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Rocking, Rolling and Picking up the Kids with Hamilton Leithauser

There's no hypocrisy in being louder than your kids when you're a rock star.

fatherly logo Fatherly Questionnaire

On the cover of the band’s 2012 album Heaven, there’s a picture of the members of The Walkmen surrounded by their multitude of squirmingly cute children. It isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a rock band but, then again, The Walkmen didn’t make their name with the expected. That album fell on the Walkmen’s tenth anniversary and they broke up shortly after (Yoko’ed, to some minor degree anyway, by their spawn).

But frontman Hamilton Leithauser continues to perform and tour. His latest album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine, made with former Vampire Weekender Rostam, came out last year and Leithauser is currently on tour. He is a rock star and he is a dad and he says those twin vocations have become irreducibly intertwined.

“I don’t really separate the two,” he laughs. “I spend so much time carting little kids around and I also spend so much time working on music that it just blends into one very long day.”

Leithauser answered the Fatherly Questionnaire from the road.

What is your name?
Hamilton Leithauser.

What’s your occupation?
Musician and babysitter.

How old are you?
I am 39.

How old are your children?
I have two daughters, ages six and three.

What are their names?
Georgiana and Cokie.

Are they named after anyone in particular?
Georgiana is named after her mother’s great-aunt. My wife just started calling Cokie Cokie before she was born and it stuck.

Do you have any cute nicknames for your kids?
George and Coke.

And what do they call you?
Just ‘Dad.’

How often are you able to see your family?
A lot.  I really get to spend a lot of time with the little kid and it’s one of the best parts of my job.  I have friends that have day jobs and don’t get home until 9 p.m. at night. Their kids are at a playgroup or something like that, all day every day. So, I’m really lucky for that.

How would you describe yourself as a father in three words?
Overwhelmed. Happy. Busy.

How would you describe your own father in three words?
Calm. Steady. Heavy.

What are your weaknesses as a father?
My kids run all over me. They just beat me down and they know how to do it perfectly. They know when to start bugging me and at what volume and what frequency and the exact amount of persistence they need to get a cookie or get the phone so they can watch stupid YouTube videos.

What is your biggest regret as a father?
I wish that they were taking more foreign language. We haven’t really gotten into that yet, I feel like we’re missing that window where kids can learn at the same rate.

What is your favorite activity to do with your children?
I like taking them out to dinner, just the three of us. It’s really unfair, but the truth is that they behave much better when it’s just me and the two of them than when their mother is around. I take them into Manhattan and we go out to dinner at cheap places.

What has been the moment you’ve been most proud of as a parent and why?
I don’t have a good answer, I have to think about that one.

What heirloom did your father give to you, if any?
I have one of his harmonicas. My dad played in a band in the sixties and I just started playing the harmonica live again so I play his. He kept it in pristine condition for probably 55 years and I just destroyed it in two weeks. It just doesn’t work and it looks like it’s been underwater for 10 years. But it’s his and I have it.

Is there a particular heirloom that you want to leave for your children?
The only thing I think they really want is my iPhone.

What’s the “Dad special” for dinner?
In the fall, my older one gets really into soup, we make soup together. We’ve been pretty good at it. I’d say our signature dish is probably chili.

Hamilton’s daughters, Georgiana and Cokie, in the studio at SiriusXM

Are you religious, and are you raising your children in that tradition?
I was raised Episcopalian, which means go to church twice a year, it’s a strictly social affair, and you have a Bloody Mary as soon as possible after church. I’m not raising my kids with any religion. I don’t know how I feel about it, to be honest.  That’s one of the big things that I haven’t worked out yet, really, and time is ticking away. They ask, and I don’t have good answers.

What’s a mistake you made growing up that you want to ensure your children don’t repeat?
Laziness, mostly laziness, lack of interest in any accomplishment. That really comes with drugs and alcohol. I hope that bad stuff isn’t so taboo for my daughters and maybe loses its intrigue at an early age for them. That’s my hope. It’s naïve and it’s so impossible, but it’s my hope.

How do you make sure that your daughters know you love them?
The older one doesn’t need any reassuring. The younger one doesn’t really care about me very much, so I prefer to tell her. She kind of just wants me to give her a phone and a cookie and then kind of buzz off. I’m still working on that connection.