Walkmen Talk Pussy Cats; Exclusive Stream

The Walkmen's idea to record a song-for-song recreation of Harry Nilsson's 1974 album Pussy Cats started out as a joke. That lighthearted vibe lasted throughout the recording process for "PUSSY CATS" Starring the Walkmen, due out October 24 on Record Collection.

"There was no real plan. It just sounded like a really fun idea," said Walkman Walt Martin. "We decided what we wanted is do it pretty fast so it would stay fun the whole time, and we got lucky somehow and were able to do it fast. It never got to where it was a real drag. It was fun the whole time, somehow."

That sense of playfulness is evident in the outcome, which can be sampled in the exclusive stream of "All My Life", available by clicking below.

Although Pussy Cats would be the last project recorded at the Walkmen's home studio, Marcata (the band was evicted following the building's sale), the recording sessions were far from mournful. The band roped in friends and colleagues to contribute to the album, echoing the collaborative spirit surrounding the original album's creation. Participants include Ian Svenonius of Nation of Ulysses/Make-Up/Weird War, Quentin Stoltzfus of Mazarin, Alessandra Maria of Tomorrow's Friend, and Norman "Rockwell" Coady.

Martin said of Svenonius' involvement, "We traveled with Weird War on our Bows and Arrows tour, so we were thrilled that he was able to come and do it with us. I don't think he knew what the hell was going on. We didn't really explain it very well. It's kind of hard to explain. When you're doing it yourself, it all makes a lot of sense, but then you invite somebody to come along and they don't get the full story. I don't think he knew what was going on, but he got into it very quickly and it was great."

The proceedings also involved some very complicated instrumentation, including, according to a press release, "a string quartet, a saxophone player, an upright bass player...a glockenspiel, two kazoos, a slide-whistle, a table saw, a triangle, more maracas, more tambourines, an acoustic guitar, a space echo, a vibra-slap, a wood block, two gallons of barbeque sauce (for gargling to loosen up the voice) and some conga drums."

For the song "Loop de Loop", which required a gang vocal, "we had a big party at the studio and we invited...we probably had 60 people up there and did the vocal track on that song with everybody there."

Coady filmed the recording process for a 20-minute documentary, "In Loving Recollection", which will be included on a DVD packaged with Pussy Cats. "It's not exactly a straightforward making-of Pussy Cats documentary," Martin said. "He took a lot of liberties, but it's really funny. I think it's great."

Recreating the spectacle as a live show is posing a big of a problem, though. "We actually had a long dinner the other night and were really trying to figure out how we're gonna do it," Martin said. "It's hard because it involves a lot of people. We could do it in New York probably pretty easily, but to do it in other cities, it's gonna be tough. So I think we're going to get a core group of probably six or seven additional people and then try to hire local string players maybe. I think the plan is to do New York, Chicago, L.A., and San Francisco for the time being. I think we'll do that in November or December or something like that. So we'll have a whole gang."

The band plans on getting advice from their friend Sufjan Stevens, who has dealt with such dilemmas before.

As for the Walkmen's book, John's Journey...don't look at it on store shelves any time soon. "I think you can look forward to a lifelong project there," Martin said. "We figured when we had our big tour this last June or whenever we would really start banging it out. Because you're just so bored on tour that something like that is a lot of fun. But it just didn't happen. We tried hard, you know, but we got sort of too into it. You have your little section that you have to write and you want it to be so funny because you're competing with the other guys, and then everybody sort of reads their section after you wrote it in the car very proudly. So we were trying too hard. The whole idea of the book was to have just quantity, but unfortunately, it's only about 30 pages long now."

Finally, one last piece of good Walkmen news: drummer Matt Barrick recently became the father of a baby girl, Georgia. Congrats!

"PUSSY CATS" Starring the Walkmen tracklist:

01 Many Rivers to Cross
02 Subterranean Homesick Blues
03 Don't Forget Me
04 All My Life
05 Old Forgotten Soldier
06 Save the Last Dance for Me
07 Mucho Mongo
08 Loop de Loop
09 Black Sail
10 Rock Around the Clock

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