It’s not every day the team at Barneys ‘replies all’ to an email chain with declarations of tears, happiness, and near death-by-cuteness—but that’s exactly the reaction we all had to Dan Martensen’s music video of Walter Martin’s debut solo album’s title track, We’re All Young Together. If you recognize Martin from the band The Walkmen, then you already know that this is one “kids’ album” you’ll actually enjoy listening to over and over and over—again. In fact we, Walter including, like to think of it as a “family album” for precisely that reason. Inspired by early rock ‘n’ roll, it features friends and fellow musicians Karen O, Kat Edmonson, Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Matt Berninger (The National), Alec Ounsworth (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), and Hamilton Leithauser.
Filmed on a sunny day in Prospect Park, the nostalgic video captures a crew of adorable kiddos romping around in Barneys New York’s choicest back-to-school threads. The Window caught up with Walter to hear more about his experience on set and also quizzed him about what’s quickly become the album of choice around our office.
Read on for Walter’s interview, but first, kvel along with us and watch the video above!
The Window: How would you describe the title track of We’re All Young Together?
Walter Martin: I like music about music and wanted to open the album with the basic idea that music makes everyone feel young. Pretty simple. It just seemed like the right way to start the album off. I really wanted it to sound like a Donovan song and to say something very positive in a new and unusual way. That was the basic idea for the whole album, actually.
You say that We’re All Young Together album is a “family record” rather than children’s music…
I fancy myself a rebel, and after years in the world of loud rock ‘n’ roll, doing a “children’s album” felt rebellious to me. But the label probably misrepresents the album a little. Judging by the response, it actually seems that parents get into the album even more than kids—though people do send me a lot of videos of their kids singing along to the songs. Who knows? I put goofy beats and bells and whistles all over the album so kids would immediately know I was speaking their language (and I am in fact singing about rattlesnakes and tigers a lot of the time), but a lot of the hard work went into elements that kids might not entirely get.
Would you ever have thought of compiling a family album before you had children yourself?
No, but I wish I had. I’m a record nerd and a collector of all kinds of weird music, and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. You don’t necessarily want to listen to your Joy Division records while you’re making pancakes with your kids. It wasn’t until I was doing things like making pancakes with my kids that I realized there was a shortage of new music that was perfect for that kind of situation.
How would you describe your voice on this first solo album versus the sound of The Walkmen?
I was in bands for my whole life writing songs with my friends, and there was a collective “voice” to the songs. When I decided to make a solo record, I started working really hard to figure out what kind of songs allowed me to be myself. I wrote a lot of bad songs in the process. It was a lot harder than I’d imagined to get to a point where I could write lyrics and sing them and feel like I was being myself and expressing something real that I actually felt. Anyway, I finally figured it out. I don’t know what it says about me that the end result is an album of songs about zoo animals, talking tangerines and Ringo Starr…
How’d it go filming with Dan Martensen and the Barneys team?
It was great. Everyone, including the kids, was very professional and nice. I had to sing “The Wheels on the Bus” many many times to the kids. Then they wanted to hear the song from Frozen, but I didn’t know it (my kids are too young). Then one of the older and “cooler” kids told me Frozen was the worst movie he’d ever seen, and he asked me if I knew any Kiss songs. A real rebel.
Any favorite moments in the video?
I watched in the monitor when they shot the kids in silhouette walking hand in hand over a little hill and thought it was really great. I love that kind of classic imagery.
A lot of the customer reviews of the album end with people demanding more. Think you’ll do another record?
I just finished writing my follow-up album actually. It’s all about visual artists. It’s very much in the same spirit as this album and has the same sort of dopey narrator (me). There are ten songs about ten different artists (Calder, Rauschenberg, Copley—to name a few). I realize it’s a pretty boring subject for kids, so I tried to make it funny and wild. I’d say that for kids, it hopes to be a fun introduction to the world of art and for adults, it hopes to be a fresh take on the art that we really love. I’m totally obsessed with it. It’ll come out next spring.