The Walking Beat new record takes it 'Easy'
A long time coming, the new LP by Rochester's The Walking Beats, "Easy Chair" comes out Dec. 9 with a release party at Thesis Beer Project.
“Easy Chair,” the latest record by The Walking Beat, is easy on the ears, but had a hard journey to reach its audience.
Despite its name, The Walking Beat is sitting down for its newest release. The recording project launched in 2019 before the pandemic started. Now, after bouts of remote recording and supply chain issues for pressing the vinyl record, the album is finally ready. “Easy Chair” is set to come out Dec. 9 on all major streaming platforms and at a release party at the Thesis Beer Project.
Though currently based in Rochester, The Walking Beat got its start in Detroit, Michigan, in 2012. The band put out their debut LP “Introducing The Walking Beat” in 2015. When The Walking Beat members Steve McCauley (vocals, guitars, bass, harmonica, and analog synthesizers) and Kara Dupuy (vocals, piano, electric piano, and organ), moved to Rochester, they played a few duo shows, but the larger ensemble had a four year hiatus until accordionist Kirsten Kooda, and vocalist and drummer Eric Kramlinger came into the picture.
“After meeting Eric and Kirsten, we decided to get the band on track by making this record,” says McCauley. Banjoist John Molseed was a guest for the album’s title track, but now performs with the band during live shows along with bassist Devon Hugdahl.
Though the songs were arranged by the entire band, McCauley wrote the 10 tracks on “Easy Chair.” He describes his band’s genre as “hard-scrabble cosmic Americana” and says it comes from his love of old country and folk music but also rock and roll, punk, and even noise and chaos.
“I've been playing music since just before high school,” says McCauley. “I had a cool older brother who lived in the basement, and we used to shoot pool down there and listen to his tapes and CDs. That's where I first heard Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Led Zeppelin and even punk bands like Bad Brains and the Misfits.”
For McCauley, songwriting is a little like a math equation or a puzzle. “I need to work on songs for months, usually with several going at one time, reformulating and plugging in new parts before I'm ready to show them to anyone,” he says. “Then they get introduced to the band and it goes through a whole new process of reformulation and arrangement. It always turns out better when you get other perspectives and work as a group.”
The band’s drummer, Kramlinger, recorded much of the LP at his Quincy Street Studios in northeast Minneapolis. After the pandemic hit, though, and the recording process became remote, overdubs were finished up at McCauley’s home studio, affectionately called Camp Deerfield.
Despite the yearlong wait to get the vinyl record pressed, The Walking Beat was committed to having the album available on multiple formats. McCauley says that listening to music on vinyl is a different experience. “Digital is great and convenient, but there's just something special about putting on a record,” he says. “Holding that large format sleeve and deliberately sitting down and listening to each song. It forces you to be more involved in the listening process.”
The album’s title track, “Easy Chair,” was written just before the band started to record. The song details the experiences of McCauley, his twin brother, and his friend Rob as they learned to play “old time music” from Howard “Duck” Selba in a tiny living room in Wayne, Michigan.
“He would teach us old songs he learned growing up in Kentucky and in between would tell us stories about World War II and gigs he would play,” says McCauley. “He was always hilarious and had an off-color sense of humor.”
The Walking Beat filmed a video for “Easy Chair” that’s already been released. For the video, they worked with Mohammed “Mo” Elabbady and Doha Salem Elabbady. The video features “the biggest, plushest, ugliest, and ‘freest’” easy chair McCauley could find in a several-week online search. “Mo and Doha had me pushing that thing all over to different Minneapolis landmarks,” says McCauley. “People were like, ‘What the hell?’ We got a lot of laughs making it and hope to get a couple from those watching it.”
Another standout track from the album is “If You Need Me.” It starts with a catchy bass line and features a wailing organ hook that builds incrementally. The song’s lyrics seem to explore the discontents of a relationship as its speaker delivers lines such as, “you were drowning in the mess I brought around.” Rounded out with some accordion and a build to a noisy climax that drops suddenly into a lonely piano interlude, the song evokes the simultaneously playful and bitter nature of close relationships.
At times, like on the track “Whirlwind,” the album’s songs feature simple harmonies between McCauley and Dupuy that break into separate leads soaked with yearning. Interspersed with acoustic piano and plaintive harmonica lines, the music is richly complex despite its earnest presentation.
The band is looking forward to sharing their music at the Dec. 9 release party at Thesis Beer Project. “We really appreciate their dedication to putting on great shows and bringing out-of-town bands to Rochester. It's a great sounding space and has awesome vibes,” says McCauley, “and they have great beer.”
McCauley says that while the band members all have jobs and even other hobbies, making music is a driving force in each of their lives. "Music has always been number one," he says. "It’s just what we do…we have to make music.”
If you go
The Walking Beat’s LP release party, with Luke Hendrickson and the Crop Circles
Where: Thesis Beer Project, 1929 Second St. SW.
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9.
If you’d like to watch the walking Beat’s video for “Easy Chair,” check it out on YouTube.
To listen to the Walking Beat’s first LP “Introducing the Walking Beat,” go to walkingbeat.bandcamp.com/releases .