Mike Post is a solo artist and also the singer and songwriter for the band Young Creatures, who will be releasing a new album in 2021. A third musical project he works on, Carly and the Universe, will also be releasing music in 2021. But another important hat he wears is that of Producer, running MooseCat Recording in LA, and engineering his own projects as well as those of friends and colleagues.
After an eight year process of recording a series of solo songs, Mike Post has released The Crunch digitally and as a cassette bundle via Nomad Eel Records this month. The band Young Creatures also releases vinyl records via Nomad Eel and Post hopes to bring The Crunch to vinyl as well later in 2021.
Mike Post appeared as a guest on our Tower Instagram Live show, and you can still check that out right here, but he also spoke to Tower's PULSE! about his journey into making The Crunch, the road into production work, and the experience of working in legendary studios to record the songs on his new solo album. Sometimes it's definitely worth the wait!
Hannah Means-Shannon: On our Tower Instagram Live show, where you were a guest, I could not help but notice where you were sitting, surrounded by so much cool gear.
Mike Post: In addition to being a musician, I own and operate a recording studio, called MooseCat Recording, so I was sitting in the studio there. We coined a new animal.
HMS: That might actually be kind of a horrifying taxidermy. I don’t know if you need a mascot or not.
Because you write songs both for solo work and for the band Young Creatures, I wanted to ask where the relationship between music and writing started for you. Did you think of yourself as a writer when you were young?
Mike Post: I guess I never really did in that traditional sense but I did start playing guitar to write songs. From the onset, that was always the goal. I never thought of myself as a top-flight musician, but used it as a means to write songs. But my mom is actually a writer and a poet, so I guess that trickled down in some subconscious way. I’m sure it was an influence because it was around. She always definitely encouraged me to speak my voice even if it wasn’t always in a traditional sense. I always had a deep love for music.
[Mike Post at MooseCat]
HMS: When did you start doing Producing of your own music, and when did you start doing production for other peoples’ work?
Mike Post: I started doing engineering stuff pretty early on in my musical journey. I started playing guitar when I was 13 or 14 and pretty much from the onset I had a 4-track and a simple computer setup. That was always ingrained as part of it for me, but in high school I started thinking of it as something that I could see myself doing for a living. I loved playing and songwriting and being a musician, but it seemed a far-fetched career path.
Then I started checking out studios and building my home studio when I was about 17. From there, I fell pretty hard for it and continued down that path. I still continue my artist’s path, but that engineering and production side seemed to go hand in hand with it.
It was also sparked by one bad experience, in particular, going into a studio where we racked up hourly bills. We went into a studio to record a song and it didn’t even come out remotely how we’d hoped. I thought, “With all the money we just spent, I bet I could buy a recorder and do a better job.” So that’s basically what I did. From there on out, I was recording all my projects.
My first set up was a 24 track Tascam recorder. It was a little box that probably cost a little more than a day in the studio cost, but I figured you could get more mileage out of it. I started reaching out to friends who might like to use it, too. Then things snowballed and got way out of control. I started trading up on pieces of gear. Over the last 15 years or so, it got to the point where I have the studio that you saw.
HMS: It looks absolutely beautiful. How does that history fit with the spaces you need to do these things?
MP: In the very early days, in high school, we would use the basement of the drummer from my band. We had things set up down there and I would bring over stuff. I had stuff in my parents’ basement. When I went to college, I used a laptop, an interface, and a couple of microphones. I never did have a dedicated studio until this space. Luckily, my parents were always very encouraging, as well as everyone I’ve met along the way, including college roommates letting me set up and record bands in my dorm room. But there comes a point when you need the space.
I’ve also been fortunate to have mentors over the years who have allowed me to use their spaces. They’d let me come in on off-hours, especially when I started interning and assisting at studios.
HMS: That’s so cool.
MP: I’ve been lucky in that way.
HMS: What sort of equipment do you have at the studio?
MP: We have a lot of vintage stuff.
HMS: I assumed so, given your sound interests. I would have been surprised if you weren’t into analog.
MP: That’s definitely more my jam. We have a tape machine here. Most of my solo record, at least the basic track of each song, was done on tape. I toe the line between tradition and being modern, though some would say I’m more on the tradition side of the line. I always think that there’s really no “right” way to do it. People have made great music in all kinds of ways and I’m definitely interested in learning new things, too.
It’s a fine line, though. I’m not sitting there cutting tape. If I record something, pretty early on it’s going into Pro Tools, where I can manipulate it further. That’s one way we’re fortunate now.
HMS: Given your interests, what was your reaction to visiting and recording in so many legendary studios over this eight-year period of making the songs on The Crunch? For instance, Abbey Road? Does going into those places lose your mind?
MP: I would say so, definitely, especially Abbey Road. Especially in my first few years, but even now, if I set foot in a big studio, it’s still a thrill. My first few years in LA, being able to check out legendary studios was incredible. Getting to work in some of them, too, was even more incredible. You learn so much being an assistant and intern and just seeing how people do it. Hearing it come through the speakers in a way that you’ve never heard before is eye-opening and continues to be a learning experience for me. You pick and choose the ways that really speak to you and try to emulate those techniques.
Getting to go, for this record, to these spaces was pretty amazing. Abbey Road was a mind-blowing experience. It was really just one day, but getting to see the history of that place and experience how kind everyone was there, and getting to play a piano that was recorded on a Beatles song, is something I’ll never forget. It’s something that I very much want to do again.
HMS: No pressure! You have one day to record one song, and you’ve got to get it right.
MP: Well, I practiced. We were going on a sort of vacation because my cousin was living in London at the time, so I looked to see what it would cost to book a day. You have the huge rooms, like Room 2, which is The Beatles’ room. Then you have the Orchestral Room. Those weren’t things I needed, but in recent years, they’ve put together some smaller rooms where you still have access to a ton of mics and all the good stuff. I was able to swing one of those for a day and record what is actually the first song on the record, “What It Takes To Believe”. I recorded piano for that and did vocals for that. Then, I was also able to do a few more piano and guitar tracks for various songs. I had a plan going into the day filling in things I needed to do for the record. That was a thrill.
HMS: Wow! Amazing.
[Young Creatures performing]
MP: One of the other studios I used to record was actually in New York, Loho Studios. It is the studio where I first interned, so that was amazing to go back. Even though it’s been owned and operated privately, I was able to get in touch and they were super-nice. It was a thrill to go back to that space. For those who know the New York studio scene, it’s a prestigious place where lots of great records have been made. Any time you get to set foot in a room like that, there’s something special about it.
HMS: I’m in the New York area and I’ve heard that studio name at least a few times. I do believe that atmosphere influences performance, and that can have a positive effect on musicians.
MP: We totally agree with that here at MooseCat. The other half of MooseCat is Carly Liza, and she has made a very welcoming environment here. For the center of LA, it’s very calm and musicians feel very comfortable here. It’s important to feel comfortable in the space where you’re recording and you’re not thinking about anything else but the music.
HMS: Especially right now, that must be hard. How does this all tie into your life as a live performer? Are those songs going to be totally different versions once performed?
MP: Yes, for this project, my solo project. These songs were born with me writing, either on guitar or keyboard. So when the time comes that I can get back out there and perform again, that will be a more stripped down thing. When I went to record these songs, though they are not extravagantly arranged, I didn’t really have a mindset toward being able to play them live. I wanted to make the production the best it could be.
HMS: I was going to ask you about that! But I think it’s cool that you didn’t limit yourself, especially with your production skills.
MP: With a band, you usually toe the line between production and what it sounds like live. But with this, as a solo thing, I don’t know that it would have made it a better record to make it more stripped down. With a record, that’s going to last forever. I always try to keep that in mind, that they are two very different art forms in a way. I’ve always thought that you can figure it out later live. But with Young Creatures, we don’t add as much stuff in the studio that we can’t reproduce live.
HMS: How do you write to the two different aesthetics of your solo work vs. Young Creatures? Do you know from the outset which way a song will go?
MP: I don’t think that I sit down and think, “I’m going to write a song for Young Creatures.” Or, “I’m going to write a solo song.” I don’t really set out to do that. I think it just happens naturally with the processes of how we work as a band. We are writing together, and certain sounds start naturally happening. It’s definitely a different aesthetic.
HMS: These are very different bodies of work. Both show a real respect for vintage sounds and traditions but they are quite different.
MP: Yes, and I have another project, Carly and the Universe, which is also a whole different world. It’s almost like we’re working with different palettes. With Young Creatures, we have a new record coming out next year where we have a lot of strings on the record, now added to the four piece band. With my solo stuff, it’s acoustic guitar, other musicians.
HMS: More vocally-driven?
MP: Yes, and more lyrically-driven. I don’t try to steer the ship too much, though. It just kind of happens.
HMS: What’s the difference in releasing something on cassette, like The Crunch? What’s the appeal for you?
MP: It’s a different medium, obviously. I really love the idea of just hitting, “Play” and listening through, whether it’s tape or vinyl. Everyone has such a short attention span, myself included. When I’m on Spotify, I’m always looking for the next thing, even two seconds into a song. There’s something to be said for hitting “Play” and just listening to music. It’s pretty dang cool to have every song at the tips of your fingers, but I also think it’s pretty cool to just listen, too.
Also, the sound is different, which for the types of music that I love works well for those mediums. You do sometimes have to make a mix for digital, though, and I now have to take that into consideration, but I do feel that my music lives more true to its form on vinyl or cassette.
Especially with working with Damon [Duster] at Nomad Eel, he’s such a vinyl enthusiast that it’s super-cool to have him on my team. He helps bounce ideas around and also makes sure that I can have a release in this tangible form.
HMS: What made you feel like The Crunch was done and it was time to put it out?
MP: At the beginning of this year I had it in my head that I was going to finish the record now and release this year. I already had the plan in place before the pandemic started. For me, I didn’t want to go back on that. Also, I had a schedule for finishing the singles, but then coming into some extra time on my hands, especially in March, April, and May, I had time to finish the record.
Also, due to schedule, it made sense, because we have a new Young Creatures record coming out next year. Same with Carly and the Universe, which would have released this year, but we pushed it back to next year. It seemed like a good time to release the solo album this year. And also, I just couldn’t wait anymore.
HMS: That’s wonderful. I think especially if you have that recording space, just do it.
MP: We’ve been super-lucky to have it. That definitely has kept me sane throughout this whole process.