polar bear time line
Mid 1995 - Eric Avery and Harold Barefoot Sanders III ("Biff," to his friends) start working on some material together. Eric made a name for himself by being the co-founder/bassist of Jane's Addiction, and later fronting the spin-off project Deconstruction. Biff also had early success in a L.A.-based band as the drummer/programmer for Ethyl Meatplow. Biff recalled how the two got together:
"We had been friends for awhile and had always thought, hey we should do something sometime but we both figured that it probably wouldn't present itself. Well, it did. Eric was going it alone with a Midi sequencer setup and I was still moping about Ethyl Meatplow breaking up. I was writing stuff alone which is not my ideal at all. I gave a tape of stuff I was doing to Eric and he dug it. He gave me a 8-track of stuff he was working on and we starting adding bits to each others stuff. It was cool so we decided lets take the plunge and call it a project of something."
Late 1995 - Guitarist/graphic artist John Curry helps out with recording some guitar parts, but is never really a full-fledged member. Eric and Biff struggle to pick a name for their new band. They choose Alaska, but later settle for Polar Bear due to Alaska being already in use. They sign with Talent House management and put out a couple demo tapes, one with vocals and one instrumental.
Early 1996 - In January, the band plays their first live show at the Coconut Teaser in Hollywood. John Curry plays guitar for this show, as well as the following few shows that happen over the next couple months. On March 15, the band plays what would turn out to be their only performance outside of California when they play a live music festival in Austin, Texas. Also in March, the band has their first official release via a track on a tribute CD to the band Wire.
The rest of 1996 - Not much activity, as Eric and Biff work on new material and search for a permanent guitar player. In November, Polar Bear have their first full-length release when Man's Ruin Records, a small label operated by renowned illustrator Frank Kozik, releases a 12" vinyl of instrumental remixes. Later, guitarist Thomas Von Wendt joins the fold as writing and recording in Biff's own Motiv Studio continues.
1997 - The new line-up plays their first show in January and continues strong, playing one or two shows every month up through November. Included are two high profile benefit shows that help the band's growing local following. In May, Polar Bear release a self-titled CD on Talent House's own Dry Hump label. The "Chewing Gum EP," as it's commonly known, does well and helps the band reach an audience outside of Southern California. The band also performs outside of the L.A. area for just the second time, playing at a Man's Ruin party in San Francisco.
Late 1997 - Polar Bear's November 17th show at the Opium Den was billed on flyers as their last show of the year, as the band had planned to take some time to focus on writing and recording. The hiatus lasts longer than expected, however, when Thomas decides to leave the band. Meanwhile, the band receives quite a few mentions in the music media thanks to Eric declining to be involved with the Jane's Addiction reunion, instead choosing to concentrate on Polar Bear.
Early 1998 - Eric and Biff audition several guitarists to fill the vacant slot. They eventually narrow it down to two finalists, and being unable to choose between them, ask both Dani Tull and Andrew Troy to join. Besides being experienced musicians, each working with several underground L.A.-based bands, Dani is an artist who exhibits his artwork in galleries and museums internationally, and Andrew is active in publishing and teaching music. Dani and Andrew each bring something unique to Polar Bear's sound, as more writing, recording, and practicing take place.
The rest of 1998 - Polar Bear (or "POLARBEAR" as they like to go by now) return to the stage in April and keep playing shows about once a month. In September, the band finish a new demo tape and continue trying to land a desirable record contract. The next month, they finish up two more songs and release them on an extremely limited pressing on their own pseudo record label. By the end of the year, Dani's wife Yvonne Bas Tull is a part-time band member, singing backing vocals on a few songs, both live and in the studio. The band has a falling out with Talent House and carries on without management.
Early 1999 - The band self-release a full-length CD titled Why Something Instead of Nothing? in February. Things are going very well for the band, as the CD sells well and their shows are consistently packed. In addition, there are rumors that Slash Records is interested in signing the band to a record deal.
Mid 1999 - Another hiatus from performing is planned for after the Roxy show on May 20th. And again, the break ends up being more severe than expected. Eric's parents are injured in a car accident just before the Roxy show. The show goes on as planned, but the band's performance is uneven and a novel idea involving several small video cameras doesn't quite work out very well. Fan reaction is mixed, with at least one diehard fan leaving the show early in disgust, and others believing it to be their best show in months. Perhaps fittingly, the last song the band plays at the Roxy is one of their earliest songs, and one that hadn't been played since '97, "Leader." It would turn out to be their final performance.
Late 1999 - Polar Bear takes another hit when Biff's studio is broken into and much of the band's integral equipment is stolen. After taking much of the summer off, the band attempts to get some momentum going again by working on new material and a possible return to the stage. The band is in talks with Slash for a record deal. The label even pays for the band to record a new demo with prominent producer Rich Costey (David Bowie, Philip Glass, Dave Navarro). They record two songs together in September, but the band isn't totally happy with the results. And long story short: the nearly done-deal record contract falls through due to personnel changes at the label. Other potential options still exist, however, so the guys remain optimistic and in the meantime work on a handful of new songs before the holidays.
Early 2000 - As it has been for the past several months, finding time for all four band members to get together continues to be difficult, with everyone having other "day job" projects to tend to. They still manage to work on new material occasionally and almost agree to play a show with The Bicycle Thief. Another break in activity is necessary from February into April, however, while Eric embarks on a North American tour playing bass for Peter Murphy. A major influence from way back, Eric can't pass up the chance to play with the former Bauhaus singer. The Peter Murphy tour is a success, but Polar Bear's momentum is once again gone. Things just haven't been going the band's way for the past year and it's getting to not be worth the frustration. In late May, Eric finally decides to break up the band. Dani summed it up:
"There's no personal drama or fighting among us- just that we have worked so hard and had such high hopes, and felt that it just wasn't working. There's only so far one can go on love, ambition, and fan loyalty. At some point you want to feel that the profession cares, and you gotta eat. In the past year we have each focused our energy into other areas, and had the pleasure of little successes as well as had a chance to pay the bills, etc."
Post-Polarbear - In the years since the band disolved, Eric toured as
bassist for Alanis Morissette and Garbage, while also working on his own music
from time to time.
In February of 2007, Eric reflected on Polarbear's demise:
"i too have regerets about pbr. in retrospect i think i did it, and the guys in the band, a disservice by not being determined enough. i had a total crisis of confidence and wasnt sure i had any passion for music making anymore and that night, with my folks rolling end over end on the freeway, to use a boxing term, i quit on my stool."