Hamilton Leithauser talks ‘Black Hours,’ walking away from the Walkmen

Hamilton Leithauser plays two shows April 15 and April 16 at Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette St., New York). Limited seats are still available. "Black Hours" is out June 3. (Credit: Lauren Dukoff)
Hamilton Leithauser plays two shows April 15 and April 16 at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette St., New York). Limited seats are still available. “Black Hours” is out June 3. (Credit: Lauren Dukoff)

Though plenty of the lyrical content on Hamilton Leithauser’s solo debut is worthy of a title like “Black Hours,” the singer promises that none of the darkness is related to the “extreme hiatus” that his band, the Walkmen, made public last year.

“It would be easy to read into that,” he says. “I mean, I wrote a song like ‘I Don’t Need Anyone,’ but that’s supposed to be a love song. I can see how that would easily translate into that story, but that’s not where it comes from.”

The music is a logical extension of where the band were headed with their 2012 album, “Heaven,” but it is willfully less accessible. The album begins with the singer’s voice against a stark piano and a dramatic string section, an arrangement evoking the aura of a crooner from bygone days, albeit with a more cynical sneer. “Do you wonder why I sing these love songs when I have no love at all?” he sings on album opener “5 AM.”

“’5 AM’ was the first thing I did, and it’s when I really realized I didn’t want to just play rock ‘n’ roll,” he says, “and I thought I wanted to do all these very heavily influenced by Frank Sinatra strings and big band music.”

But as Leithauser headed further in that direction, he was contacted by Vampire Weekend maestro Rostam Batmanglij about a collaboration.

“Rostam and I started working together, and he wanted to do rock ‘n’ roll,” says Leithauser. “I didn’t know if I wanted to, but all of the sudden it was fun to do rock ‘n’ roll again, so the record is half and half.”

The rock ‘n’ roll half is a welcome contrast to the moodier pieces, as many of the sunnier “Black Hours” tracks find Leithauser’s voice paired with female vocals, courtesy of Amber Coffman of the Dirty Projectors.

“It’s great when you have someone that is really good like that who can just come in and just do it,” he says of Coffman. “It might not be the exact voice you imagine or were expecting, but you hire someone good and they bring something new, and just make it happen. That’s why it’s so fun to play with new musicians.”

But not all of Leithuaser’s collaborators are new. Walkmen guitarist Paul Maroon is featured prominently, but his playing is decidedly different from the subway tunnel reverb that defined the band’s sound for a decade.

“He and I are both aware that we were two big presences in the Walkmen,” says Leithauser, “and if we’re doing it under a different name, there has to be a reason we are doing it, and really vary up what he’s doing with his sound and what he’s playing. … We know it’s going to be my voice singing and that he will be playing the guitar and the piano, so you have to accept that you can’t just completely camouflage it.”

But don’t expect to hear any Walkmen songs sprinkled into the set.

“I think that would be arrogant to claim that as mine,” says Leithauser. “That would be like ‘I’m the Walkmen carrying on,’ and that is not the case.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth pulls off epic photobomb

The selfie / photobomb has gone viral.

Local

Astoria minivan crash kills 1, injures 6: NYPD

Anthony Boyd, 45, died soon after what investigators believe was some sort of medical emergency as he drove his family through Astoria on Sunday afternoon.

Local

NYC pension funds valued at $160b: Scott Stringer

The five NYC pension funds that thousands of city employees contribute to saw its fifth year in a row of increased returns, up $23 billion from last year.

International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Entertainment

'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood' game easter eggs and cheats

"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is the hottest game of the moment. Here are its best easter eggs as well as some tips and tricks to speed your way to the top.

Television

Kacy Catanzaro credits mind over body in "American…

Kacy Catanzaro credits her victory to mental focus and upper body strength.

Entertainment

Q&A: The brains behind 'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood'

"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is the hottest game of the moment. We talked with Christopher Locke of Glu Canada to find out more about developing the game.

Movies

The 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' trailer is…

Watch 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' trailer.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Tech

Amazon offers 3D printing to customize earrings, bobble…

By Deepa SeetharamanSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and…

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…