Walker Lukens, an indie-rock singer songwriter based out of Austin, Texas recently released his latest EP, Never Understood.
SCAD Radio got the chance to chat with Walker Lukens following his performance at 2017 Savannah Stopover music festival.
Curious as to what he said? Here’s a look at SCAD Radio’s interview with Walker Lukens.
Silvia at SCAD Radio: How did you get started as a musician?
Lukens: When I was really little my brother was the perfect age when grunge music came out, so he wanted to play guitar, and I was like 4 or 5, so I was surrounded by music all the time because he wanted to be in Nirvana. So he started a garage band when I was a little kid and I just grew up around that. By the time he left home I was wanting to start my own band. It doesn’t feel like I ever really didn’t play — if that makes sense — because at the time I started taking guitar lessons, when I was on fifth grade, I already sort of knew how it felt to be in a band.
Silvia: You’re releasing your new EP, Ain’t Got a Reason, in April so what are you most excited about?
Lukens: I think I’m most excited about releasing it because I’ve been sitting on it for so long, but we’ve also been playing these songs for a long time and people haven’t been able to hear them, for the most part. So it’s just really exciting to finally release them. That’s a good feeling. I think a lot of times people don’t realize how long it takes from when you first start writing the song to when it finally comes out. Like the song “Simple Man” from the EP, I started working on the music from this song the summer of 2013 so it was a while ago. Then we recorded it in 2015 so it really takes a long time, and I think sometimes people don’t realize just how long it could be. My relationship with this song is that it is so much older, so to finally have it out just feels really good.
Silvia: So are you most excited about any special song? Or do you have a song that you had the most fun recording?
Lukens: That’s hard! I definitely had a blast recording the song “Where Is Thunder Road?”.
Silvia: We love that song!
Lukens: Thank you! So, when I was doing that piano loop at the top, we were listening to Tom Waits, but I wanted to make it sound sort of like a hip hop sample. So I took this piano and made it weird, and then recorded the song, and Jim – the guy I recorded it with — he was like, “Well, I know this guy that does arrangements for horns”. So he brought this arranger and basically, without getting too technical, we left this big space and we said to the guy “maybe think of a little thing to put here” but he didn’t get that part of that we said and he wrote this insane horn breakdown, it’s so long and crazy, and watching him record that was pretty crazy. One of the cooler moments of my life as a songwriter was watching that guy record the horns for that, because there’s some other stuff going on, but it’s basically just him playing trombone. Just recording trombone over and over, it’s crazy.
Silvia: Speaking about this song, why did you choose this song to be the first single for your EP? How does it represent the rest of the EP?
Lukens: I think one reason we chose it, is that we’ve been playing it live for a while and people seem to like it. And, I think the other thing about this record is that I think there’s elements of pop to it, but we wanted to mess with people’s expectations, but not just make the music long. When a song is three minutes or two minutes, I think it takes you places that are new and unique and that song does a good job representing that.
Silvia: Great! You mentioned Jim before, so we wanted to know, how is it to work with someone else?
Lukens: Well, Jim plays with the band Spoon and he’s been producing the recordings. Most of the stuff that we’re putting out was all recorded with this band who I’m playing with tonight and Jim has just been there to shape the songs. We write a lot more music than we recorded and Jim did a really good job of helping us choose which songs would work together. It really helps, he’s been in a band for 25 years and he knows what it’s like.
Silvia: What are some of your biggest challenges?
Lukens: Well, we live in this van [laughs] so you could probably imagine some of that! The other thing is that there’s not a lot of money in doing music so you got to be really conscious about how you’re going to do it. The other aspect of it is that it’s hard for your music to cut through because these days there’s so many people playing, and I’ve been hitting it pretty hard for a couple of years and it just takes a long time, it’s a lot of effort. I love the process though — well you all go to SCAD, you guys know that there’s so many people trying to work in the arts. I mean, with a visual artist, if you want to do graphic design for example, there’s a lot of work for you. The thing with doing indie rock is that the equivalent of being a graphic designer in indie rock is not nearly as fulfilling for me, so I would rather just struggle and make the music I want to make on my own terms that make certain compromises. I mean I’m not trying to make crazy avant-garde music, so there’s that. Like, I can have a career. But just figuring out what you’re comfortable with is hard, and I think money is the worst thing to factor into the work you’re making.
Silvia: So do you have any song writing method? Do you write the lyrics first or maybe come up with the music first? And where do you get your inspiration from?
Lukens: It depends. I would say that what has worked the best for me has been, as I gotten older, to not put off when I’m feeling inspired. I get inspired by different things, but to not put it off. As I gotten older the thing I found is that it makes you really antisocial if you’re like “oh I have this idea and I have to leave this conversation to work in this idea”, it definitely doesn’t make your significant other very happy, but just following it whatever it is. There’s a song in our EP we put out in October, it started as a voice memo on my phone and we didn’t even change it, it’s just that. In this case, Jim was like, “We should just use that, we don’t even need to re-record it”, and that’s never how I heard the original thing, but I think is cool, because if you make an effort to pay attention to these impulses it gets better and quicker and you learn stuff. I hope I answered your question! I don’t really think I did! [laughs]
Katerina at SCAD Radio: What’s your biggest goal as a musician?
Lukens: Oh man! I had a friend who has a painter who put it this way, she said, “I just want to be part of that history, that I studied so much. I want to have some small part of that, be some small part of that.” And I think that’s part of how I operate. I get to record and write and perform as much as I could ever want to now, and I think I would like to feel that the work that I’m doing is part of all these things that have inspired me so much, if that makes sense. Because I’m pretty fulfilled in other aspects, I would just like to feel my work is part of that conversation.
Katerina: So not like fame or anything? Or do you want fame?
Lukens: No, I mean I like free clothes. [laughs] That’s cool! And we all like free food, but no. I mean I think I’ve been really lucky in that naturally the music I make, in certain ways, musicians like it. I’ve always wanted to be part of that, like that world of working with musicians and making music interesting for people who studied music.
Katerina: So, inspiring people?
Lukens: Yeah, and also just feeling that people get the things that influenced you, that people get that side of it. I hope that make sense!
Silvia: That’s really cool! Thanks for doing this interview!
Katerina: Yeah thank you!
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By Silvia Guillermo