2015 Artist Survey: Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2015 Artist Survey: Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen

Leithauser on Streaming Music, the Election, Gun Control, Getting Older, and Listening to Pop Music with His Daughter

Feb 22, 2016 Artist Surveys 2015 Bookmark and Share

For Under the Radar’s 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire’s Will Butler, Julien Baker, Blanck Mass, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, The Flaming Lips, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.

Here are some answers from Hamilton Leithauser. Leithauser’s band, The Walkmen, may be on “extreme hiatus” (as they announced in November of 2013), but in 2014 Ribbon Music released the singer’s debut solo album, Black Hours.

A shorter version of this interview ran in the Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is the full unedited version of the interview.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

To be totally honest, I can’t even name 10 records that came out in 2015.

What was the highlight of 2015, for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

I don’t have a good answer here, sorry.

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?

I am going to release a record with my friend Rostam Batmanglij that is going to change the world.

With the launch of TIDAL and Apple Music in 2015, there are more streaming music options, but the same issues of adequate artist compensation persist. What are your current thoughts on streaming and which service would you most like to have your music on?

Whichever pays the highest royalties. Why don’t all the big musicians who started that streaming company just make their music exclusive to that company, and demand a higher royalty rate? Makes sense to me.

What are your thoughts on Friday being the new global release day for albums? Is it helping or hurting album sales?

My Friday sales history pretty much sucks. But when I look back on my Tuesday sales history, I see that it sucks too. So I guess I’d say it hasn’t made much difference.

Mainstream pop music is increasingly embraced by indie rock musicians and listeners, as well as serious music critics. At this point, do you draw any distinctions between Top 40 pop and indie rock/pop? Are you comfortable with this shift?

I started listening to new pop music recently when my older daughter (she’s four) figured out how to operate my phone and started watching Katy Perry and Taylor Swift and “All About that Bass.” I can’t say that I dislike any of it, really. I wouldn’t ever need to put it on myself because my daughter’s pretty much got it on as often as she can. I don’t have any idea what the distinction is between pop and indie musicmaybe the pop people actually make money? Or maybe the indie pop dance bands are just the ones who can’t write the hit songs? Lord knows there are quite enough of them around.

What are your thoughts on how the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up?

I don’t think Donald Trump can win a general election, so maybe it’s not the worst thing if he runs the “reasonables” like Marco and Jeb out of town right now. But in the end, would either of those guys make a better president than Trump? I don’t think so. The Republicans are crazy.

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift’s 1989 (and then Father John Misty covered Adams covering Swift). If you were to cover another artist’s album in its entirety, which would you pick and why?

I actually did that one time (see Pussycats), and the only effect it had was a great cooling off of my band’s success. Did it work out that way for Ryan Adams and Josh?

Have you ever been fired from a job (be it a day job or musical one)? Why were you fired?

No, I actually have a pretty solid résumé.

What’s your earliest music-related childhood memory?

“Don’t You Want Me Baby” by Human League on the radio.

What’s the most disastrous date you’ve ever been on?

I’ve never really been a dater. This is true, not like a snarky answer.

Many musicians seem to become less relevant and creative with age, relying on greatest hits and covers albums or releasing music nowhere near as strong as their earlier work. What do you plan to do to combat this?

I don’t think that’s true at all. There are plenty of musicians who released their best records late in their career, plenty of authors who wrote their best novels or poems in their old age, and plenty of painters who painted their best stuff as they got older. With today’s Internet music and social world, I’m sure that musicians fall out of favor with the twitter crowd faster than their last tweet, but I find most of what social media and Internet music does to be completely bland and boring, so I can’t imagine being irrelevant to that world being a problem with quality at all.

Mass shootings continue to be a problem, and yet the U.S. government still has yet to take action on curbing gun violence. What are your thoughts on gun control?

I care very deeply about this, but I don’t know what can actually be accomplished. I think the NRA is the worst part of America today. They are criminals.



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