Post Animal

There was a point in 2017 when people couldn’t talk about Chicago-based psyche-rock band Post Animal without also mentioning the 2016 Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things.  

The band’s guitar player, Joe Keery, landed a role as the bad-boy-turned-good Steve Harrington on the popular fiction-horror series. Once word got out that Keery played in a band, attention from adoring Stranger Things fans was redirected towards Post Animal.

Now, in 2018, the band is breaking free of that one-dimensional claim to fame. With Keery’s acting schedule becoming too hectic to balance touring and filming, Post Animal has dropped down to a five piece, allowing Keery to continue with Stranger Things and the rest of the band to tour at their leisure. The band’s highly anticipated debut major release, When I Think of You in a Castle, comes out on April 20 via Polyvinyl Record Co.

With the focus now entirely on Post Animal’s music, they’re regarded as one of Chicago’s most exciting up-and-coming bands.

With an uppity-and-fun demeanor that can be seen in their recent music video “Gelatin Mode,” Post Animal is cranking out care-free-psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll that pulls listeners in with poppy hooks. Even though they’ve been around since 2014, the band has finally found their footing and is a group that is worth paying attention to.

The band is touring in support of the new album with a kickoff show at the Cactus Club on April 20. The Wisconsin Gazette spoke with guitarist Javi Reyes on the phone about the new album and how the band has evolved since their Stranger Things recognition in 2017.

Wisconsin Gazette: How did Post Animal come together?

Javi Reyes: Matt Williams and Dalton Allison grew up in Danville in southern Illinois. They were playing together, and they moved to Chicago, probably in like 2011 or 2010. They met Jake Hirshland through mutual friends and started a band together. Eventually Matt met Joe Keery, while they were working together at the Chicago-based burger franchise DMK Burger Bar, so he joined the band and started playing drums. They made some music as a four piece for a while, and then Joe moved to guitar, and Wes Toledo, a friend of Joe’s from acting courses at De Paul University, joined to play drums. I joined in 2015 to add another guitar to the mix. Joe has kind of gotten busy now with Stranger Things, so it’s now a five piece.

In what ways did Joe’s success as an actor open up doors for the band?

Right when that show came out, we got more articles than we ever had before in like one week. We had way more publicity because of Joe. We’ve gotten more listeners from people who know Stranger Things and that wouldn’t have happened without Joe. It just put eyes on us, whether it was for Joe or for our music. Which was good in ways, but also people come to shows expecting to see Joe and then they don’t see him. People put out articles focusing more on the Steve Harrington aspect rather than about Post Animal. It seems like all of that stuff has faded away over time. Last summer we were hearing a lot about it. Somebody asked for a refund because he wasn’t there. That was kind of tweaking us out a little bit.

When I Think of You in a Castle almost didn’t get made, and some members were planning on moving away. How did this record change that?

We weren’t sure we were going to be a band while recording this because a lot of people were planning to relocate at the end of the year. We recorded in June and were going to leave in August or even during the recording. Once we finished it, I think things just got a little more serious that summer. We started getting some better shows, and maybe some offers from Chicago bands to go out and open. We were kind of like, “Oh, maybe we can make this work.” We got more opportunities and saw how it could be a long-term thing and still be fun. We were just going to put it up on Bandcamp and have it be a fun documentation of that week of recording. It just turned into more over time. We went into it very light hearted and just wanted to experiment and do some fun sounding things. We never had the mindset of, “Oh, that’s too weird” or anything like that. We just did whatever we wanted to do and what felt satisfying.

The album was recorded at a lake house in Michigan. Milwaukee psyche-rock band Calliope recently did the same isolated recording thing in northern Wisconsin. What is it about the “isolated cabin” experience that produces good Psyche-rock?

I think it’s just being uninfluenced, not having many people around. Nobody is telling you if its good or not, and you’re not getting validation from people outside of the band. You can kind of focus on something without worrying about what other people are thinking about it. I think it allowed us to do our own thing and it’s nice to be in a new place, a new house, because nothing you see is reminding you of anything. There’s nothing bringing you back to an experience so you just kind of have this blank slate. You carry your influences wherever you go, so that’s kind of nice to just feel like its fresh and that we were doing something that felt new. It’s just fun to be by the lake in the summer. It was also a vacation time.

You were signed to Polyvinyl Record Co. before even releasing a debut LP. How did the deal come about?

Our manager was shopping it out last summer, sending it to a bunch of labels and seeing if she’d get any bites. They’re family oriented, very communicative and straight forward. They care about their artists. Once we discovered that, it felt like such a good fit. Also, the founder or one of the founders is from the same place as Matt and Dalton. So they had that connection right away.

How does it feel to get so much positive attention for your first full length release?

It feels really good, and really weird. We’ve had it for a long time. We were going to release it independently a long time ago and then we just got the opportunity, and the label helps with publicity and we’re seeing all those results and its really satisfying. We couldn’t be more happy about it.

What was it like transitioning from the DIY Chicago scene to touring with bigger name acts and signing to a label?

It felt pretty gradual. We were doing Chicago DIY stuff for a long time, playing at Club Soda, The Keep and The Observatory. We were doing those for a long time. Last January, we just kind of got this three-day tour with Twin Peaks, and that kind of got our first taste of touring. It just kind of snowballed a little bit. We would still like to do some cool DIY stuff. It’s just been a while. We’re not all in Chicago, so it’s kind of hard to make it work. But I’m sure we would all be down to do something like that again. That’s such a great way to cut your teeth as a band.

The music video for your single “Gelatin Mode” is very DIY and fun. Do you find that this is a good representation of the what the band is like?

Yes, absolutely. We just wanted to do something ourselves. Wes is an actor and he does things like that — comedy sketches and films. Jake is also a writer and does side work writing. People have ideas for that sort of thing. So, we’ve been held back by the fact that we don’t have the best equipment, and we kind of were just like “Wait, we can do this with a not-so-great camera and have some fun with it.” We wanted to capture that spontaneity and a lot of the stuff was off the cuff. The whole story line was loosely talked about before but the way the video ends was just figured out on the spot.

What can people expect from you at the Cactus Club on April 18?

People can expect us to be really excited because it’s our first date on this long tour, so we’re really stoked about starting. We played the Cactus Club a long time ago, but we’re going to play again since we couldn’t last time because of a medical emergency. We’ll be redeeming ourselves this time and just going really hard think.

Post Animal performs at the Cactus Club on April 18 with Slow Walker, Anna Burch and Heavy Critters. Their new album “When I Think of You in a Castle” releases on April 20 via Polyvinyl Record Co.

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