Interview/Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer
WALKEN: ‘Three mates that write, record and play music together – sometimes in studios, sometimes in bedrooms and sometimes in venues.’ This is the description on the guys Facebook page. It’s to the point, honest and wholesome, just like the band themselves. These three best mates have got a really good thing going. WALKEN is one of Brisbane’s finest Alt Rockin’, Pop Punkin’ good time bands around right now.
I had a chat to frontman, Matt Cochran recently about their latest single, Fever Dreams, what he’s been up to during ‘Covid times’, playing live (and missing it), hanging with mates, past tours, on working with Bryce Moorhead (‘Hungry Ghost’ + ‘WACO’ – Violent Soho), about songs; Regular Human Person, Eagle Eye, The Great Noise, Unomi and how one of their tracks sometimes gets played at weddings. Matt‘s passion for, and knowledge of music is inspiring and interesting and it’s easy to see why WALKEN has made a solid comeback to the scene.
So I haven’t seen you since I booked WALKEN on my ‘Mixed Grill’ gig at the Woolly Mammoth Mane Stage. *Sigh*. ‘Member LIVE shows? Do you ‘member?
“Oh yeah last October… *laughs* I do, I miss it so much”
How are you surviving without live music?
“Yeah ok, just kind of cooped up at home a lot, only social outings are to mate’s houses. You know Will Johnstone? (Ed’s note: Will is a well known Brisbane based Artist/Filmmaker/Photographer: Stxdio) I have been hanging at his place watching movies a bit. And having a few drinks with some mates now and then. I have been staying at home and writing and demoing and all that sort of thing too, so that’s pretty fun.”
That certainly segues into my next question well, which is that one good thing about everyone having to stay home is that we’ve seen some outstanding new music coming out. And WALKEN have dropped a hot new ditty recently, Fever Dreams – so let’s talk about the new track! It’s kind of floaty and fun, perhaps a little less heavy than some of your other tracks, I am digging the new-ish sound. Who wrote this one? Give me all the details!
“I wrote this one. Usually with our writing process, I’ll pitch a demo to the guys and we’ll sort of figure everything out from there. With this one we kind of wanted to do something that was a little bit similar to what we did with Unomi, like something soft but still have a little bit of a Pop Punk edge in there, make it a little bit Emo Rock through the chorus I guess.”
I think it’s definitely got elements of Unomi and some of your other songs as well, but then I feel like it has something totally new in there too?
“I think there is some new elements in there, even when I was writing it I was trying to kind of channel the ‘Hot Fuss’ album by The Killers, you know that one? And then also some Weezer as well, like some synth in there over the song, it turned out pretty sweet. I am happy with it.”
Listen to Fever Dreams HERE
And not long before Fever Dreams, you released Regular Human Person, this one is a bit more upbeat and has a heavier riff through the song that reminds me of some 90’s Alt Rock, which I really dig. Tell me about this track? It comes with a sweet music video too…
“Yeah so we decided to release that one first purely because it was a bit closer to songs like Eagle Eye and The Great Noise and all that sort of stuff, like a bit more just straight like Pop Punk with Alt Rock in there. The whole music video was done in our house with like a green screen in the garage and had a mate film it with a decent camera and then Pat, our guitarist edited everything together. It actually turned out pretty cool considering we just kind of winged it a little bit. It’s a fun one.”
The music vid certainly makes me laugh, you’ve got cut out heads/masks of, ohhh what’s his name? I am mind blanking!
“*laughs* Jason Segell and Steven Segal”
Yes! Amazing, so much fun!
“Yeah there’s one of each”
So going back to the Eagle Eye and Great Noise days, WALKEN did take a little bit of time out for a while, but you’ve shown you guys are here to stay and have come back with a vengeance. How do you feel about the journey of WALKEN so far?
“It’s been good, it’s been an interesting one. Even when the band first started, when we first started playing gigs around The Great Noise time, in our first year of being a band, that was just me and our original drummer. So that was a completely different line up where we were kind of doing the early DZ Deathrays kind of thing. So it was like fully a different sort of beast in itself. And then eventually Patty and Beej joined the band. I had known Beej for years, he’s a great drummer and a really lovable dude and then Pat we knew from gigs as well. Like we all knew each other from our old bands and we kind of formed like that. Then we dropped our EP, ‘What’s Your Environment?’ with Eagle Eye and Even If It Kills Me and Unomi. And that was really cool ‘cos that was just a fun five track EP to record because we got to do it with Bryce Moorhead who did ‘Hungry Ghost’ and ‘Waco’ by Violent Soho and he is awesome. He is an awesome producer and a really interesting guy to work with and he had lots of information to share on like production techniques and engineering styles, he’s a really knowledgeable guy. Then after that, it was just a matter of working on new stuff. During that time I wrote one of our new songs, in between when that was finished recording and when Unomi was released. That was in late 2017. So Fever Dreams and Regular Human Person were pretty much written and demoed by mid 2017. So we’ve had a bit of banking up, so these songs that we are doing now and some stuff we are going to do next year are kind of like stand alone singles, that we feel like hold their own merit in some right, but still something you can maybe come back to and put on an album eventually. We’ve also got a lot of songs banking up for our debut album.”
I’ve actually noticed a lot of bands are doing that lately, where they are just releasing a series of singles rather than doing an EP or an album, with plans to maybe release an EP or album later, but not always. So the whole recording of a stack of awesome stand alone singles, that can hold their own and then releasing them one by one, is something I am seeing more of lately. I am digging that. It’s sort of like a drip feed of all these magical songs coming out…
“Yeah, definitely. That’s what I think appeals to me with that process as well, because you look back at the old days of recording where you had to like drop an album every year in the 60’s or whatever and you’d end up with a lot of the B-sides not making the cut for the album with perhaps that process of rushing it to get the album out. Whereas I think these days, people want all these really good tracks that show a variety but are still super cohesive and you want it to feel like it’s own little universe I guess. And you can’t really do that as easily I guess with an EP, I mean you can, but people can be like ‘yeah I like these three songs on this six track EP. And I don’t know, it doesn’t really give the other songs a chance to shine. Whereas if you had two albums backed up and like one cohesive batch of songs and another cohesive batch of songs, you’d probably end up getting a bit more reaction out of both those albums if they are paired together in a really good way. Like that’s something that bands like King Gizzard do and it’s so awesome how they pull it off cos they go ‘here’s a bunch of songs that sound like this and then here’s a bunch of songs that sound like Motorhead and early Metallica‘ it’s really cool.”
Yeah, that’s cool and anyway, how good are B-sides!? There are so many B-sides that are stand out tracks for me from so many bands, like Foo Fighters and Silverchair and band like that that have these killer B-sides that I think should have made the cut for the actual albums.
“Yeah, that’s right.”
So going back to some of your previous releases, let’s talk about Unomi. It’s an absolute banger of a track, it still gives me shivers every time I listen to it. I know we are here to talk about your new songs, but this one will forever be a favourite for me and I think for many of your fans, can you tell me a little about this one?
“It’s still one of my favourite songs of ours as well, so I understand why people dig it. It’s one of the best songs I’ve written *laughs* so I can understand that. I am really proud of that one. It is one of those songs that we’ve literally been sent messages from friends or friends of friends saying ‘yeah man, my wife and I danced to this for our first song at our wedding’ and I am just like ‘what!?’ like it’s pretty insane that this song holds a lot of weight to some people, which is really cool. It is awesome. I think everyone can relate to that feeling when you really fall for someone, and you’re like ‘that’s the person’. Production wise I feel like that was a big stepping stone for us because everything else we’d released had been solid Alternative Rock/Pop Punk and Punk Rock and then this song was like ‘nah, we can do this like slower sort of ballad with almost sort of a Reggae back beat, with a bluesy sort of solo.’ So I think it sort of shows the music notoriety of all of us. We love a lot of different genres and we want to sort of encapsulate all of those in our future releases, I think that was a good planning point for the band. That was half the reasons it was the last song on that EP as well, because it was kind of like ‘yeah, this is where we are going, a little bit softer but we will still have the Rock, Punk, raw elements and vocals in there.”
That’s really important I think, the placement of songs on an album or EP. And even the order in which you are releasing them too. I think that’s a huge part of it. I think if I was in a band I would spend a lot of time on that, the order of how things are coming out…
“Yeah exactly yeah. It’s an important job. We had that conscious thought about what our strongest songs were. I think Fever Dreams is the strongest in terms of big moments, like the big ending. It is my favourite from the new songs, but we wanted to release Regular Human Person first because it’s an Alt Rock sort of song, so you know we are not going to abandon that (sound). And then our next single that we are going to drop is like middle ground of those two songs, so we are trying to be really conscious to show people who do know the band what we are doing, where we are going and what we are keeping. But we still want to appeal to new fans as well because we are still an independent band.”
Now that we’ve touched on some of your earlier songs and your newest releases, how do you feel about the progression of your music over the years? I think, for me, music can almost be a little like raising a child (I have three kids) and each year is different, as they grow and learn, I grow and learn. Has your music helped you to grow and learn more about yourself as a musician?
“Oh 100%. I think honestly, writing our own music is one thing but then also just listening to artists and what they are doing as well, it’s a huge learning curve as to figuring out what you like as a person. I like a lot of different genres, I am a big advocate for ‘there is no bad genre, there is only shit artists’ *laughs* Even then though, shit artists can have like one really good song. It is just a matter of, you’ve got to be open minded to everything and I think that’s the thing that I have learnt, is that there is infinite possibilities through listening to music, you should never say that you don’t like something because , you probably just aren’t informed of what options are available. So I think that’s a cool thing because you can listen to heaps of different music and figure out what you like from each genre. Like I love so many different things from so many different genres and then when you try and apply that to your own writing, you can figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. I love cool vocal stacked music, like something like Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap, but I could never put that in a WALKEN song unless it was like something that really calls for it, so you can learn what you can and can’t pull off within reason I guess.”
So right before the world was hit with Covid, you guys managed to do a tour around the release of Regular Human Person, how lucky was that timing!? And how was the tour?
“It was awesome. We have got a lot of mates in Melbourne and Wollongong specifically, Pat’s brother is in Melbourne and always good for a place to stay and is a super nice guy. So that was cool going down there. We’d never played Last Chance (The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar) but it’s like a super small 100 cap sort of venue, so that was really cool. We got to play with a few good bands there, Chelsea Manor and Baby Shower are really, really, really good. It was awesome, but it was tiring. We were originally going to fly but then our mate Dan, who is our tour manager and guitar tech, he was like ‘Oh I could probably drive, cos I am getting this new van.’ So we were like ‘Let’s do it, let’s give it a go’ So we drove 12 hours to Woolongong on the first day and then did another 9 or 10 to Melbourne, went straight to the venue, loaded in, sound-checked, went back to the place and had a shower and then played that night, then the next day drove to Sydney, played that show and then drove to Newcastle the next day, then backtracked to Wollongong the next day. We had a show with Ali Barter, at the North Wollongong Hotel, it was really cool but that was a super hot show, it was on a Sunday in the afternoon, in Wollongong in January so we played this afternoon slot and we had the sun shining right down on us the whole set. So me and Beej both nearly passed out, we had to get Dan to do multiple runs of water at one point I had to take a big breather like ‘alright, just give me a minute cos I feel like I am about to die’ *laughs* But it was still a fun show and we managed to pull it off but I think we learnt a lesson, like don’t do an afternoon show in January in Wollongong, outside! *laughs.* Then we wrapped the tour up on the Sunny Coast and in Brisbane, both of those shows were close to packed out. Brisbane was packed out because it was at Greaser and it was a free show. Greaser was an awesome show.”
Now that live music is slowly making a comeback, have you guys got any shows booked or planning to book any soon?
“Yeah so there is one Brisbane one that we are waiting to announce, so you will probably hear about that one soon. And another one that was just announced today, at Vinnies, they are having a birthday week sort of thing at Vinnies Dive Bar on the Gold Coast, so we are on that line up. There’s so many good bands on there, Coffin, Hard Ons, Being Jane Lane, Radolescent. So many good bands.”
At Good Call Live we are all about supporting the scene and sharing the love here in Brisbane. If you could pick ONE local band and ONE local live music venue that you absolutely love and would recommend to others, who/which would you choose and why?
“Ooooo, that’s a hard one! There’s so many good bands in Brisbane! If you are talking like an established band who are gonna be the next big thing, like hands down, I love Bugs so much. Connor is a really lovely dude and they’ve got super catchy songs and they nail everything about that like, Pop Rock. They are like somewhere between Kisschasey and modern Australian Pop Rock. They are awesome. I love them so much. And then another band in that similar vein who are a bit more dreamy I guess is sweater curse. I think they are awesome.”
So Bugs and sweater curse get your votes, that’s two bands, but I will let you have it *laughs* and if you had to pick ONE live music venue?
“Crowbar. I love the staff there, I love Denis and Matt. Trad and Tyler are legends and they have been able to expand to Sydney as well and it was all grown in Brisbane originally. They’ve moved venues and successfully done that too, so it’s really really cool.”
WALKEN have got another new single coming later this year and are keen to play as many live shows as possible now that our beloved live music is slowly starting to make a come back into our lives. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for WALKEN wherever you go, you never know when these three lovely lads might be playing a show near you or dishing out more good time tracks for you to tune in to, rock out to, dance and groove to, or perhaps even play at your wedding one day.
Follow WALKEN HERE
With thanks to Habit Music Co