Agent: Mike Leahy
“It wasn’t that I wanted to write songs to suit my new situation as a parent. It was more that parenthood made relevant writing the kind of songs I’ve always loved most.”—Walter Martin
Walter Martin, multi-instrumentalist from the Walkmen, found out his wife was pregnant with their first child just as the New York band was finishing work on their 2012 album Heaven. With fatherhood on the horizon, and adulthood an undeniable reality, Martin felt it was time to challenge himself a bit. He had co-written songs for the band since they had formed in 2000—at first writing their big drum beats and rock riffs, and later focusing more on lyrics and the band’s more romantic material. Now he just wanted to write something for himself. It was while standing in his kitchen the summer before last, surrounded by his young family and listening to their collection of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll records, that he realized what that meant exactly.
Family, love, childhood, and zoo animals. Such are the classic themes of the album, all articulated by an offbeat narrator who parents can relate to. Among the songs’ subjects: the virtues of rattlesnakes, the not-so-surprising similarities of siblings, and the distinguishing features of each Beatles band member. “Above all I wanted this album to be warm and sincere,” says Martin. “I wanted it to make people of all ages feel good.”
And putting it together was a family affair, of sorts. Friends and fellow musicians Karen O, Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Matt Berninger (The National), Alec Ounsworth (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), Kat Edmonson, and Hamilton Leithauser (Martin’s Walkmen bandmate and cousin) all leant vocals, and, in Zinner’s case, guitar work to the album. When it came to the accompanying drawings, Martin enlisted Marcellus Hall, a children’s book illustrator and artist for The New Yorker. But perhaps more importantly, notes Martin, “he’s an old friend too.”