Where Is My Mind?: Post Post’s Michelle Zauner

Published on The Deli Philadelphia – Monday, August 2, 2010

– by Annamarya Scaccia

Don’t get them wrong – Philly’s indie quartet Post Post is a band of college kids, not a college band. Their brand of clever and infectious art-pop is bigger than any campus that can hold the unsigned troupe – comprised of Michelle Zauner (vocals/guitars), Kevin O’Halloran (bass/vocals), Casey Sowa (drums/vocals) and Marisa Helgeson (synths/vocals). And now, after trading in makeshift, DIY soundboards for a formal recording space, Post Post is ready to unleash (digitally and physically) their first-studio EP, Residents, with a CD release party at Kung Fu Necktie on August 7. We had a chance to chat with Zauner about the double-life of students/musicians and all things Post Post.

The Deli: Who is the brainchild behind Post Post?

Michelle Zauner: All of the members of Post Post are its brainchildren. We each play our own part in the composition, production, performance and presentation of the band. Lyrically and conceptually, I write the lyrics and come up with a lot of the general concepts for the band to expand upon together.

TD: The band started over a year ago while in your sophomore years of college – three attending Bryn Mawr college while Kevin attends Haverford. Seeing how Bryn Mawr is an all-women’s school, how did you, Casey and Marisa meet up with Kevin and form Post Post?

MZ: We originally had another girl from Bryn Mawr play bass for the band, but it got to the point where she couldn’t keep up anymore and we had to search for a replacement. Haverford College is in a consortium with Bryn Mawr, its neighboring school. They’re both very small schools with an even smaller music scene, we were friends with Kevin and knew that he was involved with music so when we started looking for a bassist, we asked him if he wanted to come jam with us, and it was just a really perfect fit. A week later he’d learned all the songs and was playing with us at our first show in Philadelphia.

TD: With the upcoming release of your first studio EP, Residents, and select tour dates, it seems Post Post is building up steam. How do you balance the musician’s life with the college kid/worker life?

MZ: It’s certainly difficult. We’re all very passionate about the project though, which makes it easier to find time to balance school and work. There’s so much time we waste every day without realizing it, and we’re all the kind of people that work better when we’re very busy. We’ve all had to give up a lot to make this work, days we skipped class (shh don’t tell our professors!) to finish the EP in Philly, school nights we were up late playing shows, relationships and hobbies, but in the end there was no doubt in our minds that music was what we wanted to pursue the most.

TD: Do you consider Post Post a college band or a band of college kids?

MZ: Definitely a band of college kids. Our colleges helped us meet each other and gave us some opportunities to start performing in front of audiences that were easier to adjust to since they were made up of all of our friends and peers. Aside from that, we don’t consider ourselves a college band because our colleges aren’t a place we want to be confined to. We don’t want to give up when we graduate.

TD: You’re originally from Portland, OR. Why choose to come to Philadelphia?

MZ: I chose to come to Philadelphia because I wanted to attend an all women’s liberal arts school on the East Coast that was close to a city. I had this idea of the school being this incredible place for feminists who weren’t interested in a typical college experience. That it’d be this land of women where everyone wrote DIY zines and had some sort of riot grrrl phase. Not exactly what I found, but I think in my band I was lucky to find the people I’d been looking for.

TD: Do your different cultural upbringings and cities’ music scenes influence the band’s collective?

MZ: Definitely. Maybe we’re reading into it too much, but there is a gentler, more sentimental, folksy and pop-oriented side that Marisa and I, the two resident West Coasters seem to bring that brings a really interesting collision and compromise with Kevin and Casey’s more experimental, heavier rhythm section. Our music tastes vary, but there are a lot of corresponding threads that help unify our vision.

TD: What influences Post Post?

MZ: Music-wise, our name was sort of a play on where we wanted to go with our music. We all grew up listening to a lot of post-rock, post-punk, post-folk music, and were sort of unsure of where we fit into that and how to feel about finding a sound of our own. The EP’s lyrical inspiration focused a lot around comparing relationships and bodies to architecture, how we construct emotions and attachments like we would buildings and concepts of home.

TD: Residents is the first album you recorded in a studio, as opposed to something more makeshift and DIY, like with your first EP, Meta Meta. Where did you record and did the new space effect Residents overall sound?

MZ: We recorded the EP with Kyle Pulley at Simple Machine Recordings in Philadelphia. We then took the tracks to mix and produce with Derek Chafin at the Barn Studio/AIR Recordings in Media, PA. And absolutely it did. I think Residents definitely shows how we’ve grown up. To us, it sounds more mature, darker, more self-aware, and more confident than Meta Meta. We were able to add more embellishments due to time and resources than we were with Meta Meta, which were more like demo recordings we did on garage band.

TD: You intended Residents to be different from Meta Meta in terms of the lyrical content and progression of sound from raw to a little polished. Did it turn out the way you wanted?

MZ: I have a hard time believing that any record turns out the way anyone wants it to. There is just so much involved, so much room for error. We all went in wanting it to be perfect, wanting it to be exactly the way we heard it in our heads. Did it turn out that way? Of course not. Did it come a lot closer than Meta Meta? Absolutely, one hundred percent. In the end, this is our first “real” EP. There was a lot we went in having to learn along the way. Our original intention was wanting to take it from a raw sound to someplace a little more polished, not just being a band with potential, but a legitimately good band. That intention stuck till the end, whether or not it comes off that way I’m still not sure. Residents didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to exactly, but in the end, we put a lot of time and hard work into it, and we’re all very happy with the results.

TD: Are there any aspects of the record you wish you could go back and change?

MZ: Like I said before, I don’t think a record ever turns out exactly as one envisioned it would at the outset…I think in the case of Residents, there were a few unexpected curve balls along the way that if we had the chance to go back and somehow anticipate or dodge, we certainly would have. Next time around we’re going to try to find someone we really want to work with from start to finish, someone who will take us seriously despite the fact that we all look like 13-year-olds and despite the fact that most of us are girls. We didn’t really receive that level of respect from the get-go; our expectations for this EP surpassed those of some of the people we worked with this time around, which was frustrating, but ultimately we found a great compromise in Derek Chafin, who ended up mixing the EP for us and did a great job.

TD: Post Post is a relatively young band but you’ve already shared the stage with Vivan Girls, Neon Indian, Reale Estate, Beach House, Toro y Mori, and Free Energy, among others. How did those shows come about and how did those opportunities/shows make you feel about what you’re doing in Post Post?

MZ: Casey does the majority of our booking; she’s sort of our desk jockey right now as she’s taking time off from school and has put a lot of her time into being aware of what’s happening in the scene and finding new opportunities for us. But beyond that, it was really just a matter of putting ourselves out there as much as possible, sending emails, somehow convincing booking agents to take a chance on us before we had anything you might call a reputation. The Vivian Girls and Toro y Moi shows were actually both at Haverford. I am a member of FUCS, the concert series that brings bands to campus. Despite how we attained them, all of those shows were definite highlights for us all; it’s always fun to get to open for bands that you listen to or are inspired by in any way. We’re really grateful for all of those opportunities.

TD: Are you working on a full-length album? If not, do you feel you’re ready as a band to take that step?

MZ: For now we’re just looking towards seeing how far this EP can take us while we’re finishing up school. We’re always writing new songs and a full-length is always in the backs of our minds as we work to compile a deeper catalog. When it comes time to tackle a full-length, we all want to be in a place where we can afford to really take our time with it, unlike with these EPs, and really do it right.

TD: After everyone graduates, do you plan on going full steam ahead with Post Post or is that a “cross that bridge when we get to it” type of situation?

MZ: Full steam ahead with Post Post, focusing all our attention on the band. Everything we’ve accomplished or done thus far has been solely in preparation to hit the ground running. We’re all very excited to see what happens when we finally get to give it our all.

TD: What is your favorite thing to get at the deli?

MZ: Phone numbers.

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