Not satisfied with the growth shown on last year’s deservedly lauded debut album, When I Think of You in a Castle, the members of Chicago’s Post Animal plan to mix things up moving forward. “I think, at the beginning of what we were doing, we had a lot of comparisons,” bassist Dalton Allison says, on the line from a Denver tour stop. “That kind of put a bad taste in our mouths, to the point where we are now strictly trying to avoid being compared to anyone.”
More than one suggestion has been made that Post Animal would fit brilliantly on a Spotify playlist next to a certain Australian act credited with reviving psych-indebted guitar rock. That was perfectly valid based on the group’s 2016 debut EP, Post Animal Perform the Most Curious Water Activities, the songs on which suggest an obsession with cellophane flowers, vintage lava lamps, and the ghost of Syd Barrett.
By the time Post Animal got around to recording When I Think of You in a Castle, however, the band had more on its mind than securing an invitation to Austin’s Levitation Festival. After kicking off with the meditative instrumental “Everything All at Once”, the group promptly fires up the amps. “Gelatin Mode” gives you a good idea what Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger would have sounded like recorded in 1969 at Benedict Canyon’s 10050 Cielo Drive. “Heart Made of Metal” starts out paying homage to classic SoCal country rock before heading straight for Garageland, USA, and “Victory Lap” morphs from a dirty-needle acid-blues workout to a sun-flooded experimental soundscape.
Allison deserves a huge amount of credit for the way that the record sounds; self-taught, he was in charge of mixing the songs, his perfectionism leading to bouts of self-doubt during the process. Helping him focus on the positives was that his bandmates—drummer Wesley Toledo and singer-guitarists Jake Hirshland, Javi Reyes, Matt Williams, and Joe Keery—knew exactly what they were after when Post Animal set up in a cabin on a lake. (Yes, the band’s guitarists pull double duty as singers, and bonus points if you recognize Keery as a cast member of Stranger Things.) “There were a lot of things that I would go back and undo after realizing that I was just being counterintuitive,” he admits. “Even when I listen today, I hear what I did wrong—little things like the way the bass sounds in a song.”
When I Think of You in a Castle was in some ways meant to showcase Post Animal as a band you don’t need a closet full of paisley shirts and royal-purple flares to embrace. Mission accomplished, with the group subsequently graduating from DIY spaces and raging house parties to the stages of Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Steady touring since the album’s release has also reshaped the band’s approach to making art.
“Being on the road a lot has introduced some new challenges in our lives that we’re all kind of learning to deal with together,” Allison offers. “We’re all 25, 26, and figuring out what it is to be adults and the responsibilities that come with being adults.”
Allison and company are now ready to record a sophomore record in the coming months, and the bassist happily reports that the only act Post Animal sounds like these days is Post Animal. “As a band, we’re kind of into being all over the place, even though we have something of a central sound we can call our own,” Allison says. “We’re all from different backgrounds, and from different parts of the country, so we’ve all got something different to bring to the table. I think what you’ll hear in the new songs is that we’re a little more hopeful than we’ve been in the past, but at the same time a little more pessimistic. There’s a weird complexity to being in a band. It’s like you’re doing what you’ve always wanted to do, but you’re also feeling really selfish about it. That really plays into the new songs.”
Post Animal plays the WISE Hall on Friday (February 8).