The Walters are long overdue for coverage here on AMPLIFY. The enigmatic quintet (composed of Walter Kosner, Michael “MJ” Tirabassi, Luke Olson, Danny Wells, and Charlie Ekhaus) has been making waves in Chicago’s vibrant music scene ever since the release of their first EP, “Songs for Dads,” in 2014. Each and every song on the EP (which boasts crowd favorites such as “Fancy Shoes” and “I Love You So”) produces a sound that’s as smooth as a hot knife cutting through butter. This quality became something of a trademark for The Walters, as it carried over into their LP, “Young Men”, one year later.
“Young Men” immaculately balances the blissful with the buoyant. The album opens with the beautifully ethereal “Sweet Marie,” and is then followed by “I Haven’t Been True,” a catchy and honest ode to a love that has taken a wrong turn. In similar vein is “Goodbye Baby,” a graceful acknowledgement that the time has come to move on from a loved one. “City Blues” is the album’s vivacious hallmark, beginning with a slow build before exploding with energy at the chorus. “Young Men” cemented what listeners and already discovered upon the release of “Songs for Dads” one year prior: The Walters are a force to be reckoned with.
2015 also bought the release of what is arguably the band’s most beloved track, “Hunk Beach.” The song is a seamless sonic blend of the band’s signature sound and a hint of beachy tones. Lyrically, it is an auditory nexus between longing and hope. The song concludes with a repetition of the line “you’ve got me feeling alright,” thus making its ebullience infectious and palpable to all who have the pleasure of hearing it. For this reason, it can’t help but touch the audience and move them in a way that only a brilliantly written and composed piece of music can.
This past January bought the release of the band’s new single, “She’s Gonna Leave You,” a jovial track despite its title. Musically it is almost dreamlike in essence but contains a simultaneous element of tenacity as well -therefore making the track entirely one of a kind. The single release was accompanied by a music video directed by photographer Kristina Pedersen, whose astounding visionary skills resulted in footage that is an exemplary work of art in itself.
The Walters are exemplary recording artists, but one of the most distinguished talents of the band is their ability to consistently deliver incredibly dynamic and entertaining live performances. For bands as talented as The Walters, it would be easy to be sloppy or unserious onstage-except they’re not. Just from watching them, it is immediately detectable just how dedicated each and every member is to their craft. They have fun onstage, but it is also blatantly apparent that they care.
What makes The Walters’ such an incredible band to see live is that each member stands out in his own way. Vocalist Luke Olson easily rivals Iggy Pop in stage presence; he exudes energy from the moment he enters the stage to the moment he exits. Danny Wells seamlessly transitions between bass and keyboards on selected songs, and even when they keyboard stand broke during their March 17th performance at The Rave/Eagles Club in Milwaukee, he picked it right up and instantaneously made due. Michael Tirabassi showcases his impressive voice when he takes over lead vocals for “New Girl,” a jaunty crowd favorite off “Songs for Dads.” As the drummer, Charlie Ekhaus is the engine propelling the songs. His work is especially notable on “Hunk Beach,” as the drums are a predominant source of the song’s energy and dynamic nature. Walter himself is a standout lead guitarist, peppering songs with unique and innovative riffs. And, of course, a Walters gig is not complete unless either the crowd, Olson, or a combination thereof prompt him to remove his shirt.
Another unique aspect of The Walters’ live performances is their willingness to break the fourth wall. They often interact with the crowd while performing, and have even taken setlist suggestions that have been called out. Live performances easily create such a sense of separation between the artist and the crowd, but The Walters continuously break that divide. A sense of connectivity is formed between them and those who enjoy their work-a hallmark trait of any great artist.
In a contemporary industry that is oversaturated with synthesizers and bass drops, The Walters distinguish themselves through their more polished, inventive sound. Not only that, but their work ethic is on par with their talent level: they’re doing all a band needs to do to maximize exposure and success. They consistently release new material, are currently completing a nationwide tour (alongside fellow locals The Orwells), and are slated to perform at Lollapalooza this summer. The Walters are composed of five hardworking and skilled musicians. Together, they form an unstoppable band whose work cannot help but be impactful.
Click here to view The Walters’ tour dates to see when they’ll be in your city.