Music Features

Interview: Post Animal's "Forward Motion Godyssey" Powers Through the Storm

Bassist Dalton Allison talks to Popdust about the Chicago band's second album.

Marie Renaud

Just before recording their new album Forward Motion Godyssey, the members of Post Animal feared for their lives.

The Chicago psych rockers got caught in a snowstorm on their way to Big Sky, Montana, where they holed up for eight days to record in a mountainside ski lodge. "We just had a tour where we did a 360 spin on the highway out in Wyoming," bassist Dalton Allison tells me over the phone, adding that their time was cut short due to weather concerns. "It was getting scary. We'd just come to terms with how frail our tour van was."

Still, Post Animal braved the treacherous conditions and emerged with Forward Motion Godyssey, a sophomore album that feels fittingly triumphant (out now via Polyvinyl). Where the quintet's 2018 debut, When I Think of You in a Castle, bears the closeness of compact rock clubs, Godyssey sounds as vast as the mountain range it was recorded in, with a grandiose quality that could fill open-air stadiums. Much of that can actually be attributed to Allison, who co-produced the album this time around. "We felt a little more pressure to make a more professional, polished product," he explains.

Fresh off a U.K. tour with Cage the Elephant, Allison further discusses his love for production with Popdust, and he shares what influenced the creation of Forward Motion Godyssey.

Popdust: I live in New York, but I hear so much about Chicago's underground scene and the bands it breeds. How did being based in Chicago affect the way you make music?

I think in a lot of ways, it's encouraged us to be more experimental than if we were somewhere else, just trying to sound like the biggest local band in our area. Here, the biggest band in our friend group was probably Twin Peaks while we were coming up, and we definitely didn't sound like them, but we kind of tried to apply their same energy to what we were doing. The shared vocals—I feel like that's kind of a Chicago thing, where there's no real frontman [in Post Animal or Twin Peaks]. It's just like, a group of average people joining together to create something bigger than themselves, hopefully better than anything they could do on their own.

Tell me about your experience of co-producing the album with Adam Thein.

I love producing. It's kind of the thing I love most about music. I love thinking of these cinematic ideas for the song. Like, "Oh, I want this to sound like it's being played from the top of a mountain," or "I want the vocals to sound like they're inside your head"—crazy stuff like that. That's the part that I love. I can make it sound crazy and then Adam can clean it up and make it so it doesn't sound unintelligible. But production is one of my favorite parts about music. It's what I appreciate a lot about Electric Light Orchestra and Black Sabbath, those kinds of bands, because someone in the band is also producing the record and no other record sounds like it. My main attraction to Tame Impala is the production. I think that Kevin Parker is an amazing, amazing producer, and I think it's so cool because nothing else sounds like that. A lot of pop records are all done by the same person and it just makes it not as special because you can hear two artists that sound super similar.

As a listener, I like to think about where the artist might've envisioned their music being played. It's funny that you mention being on top of a mountain—did you have a setting in mind when making the album?

Yeah. We recorded it at this house that was in between two mountains, basically, so as we were recording, we'd look out the window and see this huge mountain peak. Everything was grandiose because we're just envisioning this album being the soundtrack to this landscape. It's just a huge, wide area, and you can kind of feel the air—I don't really know how to describe it. Just thinking about the elements and the meeting of the earth and the sky. Not to get too trippy! But as far as a physical space, I feel like these songs are a little bigger. During our last record, we were playing a lot of small clubs and venues like that, so it was very classic rock with slapback delay, really quick and tight. But for this album, I think we were envisioning ourselves playing in bigger spaces. I think it's a record that would sound really good in an outdoor area. I was thinking less about the individual parts, and wanted to make it more spacious—a little bit ambient.

You name dropped Sabbath and ELO earlier, but were there any other artists you were listening to that inspired this album?

I try not to listen to other music at all, or at least not contemporary music. We get compared to other psych rock bands all the time, and I'm so scared that I'll hear something and subconsciously make songs too close to that. It kind of kills the originality of what we're doing. But, I was listening to this band called Flower Travellin' Band that has this cool, big production. A lot of Black Sabbath, a lot of '70s progressive bands like King Crimson...a lot of rock, but we also listen to a lot of pop music for melodies.


You guys described "Schedule" as "a song so pop that it's not pop." What does that mean to you?

We were trying to be funny. But also, to be a pop band takes an incredible amount of talent. Not to say we aren't talented, but we don't really excel in having this pure talent kind of thing. We're a little weirder. So for a band like ours to go from psychedelic songs to a straight-up pop song, even when we try, it's still in a weird Toto kind of realm. It's almost a commentary on pop. The production on "Schedule" is less natural, too; the vocals have tuning on them and the drums are kind of quantized. We were just kind of fooling around and thought it would be fun to have that one song. It's hard for us to take ourselves seriously.

Lyrically, "Schedule" is the most straightforward song on the album. You guys like a lot of abstract metaphors.

I went through [a long-distance relationship]. Instead of being so metaphysical about everything, I wanted to try straight-up saying how I felt at a specific time. There are lines in that song where I can remember the time and the place that I felt that feeling. Since it was a pop song with the melodies, I think we wanted to put it with lyrics that were very heartfelt and realistic.

Is that easier for you?

Yeah, I find it easier to write something straightforward like "Schedule." And songs usually start out that way for me, but sometimes it's cooler if you have to kind of work for the meaning behind it. There are other songs on the album where I'm saying a lot of things that have double meanings on purpose to try making it more vague. Someone can figure out whatever it means to them. But on "Schedule," there's like a line that's like, "Now I'm back all alone in the van / I'm crying 'cause I know I'm doing all that I can." That's literally exactly what was happening. Writing the songs that way is easier, but from a perspective of being vulnerable, it's a lot harder. Yeah. But it's somewhat rewarding because I think it's for the best to let it out there. It feels much better to have said something about it than cover it in this like mysterious lyricism.

Another song that stuck out to me was "Fitness." Is the line "Run with me, fitness is all I know" meant to be taken literally?

I think Jake [Hirschland, guitarist/keyboardist] wrote that one. I'm pretty sure it's referring to how people use fitness to benefit their physical health, but also their mental health, too. Sometimes, it's the only thing that gets you through tough times.

Post Animal rose to prominence in a kind of unconventional way. How do you reckon with that?

There was definitely a time where it would make me feel really guilty, and like I didn't deserve to be getting all the opportunities that we were getting. We kind of got some flak around the local scene in Chicago, feeling like we had a target on our backs. It was a weird feeling, but obviously at a certain point, you have to come to terms with the fact that you're given this opportunity and you can't waste it. You can't be worried about what other people think, because at the end of the day, if the music was terrible, you wouldn't have achieved anything. People aren't going to listen to a band just because they like a show on TV, especially if the guy's no longer in the band! [Guitarist Joe Keery left Post Animal to focus on his role in Netflix's Stranger Things.] It's extremely weird to watch a friend and roommate of yours become someone that people are obsessed with. It's all cool now, and I don't even really think about it, but I'm a very self-conscious person, so it took me a while to come to terms with it. I think this album was cathartic for all of us because we just like made music that we wanted to make instead of worrying about what people wanted to hear. We were prepared for people to not like it. Obviously now, I realize how extremely lucky we are for all that's happened to us. At this point, it's about making the most of the opportunity, and I try to use it in a way to do some good. The most rewarding thing is when a person you don't know says their music has helped them in some way.

What do you hope listeners take away from this album?

I think a main sentiment is taking time to be understanding and be purposeful in life. And hopefully people will realize that everyone goes through good times and everyone goes through bad times. The world is becoming such a crazy place. Everyone is on different sides of every issue, and it can be hard to keep your mind afloat. We just want people to take a deep breath and be able to think for themselves and know that they have the power to get themselves through any problem that they are facing.


The Bloodiest Bands of All Time

These guys are bats*it crazy, but it's Spooky Season after all!

Spooky season is upon us, and that means that it's time for us to pay respect to the bands and artists that genuinely terrify us.

The world of music is such a diverse and creatively open environment, which is both a gift and a curse. It's a gift in that self-expression, no matter how horrid, is (usually) welcomed with open arms, and it's a curse because self-expression, no matter how horrid, is (usually) welcomed with open arms. Let's take a look at the worlds spookiest musical acts and pay homage to those that have scarred us forever!


You can't talk about scary musicians without discussing the antics of Corey Taylor's 17-piece metal ensemble: Slipknot. Those spooky masks aside, the guys have all come clean about the absolutely bats*it things they've done as a band. From getting pissed on by two girls to huffing the scent of a jarred bird's corpse to get high on stage, these guys have a gauntlet of horror stories seemingly with no end. Also, let's not forget that they got into a fight using their own feces. Rock on guys, I guess.


Why Is Tool So Hard to Love? Is That the Point?

We're honestly asking. Any answers to the questions below would be extremely helpful.

The band Tool has returned for the first time in 13 years, and we don't know what that means.

Popdust didn't think the band's reunion was a big deal, considering how the band handled the extremely pretentious promotional process for Fear Inoculum. But it seemingly worked. Tool fans from all corners of the earth rushed to binge the 80-minute spectacle, and as the reviews started to pour in, the majority of them were positive.

We were left with a lot of questions. Tool is undoubtedly the greatest metal band of all time and have repeatedly challenged and changed the way human beings enjoy music. With that said, this listicle comes from a genuine place. We want to enjoy Tool. We really do. But as one can imagine, the task feels insurmountable for us normies. Below are a few questions we would really like answered before diving into the Tool sensation.

Why are Tools songs so long?

TOOL - 7empest (Audio)

Why is "7empest" 15 minutes long? 10 of those minutes are just electric guitar. Their riffs have the same strange tempo, the same BPM, for 10 minutes. Is that the appeal? What is being said in those extra 10 minutes that can't be said in 3 or 4? If "7empest" was a short story, any good editor would insist on cuts. Why are people labeling the track as a masterpiece? What is this "journey" that the track supposedly takes everyone on? Am I supposed to be sober when I listen to this? Do Tool fans still love this stuff when you take away their Ketamine? Why does no one seem to mind that "Invincible" sounds just like "7empest"? What is the difference between the two besides the latter having 5 extra minutes of noise?

Why can't I tell their songs apart?

Chocolate Chip Trip

Is it cool that their songs aren't the slightest bit catchy? Is it cool for everything to sound like one long introduction and have no hooks? Am I supposed to not have any sense of where I am or what I'm listening to as each track progresses? How do I differentiate the tracks from each other? Where am I?

Why are Tool fans so strange?

Why are Tool fans mostly comprised of heterosexual white people, and why do they all fetishize a group of 50 year old rockers? Why have Tool fans loved being toyed with for the last 13 years? Why did they tolerate the abuse and hatred of Maynerd James Keenan? Are Tool fans in an abusive relationship? Are they okay?

Can one "casually" listen to Tool?

Tool - Lateralus (Highest Quality HD)

Or is that weird? Do Tool fans wake up, hop in their car, and think to themselves, "You know what would be a great way to start my day? A 10 minute metal song that lyrically and sequentially aligns with the numerical code of Fibonacci's work."

Why does Fear Inoculum sound the same if you play it backwards and forwards?

Is the band commentating on our gluttonous behavior as consumers? Is it meant to show how a capitalist society creates an inability to differentiate between whether the goods and information we receive are genuine or recycled? Is it meant to soundtrack the collective loop of human suffering? Or is it pure creative liberty in its truest form, demonstrating that everything comes back full circle and that we all live and die and that nothing is actually new?

What Does "Fear Inoculum" mean?

TOOL - Fear Inoculum (Audio)

Does the album title refer to a literal injection of fear, or does it refer to the concept of aging? That at some point all of us will succumb to our own form of "fear innoculum" because we all fear dying and leaving the realm of our own understanding and subconscious? Is the whole album a commentary on the human experience? Is the human experience an existential lie we tell ourselves to keep us from succumbing to our own primordial impulses?

Do we even exist at all?

TOOL - Pneuma (Audio)

Or are we all trapped in our own perceptions of reality? How do we know our existence is even real? How do we know we're not just comatose beings, floating in an oculus rift of our own perceived realities? Do we have the ability to escape our fleshy bodies and experience true enlightenment and revelation, or are our bodies a cage we are trapped in and which prevent us from reaching nirvana? Does true enlightenment come only in death? Does Fear Inoculum refer to the idea that we may never be truly enlightened or spiritually awoken until we die, and that our fear of dying is exactly what keeps us trapped in the cycle of human suffering? Am I a Tool fan? Is my inability to understand the meaning of Tool mean I'm a Tool fan? Does Tool want me to understand them? Do I even understand myself? Does Tool's music unlock the secrets of the universe?