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
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…