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Q & A with The Walkmen

The Walkmen have now been together for over a decade, and it shows in the maturity of their music and the ease with which they can blow away an audience. Their most recent release, "Heaven," is a contender for album of the year, the title track of which has become a bit of a crossover hit. I met up with lead singer Hamilton Leithauser and piano/guitarist Walter Martin after their 3 p.m. show on Sunday.


Griffin: You played the same stage here two years ago.


Hamilton Leithauser: Two hours earlier. We made it two hours in two years.


G: Is that how it feels?


HL: That's exactly how it feels, yeah.


G: I thought you guys would be at like 7:30.


HL: That's what we were thinking too, and we were thinking we should be right there (points to main stage).


G: Was it an insult or just you didn't want to deal with the heat?


HL: A little from column A, a little from column B. No, we love Lollapalooza though. It's great to be invited back.


G: Do you change up the set list for a festival like this?


Walter Martin: Yeah, we play a lot more of like hard rock.


HL: When you see somebody standing in the beating sun and they're just getting penalized like that, you can see people just start to fade. It's just hard, physically hard. So you've got to give them something to work with.


WM: I don't care what we play. I think our fans like our quieter songs, like people that actually know our band. But it doesn't translate well in the atmosphere.


HL: Also you get some dude in the background like, (beat boxes a dance beat). That kind of thing makes it difficult.


WM: Yeah, you can hear the other music up on stage.


G: A lot of what's been written about "Heaven" is that it's like the Walkmen's happy album. Did you set out to do that? Do you feel that way at all?


HL: No, it didn't feel like that while making it at all. It was actually honestly the most isolated thing I've ever been a part of. People talk that way because we put pictures of our kids on it and we're all happy on the cover. And that's fine.


WM: And we did call it "Heaven."


HL: When we had a different album cover, it was a really dark tornado. It looked like apocalyptic--


WM: We could've called it "Hell." Kept the same music.


HL: It's amazing the way the packaging influences the music. I mean, I'm happy with the way it was, it's just funny because you work on the music for a year and you work on the packaging for a week. Maybe it is happier though, I don't know. It's hard to be objective.


WM: It's not a psychological thing, you know. It's not about something, like I'm really happy or I'm really sad. That's not the point of music, that's why you go to a therapist.


G: Every time I see you guys, people remark on how well dressed you guys are.


HL: People have been saying that all day today. My mom would be thrilled to hear that. You get tired of looking like a slob. You've gotta put on something that makes it feel like you have a job.


WM: Some days I don't feel like putting on a jacket or something, and then as soon as I don't, you feel like you just punted the show.


HL: We live in a weird schedule so if you don't try to write music on weekdays from 9 to 5, and if you don't try to put on something respectable when you've got work then you just feel like you're in a weird limbo and start to hate life.

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