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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.

Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.

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Is It Even Possible to Care About Robert Pattinson in "The Batman?"

People can find little details to obsess over in the new footage, but actually caring implies hope...

With director Matt Reeves' release of blood-red test footage, showing Robert Pattinson in costume for The Batman, one question comes to mind: Is it even possible to care?

It seems like just yesterday people were freaking out at the prospect of Ben Affleck playing Batman. After Christian Bale's virtuosic performance as a gravelly mumble personified, people scoffed at the notion of this iconic character being taken up by the star of 2003's smash hit Gigli. And they were kind of right. Not that Ben Affleck's performance was particularly bad, but the casting choice may have reflected a general lack of respect for the Batman legacy that would manifest in Batman shooting a bunch of people and the infamous "Martha" revelation.

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And now Affleck has departed from the DCEU, Robert Pattinson has been brought on, and people who can best be described as terminally online are picking apart the minute details of the costume—comparing it to Affleck's Daredevil (from 2003's Daredevil), speculating about the out-of-frame ears, and doing some CSI photo enhancement to show that the bat symbol is made of guns. But does anyone really care? Is it even possible?

The outrage that would have erupted over this casting in 2015 would have set fire to server towers across the globe—"The fuc*ing guy from Twilight?! OMFGN%E^%$"—but Zach Snyder and DC have already done so much to erase the fan sentiments that Christopher Nolan's films built up. Even the shocking critical acclaim for Birds of Prey isn't enough to get people excited for the DCEU. The only thing that is still capable of working the fandom into a lather these days is imagining an alternate reality in which Zach Snyder is actually a secret genius who made a better version of 2017's Justice League that's hidden away in a vault somewhere—because, yes #ReleaseTheSnyderCut is trending again.

Honestly this might be the best scenario for Pattinson. He's had a chance to prove his chops as an actor with movies like The Lighthouse so—while he still seems a little improbable as an action hero—at least he's not just an emo heartthrob anymore. And as of last week, he's also riding high with his laughable ascension to the title of "most handsome man in the world." Couple all this with the fact that expectations for The Batman are so low, and Pattinson and Reeves have the chance to duck the fan pressure and really surprise us. It wouldn't be the first time that Batman has bounced back from an embarrassing era—even George Clooney's bat-nips and Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze couldn't kill the bat brand. But all of this is assuming that any of us will have the capacity to care, since caring takes hope.

george clooney batman nips Wherever you go, the bat-nips follow you...

The Batman is scheduled for release in June of 2021, so they still have a year and change to work up some enthusiasm for Pattinson's turn in the batsuit. Failing that, they could just say "fu*k it," and bring back Michael Keaton.