For a band that seems to stay on the move constantly, Post Animal may need a bit more endurance for the struggle on their seismic new single “Fitness.”
The Chicago five-piece broke out with a slew of psychedelic rock releases, capped by their 2018 debut album When I Think Of You In A Castle, and are now set to expand to an even grander scale with their follow-up Forward Motion Godyssey. Following the two easily accessible pop-leaning singles “Schedule” and “Safe Or Not,” the band immediately shakes listeners off their trail with the unpredictable, multi-movement epic in “Fitness.”
The song originally started with a guitar riff from vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jake Hirshland that was eventually developed into multiple acts by the band over two week-long writing sessions and a final eight-day recording period in Big Sky, Montana. Though the lyrics are intentionally obscure, the expansive and rugged terrain clearly spills into the song’s boundless adventure and breathless pace.
Hirshland and drummer Wesley Toledo spoke with Billboard to break down the song and reveal what it might suggest for their upcoming album, expected to release on Feb. 14 via Polyvinyl.
Check out “Fitness” below as well as tour dates after the jump.
Before we jump in about the song, I want to discuss the timing of the release. Your first two singles introduce this expanded sound that seems to prepare listeners for the left-field swing of “Fitness.” Was it always the plan to slowly tease this new direction?
Jake Hirshland: We are being very intentional about what we are releasing and in what order, and I think we definitely wanted to send a curveball towards listeners with “Fitness.” With that being said, I think that the whole album is fairly eclectic and there wouldn’t have been a lot of choices we could have made that wouldn’t have been surprising. There’s a lot of different turns on the record, and I think “Fitness” is just one of the many little genre pockets that we enter into.
Wesley Toledo: I agree, I think that we actually decided to use “Fitness” as a single pretty last-minute. We just kept on showing people “Fitness” and it was just causing them to kind of turn their heads a little bit. It’s the only song that we have ever written that really sounds like it.
Hirshland: When “Fitness” was put on the table as a single, the thing that kind of pushed us over the edge to actually choose it was that discussion about how the first two [singles] were going to make people expect a pop record and a synth-pop record and how could we actually disrupt that with the third single. So we were really looking forward to try and create that experience of surprise.
How long have you been tossing around ideas for this song?
Hirshland: Some form of this song has been around for a long time. But just that little plucky guitar thing, I’ve had a demo of that for like two years maybe but it wasn’t really anything. It was just kind of like this poorly recorded iPhone demo that got a life of its own when we were shuffling through all these demos. And then someone suggested that we work on that one for a contender for the album and the pieces started falling into place in the other parts.
How did you put the different pieces of the song together?
Hirshland: I think the idea that it would go from that subdued introduction into some big, huge part was always included in whatever demo of this song existed, but the actual drop part itself has changed a lot over time. But the idea of doing the verse introduction part into the middle section and then coming out of it into an epilogue with a full drum kit, that was something that we came up with together. The actual journey, like the dynamics of the song and how it goes from soft to slightly bigger, to huge to some sort of middle ground, was something we felt out as a band.
As you were developing it, what are some of the big decisions you made that you’re most proud of in the final cut?
Toledo: We were trying to decide what to do with the bridge section when the drums come in at the end because we really liked that it was a little bit like a stoner metal riff with the synths on top of it. But then vocally, we were like, how can we do something way different here that maybe is a little weird and sounds silly at first? And we settled on the melody, which to me sounds like a Seal melody, you know.
We just kind of laughed at it at first, but then we ended up showing it to the rest of the guys and we all were like, “Oh, wait, I think this works.” It was really catchy to us and we ended up like singing it a lot on our own. It just stuck in our head.
Jake, you’ve said that “Fitness” is about persistence in the face of loss, and looking through the lyrics, there’s a central conflict of isolation, but the refrain is “run with me.” How do you balance that collective feeling with the themes of persistence and loss?
Hirshland: With the loss, I’m referring to something specific in my life, but I think it can kind of be applied to any loss that anyone has experienced of something or someone. But I guess this song is about the effort that we make to feel better in any given moment, but also to bring value to our lives or make ourselves feel that our lives are valuable in the moments that we feel like we have lost something.
You recorded in Big Sky, Montana. How did that influence the sound of this song?
Toledo: The environment that we were in definitely influenced the entire album and all of our individual headspaces while we were recording it. We were in this big ski resort mansion in Big Sky (shout out to the Waldens, our family friends). There was this big window in the main room where we set up all the instruments and gear and recorded, and there’s like a moose head hanging and like a big chandelier. I can’t remember what time of day we recorded “Fitness,” but a lot of the songs are recorded during the day while it’s super sunny out and you could just look out over this vast mountain range.
It’s a very big album. I think it’s grandiose. Everything’s a big choice. And it’s going to sound kind of cheesy, but looking out and seeing a sunset over an enormous mountain range, it definitely encouraged us, whether it was subconscious or consciously, to really put every ounce of ourselves into it. We recorded everything live so we needed to capture the live energy and do it well, and I think that was done because of these mountains that we’re looking out over and the environment itself.
This track is the only one on Forward Motion Godyssey that mentions the album title in some form. Does “Forward Motion God” represent anything specific?
Hirshland: It does — I’ll say that it kind of applies to the concept of effort and perseverance and the good life. But I think it has a little bit more depth to it when you consider it with the other songs and the meaning of the other songs, too. And it’s something that we’d like to leave up to the interpretation of listeners.
Do you have anything else you want to share?
Hirshland: If you don’t understand the song, listen to it one more time.
Feb. 16 — Leeds, UK @ O2 Academy Leeds %
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Feb. 28 — Berlin, Germany @ Maze
March 10 — Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground
March 11 — Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz
March 12 — Boston, MA @ Once Ballroom
March 14 — New York, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
March 17 — Washington, DC @ DC9
March 18 — Durham, NC @ Motorco
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March 20 — Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade – Purgatory
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March 24 — New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
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March 26 — Austin, TX @ Scoot Inn
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April 01 — Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
April 03 — San Diego, CA @ Casbah
April 04 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy
April 07 — San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
April 09 — Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
April 10 — Vancouver, BC @ Fox Cabaret
April 11 — Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
April 14 — Bozeman, MT @ The Rialto
April 15 — Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
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April 18 –Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
April 23 — Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
April 24 — Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
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