Some bands assemble over shared interests — socialism, wearing corpse paint, the usual stuff. In the case of Phoenix’s Post Hoc, one common thread proved to be the military.
“I was in the Marines from 2012 to 2017,” says singer and guitarist Nathaniel Shrake. “Curtis [Kennedy, drummer] was in the Air Force Reserve, and Gonzalo [Hidalgo, guitarist] was also in the Marines.”
In 2016, Shrake and Kennedy met through mutual friends, collaborating on songs virtually while Shrake served from California’s Camp Pendleton. Shrake cites his enlistment as a time for great personal development, especially when it came to making music.
“I used to write all my songs with an acoustic guitar in the barracks,” he says. “Serving teaches you a work ethic. You have to put the work in to let the muse come out.”
After returning to Phoenix, Shrake and Kennedy recruited the rest of the band, including bassist Steven Freund and “ambient guitarist” Aaron Nelson. Aside from the military aspect, the quartet shared a fondness for Steven Pressfield’s War of Art. “It’s the bible for what we’re doing,” Shrake adds; the book emphasizes the process of creativity.
It was Shrake’s own creative efforts from Pendleton that comprised the bulk of Post Hoc’s debut EP, 2017’s Daffodils. Shrake describes the EP as more of a demo, recorded six months after the band started to “show people what we’re doing. It taught us a lot about how to record.” For one song, the closing track “Such Black in Your Eyes,” the band used a take recorded directly from the barracks.
The six-track effort also bridged certain musical divides within the band. “Me and Curtis grew up with Circa Survive, and Gonzalo was always listening to Metallica. We had to find a way to mesh and blend the sound. We even gave Gonzalo indie homework, like listening to The Strokes.”
That commitment to the grunt work of being a band is central to Post Hoc. In September 2018, after a year or so of performing regularly, the band underwent a six-month hiatus to record their debut full-length, Wilderness, the Villain.
“We wanted to take the time to decompress from the stress of live shows,” Shrake says. “That gave us the room and the time needed to make the creative gymnastics needed.”
Along the way, they connected with local producer Cory Spotts, who added “strangeness and atmospherics” while helping the band understand the value of “interlacing songs” to create a large, singular piece of music.
That approach pays off across Wilderness’ 10 tracks. The album rides a line between Post Hoc’s many influences and ideals, balancing raw emotions with complex song structures and plenty of sonic crunch. Yet the most striking element is Shrake’s lyrics, pieced together from random notes to create emo slam poetry.
“I like ambiguity,” he says. “What a song means to a fan is gonna be different, and that meaning is always more important. There’s a time for storytelling, but synthesizing these fragments gives everything a whole new meaning.”
Post Hoc are now returning to regular gigs, including their June 29 album release show at The Rebel Lounge. More frequent performing lets the band enjoy the true fruits of their labors, a sense of community.
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“I’m proud I come from (Phoenix),” Shrake says. “You have bands who can be at Club Red one night and Valley Bar the next. It’s a city trying to deal with its size and hold onto its heart.”
Post Hoc are working to better embrace this scene by focusing just as much on the live experience as they have in crafting their music.
“We’ve learned to lean into the fluid-ism,” Shrake says. “People don’t care about catchy songs, they’re looking for guidance to how to feel. We offer something honest, and it’s always just us.”