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Photo by Ana LethauserWhenever you read about New York band the Walkmen, you always read about how they used to be in famous major-label flop Jonathan Fire*Eater, but Hamilton Leithauser—singer/ guitarist/emotional nerve center of the band—wasn't even in Jonathan Fire*Eater, and no one cares about Jonathan Fire*Eater anyway, so all those people should just shut the fuck up already! (See "Rewind Your Walkmen"at right.) But Leithauser—possessor of a pet turtle, a wit so arid it's nearly imperceptible, a heart-tugging vocal quality that makes him sound forever as if he's begging to be let back in from the cold, and, as of this morning, a dental bill totaling $1,800—isn't really that mad about it. Of course, if he were that mad about it, he probably wouldn't express it as anything more than a dry chuckle—that's the kind of guy he is, and if dry chuckles could be transformed into strangely commanding masterpieces of organ and guitar and more bittersweet chagrin than you thought possible, you'd have the group's recent near-perfect album, Bows & Arrows.
OC Weekly: The following is a list of adjectives that have been used to describe your music, but one of them is fake. Can you pick out the fake one? 'Carnivalesque,' 'tweedy,' 'wiry,' 'fierce,' 'gelatinous,' 'combustible' or 'wintry.'
Hamilton Leithauser: I'm going to say "tweedy."Incorrect!
What does tweedy mean? Like tweetie-bird?No, like a tweed jacket.
Okay, that makes more sense. Let me guess again. 'Combustible'—I'm sure someone says that. What was it after combustible?Wintry.
I'm sure someone says that. Can I just go with all of the above?It's 'gelatinous.' No one said 'gelatinous.' Now, the following are whole clauses that have been used to describe your music. A couple of them are phony. I'm going to say one, and you say whether it was actually used or not: "Swimming drunkenly in an infinite pool of piano."
True."Skipping energetically along a grime-encrusted New York City sidewalk."
True."Skipping rocks casually across a placid pond of melody and accidentally hitting a pigeon."
False."Dog-paddling frantically in the tuneful quicksand of regret."
True.No, it's false.
It is? Wow. That's good! You wrote that one?Yep. So you play online chess a lot. Three questions: Is it an addiction? Does your ass fall asleep? If you were a chess piece, which would you be?
Well, yeah, it's definitely addictive. I can't stop playing. I play every day. And the second question: my legs fall asleep; I don't know if my ass falls asleep. And if I were a chess piece, I'd be a rook.You went to the dentist this morning. Which is worse: Touring or root canals?
That's a tough one. I'm going to have to say root canals, but it's tough.They're on par?
Yeah, they're in the same league.Have you considered not touring since you hate it so much?
That's not really an option. Every single person who's working with you at the record label is just really encouraging you to tour. You don't have a choice. And if you start saying no, you just get the encouragement in the form of threats.That sounds so medieval.
Yeah, that's the way it is, though.Do you care about the kids?
Do I care about the kids?Yeah, the kids who want to hear your music?
No, I don't.The Walkmen perform with The Vacation and Ashbury at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.galaxytheatre.com. Tues., 8 P.M. $15. All ages.