Leeds-based alt-pop trio, POLO, have recently released their debut album – A Place Between States – a genre-defying exploration of “losing ‘yourself’ to discover yourself”. Ahead of this exciting release, we caught up with non-binary vocalist Kat, to talk about the album, as well as their UK tour which is set to take place in February. Firstly though, we had to know the meaning behind the name… 

 Luke and I were in a band previously with a different name – which started as Luke’s solo project – called Girls on Drugs. When I started doing tracks with him it just didn’t look so good, especially when I was telling people the name of the band, so I was desperate to change it. POLO is more of a visual thing – we love the way it looks.” 

 

Is that where this all began then, you and Luke? 

The three of us met at York college about six years ago now; Luke was on a music course at the time, and I was doing something like amateur dramatics, which is how he found out I did vocals. He had this project and I jumped on a track with him – I think we ended up writing something stupid about frogs and we then just took it forward from there. Dan joined a little bit later on – he was in some jazz band at college. We just worked and worked and have been together ever since.  

 

Was it quite clear from when you first started, that it was going to carry on? 

Definitely. Then a little further down the line, everything was starting to fall into place – we were getting some really good gigs and it was just progressing naturally. When I then moved to uni with Dan in Newcastle, Luke ended up joining us and we pied off our mates and decided to all live together as a band. It was a time when we were meant to be doing our uni thing, but this felt good. We’ve been through different parts of our lives together and that’s how we ended up here.  

 

This new album, A Place Between States, is a little different to when you have realised singles; what do you think encouraged you to explore these new and fresh ideas? 

We’ve always had a want to explore different types of sounds and ideas, but you’re often restrained through singles because they have to hit a certain tempo and you want to get radio play. With this, we had so many different ideas and thought we would just throw them all at the wall and see what stuck. It wasn’t intentional, but we ended up creating something that is worlds apart from each other – there’s some ballad-like tracks, some experimental, electronic, R&B… it was almost like it was coming out of us and it’s nice to not just have one certain sound. With this being the debut album, we really found our sound through this exploration. We were discovering ourselves through this album.  

 

You’re touring in February next year; do you enjoy the touring lifestyle?  

I love the writing side of it, I get a real buzz. There’s nothing quite like writing and accomplishment it brings, but it’s a completely different feeling than you get from touring when a show goes well at the right time in front of the right people. It’s like no other feeling in the world but it takes so much out of you, so you have to be in the right headspace. I do love it though because it transforms you. You can be someone else on stage. 

 

What was it like, that first time people started singing your lyrics back to you?  

It’s mad, especially when it’s unexpected – you’ll play a random little festival and there’s a couple of people at the front singing your words back; you don’t realise how far your reach is until you see that. It’s humbling but at the same time, gives you an extra layer of confidence when you’re on stage.  

 

Who were your influences growing up, and do you still see some of that inspiration going into your work today? 

I loved all the old, soul-like, deep female voices like Amy Winehouse or Nina Simone – I think Dan’s the same too. It’s nice to be in a band where we can share our influences though because I’m also loving queer artists at the moment like Dorian Electra. It’s only until you get a bit older, and you see that representation that you realise it’s your type of thing, so these are my influences. I really like 070 Shake but again, not until I got older. When I was younger it was more soul though and I get a lot from melodies and the feeling of things, probably more so than the lyrics.  

 

I suppose it takes coming into your own and knowing yourself a bit more, to see who you feel represented by.  

Yeah  definitely, and it’s cool to fit in that world.  

 

I know that not just in this album but in a lot of your music, there are strong themes of empowerment and LGBTQIA+ relationships. Do you think there’s more space for conversations like this within music in recent years? 

In recent years, it’s been our more celebrated which is good. I just do what I do and if it’s picked up then that’s amazing, but I do feel like there’s more of a space for it now, and there’s more of a want for it which is the most important thing. There is certainly a really strong desire to hear it, which makes you feel empowered. Back when I first started writing music, in terms of pronouns and stuff like that, I remember thinking, ‘if I put, she/her pronouns in my music, is that going to turn people off? should I make it more general?’ Now though, I wouldn’t think about adapting my writing or anything like that, because just in the short amount of time that I have been making music, the conversation has changed, and this kind of thing has become less important. 

 

Do you think the music industry is a supportive and accepting one of LGBTQIA+ voices? 

I think from my experience, I’d say yes, because I’ve had some good opportunities from it, and there are people that want to lift your voice. Certain events are specifically geared towards LGBTQIA+ people that we have had the privilege of playing at, so I do think we have had some good opportunities through music.  

 

What would you recommend to an aspiring musician or someone starting in the music industry?  

I’d just say keep writing and keep doing what you love. I did a music conference a couple of years ago now and there were some really cool people there and they were just saying it’s not about doing it for a year or a couple of years and being like, ‘Oh, it’s not working for me.’ If you want it, just keep working and things will pay off. It’s not light work making an album, so I’m glad that it came at the time in my career when it did because when I was younger, I don’t think I would have had the willpower.  

 

You have been invited to perform at BBC Introducing on 30 October; what was it like receiving that news? 

Everything goes through Luke so it’s normally him who drops the news. It’s amazing when something like that comes in because you know that you’re on the right track. I’ve never put as much as I have into this into anything else in my life than I have to this. It’s taken a solid 18 months of graft and I’ve absolutely loved it. 

 

What have you been listening to, reading, or watching at the moment?  

I’m listening to the Two Twos podcast, which is two black, masc-presenting women who are so funny, and they just bring the absolute banter and also some really good conversation every Wednesday. I’m listening to a lot of SZA, and Lil Nas X as well. I’m watching RuPaul just a standard every week. It’s got me through lockdown – it makes me more excited for Thursdays than Fridays. 

 POLO’s debut album, A Place Between States, is out now.  

 polomusic.co.uk 

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