Smile Politely

Start of something new

Post Historic has been a vital part of the local rock scene over the past few years, releasing an album, Memory Banks of Blue, to positive reviews last year and playing regularly around town and on a brief tour or two.

However, Yoo Soo Kim and Zach Benkowski have returned to Chicago following graduation. The band has decided to call it quits after playing a couple shows at the end of the summer (August 28 at Research Park and September 17 at Pygmalion), and Jesse Johnson has started to play some solo gigs.

Tonight on WEFT Sessions at 10 p.m., you’ll get a chance to see what Jesse sounds like without his bandmates. You can listen at 90.1 FM or stream it online.

I sat down with Jesse on Saturday at Sam’s Cafe to talk about Neil Young and vinyl, as well as Neil Young on vinyl. Our 15-minute divergence into his grad-school work on DNA testing of Native American remains didn’t make it into this version, but it will be on the director’s cut release.

Smile Politely: Are you a student, or how did you come to Champaign-Urbana?

Jesse Johnson: I did my undergraduate here, in biology, and I completed that in 2008. I was either planning on getting a job and playing in a band or going to school and playing in a band, and I had a good opportunity to continue grad school here in biology. This is my last year of doing that. I’ll be here one more year for sure.

SP: What are your plans after getting your master’s?

JJ: I had planned on going to Chicago and getting a research job or a regular job and trying to play as much as possible for a while. I really want to do that, to try to play a lot of shows and go around. Post Historic had a little tour last summer, and it wasn’t a huge deal or anything, but I’d like to expand on that. That’s my big plans. I may go back to school, but I don’t want to do it for at least a year.

SP: Are you playing all solo shows? Are the Post Historic guys out of town for the summer?

JJ: Yeah, they’re out of town for the summer. We’re playing two Post Historic shows, the outdoor deal at Research Park in August. That looks really cool; we’re opening for Hot Buttered Rum, so I’m excited about that. And then we’re doing Pygmalion Fest too, but I’m not sure what we’re doing for that. We’re supposed to find out this week or next. And that is actually our last show as Post Historic. Yoo Soo and Zack have moved up to Chicago and have full-time jobs, and they’re not able to do too much. We decided to call it quits after these two shows.

SP: How do you feel about that?

JJ: I would have liked to have continue the band, because the original plan was that I was going to move up to Chicago, and I still might do that. Anyway, Yoo Soo was telling me that he’d like to do some other things, and he’s working full time, too, so I was going to keep the band going, but ultimately it was my decision that I thought it would be a better thing for myself to start doing some other things. So I’m playing some solo shows, and I may be starting a band with Patrick Mangan from Robots Counterfeiting Money, who’s played bass with us a lot. He and I are actually going to be living together this year, so we’re both excited about that. I think we’re going to try to record something this year, too.

SP: How will this WEFT Sessions be different than your Post Historic show last year? Do you have a lot of new songs, and how will it be different playing solo rather than with a band?

JJ: I actually have a lot of new songs. Post Historic was actually going to record a new album this summer, and then when people started moving away, it didn’t end up working out. I’ll be playing a lot of the unreleased Post Historic stuff that we’ve been playing at shows this past year. There are also some solo songs of mine that we never played as a band that we liked a lot. We’d always choose each other’s songs that we like d a lot that we’d play as a band. These are songs that I liked a lot that maybe weren’t their favorites. I liked that band, and I’m really looking forward to these last couple of shows. We’re all great friends and we’re going to keep working together, but not as a band. I was kind of hoping that we wouldn’t be another college band that would break off after people were leaving town, but I guess that’s what happened.

SP: What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

JJ: Neil Young. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. My mom was huge into that, and my dad was a big Neil Young fan, too. He’s my favorite person ever. I was actually front-row at one of his concerts in December, and that was a great experience. I kind of like classic rock stuff, I guess.

(The conversation turned to moving his console record player, and then to his record collection.)

SP: What’s your favorite album that you have on vinyl?

JJ: That’s tough, but I will be brave and say that I do have a favorite: Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, from like 1959, or maybe ’62. He sings a couple of Hank Williams songs in the Ray Charles style, and it’s beautiful. I put that on, and everything’s good. And of course I have a ton of Neil Young albums. I just got one from Italy. It was 30 bucks, which was pretty good. It was from like 1990, when they stopped making a ton of vinyl in the States, so I couldn’t really get it here. That’s been the most extreme purchase I’ve made.

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