I OWE WALKMEN FRONTMAN Hamilton Leithauser money. A lot, actually—$1,700 at last count. It's not an easy debt to carry, especially when I come face to face with him on an avenue in New York. He really is a tall bastard. This has been noted before, but goddamn—you could throw this guy to the lions and the lions would lose.
Fortunately Leithauser is a gracious guy. It's a trait that no doubt served him well as the band weathered a spate of bad luck over the last couple months: Columbia University forced the boys out of their recording studio headquarters in Harlem, and then to add insult to injury, after a show some little fucker stole the band's beloved (and frighteningly loud) gourd, a key feature on their new album.
But now, sitting in a bar with a tall glass of scotch in hand, Leithauser is cool as a cucumber. That might be because the Walkmen's new album, A Hundred Miles Off, is a perfect rock record; loose, jarring, joyful, and crazy all at once. It's Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman and the Bad Brains stumbling into Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes sessions, maybe carrying an ungodly amount of brandy and a few drunken sailors on their backs. And the party's not stopping any time soon: Leithauser tells me the band is already working on more new material.
"The new stuff has a lot of juice," says Leithauser. "On the last record we wanted everything to be loose and fun, but we're amping it up a bit now."
Hopefully this level of energy can sustain the Walkmen through their current tour, which Leithauser admits is not the band's favorite activity. When asked if there's anything that can make a long tour a fun tour, he says "I guess after a while we just start drinking so much... I don't know, we're never really happy about anything."