The Postelles take you a little closer to their street smart brand of plug in and play rock and roll in this interview with the band during CMJ '10.
"Sound check is always easy," explains Daniel Balk lead singer for the young twenty-somethings New York City band, the Postelles. "When we play gigs we just plug in our instruments and play to have fun. There's no synthesizer or computer to set up. It's about the songs, not the sounds we're able to make." This is a sentiment that distinguishes the band - bassist John Speyer, drummer Billy Cadden, and lead guitarist David Dargahi from many of their contemporaries. Of late, the New York city's music scene has been defined by a set of Brooklyn bands. But the Postelles are Manhattan kidsborn and raised in the city and influenced by a different lineage of music. "We're not trying to be different," further explains John "We just feel that we've found the right medium for our music." With the release of the "White Night" EP and their debut full-length to follow in June, the band defines itself both as an antidote to the dominant trend of quirky, self-referential rock and as a powerful new voice in the classic pop lineage.
The Postelles are part of an ideological bloodline that connects The Velvet Underground to the Ramones to Blondie and Television to the Walkmen, artists with unique and varied sensibilities, certainly, but who have in common an allegiance to the unabashedly unadorned rock song. In fact, it was during the late 90s, when New York had no unified sound to speak of and the members of the Postelles were just kids pouring over their parents' record collections, that the seeds of the band's sound were sewn. They were all reared on 50s and early 60s rock and roll Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke these were the bands they heard as kids, these were the bands they aspired to be, and these were the bands that initially brought them together. David and Daniel bonded over a mutual love for the Stones and the Beatles. Music also drew John into the fold. One day Daniel was walking by the music rehearsal room at school and heard John playing the Beatles "Yesterday" on the Cello. "Next thing you know, while everybody else is studying during free periods, we're spending ours locked in a music closet playing songs," John remembers.
By senior year the guys started booking themselves proper shows, playing residencies at Bowery Poetry Club, Sidewalk Caf, and Le Royale. It was during one of these shows that the band met Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. "Albert was walking past Sidewalk and John ran outside and was like 'Albert we love you we're playing here you have to come see us,'" Daniel recalls. "He's so nice, he actually did. He came back with his girlfriend and watched our show. I remember I was so nervous before the gig I was shivering."
In the fall of 2006, John, David, and Dan decided to go off to college (Harvard, Boston University, and New School respectively) and try to keep the band together at the same time. They stuck it out for a year traveling back and forth for rehearsals, working on songs via email but it soon became clear that if they wanted to make the band work, they'd all have to be in the same place. "By the end of that academic year we really felt that the four of us were clicking," David recalls. "So we said let's give this a shot and see where it takes us."
"I had run into Albert a couple of times," Daniel recalls. "And we'd hang out and talk about music for a few hours. We had this song '123 Stop' that we loved and we're like, 'this is our best song, we need to send it to him.' So I did and he's like, 'Wow you've got to come over and record this.' We went to his house and recorded in his living room. "The process was just fantastic. It was great to finally have another ear contributing the mix, hearing things we couldn't," explains John. Encouraged by Hammond's enthusiasm, the band decided to get serious about writing more songs. For a few weekends in a row they decamped to a quiet country home in Connecticut and started working on the six songs that would become The Postelles debut EP. In February 2008, a limited run of 1000 copies were pressed, released, and quickly sold out.
The new recordings earned the band noticeable buzz across the pond; the British music press heralded them as a fresh new sound coming out of New York City and influential Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe praised the band. Back at home, Rolling Stone and Spin drew attention to the Postelles classic aesthetic. They played with the likes of The Kills, The Wombats, and Jack Penate as well as at major US festivals including Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. Even as the media turned its attention to The Postelles, the band remained committed to their original fans, playing college shows and parties up and down the east coast in between more high profile gigs.
When it came time to record their debut, The Postelles headed back into the studio with Albert where he produced five tracks that now appear on the album. Then they decamped to Manhattan's Quad Studios and finished the album on their own. The band's primary aim was to capture the energy and enthusiasm of their live show. With this in mind, the album was recorded live-to-track wherever possible. Signature songs like "123 Stop," "White Night" and "Stella" appear on the album alongside tracks like "Hey Little Sister," a bouncy, soulful tune in reminiscent of classic Elvis Costello or the Kinks, that also features David on lead vocals for the first time. "I had a dream about a song and in my dream he was singing it," Daniel remembers. "So when I woke up I went right up to David and was like, 'you've got to sing this song.'" Another new standout on the album is "Hold On." "We really challenged ourselves with that song, to be patient and have the confidence to let it slowly build," David remembers. "Nothing is better than a good harmony." And "Boys Best Friend" is a breakup track for a progressive world. "One of the band's favorite books is Hemmingway's The Garden of Eden," David explains. "It tells the story of a man and his wife who go to the French Riviera on vacation. The wife ends up falling in love with another woman. Dan and Billy related to this story in particular. After they both broke up with a mutual high school crush, it turned out she also liked women."
After wrapping up the record the band has gone back to work on the road, receiving ample praise at CMJ, Iceland Airwaves, All Points West, and another stint at Bonnaroo. They've been playing their own shows, including a sold out show at NYC's The Bowery Ballroom, and touring most recently with Vampire Weekend, Kings of Leon, Interpol, Fun, and Free Energy.
As The Postelles look forward to release of their debut album on +1 Records, they're focused on inspiring the same sensation in their fans that their favorite bands have inspired in them. "You know that feeling when you're out and everybody is talking and that one song comes on that brings you to another place?" Daniel asks. "That's the feeling I get when I'm in a bar or at a house party and a great song comes on. I stop, just listen, and think, 'damn this is so good'. I hope our music will have that effect on people."