Updated: Mar 11
Freefalling, crowdsurfers and the UK music scene
A storm is brewing, and Polybius are at the eye of it. Comprised of Dylan Manners-Lolley on vocals and guitar, Luís Borrões on guitar, Mike Egan on bass and Dom Ward on drums, the alt-rockers have steadily made a name for themselves since forming at the University of Liverpool, garnering a small dedicated fanbase and gathering over 20,000 streams with their debut single 'Who Watches the Watchmen?'.
Today, I'm sat with Mike and Dylan as they eagerly await tomorrow's release of 'Freefalling', their blistering sophomore effort packed to the brim with rocking guitars and hooky choruses. It was recorded with Loic Gaillard at Motor Museum and is self-released.
TCP: Hello lads! It's the long-awaited release of live favourite 'Freefalling' on Friday. How're you feeling about it?
Mike: Very excited!
Dylan: It's gonna be a good one. It's good to finally share it. We've been sat on it for a while, so it's good.
Mike: Recorded over three months last year because of lockdown, so we can't wait to get it out there!
Dylan: It was good to get it down as well as it's something we've played live pretty much every show we've ever done. It's one of those that's always asked for! We wanted to get it down before lockdown, but I think we were very well timed with 'Who Watches the Watchmen?', releasing it a week into [the first UK] lockdown, so as soon as we could, we got it down and I think it sounds fucking awesome!
TCP: What's the story behind the song?
Mike: It's got quite a deep meaning. We've all been there when we've struggled with mental health problems, and it's about that feeling when you can't ask for help. I think it's got a poignant message. It was written in 2018, and over the last two years, it's more poignant than ever, considering what everyone's been through.
TCP: Your debut single 'Who Watches the Watchmen?' has over 20,000 streams on Spotify. What do you think is behind that success and how do you plan on growing that with 'Freefalling'?
Dylan: With 'Watchmen', we walked the line between a lot of different genres, but it means we have a lot of appeal. We've got our heavier stuff for people who are more into metal, but then we love a big chorus, we have good vocal lines and lyrics, so I think even for people who aren't into metal, we really appeal [to them]. I also think that we're just good fun, which I think is underrated sometimes. We've all been to gigs and been like, "Oh well, they're good", but maybe they take themselves a bit too seriously and don't put on a good enough show, so I think we've got that mix. We walk the line between being interesting and different, but we're also not too extreme; we're not arpeggiating down the guitars or anything, so I think that's why it's a successful tune.
Mike: It's definitely got appealability. We got picked up by a few playlists as well that helped it along and we were thankful for that. We got new fans through it as well, like our Instagram grew from that, so it's good!
Dylan: It's a touch more accessible, it's a touch shorter as well. The guitar tone is so good on the recording, and if I may say so myself, I think I sound really good! It's got the kick still that I think all of our songs have got, and I think part of that is just because all four of us are really good at what we do. It's a great, great rock song.
TCP: You all met whilst studying at University of Liverpool. How do you feel that has been an advantage for you over other band origins like through adverts and Facebook groups?
Mike: The original lineup was through the Band Society at uni, and we still keep in contact with them. There was this massive database where you put down all of your influences, what you play, and what you're looking for in a band, and a few of us got together and we started jamming, and through luck, Dylan and Dom joined the band after our original singer had creative differences. We were mates from uni before that as well.
Dylan: I distinctly remember him saying, "Yeah, we're looking for a guitar player and a singer", and I was like, "Well, I've got news for you, sunshine... I can just about do both!" [laughs] I think meeting at uni meant that we had that time to just jam and meet up all the time and play any gig and really do every little and big gig we could do. The fact we could do that meant we could just write songs and then gig them immediately. I think it's made us a tight group.
TCP: Is it much of a struggle having a band member who is based so far away?
Dylan: I think because we communicate all the time, like there's not a day I don't hear from Dom (Polybius' Newcastle-based sticksmith) and we all chat a lot anyway, it's alright, but I do think it's hard not having him around all the time. We love it when he does come down; it's great to hang out as much as it is to play, but Dom's incredibly professional and he's an incredible musician so he comes down and he's not slipped a beat at all. It's usually us, to be honest! It can be difficult, because you don't have that casual "come over" option, but it's no different from if we all lived in Liverpool and worked different job times; that's also difficult. It's not just the distance, there are many factors.
TCP: You have a playlist on Spotify called "The North West Is The Place To Be!" Care to elaborate on that?
Mike: That was when we released 'Watchmen' so it needs updating as there's a few more songs I wanna add to it! But I feel that, to create a scene, you need to be mates with other bands. We've met so many different musicians from so many different bands that we've met through playing with each other, and we're really good mates through that, and I think it's important to try and build that community, so that's why we made that playlist. When we go to gigs now, there'll be someone who'll recognise us, especially smaller bands who are still at uni. We've got the honour of judging their Battle of the Bands in a few weeks, so we're always on the lookout for new talent to put on there. But I think that, especially when it's not your full-time job, you've got to be supportive of each other rather than seeing the highway and going straight for it and not looking around you; you've got to be collaborative.
TCP: Do you believe there's still a north and south divide in UK music or is it just a myth that traditionalists like to bring up to support warped views of classism?
Mike: That's a great question, do you wanna take this one?
Dylan: I think there's a London/rest-of-the-country difference. When people say "the south", they often just mean London these days. I think a lot more happens the closer to London you are, if I'm honest, but there are still great hubs of music elsewhere. We're currently trying to get in more roads over in Manchester and Birmingham, which is on fire at the moment. They're different scenes in different cities, but I would say it's probably not as pronounced as it was in the 80s and 90s, but I'd also say that's because of the London thing. If you're in London, you can play gigs anywhere across the city, and it feels like you're in a different place, whereas if you play gigs here in Liverpool or in Manchester, it's all very much the place to be. There is a north/south divide in general, but then again, I think musically it's very much about the metropolis of the south-east that is London, though I don't know much about the Surrey music scene [laughs].
Mike: I think you hit the nail on the head there, I can't add anything to that!
TCP: How do you feel about the current scene in Liverpool?
Mike: There's bands now who are getting national attention, which puts a spotlight on Liverpool which can only be good for the rest of us. You've got the likes of STONE who sold out the Arts Club the other week, then you've got Red Rum Club as well. Jamie Webster is smashing it, Zuzu too. The thing is, even though we don't know them, it can only be good for us if they're national, because it'll highlight our scene; it's going places.
Dylan: There were places in Liverpool, especially small to medium venues, were hit hard by the past couple of years. I remember before furlough and all the loans, places like Heebie Jeebie's and Zanzibar basically went in weeks, so I think places have changed. I think some places really stepped up though, like the Zanzibar really stepped up and the Jacaranda as well. They've put on loads of really good shows at the moment. It's difficult, because to have a scene, you've got to have places like that, places where you can go and support a band and bring a few people and get the rhythm and get into what it's like to be gigging. I think that's essential to some bands who may have formed over lockdown. [The scene] is finding its feet. We're not even a year from venues having been able to finally open and host gigs, so gonna take time before places are fully rocking again, but I think, given the circumstances, Liverpool's doing really well.
TCP: As a band with a lot of shows under your belts, what has been the best gig and what has been the worst gig you've played to date?
Mike: Probably our best gig for me was our last headline at EBGBs. It was on a Tuesday night and it was one of those; the crowd was incredible, there were moshpits on every song, we had our first crowdsurfer! That blew my mind! You can see when I'm on stage and I'm like, "Oh my god! This is at one of our shows on a Tuesday?!" So that's definitely my favourite, and we do have a loyal fanbase at the moment who come to see us. Whether we're supporting or headlining, they're there, and I can't wait for Saturday. If this was asked next week, I reckon it would be Saturday! For our worst gig, we had one in Studio 2; there was nobody there, and thankfully it happened when no-one was there, but we kept on cutting out, pedals weren't working.
Dylan: There were some technical difficulties, but it happens, y'know. The show went on. We played some songs. I reckon we were alright. It was just one of those gigs where you show up and realise that the sound techs are asking if they should mic the amps up and if the drummer can play quieter. It was one of those. Realistically, it's gonna be one of the ones we can't remember, but it's all important. We wouldn't be where we are now without them.
Mike: You only learn from mistakes at the end of the day, so you have to go through the crap shows to get where we are at the moment.
TCP: What else can we expect from Polybius this year?
Mike: You'll have to follow us at @officialpolybius to find out! Expect a lot, because it's gonna be the biggest year for the band yet!
Dylan: Expect us to be trying to play in other cities, expect us taking advantage of the fact lots of places want us to play, and expect 'Freefalling' to be an absolute banger!
TCP: Finally, you're booked for a show. On the bill is yourselves, your nightmare artist, your favourite artist, and your guilty pleasure. Who's playing?
Mike: Oh, that's hard. I was gonna be like, "Well, I like everything!", but I'll start with my favourite artist, which has gotta be Foo Fighters. The band, Dave Grohl particularly, are who inspired me to want to pick up an instrument in the first place, and I'd be honoured if we ever got the call to support them! Guilty pleasure: Maroon 5. It'd have to be them playing only Songs About Jane though. And then for my nightmare artist, there's one band I can't get rid of and that's The 1975. I'm not a big fan.
Dylan: I think my three is not only a cursed lineup including us, but it would be a bit of a nightmare blunt rotation! You've got us; good stuff. Then you've got Metallica; favourite band. Then guilty pleasure, you go straight into Lady Gaga. And the cursed last one would be Machine Gun Kelly [instant audible disgust]. Absolute nightmare of a person and as an artist, and what I'd do is flick the switch on his guitar so people can hear him not playing guitar.
'Freefalling' is out tomorrow. You can pre-save it here
You can catch Polybius headlining The Shipping Forecast on Saturday 12th March, tickets available here