Nearly 40 years ago, the geographer Jean Gottmann documented the rise of the great megalopolis of Bos-Wash – the Boston-New York-Washington corridor – as a massive new kind of geographic form. My own research (PDF) has used satellite imagery to plot the rise of mega-regions – integrated systems of cities and their suburbs – across the globe. The world’s 40 largest mega-regions produce two-thirds of all economic output and nine in 10 of the world’s innovations. With their massive scale and market size, mega-regions are becoming a key economic and social organizing unit of our time.
But mega-regions are not only important to markets, economics, and technology, now it appears they are important to music as well. Case in point, the indie-rock band The Walkmen whose newest single was recently released. Half the band live in New York, half live in Philadelphia. They maintain recording space in both places, and recorded their upcoming album from BOTH studios. Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser described the logistics of their arrangement to Pitchfork in February:
Pitchfork: Where are you recording?
HL: We did two sessions. We’re in the middle of one at Gigantic, which is in Tribeca. And we have a little bit of our equipment left from our studio that we keep in [guitarist] Paul [Maroon]’s house in Philadelphia. We record some stuff there. We just started practicing at this guy Alec [Ounsworth]’s house. He’s in that band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and he has a little studio that he has set up. That’s our new practice studio because we go down there half the time. Three of our dudes live in Philadelphia. So we just recorded some stuff ourselves. He went away on tour, and he let us use his recording equipment, so we did seven songs at his house.
Pitchfork: Does it make it more difficult to get stuff done when three of your members live in another city?
HL: No, honestly. It’s really about the same. We don’t need to get everybody together that often. Twice a week [bassist] Walt [Martin] and I go down there, and Paul usually comes up on Thursday or something like that. I used to live uptown near our studio, but [drummer] Matt [Barrick] and [keyboardist] Pete [Bauer] used to live down in Brooklyn. There would be days where it would take as long to get from Brooklyn up to Harlem as it does to get from Philadelphia to New York.
While you’re at it: Have a listen to the band’s new single, “Stranded.”
The Walkmen aren’t the only band to make use of the mega-region. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is also based in both Philadelphia and New York. The Roots, meanwhile, commute from their home base in Philadelphia to their nightly gig as Jimmy Fallon’s house band.