Hot smoke is twisting its way upward into Peter Bauer’s face, his forehead glossy with sweat. As he fans himself above the maw of the grill, the other four members of The Walkmen sit around his backyard table, waiting patiently to be fed. As sausages and peppers are delivered, Bauer’s five-year-old son Otis comes home after running through sprinklers with friends a few blocks away. They all call him to come hang out for a little while and he does, until he gets bored. It’s quiet except for the occasional clink of silverware on plate, the balmy summer evening maybe dulling the energy, maybe not. “We should really do this once a week,” frontman Hamilton Leithauser tosses through the humid air. No one really acknowledges him and he doesn’t seem to mind.
Bauer moved to the idyllic Chestnut Hill suburb of Philadelphia with his wife and Otis three years ago. He was the third of The Walkmen to leave New York for Philly, following in the footsteps of guitarist Paul Maroon and drummer Matt Barrick, both of whom left with plans to start families of their own. New York is where the band was born, but now it’s home to only two of its five parts, Leithauser and first cousin/bassist Walt Martin still residing in Brooklyn with their wives. Bauer’s home sits back several, precariously steep stairs from the tree-lined street, half a row house that he and his wife Marisa have made to feel catalog comfortable. For the past several minutes, Leithauser has been cradling Bauer’s infant daughter, Lola, walking and rocking her to the melodies of an old Buddy Holly LP that’s filling his bandmate’s dining room. He asks to have his picture taken with her, pats her belly (“a smaller version of Pete’s”) hums sweetly in hopes of teasing out a smile. When pearls of her vomit land flat on his arm, he barely reacts. “She got you,” Bauer says as he runs over with a paper towel. “I seriously go through about four shirts a day.” Surveying the sharp new molding that outlines the bar where a kitchen wall once stood, Leithauser muses, “There was a point where Pete was set on moving down here with a wife, a dog, a kid, a nail gun and plan to re-do this entire house.” He did. And while Bauer fusses in the kitchen he renovated, conversation between the rest of the guys is seasoned with talk of Lollapalooza, their upcoming fall tour, baby monitors and burping methods. “Otis has grown like a foot in the past year,” boasts Bauer. “He’s suddenly really skinny.” “Daisy likes to sleep and cry,” Barrick quips dryly when his wife asks how she’s doing. “We call ourselves ‘condo rock,’” Maroon adds with a wry grin.