If you’ve seen the Walkmen play, you know how skilled they are at replicating the vintage sounds of their albums. That’s not only because their recording process includes very few overdubs, but because they play their new songs while they’re recording them.
The band will still showcase the songs from last year’s gorgeous “You & Me,” an album that made many year-end best-of lists, but singer Hamilton Leithauser says the new songs need to realize their identity by being taken back and forth from the stage to the studio.
“We did a lot of them out on this last little tour we just did, not as many as we would have liked to, but we did a fair amount,” he says. “We have a lot that we can’t for one reason or another really play until we get into the studio. … so it’s kind of these makeshift hypothetical songs, you’re pretty sure it’s a song but you don’t really know.”
Leithauser says the amount of time the band spends on their albums helps shield him from criticism.
“It took us so long to do that record that by the time we released it some of them were a year-and-a-half old already,” he says of the songs on “You & Me,” “So I had already made up my mind on all the songs before anybody heard it.”
The Walkmen fluctuate between hurricane intensity and a calm equivalent to the eye of said hurricane, sometimes within the same song. Their signature sound is almost like if a 1950s band like the Drifters had learned how to play punk rock while in their prime.
Leithauser says the oldies influence that was evident on “You & Me” will continue with their new album.
“We were listening to a lot of that like Roy Orbison, Elvis and Buddy Holly and stuff like that when we were making it,” he says, “actually even more so on this new song we’re doing.”
He pauses to think of a way to be more specific.
“We have more like a Sun sound,” he says referring to the Memphis studio where Elvis and Johnny Cash laid down seminal tracks. “It sounds like the least original idea in the world to try and copy the Sun sound, but it’s I think we have a good little thing going now for this next record.”
While fans await the new album, iTunes has released an exclusive “Live Sessions” EP, which showcases exactly how well the band replicate their studio sound, while putting slightly different twists on their best tracks.
“There were some older songs over the years that have evolved,” says Leithauser. “They’re very different than the actual recording. We thought that’d be fun so we put those down.”
The Walkmen play Friday and Saturday (Sept. 19 and 20) at 8 at the Middle East, (472-480 Mass. Ave.) MBTA: Red Line to Central. For info, call (617) 864-EAST.