Young, aggressive and part Irish, Alison Lee finds Pete Bauer of the Walkmen in buoyant form.
New York indie-band, the Walkmen, have never set foot on Irish soil before their Dublin debut this month. They did have a show booked here a while ago, but Pete Bauer (bassist, organist) tells Otwo that, “we couldn’t afford the ferry or something.” Not the most rock n’ roll excuse ever for missing a gig, but we’ll forgive them.
After all, Bauer is practically one of us. Like many Americans, he claims to have Irish roots. “I’m about a third Irish… my Irish side lived in Buffalo around 1915.” he says. “My grandfather’s name was Patrick McMahon, he was a bootlegger. Supposedly to promote his bar he would wrestle a bear.”
Fortunately, Bauer chose not to follow in his great-grandfathers footsteps – instead of bear-wrestling and bootlegging, he took up bass-playing and started a band named the Recoys with his friend Hamilton Leithauser. “Young and dumb” is how he describes this group’s hardcore-influenced sound. Bauer and Leithauser later merged with members of the Fireaters and the Walkmen were born.
Their slightly kitsch name came about somewhat by accident: “It was the night before a show, we had to come up with something… it was unfortunate it worked out that way, I think, but it stuck! It’s in our iTunes!” Bauer admits.
‘‘It’s difficult to just play guitars and come up with a completely new sound’’
But was it difficult for remnants of two different groups to work together? “We all shared similar ideas about what we wanted to do,” says Bauer. “We were very concerned about not sounding like a garage band.”
And they don’t. While they retain their former dark, edgy sound, their music has a polished, restrained finish reminiscent of Kings of Leon. They keep things interesting by using a variety of instruments, including the upright piano and the organ. “It’s difficult to just play guitars and come up with a completely new sound,” he explains.
Although the Walkmen aren’t that well known in this neck of the woods, some of you make recognise them from the small screen. Like many underground acts, they have been featured on hit TV series The OC – more specifically in Season 2, where they can be spotted playing The Bait Shop as Seth and Summer kiss.
“We single-handedly brought that show down!” laughs Bauer. “Twenty million people watched it a week, then we went on and it went down to something like ten.”
Luckily this isn’t the reaction they get on stage. “I think our live performances are very different in the sense that they’re a lot louder and a lot more aggressive than our records tend to be,” says Bauer.
But isn’t it nerve-wracking, turning up in a country where you’ve never played before, not knowing whether to expect a full house or an empty auditorium? He agrees, “You could be playing in front of 20,000 people or five people! You have no idea what is going to happen.”
The Walkmen took to the stage in the Button Factory, 2nd November