You know how if you put two cells together, a whole new energy is formed? asks singer Nathaniel Hoho of Walking Shapes. Hes talking about the natural evolution of the 13 sonically clear and glistening songs that landed on Taka Come On, the bands No Shame debut.
From the opening burst of Woah Tiger and the buzz of Saturday Song to the exuberant Feel Good, Hohos falsetto rides on guitars and soundscapes shaped by the band and its co-founder, guitarist Jesse Kotansky. The best songs from the sessions ended up being the ones we werent trying too hard to make perfect, he says.
Formed in the wake of Kotansky and Hohos songwriting collaboration, Walking Shapes is the living and breathing result of a unique creative environment, centered in a house on Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn the band calls home.
I started sleeping on the couch and moved in, explains Hoho. Two bands previously lived there, and now its our home base---we all have the key, he says of the house owned by visual artist Joseph Grazi and frequented by actors, musicians, and other assorted friends and visitors. People would show up and hang out and that energy swirled into our scene and core group of friends, says Kotansky.
Todays Brooklyn is of course the new version of the New York tradition of artists living and working in close proximity. Walking Shapes carry forward that kind of collective energy, injecting the spirit of the citys noises and the souls of its people into their songs, with the resulting frenetic charge and emotional waves feeding back the sound of the proverbial city that never sleeps.
Coming together in 2012, Hoho and Kotansky spent the whole summer creating songs together. That cemented our writing relationship, explains Kotansky. Both songwriters have roots in music that go back to childhood. For Hoho it was influences diverse as Motown and classic rock to more contemporary indie bands. In Kotanskys case, he was a classically trained violinist schooled in Balkan folk music, equally inspired by the giants of singer-songwriting, musical innovators and atmospheric sound-shapers. The combination of Hohos and Kotanskys songs came rushing forth in one uninhibited, creative flow.
The band gelled in an equally organic way: Hoho rode the same train as drummer Christopher Heinz who brought in bassist and vocalist Dan Krysa for a readymade rhythm section; keyboardist and vocalist Jake Generalli and Kotansky had been friends since childhood. Signing to No Shame, the labels studio facilities made endless hours of experimenting more accessible and the band laid down something like 50-60 songs. When producer Gus Oberg (The Strokes, Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson) entered the picture, Gus was able to help us define our sound, whittling the tracks down slowly, then often took the first take, explains Hoho. The album even found its title from a line used to create a scratch vocal. My main interest is communicating things that cant be said by talking, says the singer.
Woah Tiger began as a rough idea that started with a bass jam. I didnt have any lyrics when we recorded. The vocal was just pure feeling-- angsty, aggressive, filled with sexual energy and frustration, says Hoho. Saturday Song evolved from a band rehearsal without the singer who dropped in a vocal when he arrived. As for the melodic tapestry and layered effect of Winter Fell, pulsing with city energy and interlocking sounds, I think it represents who we are, says Kotansky. Everyone brought what they do best to the table.
Feel Good features another first-take vocal, this one fuelled by the feelings of a bad but ultimately good break-up. The band traveled to Dominican Republic for the making of the songs video. Looking back in hindsight, it was a nice palette for the kind of self-reflection that goes on after something like that, says Hoho.
Whether venturing through the tropics for a video or playing 24 shows in 24 hours in their hometown as they did in the spring of 2014, theres no place like the house on Kingsland for Walking Shapes to realign from their experiences and make music.
Without that place, theres no way this project would exist in any form, says Hoho.
Kotansky adds, Its what allows us to create beauty out of chaos and send it back out into the world.