For Austin musician Walker Lukens, Float Fest was basically in his backyard. And with headliners like Zedd, Cage the Elephant and MGMT on the bill, we’d say it was a pretty sweet gig.
This year’s fest -- which boasts itself as the world’s only festival to combine the Central Texas tradition of tubing with music and camping -- promised to be the weirdest, wildest and wettest yet. Amid all the sweltering chaos, Lukens took some time to cool off with KVUE and discuss his Austin roots and his music he described as “blue-eyed soul from the future.”
“Austin is where I live,” said Lukens. “I like getting to use it as a backdrop for my music. It’s where my songs are inspired so it just seems natural.”
An Austin resident for about five years, he’s had plenty of time to find his favorite haunts, some of which you may find in his eccentric music videos.
Austin's Walker Lukens takes the stage at Float Fest 2017
In the video for his hit single “Every Night,” Lukens is video chatting with a girl as the two cause a commotion across Austin -- hitting up spots like Lucy In Disguise, Rudy’s, Empire Control Room and a pedicab driver’s rear end (you’ll have to watch the video for that one).
“Music stimulates my visual imagination, so a lot of times those ideas come really quickly,” he said. “So with the FaceTime thing, I was going through this period of video chatting with my nieces and nephews, and my girlfriend, at the time, traveled a lot and we would FaceTime. It was just a part of my life and it was natural to put it in a video.”
Perhaps thanks to those mischievous scenes, “Every Night” has now been streamed online more than a million times, according to Lukens’ publicity team. When asked how he felt about all those listeners, Lukens remained humble.
“I think it’s so hard to measure the success of a song these days just because it used to be that people would buy the record,” Lukens said. “It does feel kind of validating though.”
Lukens and his band, The Side Arms, hold a special place for that song not just because it has reached so many listeners, but because it’s the first song he recorded with Jim Eno of the legendary Austin band Spoon.
“Me and Jim had a mutual friend and she said that he had ‘Shazammed’ my music off the radio station KUTX, and she said ‘Hey, Jim’s been listening to your music. I’m sitting at Club de Ville -- which is now Cheer Up Charlie’s -- you should come down here if you’re out,’” Lukens recalled.
Luckily enough, Lukens had just finished up a show down the road and walked right on over. They had a little chat, and the next thing he knew Eno was inviting him to his Austin studio, Public Hi-Fi, where Eno helped record and engineer the record, “Aint Got a Reason,” from start to finish.
And it was all thanks to radio.
“It’s pretty cool living in Austin,” Lukens said. “If there’s a little buzz about you, the radio will jump on board, which is not the case anywhere else.”
Since hitting the airwaves and recording with Eno, Lukens has played several shows and festivals, including ACL, and he was even invited to play at Spoon’s album release party at SXSW.
In his second time performing at Float Fest, he shared the stage with major acts like Passion Pit, Mac Miller and Weezer, who he said he was most excited to see perform again.
As for floating the river at Float Fest, he said he didn’t partake.
“But I’m definitely going to jump in that river after I play at 4 [p.m.],” Lukens said. “We’re playing at the hottest time of the day!”
Lukens said he’ll have the rest of the summer to cool down as he and "The Side Arms" head back to the studio to record their next full-length album.