"On Flat Earth" & Time Spent with Herbert Walker
3.22.18 — Francis' living room hums with laughter and serendipitous tunes, each of the boys interchanging instruments in intervals, Kip the pup prancing around the room. This is my first of several jam sessions that I sit in awe, watching them work together with an effortless charm.
Much like their music, the boys of Herbert Walker warm your heart — consisting of 5 members, Francis, Sam, JJ, Vance, and Greg. Francis and Sam originally founded the band and created their first album The Welcome Mat, on their own. "Francis and I had always dreamed of finding a full-on crew" Sam explains, "And it was always a struggle with us being like, fuck we just don't have enough arms!" Francis adds. Looking for members to help perform live, they found JJ and Vance, who ultimately became staple members of the band, with Greg joining shortly after.
4.29.18 — It's a picturesque day by the pool, the sun beaming above with a 16-pack of PBR and Monet [Francis' money tree JJ insisted on bringing] by our side.
As we wrap up our photo session, we dip our feet in the pool and cozy up for the interview. I ask the guys about their experience creating as a group, producing the new album together, and their perspective of On Flat Earth.
Peach Girl: With having more members in the band now, is it difficult to fit everyone's ideas for a song/sound? Is there willingness there to incorporate every member's input?
Vance: "Sam and Francis actually have a lot of say in the final sound but I've never felt a struggle [trying to find a place for my sound]. I find a lot of liberation in the fact that they know if it's a Herbert Walker thing or not, it's much more effective. It has saved us so much time, and makes us a more effective group."
Greg: "We all take different leadership roles in certain songs, and depending on the jam we have those different roles we get to express ourselves in and there's always plenty room for all of us to get something in."
Peach Girl: Are there differences you guys can hear from the previous album? What would you say has changed in comparison, all collaborating on this record?
JJ: "I'm not afraid of putting the critical eye on it. I would say that it's less cohesive from the first album, just by nature of having new additions and being written over a long span of time. There are a few songs that were super collaborative, and I feel like those can be a little bit less smooth compared to the album before just because there are some growing pains there and us figuring things out — But those are what set this record apart from the last, and I'm majorly proud of all the songs and how they turned out"
Francis: "There are songs where you can really hear everyone's input. Everyone's little watermark, like in "Long Arms", you can pull out Sam, pull out Vance, and put them all back into this functioning thing again."
It's intriguing from both an outsider's point of view and the band member's, hearing new perspectives during our conversation they would have otherwise never really discussed. At one point, even Vance and JJ are curious to ask Francis and Sam things they never had before. We come to a standstill and realize there's an important question we all want to know, why "On Flat Earth"?
Francis: "I woke up one morning on Vance's dirty couch and took a hike up "A" Mountain [a famous hilltop overlooking Tempe's downtown Mill Ave] I remember looking out and just thinking how the Earth looks flat. The whole thing is an ode to my dad though, who is not a flat-earther, but I was thinking about him a lot while writing it."
On Flat Earth, emits a personal aura heavier than we’ve heard from Herbert Walker before. There is a word, saudade — a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia — that overcomes me when I press play. Vibrant melodies seamlessly harmonize with the droning weight of Francis’ lyrics, taking any listener to their own familiar place of saudade. I explain to Francis that I notice a transparency and honesty in the lyrics this time around, he laughs and admits "I opened up a little bit more on this one, almost too much and I even regret saying some things."
Francis manages to take the mundane and illustrate it in an intricate way that makes a personal experience relatable. Having the ability to forge the lyrics for an entire song from a topic or thought otherwise dull is impressive, and being able to create something so relatable, without even realizing it, is a true talent. Vance sees the album as "a take on the post-truth era, addressing how disorienting it is to live in this day and age", Sam adds "I selfishly like to make it all about me" while I myself am transported to thoughts and memories completely unrelated to Francis' original concept. Each of us finds a different meaning in the songs, connected by an overall universal feeling.
Herbert Walker continues to captivate my interest and affection with this latest installment. While sticking close to their core sound they; dazzle us with the addition of small orchestral arrangements, validate our pain and mistakes, help us imagine life from the perspective of a dog, and leave a truly heartfelt impression in every song.
On Flat Earth is available to purchase on Bandcamp, and accessible to stream on both Spotify and Soundcloud.