A limited corner of the Internet has been abuzz the past few days with chatter about The Walkmen’s “extreme hiatus,” as bassist Peter Bauer put it to The Washington Post Express. The bit that was most quoted by other publications seemed intense—“I don’t think we’ve been a gang properly for a long time, so there’s not much to break up, I guess”—but according to members of the band we spoke to, there’s no animosity, just the desire to stretch out at a logical time.
Guitarist Paul Maroon told us, “Like everything else we’ve done, this story is really boring. We do not hate each other, we love each other. We just didn’t feel like we ought to make another record right now, and no one stepped in and said, ‘Oh, you really should!’ Wait, that sounds kind of pathetic! We just didn’t feel like there was a reason to do it.”
After a show in Philadelphia tomorrow night, there’s nothing on the Walkmen docket, but plenty of solo activity—much of it intertwined. Peter Bauer and Walter Martin—who both play bass and organ—have recently completed solo albums that feature other Walkmen: Singer Hamilton Leithauser mixed a song on Bauer’s album (whose title, Liberation!, might spark more chatter, come to think of it), and drummer Matt Barrick played on Martin’s record. (Barrick has also been busy taking some really beautiful photos.)
And as has been previously reported, Leithauser also recently completed a solo album that features a murderer’s row of indie folks: He wrote songs with Maroon as well as Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, and wrangled Richard Swift (The Shins), Amber Coffman (Dirty Projectors), and Morgan Henderson (Fleet Foxes) to contribute. He acknowledges that trying to tour with such busy folks will present a challenge, but that he’s going to start thinking about it. His record has no title or official release date yet, but it will likely be out in spring, along with Leithauser and Bauer’s records. (“It’s all in the family,” says Maroon.)
As for an end to the hiatus, nobody’s ruling it out, but nobody’s actively thinking about it, either. When asked to put a percentage on the likelihood of it ever happening, Maroon said, “50/50! Playing a show is a lot higher than making a record. It’s a lot easier to play a show. Making a record is 25/75, I’d say.”
Same question for Leithauser: “Paul gave you a percentage?! God, I don’t think I can. Ten percent? 80 percent? I don’t know. What did Paul say? That’s probably pretty fair. I like my between 10-80 estimate, though. I’m going to stand strong with that… But really, there was no animosity, we just wanted to work on a different process. When you’re trying to do something creative, it’s important to shake things up. That’s what we did when we pulled Phil Ek in [to record The Walkmen’s latest album, Heaven]—now we’re really trying to shake it up.”
Leithauser continues: “We’ve never really had a good story, isn’t that our problem? Five friends start a band and just continue to be in the band? There’s no drama there.”
[And we just got an e-mail from Bauer, who writes: “I wish my quote could be ‘I hate those guys and there's so much drama’ but I do love them too. I guess I would say that everything seems far more real now that this whole thing is out in public. I have so many mixed emotions. I feel very pleasantly nostalgic about the band but I’m also terrified because I have no idea what will happen to me next! I didn’t get out of bed until noon today for the first time in years!”]