Just a little piece of advice: If you're ever granted a phone interview with one of your favorite bands via their PR person, don't operate under the assumption that you'll be talking to the frontman. I have to thank Intern Lance for not including the first portion of my interview with The Walkmen's Walter Martin in the following transcript--I'm sure it would come across as even more awkward in print. Have a look after the jump as Walter and I chat about You & Me, the Grimey's staff and Shane McGowan.
Alright alright, so I'll paraphrase the awkward bit for you.
Walter: This is Walter.
Me: Um...I'm sorry. I'm trying to reach Hamilton from The Walkmen.
Walter: I'm in the band The Walkmen.
Me: Oh, cool! That's fine.
Walter: Would you rather have Hamilton's number? I can give you that.
Me: No, no! Sorry man. I'm...I'm sorry.
It actually went on from there for a minute. Then I got around to asking my questions. Walter Martin, by the way? Super-cool dude. You can see my feature on The Walkmen in this week's forthcoming issue. They'll be playing Mercy Lounge this Sunday, Sept. 27, with Here We Go Magic.
Nashville Cream: So what have you guys been up to since the release of You & Me? I know you've toured pretty extensively, but have you been working on new material or anything?
Walter Martin: Yeah, we have been. We've been touring a lot, but every time we're home we've been working on stuff. And we've written like, maybe 15 songs and we've recorded 13 of them, and we're in the process of overdubbing and mixing and stuff like that. We're going to record more in November I think. Hopefully finish the record by Christmas if we're lucky.
NC: Is there any sort of schedule for when hopefully it'll be out? Is it like next spring?
WM: Well yeah, once you turn it in, I guess it's like three months of setup they need for it. So, if we turned it in January 1st, it'll come out three months after that. I bet it would come out in April or May.
NC: Would you guys plan on posting any tracks or any demos or that sort of thing while you're still working on it?
WM: I don't know. Things will be finished in December maybe, at that point we'll post tracks. We haven't really thought about that.
NC: As I recall when you guys first released You & Me, it was available digitally first for five dollars with all the proceeds going to a cancer foundation.
NC: That was a really admirable approach. What exactly influenced you guys to do that?
WM: A friend of ours' son was living in the Sloane-Kettering and we were actually going to do a benefit concert for him, but then we were approached to do the release the way we did it. So we did that and it worked out great.
NC: You seem to be a band that has a grasp, better than many at least, on keeping fans of the digital age interested in releasing things in various formats and doing pre-releases and that sort of thing. Is that sort of a conscious decision, does that have anything to do with how you guys obtain and listen to music?
WM: No, I've always thought we were bad at it. We would always watch other bands have a more creative kind of way of using the Internet. But I'm glad to hear you say that, because I've always thought we've been bad at it. We sort of have a very amateurish website and...I'm glad to hear you say that.
NC: Oh yeah, definitely. I think it's always pretty easy to get your hands you guys' stuff and get it in different formats and that sort of thing. I think you're good at it, for sure.
WM: Alright, well, that's good!
NC: Why did you guys decide to cover that Nilsson record, Pussy Cats. Is it like a shared favorite of yours?
WM: Yeah, it's not even a favorite. It's like in maybe our Top 100. It's sort of thought of as a funny album, and at that moment we were really into that album. Our studio was about to close, so we had free studio time, we just figured what the hell. We had just finished our 100 Miles Off record, which was exhausting. So it was just sort of a fun thing to do.
NC: Do you foresee any other projects like that in the future, covering any other records, any Top 100 records?
WM: I doubt it, but maybe. Doing other peoples' music is always fun. We've done those Daytrotter sessions, I don't know if you know, where we did Leonard Cohen songs, we did Neil Haggerty songs. It's definitely fun for us to do that.
NC: You mentioned your studio, I wanted to ask you about that. What's the name of the studio again?
WM: It's called Marcata.
NC: So you guys relocated to upstate New York, I think I read?
WM: Not really. Kevin McMahon, who was an engineer for us, who actually recorded the Pussy Cats record--he's a great engineer--we gave him some of our stuff and he relocated up there. I've actually never been there, but I hear it's a nice place.
NC: So you guys don't do tracks there anymore, since it moved?
WM: No, we don't.
NC: Is there anywhere in particular that you guys tend to work or prefer to work?
WM: We've been working at this studio called Gigantic in lower Manhattan with this engineer Chris Zane, who is just the house engineer there. He's actually like an engineer/producer. He's done a lot of stuff, but working there is perfect for us. We did most of our last record there with him and we've done everything so far for the new record there with him. It's really a perfect fit for us.
NC: Is recording usually a pretty breezy process for you guys?
WM: Yeah, this time at least. We had 13 songs written and we had, I don't know, two weeks scheduled to record them, and we finished after five days, I think? So we canceled the whole second week because we finished so quickly. We were very, very prepared.
NC: Wow, that's awesome. Overdubs and everything, just completely finished?
WM: Not overdubs, but I mean, mostly. The singing's all done and there's not that many overdubs to do. It's not mixed, but all the tracking and singing and essential overdubs are all in place.
NC: So, when you guys enter the studio, you almost always have the songs fully fleshed out?
WM: Yeah, usually we do. This time we were much more prepared than we've ever been in the past. Sometimes, with our last record, there were things that came together in the studio that hadn't been prepared at all and in other records before that. Definitely that happened more. But this time we had done all of our homework.
NC: Last time you guys were here, I guess it was October of last year, you played at The Basement, which is a much smaller venue than Mercy Lounge, where you guys are plying this time. What exactly drove you guys to pick that venue? Is that just where you ended up or is there a certain reason for that?
WM: We try to vary venues as much as we can and that place, I forgot who told us about that place. It may have been that The French Kicks, who are friends of ours, told us to go there?
NC: There's a local band, The Privates, and Hamilton did a song with them.
WM: Yeah, that was great. That was a lot of fun. The Basement, that's under that Grimey's music place, right? That was a really fun night, I like that gang who runs that whole place.
NC: Oh yeah, they're great, great guys and that's a pretty beloved local record store.
WM: Totally, and I guess they had a...when You & Me came out, they did something like where staff members from Grimey's covered Walkmen stuff.
NC: Yeah, they did a tribute for a listening party, and they did the songs. I was there, actually they did a pretty dead-on job.
WM: Really? Yeah, we were really excited about that. I guess that's probably why we went to The Basement, because we liked that whole team so much.
NC: You guys played a few shows with The Pogues, right?
WM: We did, yeah.
NC: There's a coworker of mine who's a pretty big fan of The Pogues, and he wanted to know if you guys had any crazy stories about those guys. They're known for occasionally outlandish behavior and that sort of thing.
WM: Not so much when we played with them. We didn't interact with them that much. Shane McGowan, at least in those situations, was inaccessible. We had actually, like a year after we played with them, we played at the Benicassim Festival in Spain, and Shane McGowan was there because he sang with Pete Doherty's band.
NC: Oh, like Babyshambles or Libertines or something?
WM: Yeah, something like that. So, Shane McGowan was there and was just sort of hanging out in the backstage area, sitting there by himself. So we went over and chatted with him and talked with him for a long time. That was much more of a close interaction than when we actually played with them. We actually got to sit there and talk with him. He was like our hero, and he was great. He was a little hard to understand, but he really knows his music.
NC: You guys haven't played Mercy Lounge before, have you?
WM: No, we haven't I don't think.
NC: That's a pretty cool club, I'm looking forward to seeing you guys. Who are you guys playing with, do you recall?
WM: I'm not sure, I can't remember.
NC: It's OK, I didn't know if you were just like doing a leg of the tour with a certain band or anything like that.
WM: Yeah, we are, I forget which... Are we doing that with Here We Go Magic?
NC: That's it, Here We Go Magic.
WM: Right, right, right, yeah. I hear that they're really good.
NC: Haven't gotten a chance to check them out yet though?
WM: I haven't really, but I've heard from friends and multiple people that they're really good.