanks to Aaron Guest, who plays piano at the food and beer establishment every Wednesday. He approached the owner Ed Bennett about doing a weekly gig with the new band. “It’s the band I’ve wanted for a long time,” admitted Aaron. He started making headway toward his dream project by cranking out some basic bluegrass song structures, ready to be refined and eventually evolve into what Polecat is today.

The assemblage of a Polecat was a hodge-podge of musical inspiration and identities. The band wanted to push themselves to take all of their musical inspirations and adapt them into a full-blown bluegrass ensemble. Aaron, who does vocals and plays 12-string guitar, had already dabbled in bluegrass before in 20 String Band but wanted to incorporate some fresh perspective. Cayley Shrid, originally from celtic band Giants Causeway, contributed her fiddle-playing skills and Richard Reeves (20 String Band) added his upright bass. Drummer Karl Olson’s (formerly of Lumpkins) affinity for multi-cultural music made for an interesting addition to the group. He also regularly accompanies modern dance classes at Western.

“Karl can play (bluegrass) even though he doesn’t even own a bluegrass record,” remarked guitarist Jeremy Elliot. Elliot is the band’s “purest” member, mostly due to his southern upbringing. He grew up in a family of musicians and his earliest memories were watching live bluegrass and listening to his father’s old blues records.

Every individual has their own unique musical taste, making for a fresh interpretation of the bluegrass genre. “That’s why I wanted these guys to play with me,” explains Aaron, “I trust their playing and they fit. We feed off each other.”

Although our music scene is for the most part very diverse and ever-changing, many musicians are confined to a certain “type;” electronica pop-alt has saturated the city’s music scene to it’s very core.Perhaps that’s why Polecat has been so well-received. They’re a much-needed breath of fresh air for those who just want to sit and enjoy a drink. They try to stay true to their genre; simple set-up, small amps and no extra fancy pedals. That’s because there’s more substance between the music than distortion effects and theatrics. It’s a pure, unwavering connection with the audience that makes the band so successful and they make a point of it being about the audience. “As a musician there’s nothing better than seeing them happy,” explained Elliot.

The core audience of Polecat is, well, everybody. They try not to take themselves too seriously and let the music speak for itself, making it more approachable. The age group of the fledgling band is as wide as it is diverse. “All ages, families, and everybody in between. We bounce around,” says Olson.

There’s a sense of mass appeal attached to Polecat for its unique take on bluegrass as well an acknowledged respect for their honest approach to their genre. Their first show in Seattle, a city whose musical culture leaves a much different taste than Bellingham’s, was surprisingly successful. And now with a planned mini-tour this month they want to take that success even further.

In the recording realm, things have been going smoothly. The EP, produced by Chris Vita, is selling well and they are planning on producing a second pressing and recording even more new material. They’ve already begun work on a second wave of new songs. “It’s been a rewarding, organic experience,” says Guest, “It just happens with us. The songs just come out the way they are.”

The ease at which Polecat’s members create work is a sign of the band’s cohesiveness as a group, which in turn gives them strength when performing. Guest adds that “things have been happening really fast,” but the pace and positive reinforcement has only boosted the team morale.

-Haylee Nighbert 6/14/10
 

Polecat at Boundary Bay

Three simple words: GO SEE POLECAT!

For the past month, I have been meaning to see the five piece blue grass band, Polecat, who plays every Monday in Boundary Bay’s tap room. I finally went and by the end of the show realized how stupid I was for not attending any of their other performances. By the beginning of their first set, every seat in the place was filled, which only meant great things were to come, especially for how early it still was. Once those first chords were strummed, you could feel the excitement in the room grow and everyone started dancing in their seats.

Polecat’s first set was mainly low-key, intimate songs, such as “Lonesome Cowboy.” All five memebers harmonize and blend together, then they would break down into a beautiful solo, by one or two members, before the crescendo back into the song. One thing I absolutely loved was that even though all members would blend together, each instrument also stands out. When say, all members were playing a melody, and Cayley’s fiddle starting playing something different, you could hear her, even though it still went perfectly with the rest of the song. It became a fun little game for your ears.

After playing for about an hour, Polecat started their second set with, “Go Out Dancing.” This made for a completely different mood in the room. The songs were more upbeat, the riffs were harder, louder and more serious. Within a couple songs, Boundary’s tap room was standing room only and everyone was clapping and stomping their feet. The blue-grass Polecat was slamming down was so infectious that you just had to dance! The place was burning up and people actually starting dancing on the sidewalk outside of Boundary. At the end of their set, the band played a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” that had the whole crowd singing along with Aaron. That, however, didn’t satisfy the crowd as everyone started chanting “one more song, one more song!” Luckily, the band was more than happy to oblige.

-Jen Castaldo 5/16/10
 

BLOGS

Another Rainy Saturday's Bumbershoot Day One review - read it HERE



One of 'Bumbershoot's Most Anticipated Acts' from Sound on the Sound - read it HERE



We love Keegan Prosser! Check out her review on her blog HERE



A review by Concert Confessions - read it HERE



A photo essay by Daniel Ahrendt - read it HERE



Thanks to Jeff for his review:

"Discovered a very good young country-rock-Americana-roots (yeah, that genre) band from Bellingham on Saturday. Polecat. They're uptempo, driven by small drums and the ubiquitous standup bass that has become quite popular, and colored with a fiddle and Stratocaster. Take the Paperboys or Clumsy Lovers, lose the whistles and banjo, and add a really good lead guitarist. Or take Spoonshine and add an impressive girl fiddler. Or how about the Waterboys and just add that lead Strat player, Jeremy Elliott. He reminded me of Vince Gill - fast, precise, articulate, with a pleasing tone. I've seen him with the jazzy trio, Vaughn Kreestoe, but much prefer his style with Polecat. He also added some harmonies to singer-writer Aaron Guest's authoritative vocals, but more voices would really round them out. They bill themselves as "bluegrass", but I wasn't hearing much of that. Keep an eye out for them. Also enjoyed the polished blues-rock of Kim Field And The Mighty Titans Of Tone."




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