The Walkmen: Taking The 100 Mile Stroll

We knew a few guys from other bands but they were just mates, there was no discernible difference to anything before or after... maybe we just weren't invited!

Feature by Jon Seller | 13 Sep 2006
Back in 2004 the New York music scene was fuelling debate the length and breadth of the UK's common rooms and muso hang outs. Had the Strokes had their day? Was the 'difficult' second album beyond them? Where have the Walkmen been hiding all my life?

Without so much as a transatlantic murmuring in the wake of their first album 'Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Has Gone', the NYC five-piece had managed to up the ante on the City's thriving garage acts with the brilliantly furious 'Bows and Arrows'. Preceded by breakthrough single The Rat, the Walkmen's hectic blend of spiky guitar and melodic keys, which blended beneath Hamilton Leithauser's tortured vocals, had finally entered the UK public's musical consciousness. "It made things easier for us" reflects guitarist Paul Maroon. "We were playing sold out shows and getting more opportunities – playing our music to a much larger audience." So life was sweet then? "At first yes, but then we kind of got stuck in this relentless touring pattern which wasn't ideal as we were all too aware of over-milking the record."

And so they stopped. Fed up with the monotony of touring, the band wanted to feel productive again, so they headed back to the studio and began work on their forthcoming record, 'A Hundred Miles Off' - a more measured, soulful offering, dealing with growing up and embracing it. "It's a lighter record, or less gloomy if you like" admits Maroon. "We're happy with where we're at and we feel the songs reflect that." Certainly opener Louisiana oozes maturity and contentment, evoking relaxing evenings sipping a Southern tipple or two.

The Walkmen's history is a long one with two of them being cousins and four sharing the same high school. Such familiarity has allowed the band to adopt a suitably laid-back approach to the industry. Their absence from the NYC hype of yesteryear was notable. They just got on with things. "People expect all these bands to be best buddies and all hang out with each other. It wasn't like that at all, I mean we knew a few guys from other bands but they were just mates, there was no discernible difference to anything before or after... maybe we just weren't invited!"

The band's ease with their business is typified in their tour pastime - novel writing. They're near completing 'John's Journey', a "stupid story about a guy called John who kinda takes a journey" Maroon explains, helpfully. They're also on the verge of releasing a complete song-by-song cover of Harry Nilsson's 1974 record 'Pussy Cats' as a homage to their soon-to-be gone studio. "Everyone loves Harry Nilsson and we really loved that studio, so it just seemed right" explains Maroon, and who are we to argue?

So what's the latest phase of the Walkmen's plan? "To get the next record out a bit quicker than this one" affirms Maroon, as if to reassure. Before then though there's a gig at Edinburgh's Liquid Room to attend. Remember they're not too keen on touring, so be sure to grab this chance to see them.
The Walkmen play The Liquid Room, Edinburgh on September 20.
'A Hundred Miles Off' is officially relseased in the UK on September 11.