The Bowery Presents
J. Roddy Walston and The Business

J. Roddy Walston and The Business

Post Animal

Wed, February 7, 2018

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Brooklyn Steel

Brooklyn, NY

$20 advance / $25 day of show

This event is 16 and over

J. Roddy Walston and The Business
J. Roddy Walston and The Business
Heading into Destroyers of the Soft Life, the fourth LP by J. Roddy Walston and The Business set to be released September 29 via ATO Records, JRWATB pursued a brighter, more nuanced sound that teased out the band’s latent pop sensibilities without skimping on energy or attitude. As you press play on the opening track “You Know Me Better”, anthemic guitars scream out of buoyant, hooky lyrics as Walston’s chugging piano supplies a persistent heartbeat. The “bar band” sound of the past has been replaced by an aspirational, booming cacophony that could fill stadiums.

Instead of the raucous bombast JRWATB manifested on their breakout hit album Essential Tremors, the band’s leader had certain rules he was determined to follow on Destroyers of the Soft Life. One was: “Speak/sing clearly, no hiding behind mumbles.” Another was, “D.I.Y. but hi-fi — record ourselves as much as possible but have it sound amazing and full.” The final, most important, rule was, “Nostalgia is a cancer — acknowledge that you are in the present.”

“We had never been a band where we pretended that it’s 1965,” Walston says. “But we ended up in situations with our records where those rules were imposed on us.”

On Essential Tremors, JRWATB inspired pangs of joy in music fans that yearn for the days of Bob Seger and early Bruce Springsteen. But when Walston returned home from touring in 2015 and began contemplating his next move, he no longer felt the same connection to that classic-rock sound.

“Loud rock and roll music has become less relevant because it’s just been on a loop,” he says. “If there was any rule on this record, it was, let’s be a part of music right now. I want to be part of living music in this moment.”

Helping the band realize a new vision for its music was veteran producer Phil Ek (Built To Spill, Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes), who came in to apply some finishing touches after JRWATB completed most of the record in Virginia.

“The thing with Phil is he is a servant of the song and that is my vibe as well,” Walston says. “Ego has no place in songwriting or the studio and we hit it off in that respect right away.”

“Is there any point to making a record that has real instruments (guitars, drums, piano etc.) right now?” he continues. “Is there anything left to be said by writing this way? Do albums matter anymore? Can I make something that I care about right now because it’s a manifestation of the fear/love/excitement/ I am feeling right now, not because is tickles some easy to reach nostalgic pleasure center.”

Lead single “The Wanting” boasts a shimmering, uplifting guitar riff and an impossibly huge chorus that belies the song’s thoughtful exploration of familial relationships and the fallacy of distilling complicated people down to archetypes. “Did you do right by us / best it could be,” Walston sings, addressing a prodigal father figure. “You’ve done no harm / but you’ve been no good to me.”

Throughout Destroyers of the Soft Life JRWATB similarly melds engaging, melodic songwriting with sharp observations about American culture that take on a new kind of power in light of the 2016 presidential election. Standout tracks such as the infectious “Ways And Means” and swaggering “Blade Of Truth” offer the uncompromised, salt-of-the-Earth perspective of a songwriter who grew up among the white working class and yet has enough perspective to see the ways in which those people have undermined themselves in the political realm. As Walston sings in “Blade of Truth,” there is now “a judgement on the herd / and your privilege will burn.”

Amid the torn-from-the-headlines commentary, Walston revisits the same question: “Is the truth a hard line, or it is a flexible line that can be messed with?”

“I got to straddle the line a bit with this record,” he says. “I hit a point in my life where I could pay my bills on time for the first time ever, and take a breath. I got to see the life you can have when you’re not living a life of desperation. But I was just outside that line of desperation.”

The band’s newfound financial security is largely the result of the band’s hard work on the road. Looking back on the tour cycle for Essential Tremors, Walston can only chuckle.

“We probably toured on it way longer than our contemporaries would,” he admits.

Of course, not many bands experience the sort of growth in prominence and audience size that Walston and his compatriots have witnessed in the past several years. Road warriors from the time they formed in 2002, JRWATB has long been an underground favorite, toiling away in clubs and bars and carving out its own niche outside of the rock mainstream. But the radio success of Essential Tremors opened new doors and fostered exciting opportunities, including invites to Lollapalooza, the Newport Folk Festival, and Bonnaroo, and a featured slot in an episode of the prestigious music TV institution, Austin City Limits. With every new experience came requests to play more shows.

“The train just kept rolling,” Walston says, until finally he hit a wall. “By the time I came off the road, I thought, ‘I’m toast. I don’t have anything in the tank.’”

Walston’s world was also rocked by a huge life-changing event — the birth of his first child. “I think having a kid made me care less of what people think of me,” he says. “I have one ultimate mission right now — keep a human alive. I don’t care if someone doesn’t like my pants or my hair or whatever. Being a parent makes you powerful in that way.”

Over the next year and a half, Walston committed to building himself and his band back up into a new kind of rock ‘n’ roll beast. But before JRWATB could get started on its fourth album, Walston decided to do some literal construction on a new space for the band where it could rehearse and record.

The only space available in the band’s hometown of Richmond, Va. hardly seemed promising — it was “a completely annihilated warehouse” that had been a grenade factory during World War II, says Walston, who decided to rent the place after the landlord offered the first two month’s rent for free. Perhaps the landlord expected JRWATB to eventually pack up and retreat. But that guy clearly knows nothing about this band’s work ethic, or affinity for lost causes. Instead of giving up, they gutted the place and spent the next seven months rehabbing the building until it was transformed into a suitable headquarters for JRWATB.

Why go to all the trouble of making your own space when there are any number of established studios where you can make your record? For JRWATB, like it is with so many things in their lives, building a personal studio was a matter of principle. When you’re renting studio time, it’s always somebody else’s time. For once, Walston wanted to make a record on his time.

“I don’t listen to our old records because I get so stressed when I think about making them,” he says, reflecting on how rushed the band was in the studio back then. “We’re taking the experience back.”
Post Animal
Post Animal
Chicago-based Post Animal are a band of brothers. Though they formed in 2014 and just began touring in 2017, their affinity for slick riffs, pop hooks, and psychedelic tendencies join them in a bond much tighter than their years suggest. Initially formed when childhood friends, bassist Dalton Allison and guitarist Matt Williams, met keyboardist and guitarist Jake Hirshland, the band’s sound began to take shape when the three enlisted some more pals from both the Chicago music scene and through their time working at local burger joints. Rounding out the band’s lineup, Post Animal is completed by drummer Wesley Toledo and guitarists Javi Reyes and Joe Keery.

Like most band’s in Chicago’s inclusive music community, Post Animal got their start playing DIY basements and small rock clubs. With their wavy and warped first project 2015’s Post Animal Perform The Most Curious Water Activities EP and then 2016’s memorable singles collection The Garden Series, the band showcased mesmerizing and infectious pop melodies. Between their impressive early releases and their wild live shows which feature the band members sharing lead vocal duties, Post Animal have unquestionably solidified themselves as one of Chicago’s most exciting up-and-coming acts. Having taken that intensity across the country, touring with bands like Twin Peaks, Wavves, White Reaper, and more, Post Animal have found they are happiest when playing to a room full of fellow music-lovers. As a result, they are road tested and stronger than ever.

The Chicagoans’ debut full-length When I Think Of You In A Castle, out 4/20 via Polyvinyl, is the product of six friends creating music they love, even if the circumstances weren’t always in their favor. “Before this album, we weren't sure what the future of the band was going to look like. I was considering moving to Los Angeles and Joe [Keery] was off filming Stranger Things. We didn't know where we were all going but we knew we wanted to make an album with all of us in the same room,” explains Toledo. Being the first time all Post Animal members recorded together, the album’s collaborative spirit is more-than-evident throughout its 10 carefully curated tracks. Even Keery, who’s no longer an active touring member of the band due to his skyrocketing acting career, was integral to the album’s inception.

In the summer of 2016, the band retreated to a lake house in Watervliet, Michigan to record When I Think Of You In A Castle. For a week and a half, they tracked the LP—all while realizing they weren’t really alone in the house. According to the band, a ghost dwelled there that would jolt them awake from naps and even ended up with a guest appearance on the album. Toledo explains, “There’s a moment on ‘Heart Made of Metal’ where I hit the cymbals and, for some reason, it was recorded in reverse. We think that's the ghost.”

Of course, not all of the magic on When I Think Of You In A Castle can be pinned on the supernatural. Following the lake house trip, the band finished the album at their house in Chicago with Allison perfecting the mix over the next year; even while on their 48-city summer tour in their beloved van (RIP Shannon). Take the first single “Ralphie,” which finds Keery and Allison gleefully trading lead vocals while sounding like what would happen if Jeff Lynne fronted Thin Lizzy. Though Post Animal’s live shows have long proven that swirling riffs are the band’s bread-and-butter, it’s earworms like “Ralphie” that show how easily they can churn out an infectious pop melody.

“Ralphie” isn’t the only song that finds the band sharing lead vocal duties. In fact, each band member contributes vocals like Hirshland’s mesmerizing turn on “Castle” or Williams’ punchy performance on “Heart Made of Metal.” Other songs, like the dynamic “Gelatin Mode,” shift from a lighthearted experience in dueling lead guitars to a face-melting dose of sludge with ease. It’s such a transportive track that when Keery menacingly intones, “Below, traveling slow out on your own / Your mind gelatin mode time to explode” it’s a welcome invitation.

Elsewhere, a longtime live staple “Tire Eyes” finds new life on the LP. It’s a swaggering ode to a timeless classic rock song with Allison’s falsetto beckoning, “So forget about your day and let this record float you away / As your mind is winding, finding cause to be easy.” The finished album, which was mastered by Jake’s brother, Jared Hirshland, is a truly collaborative continuation on the band’s kaleidoscopic and sprawling early beginnings.

But most importantly, When I Think Of You In A Castle is a testament to not only the brotherly connection that these friends share, but also to the power of collaboration between like-minded musicians who just get one another. “Before we recorded it, it was an uncertain time for us as a band, but we all just had a magical time at this lake house in the middle of summer,” explains Toledo. Almost impossible to describe, the Post Animal bond is best observed while foolin’ at the merch table after a sweaty show. They look forward to seeing you there and, naturally, becoming your new best friends.

—Josh Terry
Venue Information:
Brooklyn Steel
319 Frost Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11222