Denver band Post/War's debut full-length album offers nine tracks that address navigating the trauma of life. Members of the group decided to name the brooding record Violet Light and a Hum. It’s a reference to Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five. In the book, protagonist Billy Pilgrim learns how to free himself from linear time and is able to see his own death and afterlife, which is just a violet light and hum.
Vocalist Stewart Gray finds the passage in the famous anti-war novel to be a perfect fit for the record.
“We’re trying to find a way to talk about death without talking about death,” Gray says. “We didn’t want to be melodramatic about it, so we picked something more metaphorical.”
The songs on the record offer an abstract look into the bandmembers' lives.
“It’s been a tumultuous few years for everybody in the band,” he says. “We kind of just picked some of the more poignant subjects to look at.”
The members of Post/War came together in 2015 and released one EP, the five-track Bloom, in 2017. During that time, they’ve gone through personnel changes — currently, the lineup includes Gray, bassist John Anderson, guitarists Cullen Petrey and Max Murray, and drummer Daniel Paulin — and had their output disrupted by the pandemic. They say the new record is the beginning of an album cycle.
“Aside from drawing attention to a certain piece of work we are doing, it’s also kind of how we think of creative bookends,” says Anderson. “This is one collection of songs and has a certain aesthetic in a certain place that we were all at for a period of time.”
Gray says Post/War has moved away from the post-hardcore sound that defined Bloom. That EP was inspired by groups like At the Drive-In, Circa Survive and Underoath. For the new record, the band has veered more into the neighborhood of Pianos Become the Teeth. While Post/War’s heavily processed guitar melodies evoke shoegaze, particularly on the new record, the songs are tightly structured and fall firmly in the emo and post-hardcore universe.
“We definitely try to be more to the point and concise,” Gray says. “We like the textures of [shoegaze] bands and the sounds of those bands. We also like well-structured songs that have great grooves and good melodies and simple lyrics.”
The band’s stated “favorite” track on Violet Light and a Hum is the swaying, pensive and dynamically rich “Polaroid,” the last song written for the album. The lyrics are a mystery only known to the bandmates and their associates, but the sound is emotionally provocative.
“It took a long time to write this record,” Gray says. “We changed a lot over that time. When we got the last [song], it felt like all the influences we wanted on the record really came together in that track.”
The album is currently a digital-only affair, but the bandmembers see a possible vinyl release in the future. They carefully selected the order of the tracks to tell a thematic story, so the record wants for that vinyl listening experience. There’s a ritual to listening to physical copies of music, particularly vinyl, that can be lost through streaming.
“We want to do vinyl and cassettes,” Gray says, but adds, "At the moment, it doesn’t seem super-realistic. As soon as we start seeing people face-to-face again, we will put more consideration into physical releases.”
Because the compositions have that deep-diving, shoegazing kind of texture, they say headphones are a good way to listen so the recordings' nuance isn’t lost. The bandmates also want shows to return, since their live set's energy can’t be captured on a record.
“It’s loud, high energy,” Gray says. “We definitely have a sort of wall of sound that we try to bring to every performance. We’ve got characters in the band. Everyone has a pretty big personality we try to capitalize on when we are on stage.”
“It’s easier for us to express our feelings through music rather than conversation,” Anderson adds. “We make these honest attempts to have these conversations with fellow musicians and the audience. You are speaking a language that you aren’t really able to do through other mediums.”