Artichoke Hearts and Lawsuits: An Interview with Walter Etc.

Dustin Cole Hayes aka Walter of Walter Etc. (previously Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra) talked with WHRB about music, life and lawsuits (well not really). Listen to their fantastic folk punk tunes here and read on for the full interview:

You recently changed from Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra to Walter Etc. Tell us about the name change/how you avoided getting sued?

Lol I joke about getting sued a lot but in reality there was no actual lawsuit. Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra (WMAHMO) was a revolving door of musicians playing our “slop” brand of folk that by the last album had cemented itself as 5 friends with a specific sound. After Well Soon, two of the guys couldn’t continue to be in the band actively, and we knew we wanted to broaden our sound and play electric stuff. So instead of completely changing WMAHMO, Kris, Russ, and I decided to just tweak the band name and the band, so that WMAHMO could retain its sound and vibe, and we could move forward with a fresh slate. Once our full length comes out and there’s a little space between the two projects, we are excited to have two parallel bands going forward.

When did you start creating music? Tell us a story of when you realized how much music meant to you.

Well our original band in elementary school and high school was a punk band called Paddy Wagon. I enjoyed writing songs for that, but after that band lost steam towards the end of high school, I started writing these poppy folk songs just for myself and recording them in my bedroom that no one except a few friends knew about for a long time. It was making that first WMAHMO album, Every Town Needs a Cowboy, that I really learned that my enjoyment came in writing and making the album, and everything else was just the cherry on top. So I always go back to that headspace, just making albums for the fun of making albums, when I want to center myself. No matter what happens with the band and our music “careers,” I can always just make albums in my bedroom for myself, and that is enough for me.

What do you hope people take away from your music?

I dunno, something to sing along to, or something to put on while driving in a pretty place, or something to put on when it feels like the world is pissing on you and you feel like hearing me complain instead of yourself. I don't really care. It’s just cool if people take away anything at all!

Favorite pizza topping?

Been on a strong artichoke heart kick recently actually.

Do you feel like your music represents you well as a person?

Ya for sure. I had a thought earlier this year that my music might be more honest than I am to people in real life! I like the idea that when we die in an inevitably dramatic death like car crash or shark attack, you can follow the themes and sentiments in the lyrics, as well as quite a few literal facts, chronologically so that it reads as sort of a biography of our lives.

Favorite song to listen to on the 101?

Ooh I don't have a fav song on the 101 so much as the 101 is like the amplifier that will make any song I like at the time exponentially better if I’m listening while driving on it. For example, last week I was driving on the 101 in Washington and listening to “Hearts and Bones” by Paul Simon and damn that was a beautiful moment.

Is there a song you’ve written that you are particularly proud of or like the best?

Not really. It’s usually the newest ones that I’m the most stoked on just cause they are fresh. I love / hate all my songs for different reasons but they are all fundamentally equal. They’re like descriptions of different parts of the same elephant. None can be better or worse, just different ways of describing the same thing.

Where do you feel most at home?

Hmm good question. Orange County, CA feels like my childhood home. Portland, OR feels like my temporary “weird twenties” home. I think home for me right now means doing what feels right, like what feels like I’m in my groove. So like hanging with my girlfriend, or being on tour with the boys, or making movies with the MNE [Making New Enemies] crew, being along in the basement working on some lame song no one will ever hear…One day I’ll plant some roots and have a real brick and mortar home, but for now home is just a vibe.

Tell us the story of your hardest goodbye.

Well there’s a lot of goodbyes on tour where you’re lingering with your sleeping bag in hand at a stranger’s house and then you go to say bye and you’re not sure if you should high-five, fist bump, or hug, or any combo of the three. Those are the hardest cause they are so awkward sometimes…But for real, the hardest goodbyes are the ones that go unsaid! The ones where you wish you could have thanked someone or gotten some sort of closure but instead you cowardly ghost out of there and always wonder what the other person is thinking. I tried to document that in the song Always Leaving.


How has your music changed over time?

A lot! These days we are definitely making more electric music than acoustic, which is really fun cause we haven't gotten to do it much. But we’ll always make acoustic and folk tunes as well. My lyrics have changed for sure. While they used to be constantly literal and a bit angsty, they are now a little calmer, maybe a little more jaded, and at times way more abstract than before. I guess what’s really going on with our band creatively right now is broadening our range of sounds and styles, which might make for a few awkward years of a band puberty but I’m ok with that.

What’s next for Walter Etc?

We’ve got some more releases this year- a split with Diners in June and then our first full length as Walter Etc. in August! Then we hope to tour a bunch. For the first time maybe ever, we all have a pretty open schedule and we have been really committed to doing music together. The band is something we’ve always done but it’s been worked around school and work and life, but this year we are really in the music groove and it’s exciting for sure.

Amanda Glazer is a DJ and Online Content Director for Record Hospital