…And It Shook Me
One might be surprised, upon first meeting The Postelles, to find that their off-stage personas draw a stark contrast to the exuberant energy that they display on stage. Lounging in a Brooklyn recording studio, the band—vocalist Daniel Balk, guitarist David Dargahi, bassist John Speyer and drummer Billy Cadden, make for a subdued, almost domestic-looking scene- Daniel and John run through a new song on their guitars, a pair of beers on the floor between them, while David and Billy are crouched over a laptop, engrossed in some obscure Fleetwood Mac footage they just discovered online. Initially, it looks more like a quiet day at home than a rock group recording their highly anticipated second album, but after a moment it’s clear that what looks like relaxing is actually a band hard at work. Daniel and John stop playing to passionately dispute a word of the lyrics; Billy and David quietly critique some nuance of the Fleetwood Mac performance. This is not relaxation, it’s research, and in today’s era of outsourced songwriting and studio trickery it’s a refreshing to see that some bands are sticking to the basics.
The group initially met while attending high school in Manhattan, drawn together by their similar taste in music. They began playing shows together while still in high school, one of which was attended by The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., who was so impressed by the performance that he invited the band to come record a song at his house. Hammond continued to work with The Postelles, eventually producing their 2011 debut self-titled album. The band began work on their second album while on tour, piecing new songs together during soundchecks and by escaping to Woodstock, NY to write whenever they got a break. Balk describes the process of making the album as “happening really organically,” noting that “Pretend It’s Love” came from a whispered demo recorded in the early hours of the morning while “Tidal Wave” was written in a girl’s bedroom while an old woman upstairs banged on the floor to try to get him to keep quiet. “We started working with Eric Spring (Patti Smith, Sia) in the studio and it had great vibes so every time we’d got back from a tour we’d just hole up there and get to work” Balk continues. “I think the organic way it came together is really evident when you listen to the album.” Guitarist David Dargahi agrees, sa ing “our goal for this band has always been to make a song that you’ll hear once and be humming ten minutes later, and I think that’s true of every song on this album.”
If infectiousness is the barometer of a successful song, The Postelles have certainly achieved that with their sophomore album, with each of the twelve tracks on …And It Shook Me managing to hit the mark on irresistible, can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head pop bliss. However, no one could call…And It Shook Me a facile or lightweight work; the album, which Balk describes as the band’s “most raw and emotional collection of songs to date,” has a genuine thoughtfulness and depth of feeling that allows for greater insight into the emotional life of the band.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the more personal feel of The Postelles’ new music can be attributed to their extensive touring experience. The band has developed a reputation for the tirelessness of their touring schedule and their commitment to performing live for their fans, playing alongside Interpol, Kings of Leon, Fun., and Vampire Weekend, among others, and it was their experiences on the road, both positive and negative, which most influenced …And It Shook Me. As bassist John Speyer points out, “there is something really inspiring and humbling about being on the road and seeing all of these amazing places at such a young age, and between this record and our first one we listened to so much music and saw so many bands on tour that we thought we would go for it and really layer the instrumentation this time around. There’s a song where our drummer plays mandolin, there’s keyboard on most of the songs and there’s also a guest cameo from female vocalist Alex Winston on ‘Pretend It’s Love.’”
Indeed, from the jangly groove of “Pretend It’s Love” to the driving “Caught By Surprise” and atmospheric flourishes of “Heavy Eyes,” it’s clearly evident that The Postelles’ music has grown and matured significantly over the past few years of touring. Of course, the benefits of being on tour are often offset by the strain of being away for months at a time. “I think all songs should be open to interpretation because what I loved about songs growing up is how lyrics relate to everyone differently,” Balk explains. “But for me personally the lyrics are about being far away from home and not being able to control things.”
Ultimately, that strain and struggle are a large part of what makes …And It Shook Me sound so vital and vibrant. And make no mistake: The Postelles will not be staying home anytime soon. “We just can’t wait to get back on the road and play all of these new songs for everyone” Balk says, “and just continue to keep doing what we’re doing because we’re never slowing down.”