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TAS Interview: The Walkmen's Walter Martin On...

The Walkmen

The Walkmen


The Walkmen return to New York for their homecoming 2010 gig this Thursday, December 2 at Terminal 5 with Brooklyn's School of Seven Bells and Denver's Tennis. The Alternate Side caught up with bassist Walter Martin over email to hear all about their gig in Lisbon playing tracks from their new album Lisbon and what rock legend they wouldn't mind finding wrapped up - well, roped up - under the Christmas tree this year.

TAS: The lineup of The Walkmen, School of Seven Bells and Tennis at Terminal 5 on 12/2 is a brilliant bill. How did it come about and what do you enjoy most about big, homecoming NYC (or Philly) gigs?

Walter Martin: Playing hometown shows is great. All of our friends come and get completely drunk and tell us like, "You shouldn't play this song, you should totally play that song, this one sucks, don't wear that shirt, your hair looks stupid, etc." I think they fear witnessing us making fools of ourselves and they take the opportunity to micromanage.

TAS: Have you been working some very new songs or interesting covers into your sets at all? Or working in any of the songs that were written for Lisbon, but didn't make the album? If so, what are they?

Walter: We play "Orange Sunday," which didn't make the record but we love it. No covers recently. We wanted to cover something from the new Deerhunter record but we haven't nailed one down yet.

TAS: The Walkmen have been wending their way through Europe - including a gig in Lisbon, Portugal on November 15. What did you enjoy about returning there, with a fully realized album that was inspired by the city?   

Walter: The Lisbon show was probably the coolest show in recent memory. It sounds stupid but it was sort of a "love fest" as they call it. We played in this huge, beautiful old place called the Coliseu Lisboa. The crowd was very mature: very quiet in the quiet songs and up and dancing in the loud ones. It could not have been better.


TAS: Whenever you've toured songs off a new album for a greater expanse of time, they develop deeper layers and new dimensions in a live setting. What songs off of Lisbon have especially taken on a new life on tour and why?

Walter: "Woe is Me" has gotten a little more surf-rock and aggressive i'd say. And "Juveniles" is more dynamic and the end is really grand and more celebratory now. "Angela" is more aggressive and faster than the record. It loud as hell when we play so songs tend to grow more explosive live.

TAS: You've talked about the influence of Elvis Presley and the Sun Records sound on this new album; what have been the new music obsessions of late? Any tour bus playlists or albums or iPod earworms that seem to be tagging along after the band over the last year?

Walter: We all listen to Thee Oh Sees, the fantastic San Francisco band. We go between their records "Help," "Sucks Blood," "Cool Death of the Island Raiders," "Hounds of Foggy Notion," "Warm Slime," "Masters Bedroom" .... Each one is awesome and different. They are endlessly entertaining and we fantasize about sounding as kick-ass as they do.

TAS: Every album is a bit like a child for a band. How did the writing, recording and release of Lisbon - and even your work with new co-producer John Congleton - affect the evolution of The Walkmen? What do you know about yourselves as a band now that you perhaps didn't comprehend a year or two ago?

Walter: For this record we decided to take a tip from the Sun Records Elvis stuff which has very sparse instrumentation and relies entirely on the quality of the song and the performance. In the past we've relied on effects more and reverb and overdubs but with this record we wanted to only use songs that could stand on their own with just their bare bones.

TAS: The holidays are right around the corner; aside from peace on earth, what would each of The Walkmen like to find gift-wrapped under the proverbial tree?

Walter: I'd like to see Lou Reed dressed in a Santa suit, hog-tied and gagged under my tree this year.

TAS: If you could ask anyone to cover a Walkmen song, who would it be and what would you ask them to cover?

Walter: I'd like the Velvet Underground to cover our song "Lisbon" - we were trying to copy their mellow vibe anyway.

Tickets are still available to see The Walkmen at Terminal 5 and if you've never caught the guys live, you're missing an outstanding show.