(Photo: Andrew Hampp)
The Walkmen previewed tracks from upcoming album Heaven (out June 5 on Fat Possum/Bella Union) at a private concert held Wednesday night at New York's 8 Bond Street. The appearance was the kick-off of a 10-city event series sponsored by Diageo's new Captain Morgan Black spiced rum that continues Tuesday in Phoenix with buzz-band Poliça. The Roots drummer ?uestlove spun an old-school R&B-heavy set to warm up the crowd.
The event marks the first phase of a busy summer for the band, which will next appear as the headliners of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, a three-day festival at New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music curated by the National's Bryan and Aaron Dessner on May 3 before opening for Florence & The Machine on her summer U.S. tour. Slots on festivals like Sasquatch and Lollapalooza have also been confirmed.
With alternative rock having a moment at radio right now courtesy of bands like fun. and The Black Keys, Walkmen manager Jonathan Eshak of Mac Management is hopeful that the group is poised for a breakthrough with Heaven. "They wanted to make a bigger sounding record and definitely accomplished that without losing what makes them The Walkmen," he tells Backbeat. "It's rare to see a band that has gotten bigger and grown in stature over the last 10 years like they have. A lot of other bands rise very quickly and fall just as quickly, but they've slowly taken steps toward artist development and becoming a stronger band."
Though the Captain Morgan event is currently a one-off promotion for The Walkmen, Eshak is open to further partnerships with the brand or any other potential marketing partner. "It's understandable for artists to get involved in working with brands," he says. "Revenues are down and everybody needs the capital and funding to tour properly. We're always looking for like-minded brands to expand our message."
The Captain Morgan program is aimed at positioning the popular rum among a more influential, mixologist crowd outside the signature rum's younger, male-skewing 21-to-25-year-old target. The new target will skew more towards 25-to-34-year-olds, per Tom Herbst, Diageo's director of rums marketing, accompanied by a new TV campaign directed by Academy Award nominee Todd Field ("In The Bedroom," "Little Children.") The three spots, by ad agency Anomaly, play up the campaign's tagline "Step Into the Black" and mark the return of actor Josh Burrow as the Captain. A 60-second clip features Hanni El Khatib's "You Rascal You" as its soundtrack.
"In the first installment, Captain Morgan spots a young woman - not just any woman though, there's something special about this one," Field tells Billboard via email. "He decides that it is his duty to free her from a night, if not an entire life, of respectable tedium by introducing her to this intriguing, much more exciting world, and ultimately inviting her to 'Step into the Black.'"