Man at Work: Robert Walter
It took Robert Walter’s 20th Congress 10 years to get back into the studio to record their latest LP, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to Get Thy Bearings. After almost a decade apart, Walter and company still sound like they’ve been jamming together for years.
Of course, that’s because they have been. While the Congress may have been out of session for some time, many of its members have toured together on and off throughout the interim. The 20th Congress also shares certain traits with Walter’s other primary band, The Greyboy Allstars—both treat their music as a gumbo, with elements of funk, jazz and soul thrown in to create a sound that is both fresh and decidedly old-school. However, the 20th Congress is truly Walter’s band, with songs that are always instrumental and, most important, written by him.
“I went through a period where I was writing a lot,” says Walter. “We were getting ready to make a Greyboy Allstars record, and some of the tunes made sense for that, but some of them didn’t. I thought, ‘It’s time for me to make another record of my own.’”
His friends were happy to help out and, given their rapport, it isn’t surprising that the recording process went smoothly. “We would just go into the studio in the morning and the band would tune. When we had it and we weren’t messing it up we’d record it. Very quick and dirty,” Walter explains. “It was very much in-the-room, a sort of raw style.”
With Walter’s renewed focus on 20th Congress, you can bet the band won’t be taking another prolonged hiatus in the near future. The group just wrapped up an extensive tour, and it looks like they’ll be back in the studio soon. “The last record was more tune-oriented, with shorter pieces,” Walter says. “Last time we went a long time between records. But I think the band feels really re-energized. Depending on what happens with the band on the road and stuff, I feel like I might want to do something that’s a little more stretched out and expansive.”