Former Walkmen Man Releases Album For The Very Young

May 11, 2014
Originally published on May 11, 2014 9:03 pm



One of the perks of being a mom is going on those long car trips with your young children, listening to hours of the "The Hokey Pokey" and "Wheels On The Bus" over and over and over again. For those moms and dads, this one's for you.


WALTER MARTIN AND MATT BERNINGER: (Singing) The new kid on my street, she kind of looks like me.

RACHEL MARTIN: A kid's album out this week by Walter Martin, former member of the band "The Walkmen," it's not the type of album you might expect from a serious indie rocker whose band was known for doing more of this.


RACHEL MARTIN: But it's also not the type of album usually produced for kids. Walter Martin joins us from the NPR studios in New York. Welcome to the program.

WALTER MARTIN: Thanks so much for having me.

RACHEL MARTIN: So the album is titled "We're All Young Together," which is fitting for the music you've created here, kind of this rare combination of kid-friendly and parent-friendly.


RACHEL MARTIN: So as the parent of a toddler, let me just first say thank you because we're always looking for music that will appeal to everyone.

WALTER MARTIN: Oh, good. Well, you're welcome.

RACHEL MARTIN: Let's hear a little bit of a track titled "The Beatles (When Ringo Shook His Mop)."


RACHEL MARTIN: And then we'll talk after.


WALTER MARTIN: (Singing) Well, John, Paul, Georgie and Ringo.

CHORUS: (Singing) Ringo.

WALTER MARTIN: (Singing) They're singing in my head wherever I go.

CHORUS: (Singing) I go.

WALTER MARTIN: (Singing) Songs with magic charms you can't deny. Well, I can't decide who's my favorite one.

CHORUS: (Singing). Favorite one.

WALTER MARTIN: (Singing) Mama likes Paul. Daddy likes John.

CHORUS: (Singing) Likes John.

WALTER MARTIN: (Singing) Sis likes George, so I guess Ringo's mine.

RACHEL MARTIN: So this song does have a kind of a classic Beatles feel to it. (Laughing).

WALTER MARTIN: The tambourine is very Beatles, yeah.

RACHEL MARTIN: Out of all the songs in the album, this one seems more targeted to parents. First off, a toddler, a little kid...


RACHEL MARTIN: ...Would have no idea who The Beatles are.

WALTER MARTIN: Yeah, and there's also lied about John flunking out of art school. And I think kids won't really understand.


WALTER MARTIN: (Singing) The Beatle beat.

CHORUS: (Singing) The Beatle beat.

WALTER MARTIN: (Singing) Makes a kid feel free.

CHORUS: (Singing) Makes a kid feel free.

RACHEL MARTIN: So is this just something to entertain parents, or is this - which by the way, I should say is a worthy endeavor in and of itself - or is this intended to start a conversation about music between kids and their parents, adult listeners?

WALTER MARTIN: Well, I think of stuff that will appeal to kids will hopefully be - I like the beat, maybe. But looking back on what I've made, I think it's sort of saying to parents, like, this parenting stuff is really hard and kind of insane. But take a step back as often as you can to remember how fun and hilarious the whole experience can be.

RACHEL MARTIN: So you're a dad, right?

WALTER MARTIN: Yeah I have a 21-month-old and a six-month-old.

RACHEL MARTIN: So I guess this was a natural. I mean, you're musician. You're a dad. But what did made you think, oh, I should make a kids' album?

WALTER MARTIN: And honestly, it was happenstance. I just sort of wanted to figure out what album I could make as a solo artist. But when I wrote the stuff that ended up being the songs on this album, I could hear very clearly that that was me completely being myself.


RACHEL MARTIN: You partnered with some pretty great artists. Matt Berninger from The Nationals joined you on that first track we played. And I'd like to play a little bit from a track you did with Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Let's listen to this.


WALTER MARTIN AND KAREN O: (Singing) Sing another lonely line with me. Sing it in lazy melody. There's no words to say just how I feel. It's just yodel-lay yodel-lay yodel-lay-hi, yodel-lay yodel-lay yodel-lay-hi, yodel-lay yodel-lay yodel-lay-hi.

RACHEL MARTIN: Your voices sound lovely on that, by the way.


RACHEL MARTIN: That's a track called "Sing To Me." Was it a hard sell to get someone like Karen O into this?

WALTER MARTIN: Not really. She was so sweet about it. She was like, that's a sweet tune, and I would love to do it. And she has a very broad musical style and taste.

RACHEL MARTIN: You also teamed up with a couple former bandmates from The Walkmen.


RACHEL MARTIN: What was it like working with them after the band had declared a, quote, "extreme hiatus," I guess is how it was characterized last year?

WALTER MARTIN: It was fun to - you know, you know, they're like my - Hamilton is a singer. He's like my brother. He grew up across the street from me. And Matt, who played drums on - I guess he played on one song only - we've been playing music together since we were 13 or 14 I guess. So it was far from awkward.

RACHEL MARTIN: And did they say the same thing, that this felt like a departure but also made sense coming from you?

WALTER MARTIN: Oh, definitely. They hear the record, and to them, it's like, OK, that makes absolute perfect sense.

RACHEL MARTIN: What does that mean for you musically? If this is the album that you've really tapped into, what is the core of your musicianship?

WALTER MARTIN: It might mean that I'll be out of a job in a year, and I'll be flipping burgers.

RACHEL MARTIN: (Laughing).

WALTER MARTIN: But it might mean that I'll be, like, the happiest guy on earth, you know.

RACHEL MARTIN: Walter Martin. His album is titled "We're All Young Together." He joined us from our studios in New York. Walter, it was so fun to talk with you. Thanks very much.

WALTER MARTIN: Definitely, thank you so much.


WALTER MARTIN: (Singing) Dream up a dream, and the night's not as dark as it seems. Behind these eyes, there's a place where the elephants fly and tangerines talk and the sycamore...

RACHEL MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.