Photos: Dave Watson
“There’s something about just plugging in and playing.” A line Postelles lead singer Daniel Balk uses to describe music from the 50′s and 60′s yet also to sum up his own band’s less-is-more aesthetic. With a sound influenced by catchy Motown melodies, get-up-and-dance riffs and an energy and style all their own, the Postelles are a surprisingly talented bunch for a group who has yet to release their first full album. We recently sat down with Daniel before their show in downtown Norfolk, Virginia to talk about influences, working with Albert Hammond Jr. and the state of pop music.
MOR: One of the unique things about you guys is your 50′s and 60′s vibe, what about that era do you guys most connect with?
Basically the songwriting. The level of songwriting was at a peak at that point. The entire 60′s, definitely the late-50′s for pop music, which was the start of rock n roll. Which for me is the most important. For me personally, the biggest influence is Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and all that stuff. Then Motown came around and the songwriting just went to another level in terms of melodies, then of course the Beatles came. It’s not to say I don’t like bands from other times as well… but something’s great about how they just plugged in and played back then. There were no computers or anything, which I thought was cool.
MOR: What was the first record, old or new, that really amazed you:
I would say The White Album. There was just so much, being a double album and again the songwriting was just amazing so that was probably the first record I fell in love with.
MOR: If you could see any band live in their prime, who would it be?
No doubt it would be the Beatles. But it would also probably be The Rolling Stones in the early 70′s, when Mick Taylor was still in the band. They were on the ’72 tour after just finishing Exile On Main Street. Ugh, I would love to see them then. And maybe Zeppelin.
MOR: What are some new bands you are listening to?
I think Girls is great, from San Francisco. I like MGMT a lot, their new record is interesting. A lot of people think it’s too weird and maybe it is too weird but they took a chance and that’s cool. I also like Beach House. It’s not totally our style of music but I think the melodies are beautiful.
MOR: When writing music, how much time is spent trying to sound original or unique?
There are definitely points when you come up with a melody or a riff and you’re like, wait, did I steal that? (laughs) and that happens for every band I think, I know… And you do it subconsciously so you don’t really know. It’s hard but that’s what art is. All art is stolen or influenced. And it should always be that. But I think that you have to create what you want to and not give a shit if someone says it sounds like this or that. Do what you want before anything, don’t try to force it. I think a lot of bands nowadays try to be different for the sake of being different and not necessarily good. So there’s a fine line.
MOR: A lot of bands record their first album in the garage or on their own and you guys have Albert Hammond, Jr. producing five songs? How great is that?
It’s amazing. But hopefully some people know we started a band in high school and recorded stuff in the garage and did all that and that’s great cuz you have to learn and start somewhere. That being said recording with Albert was incredible. I can’t say anything better or anything bad about him… It taught us a lot and everyday we walked in and felt so lucky to be there… I think it’s gonna be a great experience ten years from now to look back and think how happy we were to do our first record with someone we respect so much musically.
MOR: Did he push you guys?
Oh yeah, He’s such a perfectionist. Musically he’s not laid back. And I don’t say that in a bad way. He would get mad at us if we were screwing around. We’re young and immature so at the tenth hour in the day or so if we were goofing off he would (snap) get us in line. It was good for us. We needed that.
MOR: Speaking of the album, could you talk some about the first single “White Night”?
“White Night” is just about going out in New York City. I grew up in Manhattan so I find that a lot of kids or people I went to high school with sort of get lost in the fast pace. Living in the city and going out every night, You feel this pressure and it’s sort of bad or wrong. It’s definitely the most New York related song on the album.
MOR: In other interviews you guys seem to use the words “rock” and “pop” interchangeably, as they were used back in the 50′s/60′s. Yet nowadays many people interpret those as two totally different genres. One softer, the other hard or tough. Do you think that has helped or hurt the music industry?
I think it’s a detriment. I don’t think pop should be looked at as a bad thing. But I think it’s coming back a little bit. Where bands like MGMT are sort of poppy but still considered cool. I think genres are stupid. I don’t get indie, I don’t know what that even means. I just don’t think “pop” should be a bad thing because The Beatles were pop and they started it all. There would be no rock n roll bands nowadays if it wasn’t for them.
MOR: Some people at shows just want to hear the hits and some want to see a different side of the band, as a fan what do you want to see in a band playing live?
It totally depends on the band. If I go see The Strokes I think the best thing about them is they sound exactly like the album but with such extreme energy coming off the stage. They’re the tightest band I’ve ever seen live. I don’t want them to be loose. Then if you see The Rolling Stones live they’re older so you might have seen them five or six times you want to see them loose in a pocket you don’t want them to sound like the record. If you see The Allman Brothers you want to see them jam not sound like the record, I mean what the hell are they up there for, ya know?
MOR: On the other side, as an artist, what are you guys trying to convey in your live show?
We want to be tight. Show that we do practice, we care. But we also want to have that loose feel. There’s a band from the UK The Libertines, which are a great pop-rock band and they are tight performers but have a loose feel and it looks like something could go wrong at any moment but it’s not, they know exactly what’s up. The Clash had that too. That’s what we’re going for.
(For more coverage of The Postelles’ 7/30 concert with Interpol click here.)
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