New album, new label. Same old really tall frontman.
After a debut record in 2002 that etched their name in the glossy pages of GQ and Billboard among others, The Walkmen have resurfaced with a clock-stopping collection of haunting unparalleled jewels on their new full-length, Bows + Arrows. Like its predecessor, 2002's Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, the beauty of Bows + Arrows lies in meandering reflective verse and musical accompaniment that seems detached from everything else in the room.
After the disbanding of New York City's Jonathan Fire*Eater, Matt Barrick, Paul Maroon and Walter Martin joined forces with two Recoys: singer Hamilton Leithauser and bassist Peter Bauer. Thankfully, The Walkmen captured a unique sound in their own studio, which they've yet to lose. Their debut caused quite a buzz amongst indie-record enthusiasts and the band gained notable success when the biting "We've Been Had" was chosen for a Saturn commercial. They don't seem to be selling many automobiles these days, but the new songs are even better.
Bows + Arrows is electrifying, but the songs resonate brilliantly at the live shows. Leithauser's drunken-sounding regrets are even more effective in a smoky bottle-littered setting. Though the intensity of their live performance is unmatched, the five-piece manages to don matching classy-gentleman casual wear. We asked Leithauser a few questions about the band's new record and label, and found out that he is actually taller than Conan O'Brien.
Prefix Magazine: I've seen the comparison to older U2 thrown around when people talk about the Walkmen. How do you guys feel about that?
The Walkmen: Hamilton Leithauser: It's fine by me. I'm not a huge U2 fan, but I really don't mind the comparison.
PM: You guys are on a two-month tour that spans the U.S. and Canada. Aside from New York, what city or cities are you really looking forward to playing?
The Walkmen: HL: I like Chicago a lot ... I'd just never been there before we started touring, and now I've really grown to like it. I think it's the only place outside of New York I could live right now. PM: Your debut was warmly received by elitist record buyers across the globe. Back in May, Record Collection Records announced it would release Bows + Arrows, rather than your previous home at StarTime International. How was the switch?
The Walkmen: HL: The switch was painless. PM: We've seen your video for the Saturn-selling "We've Been Had" gem. Recently you guys recorded a video for "The Rat" for MTV/Fuse. How did the recording go? Will it be a "live" sort of thing, like your previous one?
The Walkmen: HL: It's in the same vein. We just wanted to shoot on film, which is expensive, and since we didn't really have much of a budget, we had to make do. So the shots are a little lengthy for your average MTV video, but it looks great and I think it's a good video. I'll bet MTV will not feel the same way though. PM: You recently played on the Conan O'Brien show. It sounded stellar but you guys looked a tad nervous. Is it because you're taller than the gawky host?
The Walkmen: HL: Yeah, I was a little taller than him. Craig Kilborn is taller than me though. I was nervous playing that show. My mom and aunt were in the crowd. PM: How would you compare playing the Conan show to playing the Craig Kilborn show?
The Walkmen: HL: Conan was a lot more fun because it was a lot more of a production. They film the show in real time, so when it's time for the band to perform they bring you out there and just shoot it. With Kilborn it's taped, so the whole thing feels a little less urgent, and not as exciting. Also Conan's in the big NBC building at Rockefeller Center, and Kilborn's in this CBS warehouse in the middle of God knows where in Los Angeles. PM: How are your live shows received in the UK, and are there plans to tour there this year in support of Bows + Arrows? Are there any bands you'd like to bring along from our side of the pond?
The Walkmen: HL: We have consistently had a terrible time in the UK. No one can put their finger on why, because the kids that come out to the shows are cool. But for some reason we really, really don't gel with the country. Nonetheless, we'll be back in April. I'm looking forward to spending my birthday in merry old England. PM: The new album seems to be even more consistent than the debut, but the songs still retain the same kind of signature sound that solidified the first one. As the first one is composed of older stuff, some of which was already a couple of years old, are these songs very new, or have they been around a while?
The Walkmen: HL: Most are new. "The Rat" was the first thing we wrote for this ... pretty much right after we finished the last one. But songs like "What's In It for Me," "Thinking of a Dream I Had" and "Bows and Arrows" were really written as we recorded them right there in the studio, so they're still pretty fresh. They've also all changed in the live show. PM: This is the word association part of the interview. Just tell me what comes to mind when you hear these words. The French Kicks
The Walkmen: HL: Fuck Nick [Stumpf, drummer/vocalist of the Kicks]. PM: Brooklyn
The Walkmen: HL: Hip girls with mullets, guys with wack baseball hats. PM: Bows + Arrows
The Walkmen: HL: Hoes and pharaohs. PM: Indie-rock