Few bands have grown and continually impressed like the Walkmen. Now beyond their twelfth year as a band, this New York-based quintet has given us one of the deepest and most satisfying discographies around. From their debut Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, to the sepia-tone of 2008′s You & Me, to their latest and possibly best album Heaven, there doesn’t seem to be a dud in the bunch.
So how does a group of young dudes who were once lumped in with New York “it” bands like the Strokes, Interpol, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah–all of whom have had trouble keeping things together–keep such composure and refuse to let down? The band says it’s been a tough road, but they’ve settled into their collective skin and are prepared for the long haul.
Singer-guitarist Hamilton Leithauser and organist Peter Bauer stopped by XRT’s Live from Lollapalooza tent backstage after their set to talk with Marty Lennartz about the beating sun, making distance work, and being legitimized by time.
The band’s 3 p.m. Sunday set was easily one of the loudest and most energetic of the weekend. Gliding onto the stage looking dapper as the men of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the Walkmen powered through tracks from their latest record Heaven, peppering in some killer tracks from previous releases, including “In the New Year” and “The Rat.” Leithauser took off his blazer midway through the set, proclaiming to the crowd, “
As Lady Gaga said when I saw her last time we played Lollapalooza, it’s hot as [expletive] up here!”
“Yeah it’s pretty hot, I burned a hole through my shoe,” Laithauser says. “It melted the insides of my organ too,” Bauer adds. “I kept losing stops on the organ and I think it was just so hot that the cards inside from the 1960s just melted.”
Heat aside, the band sounded like they were enjoying themselves both on stage and off. Their self-deprecating humor and approachability are some of the qualities that help make our backstage exlcusives so great. Much of that comfort and can be attributed to the band members being in a good spot in their lives after more than a decade at the grind making ends meet through constant touring and songwriting. Accordingly, the band has been celebrating its longevity this year.
“It was the first time any of us felt like we accomplished something, or at least felt like it was okay to admit [it],” Bauer says. “I don’t think there’s any quitting now. You can’t get out if you want to. You’re in for life.”
One of the talking points with the Walkmen this year is maturity, not just musically, but moreso in terms of the members’ personal lives. Leithauser, Bauer, Walter Martin, Matt Barrick, and Paul Maroon all have wives and children at this point, and the band is now spread across the country with members in New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York. Accordingly, the band has had to adapt to their situations to keep things going.
“E-mail changed everything. It wouldn’t be possible otherwise. We only got together twice for this record,” Leithauser says. “You used to have meet someone on a train platform and hand them an 8-track tape.” It’s sort of more fun now that we all live in different places so that when we all get together we have something to talk about for a couple days and it’s enjoyable.”
The Walkmen played an incredible aftershow Sunday night at Lincoln Hall to a sold out crowd and are currently touring with fellow Lollapaloozers Florence + the Machine. Heaven is available now via Fat Possum Records.