Kendall's Polar Boys Are Ditching Full-Length Albums in the Streaming Era

Andy Zambrana (left), Andres Baquerizo, Alex Ramon, and Jake Karner of the Polar Boys.
Photo by Steph Estrada
Andy Zambrana (left), Andres Baquerizo, Alex Ramon, and Jake Karner of the Polar Boys.
In 2018, New Times declared the Southwest Miami-Dade suburb of Kendall "the beating heart of Miami music." And when the Polar Boys — Andres Baquerizo (lead guitar), Andy Zambrana (rhythm guitar and vocals), Alex Ramon (bass and vocals), and Jake Karner (drums) — were named one of Kendall's best bands earlier this year, it was an unexpected accolade for the members. Karner admits, "To me, it was kind of a really big surprise because I have always personally felt like the Polar Boys have been a band that doesn't get out there and play shows every week like a lot of local bands might do."

The Polar Boys' strategy, Karner says, is providing continuous content for fans. For the band, the music comes first, and playing shows is secondary. From creating singles to launching a clothing brand, POBO, the Polar Boys have been hard at work in 2019.

Since forming in March 2017, the young quartet has amassed a loyal local following through its retro surf-rock sound and style. But it was its wild sold-out show at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum — where the band performed alongside Mustard Service, Cannibal Kids, Mahogany Purple, and Hometown Losers — that really put its evolution as a band into perspective.

The Polar Boys say they're usually the kind of musicians who attempt to calm crowds when things get too crazy. But at the recent show, they were the ones who were told to control the room. Ramon says of the experience: "I guess that's part of the bigger-picture transformative change that we've been going through right now. Every aspect of this band has been changing... We're about to release new music that's completely, absolutely different."

Zambrana says of the band's sonic evolution: "A lot of us started getting into hip-hop and rap, which changed our outlook when we write music now. I think that's reflecting on our new sound too."

Adds Ramon: "We've decided that instead of limiting ourselves to one sound, we wanted to make our own kind of sound, establish our own unique blend of genres into something that we hope would be unlike other things." Ramon says the band is done putting itself in a box and constraining its sound. "It's just purely us and [a] representation of what we like in music and art."

The Polar Boys originally intended to release a ten-track album. Instead, they decided to release their new collection of songs as singles on the advice of their producer, Marc McClusky, who's worked with bands such as Weezer, Bad Religion, and Everclear. "We feel like it's the right way to go in today's industry, with streaming services being the number one way of consuming music," Karner says.

"We wanted as many people as possible to listen to [the songs]," Ramon adds. "We could've maybe dropped two singles and then a record, but then you're really just saturating everyone with eight songs in a row that they haven't heard. And nowadays, people watch 30-second clips on Twitter and don't even watch to the end." Capturing and keeping an audience's attention is becoming increasingly difficult, and Ramon believes releasing a full-length album works better for bands that already have an established fan base.

But the Polar Boys' all-hands-on-deck approach to the release of its singles resembles a traditional album push. The band enlisted a few people, including friends, family, and seasoned industry heavy-hitters, to help make its new music and creative rebranding become a reality. When it came to the pre-production of the demos, the bandmates spent several months of countless long nights working with Baquerizo's bedroom-producer younger brother Chris, and friends from the local scene helped write and play the horn parts on the new songs. But when it came time to record and mix the demos, the band flew to Chicago and spent two weeks working with McClusky. Now the group has linked up with mastering engineer Chris Athens, who has worked with acts such as Coldplay, the Beastie Boys, Rick Ross, and N.E.R.D., to help bring the new songs to life.

The band's latest single, aptly titled "Intro," will be out September 27 on streaming platforms. While they wait, fans can call the "Polar Boys Hotline" at 1-888-626-0037 to get a sneak preview of the band's updated sound.