The Walkmen, accompanied by their bajillion kids.
At a time when bands are constantly rotating members, running off to do side projects, and falling apart due to drama or lack of success, the five members of The Walkmen have stuck together for a whole decade, consistently touring and putting out records every two years. And they’re not slowing down anytime soon, with a new album Heaven dropping on May 29th and a string of tour dates lined up for the summer. Impressive, right? I say applause is in order! When you're done clapping, check out their new single, “We Can’t Be Beat,” off the forthcoming album:
In celebration of their 10-year anniversary, I called up The Walkmen’s very own Pete Bauer to reflect on their bandship from the past decade. They don’t have very many regrets about their career, except maybe for their band name, which Bauer claims makes them sound like a bunch of chumps. We also discussed which member has aged the most over the years and what it’s like to all be married and have a million kids. Though it’s too late for them to be called The Killers (what they wish they were named instead), I may or may not have accidentally re-branded them… as a dad band.
NOISEY: Hi Pete! First of all, congratulations on your 10-year anniversary!
Pete Bauer: Thank you!
All five of you have been together since day one, right? That’s very impressive and probably pretty rare nowadays.
Right, yeah, I think it’s probably pretty rare.
Did you guys think you’d stick around for so long?
I don’t know, I think we just continued doing it and we hoped it would last long but no, it’s been a lot longer than we ever expected. I mean, you don’t think it’s gonna last that long but it ended up lasting forever.
Do you think it’s going to keep going for more decades to come?
We hope so! We’re going to try. We’re in it for life. We have no other skills! Whatever skills we had before are gone now.
Well, you’re all doing whatever you’re doing now very well. By the way, the new single, “We Can’t Be Beat,” is lovely and I’m really looking forward to the new album Heaven!
Did you guys sort of psych yourselves out knowing that this was a 10-year anniversary album?
No, I think knowing that helped us finish the record because we realized that we were going to be doing these anniversary shows and whatnot. We’re really happy with the record though.
Yay! I think you guys are the band that indie bands today strive to be. What were the bands you guys aspired to be when you were starting out?
We were always trying to be like older bands, like the Rolling Stones or the Cramps, but we wanted to do our own thing. When we started out, we had the idea that we would try to be less of a garage rock band and try to do different things -- make every song sound different, basically.
I read that you guys were put into this New York music scene that you didn’t want any part of -- why is that?
We were young and probably a little arrogant and we wanted to feel like we were doing our own thing. I think when you’re young, you don’t want to feel like you’re a part of a bigger movement, where you’re secondary to somebody else. So we always resented that, but that was stupid because it was neat that there were all these other bands. We were hard-headed.
Who do you think has aged the most since then?
I would say our bassist Walter has aged the most. We were looking through these old pictures and I saw pictures of him when he was 23 and he looks like a totally different person. He looks like Chevy Chase now!
[_Laughs_] Awesome. Have you had a lot of band drama over the years?
I’d say not that much, especially compared to everyone else that we know. We really held it together.
Yeah I think staying together for 10 years and consistently putting out material is a true testament to your camaraderie.
Yeah, we’re all friends.
What have you guys noticed about each other spending that much time together, especially on the road?
I guess I eat terribly the entire time on tour. I tried to change that, but I eat like a dog. I think we all do. It’s gotten really gluttonous recently. We eat healthily at home but when we’re on the road, we don’t know what to do.
Do you think that’s contributed to Walter’s rapid aging?
You know, he’s the only one that doesn’t eat so terribly. Maybe that’s what contributed to it!
[_Laughs_] I believe so! Let’s talk about your band name for a sec…
Yeah, the band name was definitely a mistake. We regret that to this day.
I didn’t even say anything about it!
It was a very last minute thing. We’ve always regretted it -- immediately.
I don’t even associate The Walkmen to a walkman anymore.
Yeah, it’s not so bad once you get over it but the first time you hear it, you’re like “who are these chumps?”
If you could redo it, what would you have named yourselves?
You know, we were gonna call ourselves The Murderers but that already existed. Somehow, we didn’t think of The Killers, which is an awesome band name for a terrible band. If we had named ourselves The Killers, it would have been pretty badass.
And you could have had it first, too!
We could have stopped the whole Killers from happening [_laughs_]. That whole band would have never occurred!
[_Laughs_] Well then it’s you guys’ fault for making it happen.
Yeah, we never really figured that one out. That’s why we are where we are.
Who is responsible for naming the band The Walkmen?
I think maybe Walter but I’m not really sure. He came up with a lot of things. We struggled with the name. We had already recorded songs before settling on a name and when it was time for our first show, we had to sort it out.
Right. What were you guys doing before The Walkmen -- or rather, before bands?
We all had pretty bad jobs. Ham worked at the MET (he had the best one), Paul worked at Pfizer (he typed there or something), and Walt and I worked at the corporate office of a Methodist church.
What did that entail?
I catalogued hate crimes and I think Walt made copies.
Weird. You guys are all parents now, right?
We are all married and either have children or are having children. There are always like nine kids running around.
L-R: Paul Maroon, Walter Martin, Pete Bauer, Matt Barrick, and Hamilton Leithauser. That's Pete's son Otis on the couch.
I think all your children should start a band together.
I’m sure there’s a good chance. They’re definitely present in the whole thing.
Do you ever feel like you’re becoming a dad band? Just kidding.
Oh, definitely! That’s exactly how I feel. There’s a first grade class behind us half the time.
What is a dad band?
I always think of Wilco [_laughs_]. I guess it’s actually us, though. We’re even more of a dad band than Wilco.
[_Laughs_] Well, hopefully I’ll get to interview you again for your 20th anniversary and see how that dad band thing is working out.
Yeah, that would be great.
I’m mostly curious about who Walter will resemble then.
Jack Lemmon! I’m just gonna call it now.
The Walkmen are currently on tour:
5/11 - Main Street Arena - Charlottesville, VA
5/27 - Sasquatch Festival - George, WA
6/27 - WFPK Waterfront Wednesdays - Louisville, KY
6/28 - Plush - St. Louis, MO
6/29 - Summerfest - Milwaukee, WI
6/30 - First Avenue - Minneapolis, MN
7/20 - Deer Lake Park - Burnaby, BC %
7/21 - White River Amphitheatre - Auburn, WA %
7/22 - Edgefield - Troutdale, OR %
7/25 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO %
7/29 - The Lawn @ White River State Park - Indianapolis, IN
7/30 - Jacobs Pavilion - Cleveland, OH %
7/31 - Fox Theatre - Detroit, MI %
8/2 - Molson Canadian Amphitheatre - Toronto, ON %
8/3 - Osheaga Festival - Montreal, QC
8/5 - Lollapalooza - Chicago, IL
% - w/ Florence & The Machine