In 11 years as a band, The Walkmen has never had a man walk.
“It’s a band. It’s supposed to be a group of people doing something, not just a business or a name. If one of us left, it wouldn’t be the same thing,” said Peter Bauer, pianist and organist for the New York-based indie-rock group.
You can catch the same five members they’ve always been as headliners of Saturday’s Main Stage at Norman Music Festival.
Because they’ve been together so long, they’ve carved out a unique sound for themselves. Their spacious, elegant, indie-rock sound is punctured by lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s vicious, damaged howl, creating a tension between beauty and ferocity.
“We’re sort of in our own little inclusive world. Once you’re with us, people enjoy themselves,” Bauer said. “We have no idea how to put ourselves in a place that’s easily digestible to everyone on Earth. I think we put on a good show. You get what you get. If you like rock music, you may like this kind of crap, or you may not. It depends on what kind of crap you like.”
Instead of pandering to a potential audience, The Walkmen just focus on improving with every album.
“Every time you do one of these things, you try to think of some way to make it new,” Bauer said.
Their most recent, “Lisbon,” deepens their experiment with the push and pull between spare and symphonic.
“Things start to sound confusing when you put instrument on top of instrument. We tend to get a bit crazy putting stuff on. We tried to not do that this time,” Bauer said. “As you get to be a better musician, you learn how to do more with less.”
In contrast to that mentality, lead single “Stranded” features a prominent horn section.
“That was one of the first songs we had, and we got sparser from there,” he said. “That was the other side of it, that we wanted to make these grand horn songs.”
Unlike some acts, The Walkmen have goals and intentions when they set out to write. Being in a band is a job, and writing music is what they do.
“We view touring as a necessity. We feel like working is writing songs. We’re pretty good about coming home, taking a few days off and then punching the clock. We get stuff done,” Bauer said. “If we don’t write, we’ll go crazy.”