From New York to Dallas to ‘Lisbon’
Real estate isn’t the only discipline where the three most important factors are location, location, location. As The Walkmen recently discovered, getting the perfect vibe when recording an album depends upon these tenets being just right. Singer Hamilton Leithauser says the group found the mojo for their new album, “Lisbon,” not in the title town, but in Dallas.
“We were playing down there, and we had two days off, and we had kind of hit a wall in New York — where we just weren’t loving our last session that we had done,” he says. “What else were we gonna do, all go play mini-golf together?”
They canceled the rest of their New York sessions and finished “Lisbon” in Texas.
“We thought that the ones that were really surprising — because we worked them to absolute death in New York — were those first two songs,” recalls Leithauser. “We had killed them by doing so many versions that just sucked. … We all knew that there was something we liked about it, so we were willing to try, but you just get to the end of the process … and you listen to it, and you’re like, ‘You know what? I never wanna hear this again.’”
The band did indeed find something in the songs they re-recorded, and the album is stronger because of their search. The sound they caught is not unlike early Bob Marley, where he was trying to ape the sounds of American doo-wop groups, but unable to imitate without leaving his own imprint.
The lyrics on “Lisbon” are as drunk and lonely as anything in The Walkmen canon, but the music is slightly more celebratory, almost as if they’ve come to terms with being stranded and starry-eyed. Or maybe it’s just that the music is happy because they were happy with where they chose to record.
“The place really affects it,” says Leithauser. “It’s frustrating, because you can never figure out why.”