Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Wed 20 Sep
The life of a touring indie band involves a hell of a lot of hanging around doing sack all. To fill the hours in the back of the van, bands might invent puerile games, take a PlayStation or even read a book. New York oddballers The Walkmen took that last idea a stage further and started writing a novel.
‘It’s 50 pages long now,’ says singer and guitarist Hamilton Leithauser. ‘We’ve probably done about ten pages each. It was just something we came up with to pass the time, and for some reason it doesn’t get boring. You can go to the toilet and write a couple of pages, and keep yourself entertained for hours on end.’
It’s just one example of what makes The Walkmen different. While everyone else in NYC was chug-a-lugging around in an endless garage rock or new wave purgatory, The Walkmen set about creating weirdly experimental, atmospheric, haunting music with clanking pianos and ghostly guitars.
The band members got together from the remnants of a number of underground acts in 2000, and their career so far has seen three albums of increasingly assured mayhem being released, as the band have moved from indie label to major, and from soundtracking art college parties to soundtracking The OC.
According to Leithauser, the band don’t like to labour long and hard in the studio, maintaining that spontaneity is key to their individual sound.
‘It’s really hard to keep things fresh,’ he says. ‘Things get stale so fast. There’s always a danger of killing songs by overplaying them. If we come up with something we like, we just try to get it on tape as soon as we can, then pray to God that it’s good. Every once in a while we’ll listen back, and if we still like it, it’s worth keeping.’
In similar style the band have just finished dashing off an entire album of covers - their take on Harry Nilsson’s 1974 album Pussy Cats (itself a covers album), and are halfway through writing a new album. So it looks as if that novel will have to go on the backburner for now.