Four strapping young lads start a band. Each knows their way around an instrument or two. Each with a penchant for the written word. In 2009, London-based Post War Years debuted a self produced record; they did it all themselves and learnt a thing or two, but man did they sweat. So for their sophomore release, EP Glass House, producer they happily let James Rutledge take the reins. Soon after a bevy of pints at ‘some pub on Kingland Road’, Rutledge was directing the band as well as confirming what they already knew… but didn’t know they did. Or did they? As a band that acknowledges their tendency to self-sabotage, Post War Years enjoyed hearing a retrospective perspective.
Jasmine Phull listens to percussionist Fred talk about Philly’s Tobias Stretch, their Glass House EP and that constant Rutledge reminder: be sure ‘[you] don’t undo all [your] hard work’.
You just released your EP Glass House, and it looks like a lot of work has gone into it. Not just musically but also visually. Tell us the story behind the video for the track of the same name. I noticed the vid for 'All Eyes' also features weird life-size puppets. Describe the idea process?
We’ve been big fans of Tobias Stretch for a long time; he’s a stupendously talented filmmaker and makes these mind-boggling stop-motion shorts with these vaguely disconcerting characters. So it was great when we approached him to work with us and he said yes. Tobias is based over the pond, so we’ve actually never met him in person. All our brainstorming has been over the Internet and for all we know the Tobias we know is actually an animatronic figment of the real Tobias’ imagination. I genuinely wouldn’t put it past him.
The 'Glass House' video is part two in a series following the misadventures of our confused heroine. In the ‘All Eyes’ video she ends up a bit bruised and shaken up, so in this video we wanted to empower her. She ultimately loses a friend but she also gets to punch some puppet bad guys around a bit.
You had James Rutledge on board for the second record. Why were you keen to work with him?
We self-produced the first record, so we really felt we wanted a different (and slightly less stressful) experience this time round. We met with a couple of producers before deciding to work with James but when we met with James I guess we just clicked. It was at a rather dubious pub on Kingsland Road and after a few awkward pints we spent the rest of the meeting just reeling off lists of favourite artists and albums to each other.
How did the collaboration first come about?
We were recommended James at a chance encounter with someone at a house party. Then we fell in love with his remixes and arranged to meet up. It’s strange to think that if that hadn’t happened then we wouldn’t know him at all – he’s been a key part of this record, not only musically but he also introduced us to our new manager and has given us loads of really sound big brotherly advice. Basically the whole thing probably wouldn’t have happened without him. What a guy.
What’s one preconceived notion that was corrected once you started working with him? Had you heard anything of him from his work with MGMT?
The time we spent in the studio with him and Jimmy Robertson (engineer) was great. The thing that has stuck with me since then was James saying something like “My main job here is to stop you guys undoing all the hard work you’ve already done.” He’s got this idea that bands like to self-sabotage their own music, which in our case is probably not too far from the truth.
How important is the order of the tracks to your record?
Well, you can’t tell a story with the chapters in the wrong order can you? Unless it’s a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book I suppose. They’re great.
Is Glass House best heard as a whole? Does the Glass House EP tell a story or can a song just as equally be appreciated on its own?
I’d like to hope ‘Glass House’ works as a standalone track but equally I think that hearing it in the context of the EP is pretty important. I think there’s diversity in the music we make and that was one of the big motivations for releasing an EP in the first place. Perhaps it’s just because it seems like so long since we actually released anything substantive. It’s really exciting to let people get a better idea of where we’ve been heading and hopefully there’s something here that will get people really excited about the new album.
Was music something that was heavily involved in your youth? When do you first remember it affecting and inspiring you?
Yes. As my dad is a musician too, it was a very important part of my childhood, as it continues to be to this day. My first memory is at my babysitter’s house, she was a lesbian Boy George fan and a drummer and I always wanted her to play drums for me. I was about three.
In three words explain why do you create music?
I love it.
Can you compare and contrast tracks 'Glass House' and 'Brazil' for us?
Firstly both tracks are written by Henry (all four of us are songwriters), so I guess that puts a certain spin on them. The feel of the two tracks is different: ‘Glass House’ is more grounded and driving whilst ‘Brazil’ is more floaty and ethereal, with multiple layers of arpeggios. The 5/4 beat in ‘Brazil’ was actually inspired by a rhythm played by native Brazilians in a documentary that Henry watched about the Amazon River. Fact.
How important is visual aesthetic to Post War Years?
Pretty important I guess. Obviously the first thing is the music, but once you’ve got that in place you really do start to think about how it’s going to be presented. I think we’re all pretty excited at the moment because for the first time we actually have a really clear idea of what our music should look like. Working with Tobias has helped us to clarify that and it’s great to create a physical thing, like this EP, that looks and feels great and somehow really fits with the music that we make.
Describe your thought process when considering a remix?
Listening to remixes people have done for us is at once exciting and confusing, this is quite new for us and so far what people have done is amazing, things we never would have thought of doing with the original sounds or the beat suddenly make perfect sense. On the flipside you do occasionally find yourself going “What? Seriously?”
A number of artists have remixed your tracks, including James Yuill. Do you more often than not get approached?
We have been approached and in turn we have approached others, we’re very versatile. Like a double-edged sword, but less pointy.
You’re often described as math-rock. Can you explain what that means in laymen’s terms?
When I think of math-rock I think of Battles and Foals, both great bands. However this is not a description we’ve sought out and in truth I know little about the genre. I’m not really sure if we fit that shoe.
Last song you listened to?
'Here Comes The Hotstepper' by Ini Kamoze.
First album you bought?
I think it was Bad by Michael Jackson.
What’s up next for Post War Years?
Touring around playing music to nice people, another EP or two, perhaps even a whole album at some point…
Interview: Jasmine Phull
Catch Post War Years at Soup Kitchen on Wednesday 18th July. Tickets are available through Skiddle below.
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