There are many strange stories about how bands catch a break, but it doesn’t get stranger than the story of Post Animal.
With an already odd band name and an indefinable eclectic sound, the psychedelic group has it all in its short history. Sweaty DIY basement shows? Check. Strong musical friendships with local Chicago icons? Check. A ghost haunting the recording session at a Michigan lake house? Check.
It would almost feel scripted if the band didn’t also have a bizarre connection to a certain hit Netflix series that spread Post Animal’s name online unlike anything they could’ve imagined.
Let’s flash back to 2014. Two longtime friends, guitarist Matt Williams and bassist Dalton Allison, escape the small town of Danville, Ill. in hopes of forming a band in Chicago. There, they meet keyboardist/guitarist Jake Hirshland and Post Animal is born. Beginning to write songs, the group made more friends in Chicago’s extensive DIY rock scene, adding drummer Wesley Toledo and guitarists Javi Reyes and Joe Keery.
Sharing lead vocal duties, the band explored everything from ’70s-stylized guitar riffs to power-pop melodies on its early self-recorded releases. With buzz building around its legendary live shows, the band set about recording its first proper full-length LP, When I Think of You In a Castle, secluding themselves at a friend’s lake house near Paw Paw Lake in Watervliet.
Hearing that the spirit of a past owner haunted the property, Post Animal began its epic 18-hour recording sessions. Odd encounters ensued, with bandmates waking up alone to the presence of someone lurking in the room, and end-tables toppling over in the dead of night.
“It was a very eerie and ethereal time,” guitarist Matt Williams told Revue. “We love to write music that — I don’t want to say has a paranormal element, but we like to have some roomy, reverby sounds. There’s actually a couple moments on the recording of the album where there’s some backwards reverse drum cymbals that we did not do ourselves. So we like to attribute that to the ghost of Paw Paw Lake.”
Perhaps an omen of what was to come, the band’s brush with the supernatural wouldn’t be its last. In 2015, guitarist Joe Keery got offered what would become the role of a lifetime, as Steve Harrington on the Netflix original series Stranger Things. When the show exploded during the summer of 2016, he left the group, but not without creating an internet frenzy where fans eagerly wanted to discover more about the underground band.
“I think initially it was great because it helped put us on the map in a way,” Williams said. “But there were definitely difficult times too, because there were people who were seeing us as like the Stranger Things band, and we were really trying to keep our identity.
“In the end, it was one of the reasons why we were able to get on the road and bring our music out to people.”
Scratching their heads over the sudden confusion, the band just kept playing as a five-piece, hitting the road in 2017 for a steady string of shows that included its first big run outside its home state with Chicago garage rock juggernauts Twin Peaks.
“We were all star-struck, because we were all really big fans of their music at the time and still are,” Williams said. “From the first time we met, our friendship just kind of persisted. They were the first ones to really show us how to do it. They were patient with us because we were completely new at the time, and they’ve been nothing but great.”
The short tour included Post Animal’s opening slot for Twin Peaks’ show at the Park Theatre in Holland, back in the winter of 2017. Since then, the band has signed with indie label Polyvinyl Records, released When I Think of You In a Castle, and played at several major music festivals all across the country, including this year’s Lollapalooza in its hometown of Chicago.
“I went (to Lollapalooza) in 2014 for one day, and I was just daydreaming while I was there,” Williams said. “As a 21 year old, I was just thinking, ‘What would it be like to play this place?’ So to be able to actually do that this year, it’s kind of outlandish. I wouldn’t believe myself if I told myself that I’d be playing it right now.”
The band’s stranger-than-fiction rise so far has the members ready to record again next year and see where their music will take them next.
“I know it’s probably the broadest thing that can be said, but we have no restrictions,” Williams said of Post Animal’s evolving sound. “We might get more extreme. We might find more progressive elements. Maybe we’ll find poppier elements. Maybe we’ll find heavier elements. But I think we’ll always be a band that likes to do everything, all of it, rather than just one exact sound.”
Hope College Concert Series Presents: Post Animal
248 S. River Ave., Holland
Dec. 1, 8 p.m., $15