Walking Shapes don’t consider themselves to be an inherently “New York-y” band, despite there being plenty of evidence to suggest that they are. Save for lead singer Nathaniel Hoho, who hails from a bison farm in Pennsylvania, the band is made up of New York natives. They played their very first show at Glasslands in Brooklyn and found their drummer on the New York subway. Still, never one to brag, boast or make grandiose statements, Hoho maintains that Walking Shapes is just a band that happens to live and record in New York.
But Hoho needn’t be loud about his band; it does a fine job of speaking for itself. Produced by Gus Oberg of Strokes fame, Walking Shapes’ debut album, Taka Come On, is exuberant and textured—a sound many a journalist has dubbed as very “New York” (go figure). Their performances make statements as well. Earlier this year, the band played 24 concerts in 24 hours in 24 (New York) venues. Never ones to become too predictable, the band took to the Dominican Republic to film the video for “Feel Good,” which we’re proud to premiere here. The flaxen-haired beauty featured is Victoria’s Secret model Bridget Malcolm, who just so happens to be Hoho’s girlfriend. Malcolm also snapped the above Polaroids at her beau’s show in Montauk the other weekend.
Yes, Hoho may be reluctant to call his band New York-y (as he drinks a beer at Blk Mkt in the East Village), but this city has certainly fallen in love with Walking Shapes, and when their album drops in Europe next month we reckon the rest of the world will too.
ALLYSON SHIFFMAN: How did Walking Shapes form in the first place?
NATHANIEL HOHO: Jesse, our guitar player, I met five years ago, give or take, on the fourth of July. We met at a barbeque and just hung out and became friends. I was in another band, and he’s a really good violinist, so he started playing with us in that. We toured for a while, and then that band split up and we wanted to keep playing. We had always been writing. We would meet up mid-afternoon, write all day, go home, party, go back at two and write until five. We did this all summer—we wrote a shitload of music—and that kind of started Walking Shapes. Chris, who’s our drummer, was just on the train with drumsticks and I was like, “Do you live around here? Do you want to play drums with us?” And he’s like, “Bro, I know you! I fucking love your band! We’re going to make history!” So we started playing with him and he introduced us to the other guys.
SHIFFMAN: And where did the name come from?
HOHO: It just came from brainstorming—just sitting around, hanging out, talking about names for about six months. [laughs] Finally… we had been talking about names for so long, and I was late to come hang out. We were already doing a video, before we had a name, and everyone was there to talk about the project and I walked in, and Ezra Miller, who produced our video, walked in and is like, “What do you think about Walking Shapes?” I’m like, “Yeah, whatever. Fine.”
SHIFFMAN: Coming up with a name always seems like the worst part of forming a band, because you’re stuck with it forever and you have to keep explaining its meaning to people like me.
HOHO: I like the idea of bands having human names, like Fred or Kevin. “I’m going to go see Ted!”
SHIFFMAN: Who taught you to play music?
HOHO: When I was 10, my aunt rented me an acoustic guitar for Christmas.
HOHO: Yeah, for six months. She got me a rented guitar with lessons. I learned to play “Wipeout” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It was fucked up. And this weird dude, Frank, taught me. He’s like, “Don’t play baseball, because when you’re old your joints are going to get old and you can’t play sports. But you can play guitar.”
SHIFFMAN: You should have named the band Frank!
HOHO: [laughs] Yeah.
SHIFFMAN: Whose bright idea was that 24-shows-in-24-hours thing?
HOHO: It was mine. It was fucked up—I can’t believe it happened. We were thinking of where we wanted to have a CD release show, and I was like, “Oh, I wanna play here, but I’d like to play here too, and I’d like to play here.” So I was like, “Why don’t we just play 24 shows?” I remember the first night, it was 4 a.m. and we were crammed in a gas station playing for this gas station attendant just to get our eighth show in before we got two hours of sleep. But it ended at Niagara, and it was awesome. The last three shows were really good. We played with Har Mar Superstar at Bowery Electric; we played at this place Nublu, and then Niagara. It was a good ending. We’re gonna do a 24 shows in 24 hours world tour. Paris, Hong Kong, LA, Mexico City…
SHIFFMAN: How did you start working with Gus Oberg?
HOHO: Our label asked us to pick a producer and Jesse and I liked the last Strokes album, Comedown Machine, a lot. So I searched his name and the third picture that popped up was my roommate at the time and Gus. I was like, “Dude, introduce me to this guy.” And he did. We met one day and literally two days later started tracking.
SHIFFMAN: And what’s it like working with him?
HOHO: I love him. He’s like a member of the band—we’re doing our next record with him. We’re going to start in September.
SHIFFMAN: If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
HOHO: A professional snowboarder.
SHIFFMAN: For real? Or that’s a fake answer.
HOHO: I would live in a mountain in a shack and snowboard every day.
SHIFFMAN: I don’t think that counts as professional.
HOHO: [laughs] I would be striving to be a professional… No, I wouldn’t. I’d just be riding.
SHIFFMAN: I missed that show in Montauk the other week—how was it?
HOHO: It was a weird vibe, but it was really fun. The crowd was interesting. It’s the antithesis of 7th and A. Everyone wears white and collared shirts. But I had a good time.
SHIFFMAN: And you played with Drowners, right? Matt Hitt was probably wearing a black leather jacket in 90-degree weather.
HOHO: All the band members were in black. Matt was wearing the same thing he wears every day. Afterwards we ended up taking mushrooms. Bridget and I ended up in a one-man kayak at 3 a.m. We thought we were going to tip over.
SHIFFMAN: Did you?
HOHO: No, I wouldn’t let us keep going. I was freaked out. We went back in the morning and there were so many kayaks there. We were like, “Why did we try to cram into one?”
SHIFFMAN: And Bridget is in the video for “Feel Good” as well. Where did you film it again?
HOHO: In the Dominican Republic.
SHIFFMAN: Exotic! Why there?
HOHO: It seemed like a good idea.
SHIFFMAN: You and Bridget had met before you filmed this, right?
HOHO: We had been friends for about two years. We filmed in Santo Domingo, and they took us off to this old, abandoned factory. It was crazy—we had guards and a giant crew. We were suspended above a sugar cane field and there were goats everywhere. You’d be driving on dirt roads and there would be people with dead goats strung up along the side of the road, selling the meat. It was weird, but it was beautiful.
SHIFFMAN: So how did you and Bridget first meet?
HOHO: We met at Surf Bar, in Brooklyn. We met through someone else that she was dating and maintained a friendship. That’s exactly what it was when we started the video, and then after the video…