Pierce McGarry of Walter TV, On The Four Times He Almost Died While Touring
On his VHS aesthetic and that one time the drummer did foreskin tricks for R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe.
Calling Walter TV the doppelgänger to the Mac Demarco Band isn’t a far-off conclusion. Both bands share the same members (Joseph McMurray, Pierce McGarry and Mac Demarco); Pierce and Mac play bass in each other’s band, while the other assumes frontman duty. But imagine a band so bizarre that Mac DeMarco acts as the straight man. Walter TV’s skew-whiff, acid-fried behaviour is even more peculiar than Demarco’s hobo prankster persona. In fact, the warped, VHS-style music videos that have helped boost Mac’s reputation as an eccentric weirdo were actually directed by Pierce McGarry. Over the last couple of years, Mac has won over the indie community with a big thanks to his bandmates. Now, it’s time for Walter TV to do the same.
Two years after releasing their first album, Appetite, on cassette via Water Records, the band is giving it a proper reissue on vinyl and CD through the Sinderlyn label. Originally formed in Vancouver, the band relocated to Montreal to shack up with Mac. As Mac’s gap-toothed star rose, McGarry and McMurray were along for the ride playing bass and drums all over the world. But Walter TV always existed, performing gigs here and there, and earning their own fan base that quickly turned the original run of Appetite into a collector’s item.
With a whole slew of releases (more albums, video compilations and zany music videos) and a proper tour on the docket, McGarry took some time to discuss all the times he’s nearly died on tour, Mac Demarco’s toilet habits and a story about Michael Stipe filming a friend’s foreskin magic tricks in Berlin.
Noisey: You took the band’s name from a Makeout Videotape song. What is the origin of the name “Walter TV”?
Pierce McGarry: No we didn't. Mac used the name for a song so he could "get more hits on MySpace" by association. What a piece of trash.
I'm sure some people will assume Walter TV is a new band, but you've been around for a while now. You originally released Appetite in 2012. What made you want to reissue it instead of making a new album?
Ha ha. We have two new albums in the can, but the record label we signed to wanted to start with the reissue. I'm glad it’s coming out on vinyl though. We have to wait in line to release new stuff.
Speaking of a new album, there is apparently one called Blessed. What can you tell us about it?
When we first started jamming like crazy, we'd make up new material all the time and amassed a big catalog of unrecorded material . Now we just get to pick out of a list of songs and choose which ones we think would fit together on an album. Some of them are already recorded, some not, some on a tape, and some on computer. It becomes more of an editing project or a collage piece for our albums. Blessed has a mix of new songs no one’s really heard and old stuff that people would've heard us play a thousand times back when we lived in Vancouver.
Mac is a part-time member of Walter TV. Is it fun being in charge of him when you're doing your band, and give him a taste of his own medicine?
Nope. It's not like Walter TV is "my band," it's just a band and he's a good friend and radical bass player. We play as a group, no boss.
Some websites call Walter TV "Mac's other band." How do you feel about that?
Technically that is true, but for me it is just a glimpse into a newer type of mentality towards immediacy, and having poor work ethic. It's a sign of the times: half a story with no real follow-up. It's like a FOX News approach, without an agenda. For anyone who doesn't care about our band including for some reason the journalists writing about us, we are just "Mac's other band."
You put Walter TV on hold to tour with Mac the last couple of years. Do you see yourself taking a break from his band to do more Walter TV?
We haven't really been on hold, just slower at tours and new content. It's hard to balance both bands because we tour so much with Mac, but we still play shows at least two or three times a month, and luckily a lot of those shows are all around the world because of Mac. I think both bands work well together and it would be difficult to take a break from either.
Alex Calder once told me that being in a band with Mac had its downsides. Like waking up to his butt right in your face. What is the most memorable moment you've had being on tour with Mac?
As far as a downside? I guess a pet peeve of mine (usually only when in a tiny motel room with him and nowhere to go) is how Mac refuses to close the door while he shits. He really likes to talk while he's doing it. It is how you say, cool?
How many times would you say you almost died on tour?
Definitely at least four times:
Once driving through a full blown mountainous whiteout blizzard in the Rockies on the way from Edmonton to Vancouver, with broken windshield wipers, having to wrap our feet up with plastic bags and sweaters because we had no heat, skidding from side to side down the hill between semi-trucks, with Mac driving screaming in horror and sending chills down everyone's spine "CAN YOU SEE ANYTHING?"
Once when we had a tire blow out in the desert while I was driving seven unseat-belted passengers who were all splayed out trying to sleep in a ’60s camper van, and we skid over four lanes of traffic (also semi-trucks) going both ways and came to a stop on the side of the desert. My friend Conor immediately took a shit out in the sand.
Once Mac and I were driving through the night and everyone else was passed out, at around three or four in the morning, and the only other car we had seen for miles pulled up beside us. It was three gnarly looking dudes that just stared at us for over half an hour, waiting to make some kind of move, then another car came by and they left. For some reason it was so creepy, threatening, and weird. Not close enough to death?
Once last time, I can remember was, we were sleeping in a shitty motel in meth capital USA, California, we heard an old disabled woman screaming at her very old feeble husband about how "it has to get done tonight" and "we're fucked if you don't." Followed by some extremely roided-out and tattooed dudes and their strange "lovers" moving into the room beside us. They tried to break into our room, and van, repeatedly, including trying to climb through our tiny window. That was a fun night!
I read there is a VHS compilation you've been working on. What does that consist of and when will it be out?
There are a few in the works right now I suppose. Who knows! One was supposed to come out in 1997 and the other was 2001, so I guess this year? Oh god! Keep your ears to the train tracks.
You were interviewed by Vice about making Mac's videos. How important are making videos for your music?
Videos are my main gig. They're my favourite thing to do. Doing them for my own music feels kinda ego maniacal and weird. I'm not really into it. The few I have done for us were just out of necessity because no one else was offering.
The lo-fi, VHS tape look has been copied a lot lately. How do you feel about that? And do you see yourself trying more of a hi-def look?
I don't care about people using VHS. It's my favourite medium because it is way more malleable in the editing process than anything hi-def. HD is kinda stiff, and still growing fast as a medium, which gives it a bit of a date stamp yearly. VHS has this kind of "when was this made?" vibe. If I got offered to shoot the prequel to Crank, I would go HD for sure.
In the video for “Puka Shell Necklace” you all do your best fake surfing. How good are you guys at real surfing?
We are all really dope ass body surfers, for real. I have the photos to prove it. No surfing though bro, that's why we used the green screen. You feel me?
You mostly cast your friends on film. What was the most messed up thing you've made them do?
They all usually get tortured in some way or another during the filming, mostly our drummer Joe. But one time I had this scene where this thumb-sized fetus falls out of my friend’s foreskin and magically turns into a full-sized fetus. That comes from a trick he likes to do at parties where he fills up his extremely elastic foreskin with goodies and lets them fall out one by one. Once he did it (this is no word of a lie, I swear) in Berlin, for none other than, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe. Michael insisted that he did it for him so he could take a video of it. He wound up putting in [to quote him]: "a chunk of a carrot, some dice, a hanger with a leather jacket on it and an unbroken egg. Instead of just pulling the egg out I cracked it inside my foreskin and let it ooze out. Michael was extremely enthusiastic.”
What can you tell me about the time you visited the Full House house in San Francisco?
We drank 40s on the steps where they filmed the intro, played in the field and acted like we were Uncle Jesse across the street in that park. Then we noticed that Aleister Crowley’s house was facing their house and a few friends rocked out to his zone, and did some bowing and praising?
You recently moved to Los Angeles. What would you say is the most disturbing thing you’ve seen since you moved there? How close do you live to any celebrities?
I usually walk by someone's shit-in clothing they left on the side of the street. Luckily I haven't seen or been a part of anything too crazy. But as for the celebrities? I live near this fancy vegan spot called Sage, and let’s just say it's shit-crammed with C-listers, all the way to top of the game A-listers. I've seen one of the female doctors from the later seasons of ER, and American Beauty’s Mena Suvari. Now that’s cool!
Cam Lindsay has seen three C-list celebrities on his way to work today - @yasdnilmac