Words from Kevin Sterne
Photos from Rachel Zyzda
Chicago’s Post Animal are in the thick, sticky center of their summer tour and recently made the pilgrimage back to their hometown for two long-awaited shows at West Fest and Subterranean. Comprised of long-haired rockers Dalton Allison (bass, vocals), Jake Hirshland (guitar, keys, vocals), Matt Williams (guitar, vocals), Javi Reyes (guitar, vocals), Joe Keery (guitar, vocals) and Wesley Toledo (drums), Post Animals pulls from contemporary and classic rock influences while adding their own psychedelic spin.
I was welcomed by humble dudes Dalton, Jake and Matt for a sit down in band’s van while Woods played on the West Fest stage behind us. We discussed their current tour, the Chicago scene, and their much-anticipated new album.
What does it mean for you guys to be playing Chicago’s West Fest
Jake: I think today specifically we were all looking forward to playing West Fest. We’ve all come to West Fest for many years, and other Chicago festivals as well. We’ve seen a lot of people that we really like play here, and around this specific time of day. We’ve been in the audience for this experience. So to be out here and playing and having people show up. Just seeing people smile has been an out-of-body experience for me.
Dalton: And just now, standing on this stage and looking out, you can see the John Hancock Center, and I work at a Best Buy at the ground level of that. To be on a stage, at West Fest, and looking out and seeing my employer has been a crazy last hour.
Who are some bands that you’ve seen play West Fest in the past?
Jake: Mild High Club!
Dalton: Lemon Twigs played like the same exact time slot that we just played. So that was crazy.
You all are in the midst of a national tour. How’s that going?
Dalton: The tour is insane. It’s the first time we’ve played outside of the Midwest. We’re going to more places than I ever imagined. More cities, more physical, actually locations than I ever thought I would travel in my life. That’s been the craziest thing for me.
Any memorable or favorite places you’ve played on the tour?
Dalton: In DC, we played the 9:30 club and Black Jack. Thalia Hall in Chicago.
Jake: It’s surreal playing these shows like in Tampa, and these weird places that I’ve never been to.
Any crazy tour stories?
Matt: Some pool swimming. Some family meals.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room: word is there’s a new record.
Jake: It’s done, actually. We’ve been sitting on this thing a long time.
Can you talk about the recording process, and how that all went down?
Matt: Our friend Emily has a lake house in Watervliet, Michigan. Right on Paw Paw Lake. And we spent about eight days there tracking all the instruments. Writing some and recording. And Dalton spent time mixing it and producing it. And then he co-mastered with our friend Adam Thein.
In terms of the writing process, how does that go?
Jake: Some people come to the table with close to completion songs. And we kind of synch ourselves into a part that’s already been written, or modify it slightly. Then there’s other people who write more of a skeletal idea, and bring it to everyone to have them fill in the gaps. Say, someone writes a song, but doesn’t write a bass line. Then Dalton will work on writing the bass line. And sometimes we’ll just jam stuff out. “When I get Home” was a jam.
Matt: I was on the drums for that one. I didn’t write the drum part, but I was playing drums when they wrote the song.
Jake: I was on keys. Dalton was on bass. And even the vocals were just melody sounds, we didn’t have lyrics yet.
Dalton: There are probably like 3-4 songs on the record that we were just jamming and mumbling into the microphone. “You’re Not There” was like that. We kind of just mumble what it feels like it should be and then write the lyrics later.
The new music video single, “Special Moment,” is that going to be on the record?
Jake: It’s the first song on the record.
How’d that come to fruition? Because that is some dynamite screenwriting, kind of American Psycho-like.
Jake: Yeah, dude. Totally. That’s all credited to Alec Basse. He came to us with a number of ideas. And we we’re perusing one that we liked. Then he basically took the reigns. With the two music videos we have, we try to get people we trust, and then give them full control. Because none of us are directors, and we don’t pretend to be. We’re actually working on another music video right now. It’s almost completely hands, and that’s worked out for us really well so far.
Let’s talk about the Chicago scene and the evolution of your music. How you would describe the Chicago scene right now, and how you fit in with it?
Dalton: When we were playing house shows, most of the bands we were playing with were garage bands. But then we met all these dudes that are in Woongi and The Voluptuals, and the guys that are more on the experimental side, and formed a friendship with them. Then we have our friends in the Evening Attraction that we play house shows with. I think there’s this psych rock thing going on, but a little heavier. People focus on being a little heavier and more groovy.
Listening to the studio recordings and then hearing you live, I’m finding a harder-rock, more rock and roll aspect to the music compared to maybe a few years ago when you were playing shows at Schubas and Double Door. I’m wondering about that transition.
Jake: A lot of the stuff on the new record is leaning more towards rock and roll, heavy rock and classic rock. There’s still some psychy stuff, but were not trying to pigeon hole ourselves as psych rock. I wouldn’t say that the main thing that pops out is psychodellic in terms of describing this record.
Dalton: We’re a rock band with psych influences more so than a psych rock bands.
Having toured and played together live, has the live sound transitioned to this record more?
Jake: I think so. I think the record might actually influence the live sound. I think in us writing this last record, we realized some stuff that we wanted to do and now are translating that live. We’ve even taken some of our old songs and retooled them to be a little more in this style. It’s kind of an identity change for us, not a huge change but definitely a change in identity over the last year.
So where’s Joe right now? I feel like I just saw him in a Dominos commercial.
Dalton: He’s running wild on everyone’s TV screen. We’re not sure if he’s real anymore. I haven’t seen him in person in a while.
Jake: I see him at the gym.
Dalton: He’s one of the most beautiful people.
Was he part of the recording process for this record?
Dalton: He’s been on every recording. He played drums on Water Activities. He plays guitar on four of the songs on Garden Series.
Jake: But he was definitely part of the recording. One-sixth of the playing and song writing on the record. He’s definitely still a huge part of who we are.
What’s next for you guys?
Jake: We’ve got another month of touring. And that hangs heavy. We aren’t looking too far past that.
Dalton: We’re trying to meet with people who can help us “take the next step”—whatever that may be.
You guys unsigned?
Dalton: We are.
Have there been conversations?
Dalton: A few, but you never really know.
Jake: We haven’t had THE conversation.
Dalton: People seem so interested in real life, but then you don’t hear from them for a while. And you’re like, okay, let me lower my expectations.
Jake: But we are really happy. I feel like we’ve finished a record that we’re happy with, going on a tour that we’re happy with. So we’re pretty content with where we are. We’d love to work with people who could take it to another level, but for the moment we feel good.
Dalton: We’re not over-reaching by any means. It’s going well, we feel really good with the opportunities we’ve already been given.
Jake: And we get to decide everything. Everything we’ve ever done has our full, entire stamp of approval. And that’s a really good feeling.
Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago. He writes about music, craft beer and culture for Shuga Records, Substream Magazine and other places (like here). His super weird and highly offensive fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Praxis Magazine, Word Eater, Defenestration and many other places you’ve never heard of. Kevin is the creator of a really terrible magazine called LeFawn.