In 2015, when Mike McCready, Duff McKagan, and Barrett Martin officially formed the Levee Walkers, it could be said that the band really formed about 25 years ago. That’s when Pearl Jam guitarist Mike first saw Duff playing bass in Guns & Roses, and around the same time, Mike saw Barrett playing drums in the Screaming Trees. Musical ideas began to form with all three men, like shadows that move across the landscape yet cannot be defined. Someday though, the shadows would merge.
In 1994, after years of work touring in their respective bands, Mike and Barrett formed the dark blues quartet Mad Season, and the following year, in 1995, Mike contributed guitar to the Screaming Trees vaunted “Dust” album. Around 1997 Barrett finally met Duff in Los Angeles, and the drummer and bassist tried to form their own band, an unnamed project that never made it out of Duff’s basement in the Hollywood Hills. However in 2012, Barrett and Duff would finally form their own band, the dirty blues themed Walking Papers, based in Seattle. Mike would appear on that album too, contributing some guitar solos to the growing plotline.
Over the decades, the three men battled their own phantoms, burying a few friends along the way, until they emerged with clear hearts and minds, a seasoned understanding of music and the nature of life and death, and perhaps most importantly, the art of writing a great song, the most sacred tenant in their codex. As one can clearly see, a musical tapestry was being woven, and its texture was rich, varied, and embedded with soul.
In 2014, the three would unite to play as Mad Season for one historic show with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell on vocals and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra providing the majestic soundtrack to the hallowed songs of Mad Season. Finally in 2015, after 25 years of slow and deliberate evolution, the three have merged to form the Levee Walkers. Their first two songs feature Jaz Coleman on vocals, he from the legendary British band Killing Joke, a band that was highly influential on the three when they were young men absorbing the hardest and edgiest music of the 1980s and 90s. Killing Joke represented what the three wanted from a band – a conscious and powerful singer-lyricist, a ferocious musical delivery, and a sound that could not be imitated because it was so unique unto itself.
But Jaz is just the first in a handful of select singers who will be putting words and voice to the music of the Levee Walkers. More walkers are coming, as they emerge from the shadows.
A Levee Walker, by the way, is a phantom that is occasionally seen walking across the tops of levees in the middle of the night. Legend says they are the ghosts of men who died during the construction of the levees, others say they are ghosts looking for their lost lovers, and others say the apparitions are simply a flash of light and fog which can plays tricks on the mind when you are lost in the mysterious waterways of the Deep American South.
The Levee Walkers are a Seattle band to be sure, but their roots are firmly dug into the foundational music of blues, rock, and punk, reinterpreted through the filter of the Pacific Northwest. To become a Levee Walker you must have at least 25 years of musical experience, survived battles with the forces of darkness, and perhaps even kissed death on the cheek. More importantly, there must exist a deep reverence for the music of your comrades, and the commitment they made to this hardest of paths. If you have that kind of grit, then you can listen to music with us, walk with us, and grow with us. And like a Levee Walking phantom, this band will appear, disappear, and reappear again, as the musical inspiration suits us.
Listen and Buy
Levee Walkers featuring Raquel Sofia
El Viento / Alma
Levee Walkers featuring Jaz Coleman
Freedom Song / Tears for the West