When Northern Transmissions spoke with drummer Wes Toledo of shapeshifting Chicago rockers Post Animal two years ago, he recounted recording their debut album, When I Think of You in a Castle, in a lake house in northern Michigan that was possibly haunted. With their follow-up, Forward Motion Godyssey, released earlier this month on Polyvinyl, setting continued to play a part in shaping the album. This time, though, the band swapped the lake house for a ski resort mansion in Big Sky, Montana.
“It was kind of the polar opposite,” Toledo says of the sessions. “It’s very symbolic of these two albums. It still sounds like they’re made by the same band, but they’re exploring two different realms. With Castle, we recorded at this sunny lake house in Michigan in the summer time, so it was really, really dreamy. It was very happy and warm.” In Montana, on the other hand, “It was winter, and it was super cold, and we were pretty much inside this mansion all day.”
But being stuck indoors didn’t diminish the experience at all. “Although, it was a huge fucking mansion, so it was pretty amazing, and it had the most beautiful look out over this mountain range. There’s this big window that was in the room that we recorded in, the main living room. It definitely influenced us in a very intense way.”
There are many words to describe Godyssey, and intense is certainly one of them. The band kicked the same pop and psych-rock influences that coloured Castle into overdrive, with the aim of being more over-the-top, heavy, and dramatic than ever. It’s a dense psychedelic journey full of devastating crushers, like “Post Animal.” Unlike Castle, whose bright-spirited songs are constantly in motion, those of Godyssey’s demand more attention, rewarding patience as they peak with immense builds and settle back down like silt on a riverbed.
Post Animal have always been eclectic, but their influences only continued to expand on Godyssey. Their digest while making the album included a lot of metal, hip hop, and pop. And if there’s a dim-lit, incandescent quality to Godyssey, it likely owes to Frank Ocean and Drake. And as for Post Animal’s new focus on synths, classic, over-the-top studio bands like Toto are to thank.
The music’s weight reflects the vibe at the mansion, which wasn’t exactly chill, despite the band’s amazing surroundings and the winter temperatures.
“We were kind of under some pressure to get a really big record done in a short amount of time, so we were pretty much going the entire time,” Toledo says. “Whereas with When I Think of You in a Castle, it was kind of like a vacation week. We weren’t really stressed out, we were taking a bunch of breaks, we were drinking a lot. We’d go out and swim in the lake and play catch or frisbee or something. It was very laid back.”
Reflecting on the task at hand, though, Toledo says, “I think that we rose to it. We put a little pressure on ourselves to really test ourselves and push ourselves. It was very intentional. Whereas Castle, there were no expectations; it was completely for fun.”
Similarly, the album’s themes carry weight. Guitarist/keyboardist Jake Hirshland has said “Forward Motion God” is about effort and perseverance and the good life. Even though from the outside, the band looks like it’s been on nothing but an upward trajectory since Castle, of course, the usual issues creep up. “It’s been a pretty fast couple of years, and a lot of things have changed for us individually, and ‘Forward Motion God’ is a phrase that encapsulates that feeling of time moving forward and being on your own journey,” Toledo explains. “It moves faster than you can even experience it.
You experience it but to soak it all up and try to get every single little moment of it is really hard because of how fast it feels like it’s always moving.” And like a god, the forward motion – the compulsion to do, make, move and create – is like the ruling guiding force.
Much of Godyssey touches on what bassist Dalton Allison has described as “the ways that your work or your passion drives you, sometimes to the detriment of yourself and of others.” But given that the band members are all in it together, they have a greater mutual understanding of and thus are better equipped to provide each other emotional support.
“When someone is going through something tense and very life-changing and monumental for them, it’s inevitable that we are not also all personally affected by it, especially when we’re with each other all the time,” Toledo says. “One person’s struggle affects everyone else’s lives. And when I say struggle, I don’t want to make it sound dramatic. It’s just stuff literally every single human goes through: the change of relationships and anxiety. That’s been a super common growing theme in people nowadays. It’s fear, really, that everyone has to deal with on a daily basis nowadays.”
With this mutual understanding, the members also know when to give each other space and how to approach each other with kid gloves. “It’s easy when you’re going through stuff to be hard on yourself. It’s important to have people on the outside who can reassure you that, ‘Hey, you’re okay. Everything’s okay. Don’t let this consume you too much. We still have so much going on, so much to be grateful for.”
Moreover, he says, “It’s easy to become self-conscious because you don’t want to burden your friends. You can get in your head and be like, ‘Oh my god, I hope that they’re not annoyed.” But with utmost mutual understanding, Post Animal keep the forward motion going.
review by Leslie Chu