Farewell, Polecat: Thank you for 10 years
Thankful, proud, and ready to take the last bow. After 10 years together, the band plays two final shows March 7.
interview by Brent Cole
photo by Jason Charme; Polecat at Meltdown
All good things eventually come to an end and such is the case with one of Bellingham’s best and most popular bands, Polecat. From their start as the house band at Boundary Bay on Monday nights a decade ago, Polecat quickly gained a fan base for their electric live shows. It didn’t take long before the band was touring regularly, playing shows all around the PNW and parts beyond. Now in their mid-30s, the members of Polecat have decided to call it a day; Aaron Guest and Cayley Schmid (husband and wife) live in Bellingham, with the other members on the San Juan Islands, Seattle and Portland.
Before calling it a day, though, they’re doing one last string of dates, ending in Bellingham on March 7 at the Bellingham Circus Guild. What’s Up! wanted to talk with Aaron and Cayley one last time about the world of Polecat. We wish you all the best!
What brought about the ending of Polecat?
Over the last few years, we’ve had band members move to various areas of the Northwest, the writing/rehearsing has slowed, and the motivation to tour has slowed as well. The need to keep touring (when you are known for being a fun live show) is pretty huge, and we all eventually started to feel that pressure as a bit of a negative. It’s not all fun and games out there! We were lucky enough to enjoy a certain regional level of success, and we collectively decided to end at that level rather than fizzle away.
When you reflect on the last decade of making music as Polecat, what are some of the positives thoughts you take from it?
Polecat was a special anomaly in that we could fit in all kinds of places, but at the same time we were a bit of an outlier, which made folks remember us well. A perfect example would be to compare Summer Meltdown and Stringband Jamboree, regional festivals we were lucky enough to play many times each. At Meltdown (and festivals heavy on jam bands and electronic music), we were considered more of a stringband, but at Jamboree (and festivals more dedicated to acoustic music) we were considered more as a rock band. The way we were able to bring together all of our very different musical styles into a cohesive sound was a great strength for us.
What are some of your biggest disappointments?
I suppose when we realized what it was going to take to keep growing (touring harder and harder, more expenses, more business-related decisions), reaching inward for that strength, and realizing that it would be too much pressure on each other to continue that trajectory. When we decided to keep things more weekend-oriented and locally based, we missed the excitement and challenge of new opportunities. Rock and a hard place I guess.
Do you remember when you had an “Oh wow, this is really a thing” moment? What was that like?
Those first Monday nights at Boundary Bay in Spring 2010 were special. We felt it right away in that crowded joyful taproom! When we got asked to play both Meltdown and Jamboree that first summer, we knew the word was out in the way that we had hoped.
What is the one thing you will most miss from your time in the band?
Playing original music together as five musicians who are proud of what they are performing when the sound is huge and the crowd is joyous. Doesn’t get much better! Also, we made each other laugh. So much. That was sweet.
What’s next for each member of Polecat?
Cayley: Booking bands for FLi Artists (international folk music agency), teaching fiddle, going to fiddle camps, and running the Folk Festival and Irish Festival.
Aaron: Spending lots of time in local studios, crafting A.guest work and helping other artists bring their music to life on a record. Playing with Petty or Not, Wednesday piano at Boundary Bay, and helping Cayley with all local musical productions.
Jeremy: Aligning with the Portland music scene on stages and in studios, a solo album in the works, and playing with Petty or Not.
Karl: Continuing to tour with Seattle’s Polyrhythmics and recording with original groove music projects within the music scene there.
Richard: Enjoying life on the San Juans to the fullest, sailing as much as possible, and getting awesome at the Irish whistle!
Do you have a craziest memory from your time on the road?
Too many to think of just one to tell. We partied hardy but kept it pretty respectable, all things considered. We are just a bunch of musical nerds, after all. There remains zero tattoos on our five bodies, and we all managed to make it to all of our nearly 1,000 gigs together in one piece. There were some epic all-night jams at festivals, there were crowds of 5,000 or more as some of the summer concert series we played, we had a two-week run supporting Yonder Mountain Stringband where we got to play the Fillmore and many other beautiful rooms in the West, and a whole lotta hotel room parties and kitchen hangs and all-night drives and crazy wild crowds and over-the-top Halloween costumed shows and and and…
How do you think your time on the road affected you as a musician and a person?
Performing 100 times a year (hopefully) gets you pretty good at your instrument! Communication skills are everything, and it’s tough when you are tired and frazzled. The road is where everyone needs to step up and be a team. I like being on a good team.
Do you have any advice for young bands in Bellingham?
Keep doing it! Be a considerate person toward the sound engineer and the staff of where you are working, it goes a long way. Make sure you get paid for your work, and try to put a bit of money aside so you can tour and record – and through it all try not to forget why you started making music in the first place: we musicians are ambassadors of joy and love!
Any last thoughts?
Big thanks and love to our sweet wonderful supportive dancey vibey hometown. Everywhere we ever toured, we’d announce ourselves as ‘We’re Polecat, from Bellingham Washington.’
Come see us March 7 at the Bellingham Circus Guild, for the most perfectly Bellingham way to go out. Us five are thankful, proud, and ready to put a bow on these 10 years.
SEE THE SHOW
Say goodbye to Polecat at the Bellingham Circus Guild on March 7 at 4pm (all ages) and 8pm (21+). Check out polecatmusic.com/schedule for more details.