Thanks to their 7-year-old song “I Love You So,” newly re-minted indie pop band The Walters are rocketing into the stratosphere. Vocalist Luke Olson sits down with Atwood Magazine to talk all about that wild ride.
Stream: “I Love You So” – The Walters
It’s a comfort to know we made something that is resonating with so many people. You don’t always get another shot like that in your life as an artist.
Second chances are rare.
For every beloved band that reunites for one more go, hundreds of others litter history’s roadside. Those of us who never caught Sonic Youth, the White Stripes, or even One Direction in their prime will probably go to our graves never having experienced their unique slices of the zeitgeist. Fans of The Walters though, can’t relate – at least, not anymore.
Back in 2017, the Chicago indie quartet comprised of Luke Olson (lead vocals), Walter Kosner (lead guitar), MJ Tirabassi (rhythm guitar and vocals), Danny Wells (bass), and Charlie Ekhaus (drums) seemed primed to tear a hole in the culture. They embarked on their first national tour culminating in a set at Lollapalooza and their 2014 single “I Love You So” (off their Songs for Dads EP) cashed in over 100 million streams ahead of a highly anticipated second album. Then, the band dissolved. Via an abrupt Facebook post, the band announced that they had no plans to continue making music as The Walters.
To hear Olson describe it, burnout played a huge role. “We were in our early 20s,” he explains. “We were self-managed and putting a lot on our plate… [and] weren’t mature enough to really realize what the gravity of this band was.” According to him, The Walters did have tentative plans to reassemble in the future although the timeline seemed murky.
In the past few years, the wildly popular social media app has spun a web of kaleidoscopic chaos that would make Dr. Ian Malcolm salivate. Call it luck, serendipity, or a wondrous cosmic accident, but whatever the case, users couldn’t get enough of “I Love You So.” The Walters’ lingering hit found new and spectacular life to the tune of over 500 million creates on the platform last year and landing the #25 spot (and counting) on the Spotify Global Top 50 chart. It was the perfect spark to raise the band like a phoenix from the ashes.
It’s cool to see the song having this moment. It took a band that was not together, and it really accelerated our plans to come back and make music with one another again.
What’s the secret sauce? If you knew, chances are you would become very rich, very fast. TikTok has democratized music in an unprecedented way, even in a streaming era already defined by crumbling barriers between artists and listeners. There are methods to game the system to get your song into feeds and ear canals all over the world, but a sure-fire method is the new Holy Grail of the Internet.
In The Walters’ case, call it a dash of luck and generous helping of old-fashioned universal emotion. “I Love You So” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor does it try to. Instead, it layers dreamy guitars, bedroom pop harmonies, and lush instrumentation onto an ever-relatable message of being adrift in post-breakup haze.
I just need someone in my life to give it structure
To handle all the selfish ways I’d spend my time without her
You’re everything I want, but I can’t deal with all your lovers
You’re saying I’m the one, but it’s your actions that speak louder
Whatever the reason, Olson and the gang are beyond grateful that the stars aligned in their favor. “It’s a comfort to know we made something that is resonating with so many people,” he expresses. “You don’t always get another shot like that in your life as an artist. You can try different projects and that’s great. But once you get something that works, you really want it.”
As the world becomes reacquainted with The Walters, the band see it not just as an opportunity to revive their sound, but to give their relationship another shot. “We could pick and point all the little instances that went wrong,” says Olson. “But for us to move forward, to make good on this second chance, we had to leave it in the past.”
In a way, their own trajectory mirrors that of the song that brought them back together. While the narrator of “I Love You So” grasps for romantic love, it’s the scaffolding of the band itself that gives each of them that structure they have been yearning for. Sometimes it is not the person we take to bed, but the one who stands beside us day after day chasing down the same dream, who ends up being — to paraphrase Billy Mack — the f*cking love of our lives.
Love like that isn’t pretty, and it certainly isn’t as much fun to sing about, but it’s the love that surrounds us the most, going unacknowledged and unappreciated as we pursue the more glamorous objects of our affection. It’s the love that makes the wheels turn and the horizon look clearer. Without it, life wouldn’t be life. The past four years have taught Olson and the gang to appreciate that fact. “Everybody at one point or another has something that they take for granted, and I think that we were an example of that,” he admits. But with “I Love You So” kickstarting their second act, they do not plan on making the same mistakes twice.
Look for The Walters to reign supreme in 2022.
As their breakout hit makes its waves on Top 40 radio and the band gear up for their first performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! this Thursday, it’s all just a taste of what they have in store. Through TikTok serendipity they arrived, and Olson says they will not waste a second.
Coming back, it’s kind of fun. Throw me in the game and I’ll take my best swing at it.
Atwood Magazine got a chance to speak with Luke Olson of The Walters all about “I Love You So,” their unexpected reunion, and finding where art and technology intersect. Check out what he had to say below!
Stream: “I Love You So” – The Walters
A CONVERSATION WITH THE WALTERS
Luke Olson: Obviously it’s amazing to see that a song we made years ago get that global bump. It was the first song we ever made together and we’ve always been really proud of it. And now, out of frickin nowhere, we just woke up one day and our lives have completely changed. It’s been crazy.
What do you attribute to the song's renewed success? Or is it even possible to finger on it?
Luke Olson: First, I gotta give a big shoutout to TikTok. It’s become the place to be over the past few years and you never know when it’ll start working in your favor.
Then of course the message of the song is universal, it’s simple. Like the first line says, “I just need someone in my life to give it structure.” I think on a fundamental human level we’re all looking for structure. It still rings true after so much time.
There's definitely this interplay between the randomness and chaos on TikTok and serendipity. But I also think that songs have to resonate first to go that extra mile.
Luke Olson: Right. This song has been out for seven years. And before TikTok it still racked up 100 million streams on Spotify with us as an indie band. So, it wasn’t like we hadn’t had success with this song. It’s been like our life force really. It’s put food on our plate. So, it’s cool to see it having these moments, and this has just been the biggest moment so far. It took a band that was not together, and it really accelerated our plans to come back and make music with one another again. It’s a comfort to know we made something that is resonating with so many people. You don’t always get another shot like that in your life as an artist. You can try different projects and that’s great. But once you get something that works, you really want it.
Let's go back a little bit. You called it quits in 2017 after gathering what looked like quite a bit of momentum. You had just finished a national tour and performed at Lollapalooza. What happened to bring things to such a sudden halt?
Luke Olson: You know, man, we were in our early 20s. We were self-managed and putting a lot on our plate. And you top that with just growing up. So that all compounded, we were touring a lot, and we weren’t mature enough to really realize what the gravity of this band was. We didn’t have 10 million Spotify listeners at that time. It was different.
I feel like all the disagreements had to just settle. We could pick and point all the little instances that went wrong. But for us to move forward, to make good on this second chance, we had to leave it in the past. Everybody at one point or another has something that they take for granted. And I think that we were an example of that.
You mentioned that you already had plans to reunite, and they were accelerated by this song. What was that process like? Can you take me on a little bit of a journey of how you started coming back together?
Luke Olson: Well, we were each doing our own projects for a few years. I had my own thing and the guys were in Corduroy. There wasn’t a sense of urgency. We figured when the time was right, we’d know – as hard as it was these last however many years to not have the Walters as a part of my life. It was necessary. We had to accept each other for who we are. This is the band.
Sometimes you get involved in business with people and it’s like, “Oh, shit! You’re gonna have to be my best friend.” In all walks of life, you could be paired with somebody who you makes you kick at times. Historically that’s why bands break up.
It's only been four years and yet, you're reemerging in a music industry that's drastically different. What’s it like coming back to a world seemingly dominated by the influence of apps like TikTok?
Two Feet: It’s cool, man. I think you just have to like play the game at some point. You could be that artist who thinks they’re so cool because they’re not going any new thing or new trend. Think about someone like John Mayer. He’s done so much that he doesn’t need to be on TikTok, but he is. Use the tools. Use the current culture to your benefit. Coming back, it’s kind of fun. Throw me in the game and I’ll take my best swing at it.
We had to accept each other for who we are. This is the band.
Besides using these new tools, do you think that they're going to affect the way that you collaborate together artistically?
Luke Olson: We’re going pick up where we left off, making songs that people love about the Walters. We’re not writing anything for TikTok. We already made that song. It was a song that connects that was made at a time before these apps were even around. We’re coming back to make the best music we’ve ever made. We had a lot of songs that have been sitting around that are great Walter songs and we’re not trying to change our sound to what is current. What people love about the Walters music is what we’re gonna try to keep creating.
This time around, you signed with my friends over at Warner. Why did you decide to go with a major label this time?
Luke Olson: We want this band to really excel to the next level. We need that structure. We need a powerhouse that’s dealt with some of the best bands that we all love. For us that choice was easy. All our favorite bands that inspired us have come from Warner, the California sun. It’d be a lot different if we were trying to do it all ourselves, and I don’t think it would work. So having them behind us has made us really excited about the future.
Overall, what has the experience of finding new life as a band taught you?
Luke Olson: It’s taught me patience and perseverance. The last four years that the Walters weren’t together, I couldn’t just sit on the couch. I had to try to start something and keep going. And I think the more perseverant you are, the more you can deal with the curveballs that life throws you.
And then there’s that patience. For four years, I would think about the Walters every day. I would be doing something, and I would think about the guys and about time passing. You have to appreciate it and trust that time will eventually be on your side.
The Walters is something that we made in our early 20s. And it can be something that takes care of our families now. As a man, I’m trying to have a family. I’m trying to do it the right way. This band coming back has been a weight off my back personally. I can’t tell you how much happier I’ve been feeling.
What is up next for the band? You're here. You've arrived a second time. What can we expect?
Luke Olson: Right now, I’m sitting outside of Walter’s house. And before I got on this call, we were writing the next song. We have an EP that is going to be coming along here in the coming months. New music and then once that’s done, and hopefully God willing with COVID, we’ll get to tour the whole world.
Awesome. Well, I think that's it. Thanks for taking me on this little journey.
Luke Olson: Thanks, Anthony. That’s my brother’s name. And he’s like my best friend. It’s always good to hear from an Anthony.
Yeah, we're all good people. So I've heard.
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📸 © Elena Kulikova
:: The Walters ::