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Chatting with Walkmen organist Peter Bauer

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The Walkmen headline Neon Reverb Sunday at Beauty Bar.
Photo: Billy Pavone

You guys last played Vegas six years ago to the day of your upcoming show here [September 19, 2004, opening for The Killers at House of Blues]. How would you describe the change in the band's sound over that time?

It's drastic. That was when we were in the middle of our Bows + Arrows stuff, where, down to our sound guy, the whole point was to be the loud, sort of standoffish and heavy. That was what we were going for when we played live. It's probably the same mind-set a metal band has — that was sort of the gag. And I think over the course of three records we've completely changed that. It's almost completely barren-sounding and, hopefully, a lot more welcoming to people now.

This time you're headlining a four-night festival called Neon Reverb. Did you know that?

I did not, but it sounds great.

Have you headlined a festival before?

Occasionally, if we're playing pizza parties on the streets of Chicago or something (laughs). It's fun, though, because at the Coachellas and Glastonburys we're always in the breakfast spot, which is a brutal way to play rock music. I think the biggest difference between the headliner and the first band in those situations is darkness — you're 20 times better just because it's night.

Will the set mostly consist of the new album?

Yeah, we are playing a lot of that stuff, but it's a short record so we play a lot of older songs, too. In Seattle a few days ago we ran through a bunch of old songs to see what we could remember. I think this whole run we're probably gonna try to break out different old songs to keep things fresh.

Calendar

The Walkmen
Beauty Bar, Sunday, 11 p.m.

You guys have been on a roller coaster in terms of acclaim — loads early on, then a lot of people criticizing your third album, then pretty widespread success with fourth record You & Me. What was that like?

It sucked. But there are things about that [third] record that are definitely flawed, things that I hear and can't believe that's the final form they took. So I sort of get why it happened.

The band recorded around 30 songs for [new album] Lisbon, then pared down to 11 for the final version. Are you happy with the way it turned out?

Definitely. We had the idea of making a short record and making it pretty direct, 'cause our last record was sort of purposefully overwhelming — 14 five-minute songs, so it was supposed to be something to muddle through over time. Whereas we kinda wanted this to be, you hear it and you either like it or you don't. And I think it came out like that. The arguments we had were brief and friendly.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is Las Vegas Weekly's Managing Editor, having previously served as Arts & Entertainment Editor, Music Editor and a ...

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