An Interview with WALTER

It takes an overwhelming combination of talent and energy for an opening band to outshine their headliner.

In late 2015, audiences nationwide assembled at music venues to see Fuzz. However, as  crowds poured out into the streets at the performance’s conclusion, it was the trio who opened for Fuzz that was discussed the most.

This group is WALTER. The LA-based rockers (composed of Patrick Nolan, Ross Chait, and Misha Lindes) won over audiences through their exuberant live performances, catchy songs, and undeniable talent. Around the same time they toured with Fuzz, WALTER released their LP, “Get Well Soon.” The album boasts ten high-energy tracks that display a high degree of musical skill and intricacy. Following the 2015 release of “Get Well Soon,” WALTER delivered two new singles, “Poetics of Space” and “Like the Fly.” Though the two newer tracks sonically differentiate from those on “Get Well Soon,” one thing has remained a constant: the band’s ability to produce a damn good rock song.

AMPLIFY: What’s the origin story of WALTER?

WALTER: Ross and I (Patrick) were brought together by a mutual friend of ours and hit it off right away. We had a different bass player for awhile, but brought Misha on after playing a number of shows with his other project, SadGirl.

AMPLIFY: The music video for “Ice Cream” is delightfully farcical. How did you guys come up with the concept for it, and what was the filming experience like?

WALTER: That entire project came about through the production company Nancy Shirley. They’ve done a couple of Sheer Mag music videos and a bunch of other stuff. One of the guys in Nancy came up to us after a show and asked if we’d like to make a music video with him, he had the piñata idea already in mind, and it really seemed like he knew exactly what he wanted this music video to look like. We were definitely interested, but had no material recorded, besides some really old EP’s that we’ve scrubbed from the internet by now. So with our friend Greg Hartunian (great producer) we recorded the song “Ice Cream” for the express purpose of having a song for the video. Then we figured, what the hell, we may as well record everything else we’d written up to that point, and that’s how Get Well Soon came about. Luckily Greg put up with recording 10 songs instead of the 1 we proposed to him.

AMPLIFY: What moves you to create?

WALTER: Oh man, I think that answer differs for each of us individually. I’ve been writing songs in different styles since I picked up the guitar. Without being super conscious of it, I’d write a song using chords like Hendrix, or a progression that sounded pretty Bowieish,  or whatever. So for a long time, writing was a very cut and paste process. “I like how Jimi does this, I’m gonna write a song that also does that”. And then you move on to the next artist that you can’t get out of your head, and you do the same thing.

But recently, especially within the last year or two, I’ve been getting this crazy imposter syndrome. Where every song I write, I worry that the influences are showing too strongly, that I don’t have my own voice. And so the pendulum swung the other way–I didn’t want to sound ANYTHING like my influences. I don’t know if that makes sense. I just didn’t want to be able to listen to a song that I’ve written and say “Ah yes, this is the Television song” or “Oh I was really into Michael Jackson that week”.

And that really stumped me for a long time because, to be honest, I don’t really know how to write a song without those influences bubbling to the surface. I get really fascinated with the sounds that a certain band or artist was able to come up with at a specific time, and something in my subconscious (or something) puts those elements in the next song. So then I was in a kind of gridlock for awhile, where I’d scrap any song that I could hear other musicians embedded in. And you know, then I couldn’t write ANYTHING.

So now I say fuck it, I’m writing what I’m writing. It’s the 21st century. No ones writing anything new anyway.

AMPLIFY: How would you articulate the band’s artistic growth?

WALTER: I think we’ve recently started to move away from the garage rock aesthetic. It no longer feels as natural to us. Which may seem weird, a three piece rock band uncomfortable with rock songs, but it’s the truth. I think we’ve gotten as much out of that perspective, creatively, as we can. And so we’re moving on to something else, with weirder chords and song structures. But don’t worry, there are still guitar solos.

AMPLIFY: You guys are awesome live. Do you have any special pre-show traditions or rituals?

WALTER: Hah. No. To be honest “off stage” mode and “on stage” mode switches as soon as we get up to perform. There’s always a bit of nervousness down in the pit of your stomach before you play, but to ritualize it would feel strange. “Ok let’s all say our pre-show prayer”. Nah. We just go up and play, and then we come off. We’re not fancy.

AMPLIFY: Your sound is really unique. How has it evolved over time? Did you ever experiment with any other sounds or styles?

WALTER: Aw man! Should’ve read the questions before I started writing. Totally jumped the gun with this on question 3. I’ve blown it.

AMPLIFY: In your opinion, what’s the most unique aspect of the LA music scene?

WALTER: Probably that, given how gigantic Los Angeles is, it seems like everyone in a band knows everyone else.  Whether you’re playing something totally Joni Mitchell’d out on an acoustic or are doing a harsh noise thing.  It’s honestly shocking. Instead of 6 Degrees of Separation it’s more like 2, maybe 3.

AMPLIFY: What are some of the artists that have been the most impactful to you, both as individuals and as musicians?

WALTER: I’ve mentioned a few in previous answers. Maybe we should all answer this question individually.

The last couple of months, I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz and funk. Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Sly Stone, Parliament, Baby Huey. That kind of stuff. And Bowie. Always Bowie.

Ross: I second Patrick on all of those especially the Alice Coltrane and Sly tips.  Lucky Thompson, Pharaoh Sanders also heavy in the mix recently.  All the soft machine and Robert Wyatt solo stuff. And damn Cyndi Lauper “She’s So Unusual” is one of the greatest pop records ever made IMO. On loop!

Misha: In terms of bass style/tone that I really dig: Carol Kaye, James Jamerson and Geezer Butler. Musically/Creatively Bowie, early American rock n roll especially Sun Records, Charlie Megira, etc etc

AMPLIFY: What is your creative process like when approaching new material?

WALTER: Sitting in my room with a guitar, playing and playing until a chord sequence and a melody click together. Sometimes it takes weeks and sometimes it takes an hour. Writing a good song is really hard, but recognizing that you’ve written a good one is usually pretty easy.

Our collective process, when the three of us are in the room together, involves a lot of trial and error– testing how weird or abrasive a drum part or a tone can be while keeping the intuitiveness and the groove of the song in tact.  I think our individual tastes and influences musically vary enough to foster a really diverse and comfortable zone.  Anyone can bring up any idea and if it sucks it usually won’t take us too long to know so, and if it’s too crazy we can cut it or trim it to make it work.  And you know, there are times we’ll work on something for six hours and ask ourselves “Is this good?” and the answer is a unanimous “No” and that’s cool too.

AMPLIFY: Lastly, what’s coming up next for WALTER?

WALTER: We have a song coming out soon on the label Wet Bridge Records out of the Netherlands. The premise behind the label is to release seven-inch singles, with one band on the A side and a different one on the B. Both bands then cover the same artist. My other band Meatbodies covered the Kinks last year, and we split that with the Blind Shake. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say what band WALTER is covering, or what band will be on the other side.

Ok fine, we’re covering the Doors.

Besides that, we are demoing new material, recording it and shopping it around. We want to be very precise and conscious of the production on this next record. Whether the influences come through or not.

-Interview by Lindsay Teske

To listen to more of WALTER’s music, click here to check out their page on bandcamp

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