Naked Walrus have taken DIY to their core, allowing the alternative rock band to become self-sufficient and highly motivated. The band is fitting the Vans Warped Tour into their busy tour cycle while while pushing their latest album Simple. We chatted with singer Dakota Gartner, drummer Taylor Hurtado, and guitarist Hayden Bush at the Denver stop about their latest album and the band changes through the years
GTV: I listened to all three of your albums (Naked Walrus (2011), All In One (201), and Simple (2016)) and definitely noticed the maturing sound through each one. The new album Simple has a much more trance-like sound. What influenced you to move away from the lighter side of alt-rock and into this style?
Dakota Gartner: It’s been an interesting process because it has been us growing up. We started this band in our early twenties and now we’re in our late twenties. It’s funny, because the album is called Simple, but it deals with pretty complex issues that you deal with as a human. It was about trying to do what makes you happy and do whatever you are trying to accomplish in life. What you are hearing is what we have been feeling. We have found our place that we feel comfortable with as this band, which means both sound and look. It’s also us really going for it; it’s all on us.
Taylor Hurtado: We’ve had lineup changes throughout the years, so the sounds kind of changed when we settled on the three of us. There was a lot that we were going through internally; best friends trying to figure it out and working through it. There’s also the usual things, like when the government shut down for a day, we are bringing up legitimate things that are happening whether it directly correlates to our lives or it can directly correlate to our fans lives.
GTV: The new album came out in November of last year. What have the last 8 months been like since its release?
Hayden Bush: We released the first album and have been touring pretty much nonstop throughout the year to promote that and get it out. It’s been going really well.
DG: Overall, the last 8 months have been us trying to get Simple out to the world. We wanted to give it a full release cycle of us hitting the road. We have done some touring in our lives but the tour we’re on right now, yes we’re playing the Warped Tour, but we’re also doing smaller shows along the way. We’ve been out on the road for about 25 days and we do everything ourselves. I’d say more than anything, we’re going out there to try and build a team of like-minded individuals that understand this project and we can all be really excited about the process.
GTV: On your website you state that all the members work in the music industry in different capacities. What areas of the industry does everyone work in and how has that helped the band?
TH: All of us grew up getting an early start, spending time at venues and local shows, whether it was playing or working. When Dakota was 12 he put up a benefit and raised a bunch of money because he wanted to be part of something bigger than himself. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a musical family; my father was a tour manager for most of my life.
HB: I was in the sound world mostly, running sound, recording bands, occasionally helping people out with hospitality and different production jobs.
DG: It’s funny for us to be out on the Warped Tour because the last two years we were involved as part of the production crew. We work with hospitality, set operations, we are really trying to be multifaceted in the music industry. That includes us being musicians. You can say that’s how we’re playing Warped Tour is because we know Kevin Lyman, and that’s part of it, but overall we have been able to watch bands who are more legitimate than us doing it right. We have gained so much experience so that when we go out on our own tours, we’re still learning every step of the way, but we’re able to be in this headspace that is a little more in the know. I don’t ever really see myself being able to get away from either side of the music industry; I love playing as much as I love working production. The overall science of creating an event is something I am absolutely intrigued by; both of these feed my soul.
GTV: A quick scan of the Naked Walrus Facebook pictures will show that the band really doesn’t want their faces shown. Is there a branding reason for this or does it follow some sort of ideology?
HB: We just got kind of sick of the cliché, serious band pictures. When I see that, it kind of turns me off to a band. We’re not trying to be Slipknot and wear masks to hide our identity all the time, but for social media, I think it’s just more interesting.
TH: It creates a curiosity with the so-called strangers. It drives a question; do I care what these guys look like? The fact that we start that gear in their minds creates this little game we play back-and-forth with people.
DG: We call it anti-boy band marketing. The overall art of music is something that we as musicians put a lot of heart and soul into and we have noticed over the past couple of years there’s a lot of people who in certain capacities listen to music for the good looking person who’s performing it. I get it, we all get it. At the same time, we didn’t want that to be part of our art. We want people to understand what we are trying to put out there in this creative fashion. Ever since we started doing the no-face photo-shoots, we all have a blast. It’s really fun for photographers, they get into it, and it becomes this cool artistic collaboration, which is what it’s meant to be.
GTV: You’re headlining tomorrow at the Moon Room here in Denver. Is that going to be a completely different show than todays?
DG: Unfortunately, we had to pull out of the Moon Room because our van broke down in Salt Lake City. We had to leave the van there, drive out here with the tour, and go back tomorrow and get the van. It’s unfortunate, but we will be back. The difference between our sets is that every one is unique. We try to make our performance a little bit different each time. We do play to tracks; our bassist is a computer, he likes to stick to the same thing. We like to throw in a mix of the new and the old. We are trying to push Simple as much as possible, but the old songs represent our hearts just as much.
GTV: The band released the first single ‘Minus’ in September and a music video in October as well. What was it like to get that first taste of new music out to your fans?
TH: It was really exciting. With any artist, you can’t wait to share it with the world. There’s also the other side of that where every one in some capacity wants to be respected. There is this anxiety, but screw it because we just want people to hear it. We are really happy about the feedback we have received so far.
HB: We had some lineup switches, so this was my first album writing all the guitar. It was fun getting to write music with these guys.
DG: The process for Simple coming out was very complex. It took a lot of time for us to prepare to get the album out to the world. We worked with a producer out of Arizona named Curtis Douglas and he is our ‘fourth member’. The music video was so cool; my brother is trying to get into directing so he and I wrote and produced it. He was the director, our roommate was the cinematographer, just this amazing group of my friends and family collaborating on this process for this thing that we worked so hard on.
GTV: You guys will be touring through most of the summer. Any plans for the band once you return home?
DG: There’s a ton of stuff happening; we’re always making new music and always touring. We’re really working on getting out there in the world. We’re putting a team together in the next few months so there’s a good chance that you’ll see us with some legitimate industry members; right now we’re not signed, we don’t have management, we don’t have an agent. We have a new release that we’re working on and have a few songs laid down already.
TH: We’ve done some cool stuff that we actually for the first time strategically collaborated with someone outside of our producer. So it will be interesting to see if there’s a big twist in the sound. We felt like there was a big leap between All In and Simple. Maturity is growth. It’s a departure nonetheless, which is what we’ve been going on. We’re excited for this.
DG: I think it’s some of the best music that I’ve ever been apart of writing. Yes, we’ve brought other elements in. Hayden went mad scientist on these songs that we’re doing right now and really got this creative burst of energy where he got really creative and wrote 8 or 10 songs. For me as a lyricist I wished he would slow down, but with that we’ve had a lot of awesome options. If you listened to us in the past you will be stoked on this next thing we’re putting out there.
Catch Naked Walrus on the Vans Warped Tour
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