ACL Interviews: The Walkmen
The Walkmen are another band we are very excited about seeing at ACL so it seemed natural for us to want to interview the guys. We recently spoke with leading man Hamilton Leithauser via email about the current state of his band. Follow the jump to read our full interview.
ATH: You have such an incredible dynamic performing in smaller venues. Do you worry that playing festivals or touring with Incubus (I was there) affects the emotions of your live show?
Hamilton: Thanks. We’ve done a ton of festivals at this point and I think we’ve gotten a better handle on it. It’s actually become something we prefer doing as the newer songs are sort of lighter and sunnier and sound good outside. I will say we were pretty “low-fi” at that particular show…what was that place called, the Irwin center? That wasn’t the Irwin center’s fault though.
ATH: As a band, you write solid albums from start to finish, but for me as a listener, there is always one phenomenal track off every record that I will carry with me for years to come, such as “In The New Year” or “The Ratt.” If you can recall the recording session, were these last minute album additions, or the starting point for each album? Or, can you just explain how you always tap into brilliant songs such as these?
Hamilton: Thanks again. The rat was actually the very first thing we wrote after we finished our first record. We just thought we could and should pick up the pace a little. In the New Year came like halfway through the writing of You and Me. Writing both songs was, I think, pretty quick.
ATH: As a band the Walkmen seem drawn to cover songs? What has drawn you to the artists you covered (Leonard Cohen, Neil Hagerty, Harry Nilsson & John Lennon)? Who are some artists you would want to cover in the future?
Hamilton: It can be fun just playing your favorite tunes and (sometimes) putting your own spin on it. We have a habit of really sounding a lot like the originals…it can be good and bad. Leonard Cohen and Neil Hagerty have been guys I’ve listened to since before highschool and I still love em. With the horn players at sound check now we do a knockout Soul Finger and a bunch of blues brothers stuff.
ATH: With band members having roots in garage rock, does the urge return to those roots ever come out in writing new music?
Hamilton: We have 2 new ones that sort of sound like surf rock, which is fun. It’s hard when you’ve been doing it for so long to try and get in a room and go bananas and have everything sound good, or even fun, like the stooges or something.
ATH: What is the best thing about being in a band, that most people probably wouldn’t have any idea about? What is the worse thing, the thing we never hear in the true hollywood story version?
Hamilton: The worst part might be stuffing 11 guys into a van with a piano and a million bags and amps and horns and driving across the country. Or maybe it’s killing yourself in some dark place like England for a month for basically zero money. Or maybe it’s being away from your home for months at a time. Wait, what was the other half of the question again?
ATH: It seems like a lot of your songs would translate really well to an acoustic sound. Do you have any plans to ever make a completely acoustic album, or do a few shows in just an acoustic setting?
Hamilton: I actually just got a ’47 Gibson LG-2 which I’ve been trying out on this tour and I think it’s working out great. It’s made many appearances on the tracks we’ve done for the next record so I think it’ll at least be around for a while.
ATH: If you had to pick an album of the year, what would it be?
Hamilton: For this year? I’m on tour and don’t have any records with me so I can’t even remember what came out this year. I like the fleet foxes record…did that come out this year?
ATH: What are some places you always frequent when you come to Austin? Any favorite things?
Hamilton: We have done so much time there…I like that place that serves crawfish down by the little creek…although last time the waiter put a live crawfish on the plate with all the cooked ones as a joke and it was kind of dark. He was just like crawling on the corpses of all his buddies.
Thanks again for making the time Hamilton and stay away from those live ones. You can catch a live set by The Walkmen at 3:30 on Friday on the Xbox 360 stage.