by Amanda Beland
Peter Matthew Bauer doesn’t want to be known as a side man.
“I hope it’s like – Neil Young was in Rick James’ band and no one really thinks about that,” said Bauer. “That’d be the ideal way of thinking – I don’t know if that’s the case – I’m not saying I’m Neil Young; what I’m saying is that I’d hope that they’d be Rick James.”
Bauer is the former bassist and organist for The Walkmen.
He’s been working solo since last year after The Walkmen went on an indefinite hiatus.
Although he just finished up an East Coast living tour – including a show in Medford, Mass. – he has no plans of slowing down on his solo journey.
“In The Walkmen, when we decided to break up it was like a pretty freaky, cataclysmic moment because it’s like how do you make a living? I’ve got a family you know – so that was not good in that fashion,” said Bauer.
Despite the anticipated hurdles of venturing out on his own, Bauer never questioned his connection to music.
“I mean, it’s just a die-hard, survival, like can’t live without it, wish you could do something else, but you can’t do anything else, like if you don’t do it for a day you get angry or upset – it’s just like your blood, you know?” said Bauer. “You get that – gotta keep moving like entertainer thing going after a while that gets in your blood too. You’re like a carny, and there’s nothing you can really do about it. like ‘Ah – sorry kids I gotta go.’”
Bauer quickly picked up the pieces and started writing songs and arrangements by himself for the first time.
“It started out very much by myself – really by myself,” said Bauer. “It was me writing music and really trying to teach myself how to do everything, including recording by myself. I called in some friends when I finally made the record, but I was like okay – I’m doing everything – I have to find a voice to do this.”
“The first record is supposed to be about how I grew up. like when I was a kid and this kind of thing, it’s like a entrance into things,” said Bauer. “That was the idea.”
Bauer admits some of his earlier lyrics and songs were pretty critical and doused with resentment and skepticism of the culture and atmosphere he grew up in – an atmosphere he said “stays with you even when you’re not in it.”
“I was trying to figure it out as to why was I so nasty about everything,” said Bauer. “The record started out with me writing songs about making fun of Scientologists and stuff and there are songs like that on the record.”
Bauer said his lyrics eventually evolved into a higher place of perspective – but he thought it was still important for people to hear his earlier songs.
“It turned into something else that can become a little more transcendent and less like choosing sides and less like being a jerk about things – but I thought it was good to keep the kind of jerky songs on there,” said Bauer. “It’s a very real feeling, like being a skeptic is good, being open to something when you can find out ‘Alright I’m gonna believe in this – I wanna get completely beyond belief” and that’s the heart of everything. Then you get to that and you can find that sort of space there. That’s what I’m always trying to do.”
Bauer wrote and recorded “Liberation” entirely by himself and plans to do the same on a second record, which is currently in the works. Bauer said his involvement in recording and producing was very limited when he was playing bass and organ in the Walkmen, even when they were recording at Marcata Recording, their self-founded studio and recording space.
However – despite his limited involvement with the technical aspects of recording, he said he felt dissatisfied at times with the actual sounds the band produced.
“For a long time we were recording records with engineers and producers and you’d sit there and think ‘Why is this so hard to make anything sound good, like at all, like this is just drums, bass and a guitar, why does it sound so terrible?'” said Bauer. “And you’d work with that in a recording studio. Then I realized after making this record, it’s so easy to make it sound like you want it to. It’s all just the group that makes it sound like that.”
“It’s just not hard, like if it’s up to you and it’s just you, you just do it and there’s no thought or extra time taken on it, you know?” said Bauer. “You don’t obsess over anything. you just go ahead and crash through it. It’s like knocking a hole through a wall. It’s just a more vibrant and exciting experience that way.”
After the release of “Liberation”, Bauer continued to stray from the mold of his previous project and decided to put together a series of small, living room shows across the East Coast. Unlike the large venues he was used to playing, Bauer thought intimate venues would give him a chance to actually get to know the people listening to his music.
“I like interacting with people a lot and that’s a big part of why I thought I could do this,” said Bauer. “When I was in band, I’d still like go out and kind of wander around and just hope to talk to somebody strange. Not just like stuck in a room with the same people.”
Bauer made the call for venues at the end of 2014 and began his first tour at the end of February. One of his stops was the Soul Shop recording studio in Medford, Mass. The Soul Shop is an all analog recording studio started by musicians Elio DeLuca and Patrick Grenham in 2007 after their band Keys to the Streets of Fear recorded an album at the Walkmen’s former studio Marcata Recording.
The show was unique for many reasons, one of which being that DeLuca, the head engineer at the Shop, recorded the entire performance. Bauer said if things “sounded good” he’d release the recording.
“You know, if tonight Elio made a recording of a song and it sounded good – I’d put it out tomorrow,” said Bauer. “When we tested it earlier, I heard what he did and it sounded great – I said if you wanna mix it down right now I’d put it out right now. Like to me that’s just a much more exciting way to do things.”
Bauer is currently selling tickets for a West Coast living room tour and is planning/booking dates and locations for a Mid-West tour and a European tour in the late summer, early fall.
“I think you feel like you’re getting across yourself in a very specific way – it’s very kind of raw like when people say that word, I don’t really know what it means,” said Bauer. “I think it means like the good and bad of what you do is very unable to be hidden, so its kind of a funny scene.”
Bauer is also planning on recording a couple songs in April for his anticipated second record. He said he hopes that people and fans will recognize and respect him and his music as it’s own solitary project – just as a side project by a former member of The Walkmen.
“I’m a young guy, I mean it’s not like this a side project or this is the guy from The Walkmen, “ said Bauer. “it’s exhausting thinking about yourself that way. But it seems like that stuff recedes in your memory. People ask you about it and you’re like I can’t remember. It’s like a different thing – it’s just a different time and a different world.”