Feature: The Walkmen at the Newport

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From the January 17, 2013 edition

The standard line about The Walkmen upon the release of last year’s lovely Heaven LP was that the band — formerly an embodiment of fashionable-yet-feral bohemian youth — had grown up and settled down. This was partially due to the album’s softened sonics and partially due to promo photos that showcased the band members all dressed up with their wives and children.

That pigeonholing isn’t sitting well with keyboardist/bassist Peter Bauer, though. What he and his bandmates saw as a nice gesture somehow snowballed into the be-all, end-all story of The Walkmen, Bauer said on the phone last week.

“I think we decided we would just make things about ourselves. We didn’t realize that people sort of pinpoint you in a very specific place,” Bauer said. “I don’t know. I just think it’s just an irritating way to describe things in a long line of irritating ways to describe things.”

Ironically enough, Bauer was busy “doing a lot of house stuff” the day of the interview. To be fair, though, he was getting ready to depart for the tour that brings The Walkmen to Newport Music Hall this Thursday with co-headliner Father John Misty, which is pretty rock ’n’ roll.

Still, the harsh caterwauling and boozed-up turmoil that charged through indie hits like 2004’s “The Rat” is notably absent from Heaven’s satisfied sway. Bauer said that’s largely because the album came together without the stress and conflict that usually accompany Walkmen recording sessions.

“It was very quick for us,” he said. “We all worked really well and everyone was very excited the whole time, which is abnormal.”

Despite the recent turn toward placid sounds, expect Thursday’s show to be as raucous as Walkmen concerts have always been. The band is 11 years and seven records deep, and while they’re working on varying their sets, coming to a consensus usually means playing the hits.

“There’s always one guy who doesn’t want to play one song,” Bauer said. “It ends up being those 16 songs that everybody can agree on.”

As for the future, Bauer said The Walkmen haven’t decided what to do next, but they’re enjoying the freedom to take their time figuring it out and to do what they please, critics be damned.

“You want to be at the point where you have the freedom to do whatever the hell you want,” Bauer said. “At a certain point, you sort of get tired of every two years you’ve got some 20-year-old punk judging what you do for a living.”

Arno Frugier photo