We haven’t heard much from The Walkmen since their prolific 2006 year when they released a note-for-note cover of the Harry Nilson/John Lennon record "Pussy Cats" AND original full-length "A Hundred Miles Off." But now the New York band is back on the road, and they’ve got a record in the works for a Spring release. We swapped e-mails with the band’s singer and webmaster Hamilton Leithauser as the band makes its way down to Atlanta for a show at The EARL with Vampire Weekend.
TAlive: I love the "reviews" section on yours site! Who usually writes those, and what inspired you to post reviews of restaurants and movies? Any plans on expanding that section to include, for example, hotels or even other bands?
Hamilton: Thanks. I write a bunch of them, and Walt usually writes the rest. I once wrote a review of a jail. I’ve thought about hotels and books. I wrote some book reviews for my friend’s website www.themillionsblog.com which was actually more fun than I’d imagined. Maybe I’ll do music but that’s probably not a good way to make friends.
TAlive: Speaking of hotels, what kind of accommodations do The Walkmen usually end up at? Are you crashing on couches and floors or booking rooms in hotels/motels? Have you ever been stuck somewhere particularly abysmal while on the road?
Hamilton: Walt has a knack for choosing the room with bed bugs. It’s happened only to him, and maybe four times. One time we travelled from Beaumont, Texas to Austin…usually a three to four hour ride…in 27 hours because of the Hurricane Rita evacuation. On the radio people were crying, and they kept playing a version of The Beatles "Lovely Rita" with the chorus "Lovely Riiiiita Hurr-rricane." I slept on the roof of the van for about 4 hours.
TAlive: When you do have time to actually explore the city when you’re on tour, how do you figure out where to go? Do you read up beforehand, stumble across things by accident, ask people around you?
Hamilton: Honestly, we usually ask each other, and we usually don’t get very far, and we never seem to learn better.
TAlive: How did you prepare for the Pussy Cats recording? Was it just a lot of listening to the record over and over? Was a substantial amount of boozing necessary to get your mind in the right place?
Hamilton: Prepare? We didn’t even know what the hell was going on at the time.
TAlive: Do you play any of the Pussycats covers live?
Hamilton: A few. Honestly our versions live are not very inspired so we avoid it.
TAlive: I’ve seen The Walkmen live twice, and I’m always impressed with how much more aggressive the vocals sound. Is this a sign of things to come for The Walkmen? Does your next album have more of a punk rock edge? Hamilton: Actually I’d say the punk is sort of phasing out. We still have tons of juice up there, but it’s a different flavor of juice. Like carrot juice.
TAlive: When I first heard Vampire Weekend a couple months ago, I immediately thought there was something Walkmen-esque in their music I couldn’t quite put my finger on… now you’re paired up for a few tour dates. How did your bands come together?
Hamilton: A guy in their band named "Ezra" used to be our intern at Marcata. I think what that meant was that Walt, Paul, and Matt interviewed and hired him as an intern and then realized they had absolutely no idea why, and they never got it together to work with him. They all talk fondly about him though. I’ve heard the name for years. I’ve never met the guy or heard the tunes though.
TAlive: If you could tour with any band out there now, who would you pick?
Hamilton: I’d like to tour with Neil Hamburger the comedian.
TAlive: We’ve got an Emma in the office, and she would like to know why exactly she should bring you a lemon…or any fruit for that matter. [note: see MP3 below…]
Hamilton: Because I have the hots for her.
TAlive: What is the story of Marcata? Is it just a studio space or do you have management based there?
Hamilton: It was just a studio. But man, what a studio!! We used to say "the hiss is free". It is gone now. I believe it’s a Columbia art-student dorm. So now all those pampered pretentious pricks can rest their precious little heads on our dead dream. Ooooh wee!!
TAlive: Finally, the "FAQ" page on your site suggests to me that you’re tired of dealing with the same questions over and over…and maybe you’re not a big fan of interviews really at all. Was this a total pain in the ass? If so, how would you describe that pain? More of a throbbing pain or a sharp sting?
Hamilton: I didn’t mean it that way at all. I just thought it was kind of funny to have a FAQ on our dumb little website. I think maybe I should put up more navigational questions. Like "How do I get from the "Music" section back to the "News" section…and the answer will be "Click on the "News" button, you will then see the "News" page displayed on your computer screen."
TAlive: Cheers! See you at The EARL! Have a meal there before your show…they have excellent food, and I’m sure it’ll get a 5-star review from the band.
Hamilton: Yeah, I do like the food there. Positive marks all around. See you there. www.marcata.net/walkmen