Former Walkmen Man Releases Album For The Very Young

NPR's Rachel Martin talks to Walter Martin, former member of The Walkmen, about his new family album, We're All Young Together.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE'RE ALL YOUNG TOGETHER)

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

R 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE WALKMEN SONG, "HEAVEN")

R 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.

W MARTIN: Thanks so much for having me.

R 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.

W MARTIN: Right.

R 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.

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

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

W MARTIN: OK.

R MARTIN: And then we'll talk after.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BEATLES (WHEN RINGO SHOOK HIS MOP)")

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

CHORUS: (Singing) Ringo.

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

CHORUS: (Singing) I go.

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

CHORUS: (Singing). Favorite one.

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

CHORUS: (Singing) Likes John.

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

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

W MARTIN: The tambourine is very Beatles, yeah.

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

W MARTIN: Right.

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

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BEATLES (WHEN RINGO SHOOK HIS MOP)")

W MARTIN: (Singing) The Beatle beat.

CHORUS: (Singing) The Beatle beat.

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

CHORUS: (Singing) Makes a kid feel free.

R 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?

W 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.

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

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

R 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?

W 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.

(SOUNBITE OF WALTER MARTIN SONG, "SING TO ME")

R 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SING TO ME")

W MARTIN: (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.

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

W MARTIN: Thank you.

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

W 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.

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

W MARTIN: Yes.

R 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?

W 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.

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

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

R 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?

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

R MARTIN: (Laughing).

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

R 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.

W MARTIN: Definitely, thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I-M-A-G-I-N-A-T-I-O-N")

W 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...

R MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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