From grunge-pop to Netflix—local band gets taste of fame through ‘Stranger Things’

By ARTS & CULTURE EDITOR

Six guys are sitting at a restaurant, laughing loudly and making jokes as they chow down on their hamburgers and beers. Suddenly, one gets a tap on the shoulder from a man at the nearby table.

“Excuse me, aren’t you the guy from ‘Stranger Things’?” the man asks.

Joe Keery, who plays Steve Harrington on the hit Netflix show, smiles, pauses and then nods his head. The stranger asks for a selfie and the two smile into the camera. After shaking hands, the man leaves and Keery takes a moment to breathe.

“That was so weird,” he says.

Although stranger things have happened, getting attention and recognition for a TV show is up there for Keery and his band Post Animal, who have experienced this since “Stranger Things” debuted on Netlfix in July. The Chicago “punk-psych-pop” band—made up of Keery, Dalton Allison, Wesley Toledo, Matt Williams, Javier Reyes and Jake Hirshland—formally began playing music under its current name six months ago.

With the band’s new EP, Garden Series, released July 22, and Keery’s seemingly quick rise to fame, Post Animal has grabbed attention from music and TV show fans alike. The band played a free show Oct. 13 at Virgin Hotel Chicago, 203 N. Wabash Ave., that had fans waiting two hours to get in. One of their upcoming shows on Nov. 26 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., playing alongside fellow Chicago band The Walters, is sold out. The group’s next show is Oct. 29 for free at Broken Shaker at Freehand Chicago, 19 E. Ohio St., as part of a Halloween psychedelic show.

The Chronicle spoke with the band about acclimating to Keery’s quick fame, its musical influence and its favorite taco joints in Chicago.

THE CHRONICLE: How did the band adjust to Keery’s acting gig?

JAKE HIRSHLAND: [Keery’s notoriety] has been a big deal. [We have] a lot of new listeners, so that’s pretty cool. We are figuring it out; it is very young. We are taking it day by day.

DALTON ALLISON: This group has survived some crazy things together so far. [Toledo and Reyes] are the newest guys, and they’re the best musicians. We realized that us playing as six is way better than what it was before, so might as well keep it together.

JOE KEERY: Me being gone could have made us not work out, but first and foremost, we are all buddies, which is helpful. It is not a pain to find time to play with each other. A lot of bands are trying to find out when to play but we are just hanging out. A lot of people who wouldn’t listen to the band are listening to it. It’s great in a lot of ways and weird in a lot of ways.

JAVIER REYES: You get ulterior motives, but then you have people who come for [Keery] and stay for Post Animal.

MATT WILLIAMS: I have played with half of these guys for long enough that all I know—as far as writing and playing goes—is jamming with [Allison or Hirshland]. When I met [Keery], all we ever connected about was music. Jamming with these guys always turns into something cool.

What was it like seeing Keery’s performance on screen?

JR: It was amazing. It was the first time I had seen him act, and it was a trip.

DA: It wasn’t played up by any of these guys or [Keery]. I didn’t think much of it. I knew it was awesome he had work, but I didn’t realize it would be what it is now.

JK: [Netflix] came out with a lot of shows this year that weren’t my favorite, so I was like, ‘Well, I hope it doesn’t suck.’ Then I saw it didn’t suck, and that’s all I cared about at first. Then people really liked it. It’s weird; it’s fun and cool. Everybody has had only good things to say.

Who are your musical influences?

JH: We have a record stack in our house and a lot of Black Sabbath. We are definitely into old, classic heavy stuff and spacey pop [Electric Light Orchestra]. Every song varies from these modern derivatives of that old stuff and then directly linking to the old stuff. We bounce between the two.

JK: Everybody really loves The Beatles, so anything that has a little morsel from that.

DA: This morning [Keery] and I were both listening to Vulfpeck at the same time without knowing it.

WESLEY TOLEDO: Oh, [Vulfpeck]; it’s offensive how much they groove. They are so into it.

People have labeled you as a Tame Impala and Black Sabbath crossover. What are your thoughts on that?

JH: If that’s true, then we can melt away and die happy.

DA: If people are making the comparison of Black Sabbath and Tame Impala, then we have exceeded any expectations we have ever had.

JR: Before I heard anybody talk about Post Animal, those are the two bands I thought of, so it’s pretty spot on.

What musician would you want to jam with—alive or dead?

DA: Mink Mussel Creek and King Gizzard. It would be a dream come true to have anything to do with [Mink Mussel Creek].

JK: Paul McCartney. I’m talking about “Let Him In”—that’s what I want, or George Harrison.

JH: I would love to be in a session with the Mild High Club. They are really talented musicians.

WT: I would love to play with YES. I think we would be a good match with Diarrhea Planet. They are like a fun jam wild rock.

What are your favorite music venues in Chicago?

JK: The Keep or the Observatory as far as DIY [venues], and then for actual venues, Lincoln Hall. Chop Shop and Double Door, too.

MW: Subterranean is really sick and has fun shows.

DA: The Green Room [at Abbey Pub] is so cool because you come down the spiral stairs onto the stage.

What is your favorite place to get tacos in Chicago?

MW: I work at a taco place! Rico’s Tacos and TropiCuba are really good.

WT: The best burrito I have had in Chicago is Spanglish; maybe I’m just trash, I don’t know.

JK: This may sound really weird, but I love Big and Little’s Tacos and Cochanita.

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