It's all fun and games until your guitarist joins Stranger Things...
There are stranger things indeed than those dreamt of by a psych-rock sextet from Chicago. Inter-dimensional mind flayers, for example, or demogorgon dogs with an affinity for nougat. But when it comes to taking a walk on the wilder side, there are few bands who bring that energy to life with such a vivid and freewheeling nature as Post Animal. Scaling a kaleidoscope of sonics somewhere between Tame Impala and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, the outfit are a force to be reckoned with.
"Oh man, I wish we'd have ventured into the death metal genre," drummer Wes Toledo laughs. "We kind of started as a country-psych project." Listening to debut album 'When I Think Of You In A Castle' it's instantly evident how far the outfit have come since they first started playing music together to "have some fun." Looking at the band now it's all systems go: they're signed to Polyvinyl Records, their first record is about to see release, and their tour dates stretch out well into the summer. But rewind two years, and the group almost ended before they really had chance to begin.
"When we wrote the record it was right before the TV show, Stranger Things, came out," Wes states. Sure, a Netflix series wouldn't usually have such an impact on a band's future, but when your guitarist is Steve Harrington (or Joe Keery, as he's known in the real world – who remains an inactive member of the band), chances are the show's scheduling is going to carry some weight. "We didn't know that it was going to turn into the massive hit that it was, but we figured that it would probably hinder us playing," Wes chuckles. And that wasn't the only hurdle the group had to face. "I was thinking about moving from Chicago, pursuing something else," the drummer admits.
"It was tough," he recalls. "We felt really strongly about the music that we had written, but we didn't know if we were really ever going to get it to meet its full potential." The future of the band, for a while, seemed entirely in question. "It was a little tumultuous," Wes conveys. "Not between us, but it was uncertain, and uncertainty can be kind of tense. We were uncertain of what the future of the band was."
Rather than packing it in, the group decided to pack up together, and relocated to a house by Lake Paw Paw, near Watervliet in Michigan, where they set about recording their debut album. "It was a small town, kind of away from the hustle and bustle, literally right on the lake," Wes describes. "It was a total classic summertime lake house retreat, a bunch of buddies together having a great time, drinking and smoking cigarettes and all that crap, and just jamming all day."
The sun-kissed setting the band retreated to radiates through every freewheeling moment of the group's debut record. "It definitely, definitely influenced the overall carefree tone of the album," Wes enthuses. The band saw the change in scenery as a chance to regroup and recharge, but the lake house they recorded in made its presence known on the album more than any of them could have predicted – if you choose to believe that it did, at least.
"Apparently the lake house was haunted," Wes hints. "Obviously, we don't know if that's actually true," he laughs. "You can't be sure about these sorts of things, but people have experienced weird sort of supernatural occurrences, and we sort of did too while we were there." With tales of half-conscious encounters, furniture moving of its own accord, and even cymbal hits recording in reverse, Post Animal revelled in their sense of the strange in the sun. "It's fun to believe that that's the ghost, play into the superstition a little bit," the drummer teases.
The retreat sparked a fresh creativity within the group, and saw them return to their home of Chicago more united than ever. "We had never all been in a room with each other and recorded something with each other," Wes states. "That was the goal of recording this record. It was a chance to get to do that, and it was great. It was very laid back, with a lot of chemistry. It was awesome."
Refreshed and recharged, 'When I Think Of You In A Castle' is Post Animal at their most energised yet. "We basically just said yes to everything," Wes laughs. "That was kind of our motto, or M.O. while we were recording. We were very much open to everyone's ideas. It was very kind of carefree." With more echoing riffs and resounding drum fills than you could shake a whole forest full of sticks at if you cared to try, the group's willingness to entertain any idea reflects on the record as something of a badge of honour.
"Sometimes it's good to be really meticulous and critical about what you're doing, but other times having a carefree attitude and saying yes to a bunch of different things results in a great cohesive work," Wes portrays. "I'm not saying this is like the greatest cohesive work ever," he laughs, "but we were definitely surprised when we played it all the way through." Dazzling and driving in equal measure, the record presents itself as a dream of its own making. "It's all over the place, but it still sort of has a solid theme to it," Wes offers. "A cohesive through line, if you will."
From swirling psychedelia, through brazen rock and roll, to straight up catchy pop hooks, and everything in between, 'When I Think Of You In A Castle' is a rollercoaster ride of turbocharged thrills and blissed out chills of the most addictive kind. "The album is a lot more rock and roll than our previous releases," Wes distils. "I think our previous releases are kind of like your standard psychedelic rock music. This stuff is definitely more straight rock based. We think of it as a pop record too."
Varied and vibrant, the record is a hard one to pin down to one description. "Lake house fever dream is what I mean," the drummer carefully and cryptically portrays. Much like that description, 'When I Think Of You In A Castile' is whatever you choose to make of it. "If it just stands out to a few people then I think we will have done a job well done," Wes enthuses.
With live dates carrying the band well through the summer, the possibility of a UK tour in the offing ("we're all itching to get over there"), and the hopes to "record another record really soon," it might have taken them the best part of two years to reach this point, but Post Animal aren't slowing down anytime soon – the only thing left to do is hold on for the ride.
Taken from the May issue of Dork - order a copy or subscribe below. Post Animal’s debut album ‘When I Think Of You In A Castle’ is out now.