There's more than one reason New York City quintet The Walkmen have gradually risen to their posts as the beloved darlings of contemporary indie rock: As tireless draftsmen of expansive, post-punk-influenced soundscapes, they write, tour and record prolifically. Plus, they're honest-to-God nice dudes when they totally don't even have to be. Last October, The Walkmen played a packed house at The Basement, where lead singer Hamilton Leithauser performed a version of his band's "Thinking of a Dream I Had" while backed by adored locals—most of them Grimey's employees—The Privates.
"That was a lot of fun," says Walkmen organist and bassist Walter Martin. "The Basement—that's under that Grimey's music place, right? I like that gang who runs that whole place. I guess that's probably why we went to The Basement."
But aside from being humble fellas with a good eye for local venues, The Walkmen also happen to be incessant and consistent writers. You & Me, their last, came out just over a year ago, and the 14-song collection of swelling, emotionally evocative, reverb-drenched tunes (each more compelling than the last) was as critically acclaimed as any of their releases. And, in keeping with that "honest-to-God nice dudes" approach of theirs, The Walkmen digitally pre-released You & Me, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
But The Walkmen don't intend to rest on their laurels. "We've been working on stuff and we've written maybe 15 songs, and we've recorded 13 of them," says Martin. "We had two weeks scheduled to record them, and we finished after five days, I think. We cancelled the whole second week because we finished so quickly. We were very, very prepared."
Preparedness and efficiency might not seem like very rock 'n' roll traits, but they keep The Walkmen churning out material faster than their record cycle can follow. After 2006's A Hundred Miles Off, the band quickly went on to record a track-for-track tribute to Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats—"We had free studio time, so we just figured what the hell," explains Martin—and since then, they've done Daytrotter Sessions featuring the music of both Neil Haggerty and Leonard Cohen.
Even with their nonstop work ethic, we're probably looking at about six months till the next Walkmen record. "Hopefully we'll finish the record by Christmas, if we're lucky," says Martin. "If we turn it in Jan. 1, it'll come out three months after that. I bet it would come out in April or May." Looks like You & Me is going to have to tide us over for the time being. That is, unless The Walkmen decide to take on Nilsson Schmilsson.
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