Institut Polaire

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Institut Polaire
Origin Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Genres Indie
Years active 2004 – 2011
Labels Love Is My Velocity
Past members Ash Blakeney
Elliott Brannen
Catherine Colvin
Erik Hecht
Toby Lang
Rebecca May
David Thirkettle-Watts
Samantha Wass
Russell Loasby
Alex Arpino
Monique Archer
Chris Havercroft
Ben Blakeney

Institut Polaire were an indie band originating from Perth, Western Australia.


Institut Polaire formed as a three piece in 2004 by an American ex-pat (Erik Hecht), an English born scientist (David Thirkettle-Watts) and a country boy moved to the big city (Ash Blakeney; who left the band in 2005, handing over his role to cousin Ben). Institut Polaire has grown from three piece roots into a full-blown collective who currently number between seven and nine members toting everything from vintage Wurlitzer pianos to violins, banjos, trumpets, MacBooks and glockenspiels.

In recent times the collective have shared the stage with acclaimed artists and bands including Camera Obscura, The Clientele, Architecture in Helsinki, Jens Lekman, Lou Barlow, Gerling, New Buffalo, Starky, The Panics and The Lucksmiths.

Institut Polaire's debut 7" single "City Walls and Empires" (released through Love Is My Velocity Records) won them the Western Australian Music Industry's 'Song of the Year' Award for 2006[1] and has since received national airplay.

"It was a fantastic confidence boost," Hecht said about the band's win in X-Press Magazine, "To see how much things have evolved in the band dynamic, instrumentation and songwriting since recording the debut single is exciting. I think most of us would agree that we are far more proud of the music we've been writing since. And I really suspect we may take some people by surprise with the records we put out this year."[2]

In 2007 Institut Polaire performed at the Perth leg of the Big Day Out having won Triple J's Unearthed competition for Western Australia.[3] They also performed with Bob Evans and Bobby Blackbird & The Bluejays at the WAMi-styled Triple J Live at the Wireless gig at the Rosemount Hotel.

The band were nominated for 'Best Indie Pop Act', at the 2007 WAMi Awards and also undertook their first national tour supporting Camera Obscura.

In February 2007 Institut Polaire announced that they have been signed as the first Australian artist on Popfrenzy Records.[4]

"I think the main goal for 2007 is to continue to evolve and make some great records,"[2]

Their first release was an EP called The Fauna and the Flora which was released on 1 October 2007.[4] The EP was Drum Media's 'single of the week'. Institut Polaire have also been named as one of Triple J's Next Crop featured artists for Aus Music Month (November 2007) and have been nominated as for a 2007 J Award (Unearthed new artist category). The EP also debuted at No. 19 on the AIR (Association of Independent Record Labels) singles chart.[5] "City Walls and Empires" entered the Australian Top 40 Countdown chart at No. 40 in May 2008.[6]

In early 2008, the band relocated to Melbourne for the foreseeable future and quickly undertook a national tour with Sydney's Cuthbert & The Night Walkers (presented by Triple J's 'Home and Hosed') in May. Directed by Beatrice Pegard and produced by Diana Ward, the video for "City Walls and Empires" won Most Popular Music Video at the 2008 WAMi Awards.

In early December it was announced that long-time member Ben Blakeney had left the band on completely amicable terms to concentrate on his own projects. Original guitarist Ash Blakeney rejoined the band as lead guitarist.

Amidst this lineup switch the band also recruited Toby Lang (ex-Veruca Salt and dual-ARIA award winners The Audreys) as their new drummer.

The band recorded their debut album with Craig Pilkington at Melbourne's Audrey Studios. Craig's previous resume included several releases for The Lucksmiths, a co-producing credit on The Blackeyed Susans ARIA-nominated 'Shangri-La' and engineering 2008's ARIA-winning 'Gurrumul' by Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.

The LP, titled 'Make Your Own Mayflower', was released in 2010.

The band announced its separation in January 2011.

Samantha Wass and David Thirkettle-Watts currently play in the band Jack on Fire, Ash Blakeney and Toby Lang toured Australia and South America with Kate Nash and Elliott Brannen returned to Perth and plays with 6s & 7s and The Autumn Isles.

Erik Hecht co-wrote and sang on the track with Dirty South and Those Usual Suspects called 'Walking Alone', which went on to worldwide headline DJ support by the likes of Tiesto and Axwell, featured in the 20th Century Fox movie 'Chronicle' (2012), and appeared on the deluxe edition of the final Swedish House Mafia album 'Until Now' (2012). Swedish House Mafia also named it as their Essential New Track during their guest takeover of Pete Tong's show on BBC Radio 1.

Band members[edit]

  • Ash Blakeney - guitar, vocals
  • Elliott Brannen - trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals, keys
  • Catherine Colvin - violin, vocals
  • Erik Hecht - vocals, guitar, banjo, keys
  • Toby Lang - drums, percussion
  • Rebecca May - keys, flute, vocals
  • David Thirkettle-Watts - bass
  • Samantha Wass - acoustic guitar, vocals, keys, piano accordion


City Walls and Empires[edit]

Cover of "City Walls and Empires"

"City Walls and Empires" is a split 7" single (w/ The Bank Holidays) released by Love Is My Velocity Records in May 2006.

  1. "City Walls and Empires" (Institut Polaire)
  2. "Bird" (The Bank Holidays)

The Fauna and the Flora[edit]

Cover of "The Flora and the Fauna"

The Fauna & The Flora is the debut EP released by Popfrenzy Records on 2 October 2007

  1. "Kentucky Society Drought"
  2. "The Fauna and the Flora Are Too Closely Allied"
  3. "East, West & I"
  4. "Lullaby For A Warmonger"
  5. "City Walls & Empires" (bonus track)


Awards and nominations[edit]



  • 2007 Triple J - J Award (Unearthed category)
  • 2007 WAMi Award nomination - 'Best Indie Pop Act'
  • 2008 WAMi Award nomination - 'Most Popular EP/Single'
  • 2008 WAMi Award nomination - 'Most Popular Music Video'
  • 2008 WAMi Award nomination - 'Best Indie Pop Act'
  • 2008 WAMi Award nomination - 'Best Drummer'


External links[edit]