Music » Noah Bonaparte Pais: On the Record

The Walkmen

March 2

The Walkmen

10 p.m. Wednesday

One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361;

Tickets $15 in advance, $17 at the door

The Walkmen's new album features New Orleans influences
  • The Walkmen's new album features New Orleans influences

Midway through the Walkmen's wonderful 2010 album Lisbon (Fat Possum), an unfamiliar sound enters the New York City-based rockers' careful field of trembling guitars, liquid organs and marshaled drums. The song is "Stranded," and the sound is a funereal New Orleans trumpet — an entire brass band of them, in fact, each line played in painstaking multi-tracked duplicate by Paul Maroon, the group's guitarist. A New Orleanian since August, when his wife accepted a teaching post at Tulane University, Maroon says his affinity of the music predates his move.

  "My father was a photographer and he used to come here a lot," Maroon says. "I remember seeing a picture in a cemetery of the Eureka Brass Band — this was in the '50s, maybe. They were literally the greatest-looking dudes I'd ever seen. ... It's crept into some of our music. There's actually some stuff that didn't make it on the record that's even more New Orleans-y."

  The Walkmen are longtime admirers of New Orleans. The band's 2006 LP A Hundred Miles Off, its first after the levee failures, begins with a stately homage called "Louisiana," and the band makes a point of visiting the city on every tour — even when it isn't booked here. "I don't think there's any other city we do that for," Maroon says. "It's our favorite stop, always has been. We've been here maybe five times, and we've been here with our old band (Jonathan Fire*Eater) maybe five times, and I don't think I'd ever really left the French Quarter or the Marigny before. Now I don't think I've been down there since I moved here."

  The father of two girls (including Veronica, born here in February), Maroon slips out of his Uptown house to work on music in his Bywater studio. "If I force myself to do it, I can squeeze out about two hours a day, and I can usually write one thing a day," he says. "I have absolutely zero time, which is interesting. Up until about the age of 34, the stupid band was actually important to me."

  Lisbon signals a similar shift of priorities for the Walkmen, whose previous albums — 2004 pile driver Bows + Arrows and 2008's resigned You & Me in particular — carried back-breaking levels of tension. A split recording between New York and Dallas, the new album maintains the band's lilting mix of atmosphere and melody while sounding freer and easier. The two-year process began with a crawl but finished in a flurry. "You can tell the stuff we did in Dallas was done really quickly. I like that; it's spontaneous. 'Blue As Your Blood' and 'Stranded' were done in New York, and 'Angela (Surf City)' and 'Victory' were done in Dallas. Those are sort of the two sides of the record, the two different tones: the full tone and the sparse tone.

  "We don't change the way we work that much," he says. "We learn a little bit about it, we get a little bit less fussy as the records go by, I think. You & Me was kind of fussy, I thought. ... Lisbon wasn't quite like that. We'd get together, put the song together, record it, wonder whether we liked it or not, and move on."

  Asked if living in the brass capital of America has similarly eased his learning process on the trumpet, Maroon laughs. "Well, I never learned it," he says. "Honestly, my one-and-a-half-year-old plays it as well as I do. ... I'm an embarrassment. I'm actually not even good enough at the guitar to play with people other than the Walkmen."

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