Being a musician isn’t just about making art — it’s a full-time hustle, one that Post Louis know all too well. After working odd jobs to make ends meet and being sucked into the “corporate machine,” the London-based art rock band have channeled their spent energy into their debut full-length album, Descender.
Lead singer Stephanie Davin uses labor as a narrative jumping-off point to address relationships, gender roles, violent masculinity, and physical health. With help from her bandmates, including Robbie Stern and his background in classical violin, Davin transforms raw emotion into expansive songs complete with buzzing guitars, harp, and french horn.
Descender is out today, Feb. 28. To celebrate the album’s release, Davin answered some of my questions about writing cathartic art and escaping the daily grind.
Post Louis has put out a number of EP’s, but Descender is the band’s first full-length album. How does it feel to be putting out your debut album?
SD: It feels wonderful actually. The album has been several years in the making. It’s quite long and was a bit of beast to produce.
I’m excited that people are going to be able to hear the record in its entirety. It was conceived of as a single unit and there are threads that run through from start to finish. It’s exciting to be able to give people something bulkier like this to listen to… you can develop ideas and musical themes so much more over the course of twelve tracks.
How was the process of creating this album different from Post Louis’ previous releases?
SD: The band has taken different forms over the years. It started with just me and Robbie [Stern] — that’s why you’ll see just the two of us in some of the early artwork we did with Alma Haser. At inception it was very much an experimental bedroom project… we used to work on an old 8-track, run my vocals through chains of guitar pedals, use lots of loopers, things like that.
But, ultimately, what we really wanted was a fully fleshed out guitar band and soon started looking for more members. By the time we came to make the album, the project had transformed into a five-piece, with Mattis [Moviken], Adam [Turner-Heffer] and Andy [Stern], and we had all been playing together for some time.
Happily this completely changed things. Writing the record, we wrote for this particular setup with their specific playing styles in mind. We drew on how the songs worked live and rehearsed pretty intensively before recording. I think the album’s better for it.
What inspired you to write so openly about labor and the daily politics of work life on Descender?
SD: For almost the whole time I’ve made music in Post Louis I’ve balanced it with other demands on my time. Most of the musicians I know are the same. But I feel like people don’t talk about either workplaces or domestic labour very much – which is strange, given how much time and effort is spent in these contexts.
So I guess I was drawn to the topic because discussing it felt like surfacing something that usually remains unsaid, which is always quite appealing.
And it also felt honest. Descender isn’t a concept album, as such, but I did want to create a sense throughout of being dragged down or weighed down. The image of power being imposed is a ‘weighty’ one, after all.
And to do this I felt it was really important to talk not only about psychological pressure but also physical pressure — and its source in concrete things like workplaces and exhaustion and the daily grind. Hence titles like “Stress Fracture” and “Labyrinthitis.” I’ve had the latter.
This album features a myriad of instruments, from clarinet to harp to french horn. How did you decide to include so many different sounds throughout the album?
SD: That all comes from Robbie and it’s something I’m very grateful for. He spent years training on classical violin, and also listens to a truly broad range of music, and that experience definitely expands what we can do with Post Louis recordings.
We knew at the outset we wanted this album to be dense and contain lots of layers weaving in and out; some of the music we love the most is like that. So we left space for some of these more orchestral elements, and then Robbie developed them with a range of friends, who very kindly gave their time and talent to record for us.
This album shows a darker side to Post Louis, with buzzing guitar feedback and harsher instrumental tones. What kind of emotional impact does writing and performing this kind of music have on you?
SD: I really enjoy performing the new material. As a five-piece we can make quite a bit of noise, and Mattis and Adam form a substantial rhythm section. I like the challenge of keeping the vocal acrobatics going in tandem with the instrumentation, and I like how much impact it then has when the noise drops away temporarily and the vocals cut through. All in all, there’s something quite cathartic about performing the songs.
What are some of the ways that you de-stress or disengage from the daily grind?
SD: I like going dancing. A friend took me to one of the Lucky Cloud Sound System loft parties when I was 18 and I’ve been going to them since then.
And I really love to sleep. I don’t think one is meant to say that? But I do. I bought an electric blanket this winter. It’s amazing. I think they are marketed mainly at over 65s. It makes me feel like a bird in a nest.
Descender, the debut album from Post Louis is out now.