"Fundamentally, we're all studio cats," says Chris Moll, guitarist and co-songwriter of Miami-based pop trio The Postmarks. "I've been a fan of all of that great studio/soundtrack stuff — from the '60s through the 4AD label bands of 20 years ago. Those influences are certainly on this album."
Specializing in an elegantly Euro-tinged style of indie-pop, Moll and his bandmates — female singer/songwriter Tim Yehezkely and drummer Jon Wilkins — have traveled the world this year in support of their second full-length, Memoirs at the End of the World.
"I was always attracted to film soundtrack music," Moll says. "Just the other day, Jon and I were listening to the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack, and we were thinking about how a composer like John Williams is awesome. How many significant pieces of music has he come up with that have embedded themselves in the culture? I like hooks. I like the fact that one can compose something that worms its way into people's brains and gets stuck there."
New York pop band Ivy's guitarist/songwriter Andy Chase signed on to mix The Postmarks' debut EP, The Remixes, in 2006. (Chase's other project, Brookville, is on the road with The Postmarks this month in support of their third album, Broken Lights).
"We approached Tim and I think she was a little bit put off by us at first," Moll remembers of the band's first year together. "We may have been a little P.T. Barnum-ish in the way we came off. Once she worked her way, and we started adding lyrics and working up songs, it really got going."
The Postmarks' self-titled studio album followed in 2007, earning positive critical accolades and decent commercial success. Last year, with Chase assisting with the studio production and pressing, Unfiltered Records helped shape Memoirs at the End of the World into a remarkable piece of sophisticated pop well worth checking out.
"For me, if I had to summarize it in a really big, broad brush stroke, it would be kind of a cross between a lot of those '60s orchestral soundtrack types of things and a lot of modern shoegaze thing," says Moll. "It's like, 'Can we make dreamy landscapes with orchestral precision?'"
It's clear that they can. The basic elements of Memoirs at the End of the World draw from a blend of old and new — from wall-of-sound pop and Brit-Invasion to modern indie-rock.
Moll and his mates painstakingly added strings, keys, and atmospheric extras during the sessions for Memoirs at the End of the World. There was an urge to beef things up, but, with Chase, they tried to create a grand sound with minimal instrumentation. Moll calls it a "more with less" approach.
"I think it sounds more mature and bigger than anything we've done before," he says. "We wanted it to be bigger, but there's actually less on the tracks. It's about creating atmosphere and space. I think the next album will push it even farther."
The collection is almost a cinematic concept album ready for use on the big screen, with Yehezkely's vocals standing out.
"My Lucky Charm" is a piano-driven pop gem with Yehezkely harmonizing with herself in a drowsy call-and-response with strings in the background. "No One Said This Would Be Easy" also utilizes '60s mod-pop "strings" in a minor key, cinematic, Henry Mancini-esque style. On "Go Jetsetter," with timpani accents, and minimal chords, Yehezkely sounds like she's singing over the land line on an antique telephone.
"We know what we're doing now," says Moll. "We know what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we know how to balance it out and bring things together."