Words by JENZ
Photos by Sarahana
Peter Walker’s got a lot on his mind: how to say what we want to, when we have to, and dealing with the process. Such heavy-hitting questions may take a toll on us regular people, but for the California native, that preoccupation with illustrating human emotion spills over into his songwriting.
Leading a pack of like-minded guys, Walker and his band Eulogies have Here Anonymous -- released last week on Dangerbird Records -- to show as a product of their collective contemplation (in between Scrabble updates on Twitter, of course). Even after re-explaining to every media outlet the story behind their “No, I promise, we’re not morbid” band name, the earnest nature that the Eulogies frontman possesses via phone is still very much sincere.
Walker sounds, talks, and accentuates his thoughts just as sweetly and attentively as his lyrics, which shine like a fifth member on the new record. Not as peculiar as Grandaddy and not as art-rock as The Velvet Teen, the Los Angeles band sits healthily in between, forming a smooth push-and-shove between quiet ballad and classic indie. Tracks like “Bad Connection” and “Is There Anyone Here?” find the four-piece dishing out the solid pop sensibility in order to open up for songs like “Eyes On The Prize” and “A Dark Place,” the latter utilizing anthem-style shouts of lyric “Complicate away” over rock-driven percussion.
Here Anonymous also pays respects to Walker’s romanticism. “Two Can Play” is a quiet duet with labelmate Nikki Monninger from Silversun Pickups, balancing a good mix of chill guitar and percussion, the two’s voices intertwining to create a sunny disposition, while “Goodbye” showcases a deep bass and teeters on a sensual attack of nerves. But it’s the wonderfully-crafted standout “The Fight (I’ve Come To Like)” – which includes a breathy huff of “Be here anonymous” before crashing down into drums and into a truly addictive chorus full of pop – that I’m most intrigued about, and that I want to talk to Walker about. Where is this subtle, sexy hint stemming from? And how can I get in on that?
This full length is called Here Anonymous, which could be construed as either participating transparently, or not showing significance. Why this title?
Yeah, yeah, definitely. It’s actually a line from one of the songs (on the record). “The Fight (I’ve Come To Like)” used to be called “Here Anonymous,” and the way the song breaks down and where that lyric comes out, it seemed to encapsulate the whole thing for me. The songs are kind of character-driven. There is a lone character on the cover where I’m speaking from, when I’m writing or singing, it is this person who is trying to figure out where he stands, where he’s trying to communicate. I think (the album) is actually to me a scary situation: you know you’re somewhere, but you’re still in the shadows a bit. It’s an analogy of where some of the songs come from. You want to be heard or be seen. That’s a big point. It’s a bit of a reality.
A guy I’m interested in and I had this weird talk last night, where he asked what the point of it all was, why we are trying to impress each other, how do we know who our true friends are? What does this mean in the end? Part of me wanted to tell him shut the fuck up, but another part likes to entertain the idea of us building experiences on one another to be meaningful in the end.
When I’m getting on stage and singing, it’s easy for people to ask me, “Why are you doing that?” It’s not that I need to be seen by a lot of people, and I don’t think I’m doing it for attention. It may sound like I’m standing on a pedestal, but I’m not. There’s something about putting yourself out there, very primal, but I don’t think it’s ego stroking. It’s just kinda part of survival; you don’t want to get trampled.
Are you aware that may come across as being really, really pretentious?
Oh yeah. For me, I don’t feel like I’m putting on something that’s not real. For me artistically, I realized that I wouldn’t be happy making music in my basement or for my friends or family. I feel like I have something to give, something to connect. Hopefully someone can see it.
The idea of a eulogy is very centered on remembrance and regret, but on your MySpace page, your tagline says, “For the living.” Pretty ironic there, sir.
That sums it up for me though, it really does. Eulogies are some of the most heartfelt communications. You’re saying things about people that are so carefully worded and usually just hit the mark in such an important manner. But I just like the idea of letting those things be said while someone’s right in front of you rather than when they’re gone. A lot of what I sing about can be constructed as dark-seamed, but to me just singing about them is really a positive thing. I’m not dwelling on anything negative or dark, just turning the lights on a little bit.
You know, it’s funny; my grandfather also has a similar mantra. A long time ago he said, “Why should you say things about me when I’m gone? Why put flowers on my casket when I’m not here anymore?” And to this day, I get him flowers on his birthdays.
That is so awesome.
It’s just that idea of feeling in the present and in the moment. I think a little of that is also reflected in songs of yours like “Under The Knife,” which has this great melodic hook and then a line like “I’m scared to love what death can touch/So I deny/And if I wake under the knife/At least then I’ll be feeling there’s something said for being numb.” Jesus Christ.
I think it speaks to the same thing we were just talking about. Communication and the fact that instances of non-communication can be damaging, where people can get in a situation. Painting a picture of communication and not waiting to say things, that’s really living.
So who fucked you over so you feel you’ve got to get all this shit out?
No one! (Laughs.) I’ve been through a lot in my relationships and family, and I found this path for me that I think is great that I want to share. Not just for me, for people around me. Just kind of being in touch with yourself and what it means to open up and to share with people. But it’s where I draw inspiration and life.
It does also seem like you’re talking well beyond your years. Not necessarily being precocious more so than a sense of wisdom. “Look at the bigger picture too instead of the immediate.”
I think you’re right on, actually. It’s easy to go about life and not have to ‘go there.’ I wrote a song a bunch of years ago called “Easy Road,” where I talk about how (that) can hurt you. If you take a step and think about what you’re actually doing every day, not everyone’s on the path they might think they’re on. When people set things to autopilot and don’t have a healthy force of communication…
Tell me a little on how the band met.
I made a (solo) record and was getting ready to go on tour with Starsailor. This was a couple years ago, and out of that came together a band to hit the road with. We went into the studio and ended up making the first Eulogies record, and it became more apparent that it was becoming a group effort. It was kinda backwards, I went solo and then got a band. But it was a dream to have this collaboration and have a band.
I saw an article where the interview referred to you as ‘brooding.’ How often do you brood? Do you prefer to brood in the comfort of your home, or with others?
Brooding is kind of, hmm. I don’t think of myself as a brooder. It seems like a negative connotation, like your feet are a little stuck in the mud emotionally. I think (our) songs are definitely contemplative. I think the music and the songs have clarity and drive.
Playboy magazine and Eulogies – did you ever imagine those two in the same sentence? How are you feeling about the Rock The Rabbit campaign?
We were asked to, which is so awesome. I would love to play at the Playboy mansion.
I just saw The Wrestler and was tickled to know your song “39 Stars” is playing while Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei’s characters are in a thrift store. You’ve said that good indie is usually played in thrift stores; what is one of the best songs you’ve heard?
You know what, I was actually in a store a few months ago and heard this track and went, “Wow, this is like…I don’t know! I really need to find out who this is.” And by the time I was able to find someone to tell me, the song was over. It was the best song ever and I’ll never know the details. But I’m ready to hear it. If I heard it again I would so know. I’ll find it someday. But (The Wrestler) is so great, and seeing my name in the credits...wow. When I was watching the movie I had no idea when or where or how the song was going to be, and there are all these loud rock songs happening, and then they went to the thrift store and it was perfect. I’m really happy to be in tune with indie.
That scene was really pivotal, especially when Rourke’s character gives his daughter what he does.
It was so touching to see how that ended up, especially when he ended up handing her the other gift, but it was wrapped and you didn’t know.
In L.A. recently, the band introduced a new guitarist to play live. What did you do with the old one?
It’s actually a bass player. The old one is still alive and well. We were playing together for a while and it was time. The new guy is so amazing in so many ways, even more so he’s just a great guy and a great player. It just helped pull everyone together and it kind of sent little shock waves through the label and everyone we worked with, all because of what we brought in.
You were on tour with bands like The Duke Spirit and Darker My Love, and have done a tour already with The Dears now to go back and do it again with them this spring. What sort of pranks are you looking to pull this time around?
You know, I’m not sure yet. (Laughs.) It’s funny, I think part of touring, especially in the beginning, you’re getting to know everyone and you want to get along with everyone, but at the end you maybe think about the pranks, because you’re so close to the people you’re traveling with. It’s really wonderful. I think the best thing about touring is the friends we make. Whenever you play shows with bands it’s a great way to make friends with someone and their music. Whenever we start touring we always made it a point to listen to the other bands’ set. It takes about three to four shows to really let it set in for us. So it’s interesting to see people who then come to see us for the first time.
How do you balance being optimistic with the reality?
It’s such an optimistic time right now. My outlook has always been realist and optimistic. Realist and pessimist kind of go hand-in-hand. I think that reality in truth is the most powerful and the greatest gift that you can give yourself or someone you can love, and that is extremely optimistic. It’s extremely positive.
What is a question you often ask yourself?
‘Am I happy with what I’m doing?’ I think I’m constantly asking myself that question for better or worse.
Well, hey, I mean – so long as you have mostly “yes” and a couple of 'no’s,' then I think you’ll be okay.
The 'no’s' are actually more effective. Then it’s like, 'Well -- you gotta do something.'