The Walkmen are an alternative rock back originally from Washington DC. Last year's excellent You & Me made dozens of year-end lists as the group branched into new sonic territory. Currently the Walkmen are touring in support of Kings of Leon. Hamilton Leithauser is the lead vocalist for the Walkmen.
So you’re doing a US tour in support of Kings of Leon…how’s that going? Do you make any adjustments to the live show when you play in arenas as opposed to smaller venues?
It's going pretty well I think. We definitely had to tailor the set to fill the bigger rooms. It's like a whole different thing.
Do The Walkmen have a philosophy for playing live? If so, what is it? If not, what's the approach by the band toward the live show?
I don't think we do. We just try and play as much new stuff as we think people can stomach because that's always the most fun for us.
What kind of themes do you think keep cropping up in your music? What types of ideas do you try to get across or communicate?
It's different every time but I guess we're doing more love songs these days...or we did on the last record. We have a bunch of newer ones that get away from that.
You guys have played together in various forms for a long time...how has the dynamic of the band changed since you first started playing together?
It's hard to say, really. It sort of just seems like the same old gang to me.
The Walkmen have a very retro sound. How do you avoid succumbing to the current trends on the indie rock or alternative rock scenes?
We just play the instruments we like the sound of, and we try to write songs that are different enough in our eyes to keep us interested.
The Walkmen have made several records with very different feels--Pussy Cats, A Hundred Miles Off, and You & Me are all particularly distinct from the previous releases and from one another. What makes The Walkmen keep exploring rather than falling into a specific sound? Do you see more experimentation like this happening in the future?
If you don't consciously try and come at things from a very different angle, it all gets repetitive and dull very quickly. You always end up sounding like yourselves so it's important to try and work from a different starting point.
What did you take away from your time as schoolmates in Washington DC? What did you take away from living in Harlem? How has changing locations impacted your music?
Well, DC's a great city. Especially in the spring. I was just there and it was lovely. But one thing I did begin to understand when I moved to NY was just how corrupt and ineffective the DC government is, or at least was at the time. The city was really in shambles during our childhood. The mayor was smoking crack. The schools were like the single worst in the nation. Things just didn't get done. It took moving away to get perspective...I just always thought that's the way the world works. Harlem was supposed to undergo some renaissance when we were there...once Bill Clinton moved in, but that never really happened.
Do you see The Walkmen lasting forever? What is your ultimate goal as musicians?
Till death do us part. I don't think we have a goal...we're flying blind. I think that's our problem.
You & Me was a tremendously received record and many people on the current tour may be seeing you for the very first time...do you approach this tour differently than tours in the past? How do you deal with the pressure of gaining fans on a nightly basis?
We've done opening tours before...it's a piece of cake. It's almost too easy, because you're only working for like an hour a day. You find yourself dipping into the bar more and more as time goes on.
The music landscape has changed so much since you got together as the entire business is being restructured and music leaks on the Internet on an hourly basis...how have The Walkmen adapted?
I don't think we have. Another problem.
What's The Walkmen's creative process like? Do you ever see yourselves running out of new ideas?
Sure, all the time. It's very disconcerting when we aren't coming up with new material. When you spend months writing and you come up with so little, it can seem like a real waste of time.