Many skeptics out there will defiantly proclaim that DIY scenes all around the United States are a thing of the past. Take a look all around your towns and you will soon discover that these people are further from the truth. The West Coast alone is brimming with great DIY spots. These landmarks are perfect for those who wish to cut their teeth in music mostly in part because of the support the community gives to everyone.
In the heart of Chicago lies a vibrant DIY movement. Bands like indie darlings Twin Peaks have built a following that rivals many mainstream acts on the road today. Another such band that is emerging from Chi-town is Post Animal. Collectively, the band has been together since 2014 when childhood friends Dalton Allison (bassist) and Matt Williams (guitarist) met Jake Hirshland (keyboardist/guitarist). Through making connections in the music scene and working at local burger spots, the additions of guitarists Javi Reyes and Joe Keery and drummer Wesley Toledo helped shape Post Animal. The band got to work quickly, playing at small clubs and DIY basements. Soon after, Post Animal released their 2015 Post Animal Perform The Most Curious Water Activities EP and then 2016’s singles collection The Garden Series. Audiences and fans became rabid for the local boys, making them one of the city’s most exciting acts; touring with Chicago’s own Twin Peaks, Wavves, White Reaper found them expanding their base countrywide.
When I Think Of You In A Castle, Post Animal’s debut via Polyvinyl is a testament to six friends creating music that they are passionate about. Recorded at a lake house in Watervliet, Michigan and their house in Chicago, Post Animal prove that their sound of swirling riffs, catchy lyrics, poppy melodies, and most importantly their DIY mentality are here to stay. We spoke with Hirshland to take more about the band, the tight relationship that members have, and the recording of the album (which included a questionable, surprise guest).
There seems to be a tight DIY community around the Chicago area. How influential would say was the scene for the band as a whole?
There’s definitely a supportive music community in Chicago. I would say it was very influential. We all brought our pre-Chicago influences to the project, but we picked up a lot from other bands in our scene; we still do. We learned how we play live in front of Chicago crowds and at Chicago venues, and I think those experiences weigh heavy on us when we go on the road and play elsewhere.
What would say makes a DIY show better than selling out a small venue, if any?
I don’t think any of us feel that a DIY show is better than a venue show, or the other way around. Each experience has a different quality to it, and it’s fun when you have opportunities to play all kinds of shows. That said, ain’t nothing wrong with a sweaty basement show!
Reading about the band, I began catching on that there’s a tightness between everyone. How important would you say that was when the band started to take off?
We’ve always been friends first, bandmates second. I think that was crucial when things started to get more serious, especially with touring. We spend so much of our time together, and we allow each other to edit and evolve our music, so if we aren’t close friends and don’t have patience and trust within the team, it’s gonna fall apart.
What ultimately led the band to go ahead and push on making the album? I read that it was looking like it wasn’t ever going to happen.
Things were getting a little crazy for us around the time we recorded Castle. But we had all of these song ideas, and even some completed songs. We wanted to just commit, and get an album recorded before life swept everyone in different directions, as it so often does. Once we had it tracked, it was pretty obvious that we had to see it to the end. We’d recorded something that made us happy!
How quickly did things start to roll when the lineup began to slowly take shape?
The final lineup was a big improvement on the previous ones. We gel together nicely and our shows instantly improved, just because the playing improved. Hard to say how quickly things were moving at that point, it still feels like we’re putting one foot in front of the other, taking opportunities as they’re presented.
With so many influences (ranging from Ty Segall to Black Sabbath), how does each band member incorporate them into the music?
There isn’t usually a conscious effort to reference our influences (though, sometimes we like to pay homage overtly). I think this just happens when you write songs and you listen to a lot of music. Writing together is fun for us because we end up with these mutants, comprised of all of our favorite types of music.
What led the band to record When I Think Of You In A Castle in a lake house in Watervliet, Michigan?
We wanted to record it ourselves, and we wanted to leave behind the distraction of our lives in Chicago. We toyed with a couple of recording destinations, but the lake house just fit the bill really well. Big open room for recording, nearby swimming, lots of beds, a copy of Waking Ned Devine.
Were the tracks for the new album already laid out and were ready for recording or was there need to flush out some of the ideas?
Everything needed a little work, but some songs needed more than others. We spent the first few days finishing all of the songs, and recording live demos for reference. Some only needed a little polishing, some required more effort and brainstorming, some never got to the finish line at all! Maybe those ones will surface one day 😉
Overall, how much did it mean for the band to take the time to go away to record the album instead of doing it in Chicago?
On top of getting us away from our distractions at home, I think going to the lake to record was reinvigorating for us. We had so much fun and were so excited by what we’d come up with, and because we’d gone away to do it, we were able to look back on the experience as a singular event, rather than a string of broken up sessions in Chicago. We liked it so much that we may or may not have maybe done or maybe will do something like it again or we won’t or have not.
What’s the story with the ghost that was present during recording? Did you ever discover this wasn’t the first time someone could have encountered the mysterious figure?
There is a ghost at the house, not a poltergeist, just a homeowner who demands a bit of respect. We know exactly who he is, and there have been many encounters between the same figure and his living family. I think we tested his patience with our loud music, probably why we had a number of tense encounters. We’ll bring him a vinyl to show him what it was all about!
I read that your beloved van “Shannon” recently broke down. What were some of your fondest memories of the vehicle?
Shannon is gone, owned by another. We’ll never forget our times together. Rolling into Lansing for our first tour. Driving to the shores of Spider Beach. Taking refuge within Shannon when we thought our lives were on the line. Shannon just didn’t like touring, not everyone does. We had to respect that!
With When I Think Of You In A Castle in the can and touring under your belts, does everyone feel like things are only going to go up from here?
We sure hope so! Like I said before, it’s always one foot in front of the other for us, but up until now, each step seems a little more copacetic.
It’s probably too soon, but is there any music being work on currently?
As long as the people are hungry, we’ll be in the kitchen.