The Walkmen may not be as well known as their early 2000s New York rock brethren such as the Strokes, Interpol, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but their music was just as pivotal in shaping that scene, as best heard on songs such as “We’ve Been Had” and “The Rat.” After a nine-plus year hiatus, the group is reuniting for an April 26-27 stand at New York’s Webster Hall, with pre-sale tickets available starting tomorrow morning (Nov. 16).
“We’ve agreed to play some shows, and we all think it’s gonna be fun,” frontman Hamilton Leithauser tells SPIN by Zoom with characteristic understatement, adding that the recent 10th anniversary of the Walkmen’s final album (Heaven) played no role in the timing for the April dates.
“It’s just a coincidence,” he says. “We started reissuing some of our old records, and that got the conversation started a little bit. Before that, there hadn’t been all that much communication.” Adds bassist/organist Peter Bauer, “There was no, ‘OK, this is the reason and the moment we’re doing it.’ It just came together naturally in terms of feeling comfortable and excited to do it.”
Leithauser, Bauer, drummer Matt Berrick, guitarist Paul Maroon, and multi-instrumentalist Walter Martin never collectively discussed the reunion while the shows were being planned, instead preferring to “text each other stupid crap,” according to Bauer. “The day I agreed to it, and I’d imagine everybody else agreed to it, we were talking about something else and no one brought it up.”
Adds Leithauser with a chuckle, “… which is maybe why we went our own ways in the first place. There’s no pressure to do this. It’s our decision, and it’s unplanned. I think maybe that’s why everybody is willing to do it because it came together so casually.”
Reflecting on why the Walkmen split in 2013, Leithauser says, “I think we were at a point where we’d been doing this together since we were little kids. We’d never not done it together. It’s always in the back of everybody’s minds. Look at all of our contemporaries. They all have their own side bands or solo things. It’s an interesting thing to try, and we had never done it. I wanted to see what it would be like to play all the instruments myself.”
“It’s really hard to do this with five guys for a long time,” Bauer concedes. “It’s a little daunting when you make six records because it starts to feel like you’re doing the same thing. It felt very natural to stop doing it. Now it’s like, ‘Oh, great. I get to see my friends who are also some of my favorite musicians.’ I love their solo records. It’s a nice, normal feeling, as opposed to having to do something.”
The musicians say it’s far too soon for them to begin mulling what songs they’ll play in April, with Leithauser asking, “Is that just going to bring us straight back to the old ways? I’ll bet it will. I’ll bet it will be exactly the same. We’ll have the exact same fights over the exact same songs. That’s what’s gonna happen.”
“I think I can only remember one actual rehearsal that wasn’t when we were writing songs,” Bauer says. “We rehearsed one time on Easter Sunday in Cleveland because we were on tour. That’s the only time I can remember the Walkmen having a practice to learn the songs we already had. It will be very strange to actually walk into a rehearsal space. It’s just not something we ever really did, but we’re going to need to. We haven’t really been in the same room all together over the last 10 years.”
Leithauser may have a solution to that problem, positing, “You know what would be the most Walkmen thing in the world? To not rehearse. That would be the most Walkmen way we could possibly do it. Fly Paul in from Spain on the day of the show. He’ll probably be held up at customs and miss soundcheck, and show up 15 minutes before the set.”
There may be additional, yet-to-be-announced activity from the Walkmen in 2023, but in the meantime, band members remain busy with a variety of projects. On the heels of scoring the acclaimed HBO Max Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward documentary The Last Movie Stars, Leithauser is “working on a [solo] record that I’m getting pretty closed to being finished with” and continuing his score work on two upcoming films he politely declined to discuss in detail.
Bauer just released a solo album, Flowers, which he co-produced with Berrick, and also lent a hand behind the scenes on Maroon’s new album with pianist Jenny Lin, 13 Short Piano Pieces.