Charli XCX Co-Signed Duo Post Precious Talk Label Drama, Monochromatic Style & Wearing 'Turtlenecks to the Club'
Meet Post Precious: The Los Angeles-based electro-pop duo is comprised of singer-songwriter Alex Winston and producer Max Hershenow, also the mister in MS MR. After both moving from New York City to Los Angeles, the longtime pals first began writing songs to pitch for other artists. After their first session, the chemistry proved undeniable, and the songwriting felt a bit too personal to pass on to others.
"Alex and I just had so much fun writing together to the point where we sort of ignored the other person in the room," Hershenow recalls with a laugh. "Gradually we realized that they had this cohesive identity and so much personality and felt pretty unique to our situation and our relationship, so I don’t know if there’s anyone else out there who could do it justice. We both needed a creative outlet that was separate from our other projects and a little bit freer, so we just decided to do it ourselves and release it ourselves.
The indie route proved a welcome change for both artists, who were also in the midst of their own personal label hell. Winston, whose 2012 mammoth LP King Con suffered from poor label promo and a botched roll-out from Island Records, had briefly found reprieve in a new deal with 300 Entertainment, before splitting from the imprint earlier this year after another several years of delays and creative differences. Hershenow's band MS MR, too, separated from Columbia Records earlier this year.
"Honestly, we just started making music because I was like, f---, I’m never going to get my record out, and I couldn’t release new music, so Max and I started writing for fun," Winston recalls. "Fast-forward a year later and we’re releasing these songs. We never had a real intention of doing so."
The duo's first single "Timebomb" was built out of an instrumental that Hershenow had produced, with Winston's melody taking shape almost instantly after hearing the track for the first time. "It was like a power ballad in the beginning," jokes Hershenow. "The chord shift in the chorus, the weird ear candy of it, Alex just hit this incredible note, and we were just like 'oh my god, what is this, it's incredible.'"
"It was organic and fast," Winston adds. "We wrote it really quickly, but then we just sat with it for a long time deciding which direction to go in." For Hershenow, it was a matter of sculpting it into its prime form, and also served as a much needed catharsis. "I had been the studio during a dark, heartbroken period. I’ve never really felt like that again until recently, but I felt like I had to write it out in music," he says. "To get it off my chest. It felt like a really direct representation of that moment."
Hershenow, who lives with Charli XCX in Hollywood, shared the early demos with the "Boys" singer, who he says has been instrumental in offering support and guidance for the pair. "She gave us studio space and a lot of support and feedback and it’s just been such a nice world to be a part of, to be welcomed into," Hershenow says.
The duo also partnered with Charli on a joint remix of Wolf Alice's "Don't Delete The Kisses," which premiered via Beats1 last week, a high profile boost for the burgeoning act.
Below, Billboard caught up with the fast-rising pair about their sonic influences, tight-knit L.A. scene, monochromatic style aesthetic, and what's next.
You're both L.A. transplants. What do you think the city offers as a backdrop for songwriting that New York doesn't?
Max: There’s definitely a freedom -- L.A. is a place of self-invention [laughs], so there’s some freedom to come up with a side project that we both felt here. There’s something exciting about the limitlessness of being here, and we have this incredible group of friends here that are just so inspiring and supportive and really encouraged us and pushed us to do this, so that more than anything really helped push things along.
Alex: Definitely. I do feel like L.A. has a very supportive and collaborative energy. I felt that in New York too but also there’s so much space here! You can have a home studio. In New York you had to rent a room to do a session or to practice. As a solo artist, it was a lot more expensive. Here there is that comfort in lifestyle a little bit more, being able to breathe a little bit more, and creatively flow, not having to stress about how to get our gear there in a cab and pay by the hour, it’s just a different vibe.
There is the sense that LA is more spread out, but obviously you have a tight knit scene.
Alex: I still have to drive 45 minutes to his house [laughs], but I’ll take it.
What head space were you both in when you started versus where you are now with the project?
Max: When you first start making music there’s an inherent curiosity or naivete to it where you just sort of are overwhelmed by natural inspiration. Initially it just flows so easily, and as you mature as an artist you get bogged down by reference and positioning and history and implications, your obligation to your fans, all that kind of stuff. This felt like hearkening back to that first initial feeling, where it’s just free and easy, because we haven’t put any pressure on ourselves with the project. Every achievement feels so big, and feels like we did it ourselves.
Alex: And there’s just no outside voices telling us what the f--- to do. We don’t have a label, we did this all on our own. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to get a song approved just to be able to put it out, to have to listen to some middle aged man’s feedback about my music, you know what I mean? It’s exciting again.
I'm curious, what did you first sonically bond over?
Alex: One of the cohesive things that we kind of share is that we always liked darker lyrics and songwriting. We love Robyn, where there’s such an emotionality to it but you can still dance. For me it was definitely more dance-inspired but still with our kind of lyrics.
Looking ahead, do you have plans for a debut EP, or are you planning to continue playing the singles game?
Max: We don’t know. [Laughs]
Alex: The singles game is really fun. Both of us put such emphasis on full lengths for so long that it’s just exciting to just put music out so fast. There’s not a lot of red tape around it. We basically changed the next song were gonna put out, we’re gonna switch it and it’s so nice to have the freedom to do it. But we’ll probably do an EP early next year.
Max: We have five or six songs that are done, done, mixed and ready to go. We do have an EP and it would make sense to release it as a package at some point.
I love your monochromatic aesthetic -- did you always have that look in mind?
Max: That’s been the fun part for me is playing with the aesthetic of it, and to establish something that’s new to both Alex and me, and is in its own world. I’m really into architecture, and these imagined pieces of architectural renderings I was finding online, which were really beautiful and elegantly done. I wanted to capture that vibe, something that was sleek, and earthy but futuristic. The video is definitely that aesthetic, and the fashion of the turtlenecky, sort of aliens in a foreign land kind of thing is definitely the root of the whole aesthetic.
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now?
Max: I’m really so big on the mock neck turtleneck. It’s my look! I wear one almost every day and I have them in every color. It’s an easy way to look elegant and fashionable and yet still comfortable, and it translates everywhere. I wear a turtleneck to the club. I wear a sleeveless mock-neck to the club.
Alex: Don’t forget the grandmother’s pearl.
Max: Oh yeah, I wear a single pearl.
Alex: He’s definitely the more elegant of the two of us.
Max: I don’t know. [Laughs]
Alex: I feel like when I’m not performing I’m in the most comfortable outfit I can find. My vintage Guess jeans, that’s my standard pretty much every day. But we still have to figure out -- our stage stuff will be a bit more sleek and on-brand with the music video and photos we’ve put out.
Max: Monochromatic is really fun. It looks good no matter what.
Alex: And easy!
Max: After being on the road for so long with MS MR, we were so fashion-oriented as a band, which was super fun, but I like the idea of keeping it super simple throughout. Touring is a lot of work, and keeping all of those clothes clean is a bitch.
In L.A., what’s your favorite place to cop new threads?
Alex: Also, Burbank has a ton of amazing vintage stores as well. Every time I have a session I try to go to one. There’s a ton on Magnolia Boulevard; great shopping.
For more Post Precious, head here.