The Fall and Rise of The Walters

A Comeback Story and Westport Namesake

We first heard of The Walters last year, from lead guitarist Walter Kosner’s stepfather Bernard Deverin (who gave Walter piano lessons and is one of WLM’s Men of the Year).

Then this spring I heard The Walters performed their song, I Love You So, on the Jimmy Kimmel show*. The next day what do I hear on the radio? Yup. I Love You So. So the TikTok/streaming famous indie pop-band is now famous famous with a certified platinum hit single.

But here’s the best part… well, aside from the part about the band having a certified platinum hit single: not only did they write this song in 2014 - three years after they broke up, it’s also the first song they ever wrote.

I spoke with Walter, who grew up in Westport and now lives in Los Angeles, between concerts. His personality, like the band’s music, is affable, engaging, and just-happy-to-be-here.

Yes, Walter’s enjoying their newfound celebrity but this isn’t his first brush with fame. At 10 years old he played Si Crowell in Westport Country Playhouse’s production of Our Town starring Paul Newman. (His mother, Midge, is particularly proud of this.)

After graduating from Staples, Walter headed to DePaul University in Chicago to pursue film. In 2014, at age 22, his interest in music eclipsed his interest in school and he left to focus on the band he had formed with musician/friends Luke Olson (lead vocalist), MJ Tirabassi (rhythm guitarist/vocalist), Danny Wells (bassist), and drummer Charlie Ekhaus (drummer), and of course, Walter (guitarist).

The musicians named their band after Walter just because they liked “The Walters”. Which is pretty much how they make most every decision.

While still coalescing, they wrote I Love You So, exemplifying their Beach Boys-meet-Mac Demarco sound; breezy and carefree with the immediacy and authenticity of bedroom pop. With a strong melody and a lyric just edgy enough to keep it modern without compromising its character, the song immediately garnered a large local audience:

I hope you feel what I felt when you shattered my soul

'Cause you were cruel and I'm a fool

So please let me go

But I love you so (please let me go)

Moreover, the easily singable/scream-able chorus is irresistible to anyone who loves to belt a love song.

Then “things happened very quickly,” says Walter. Within one year they became Chicago's best band friend, delighting audiences with gigs pretty much any time, anywhere. Fans loved their wit, catchy music, and Luke’s dance moves which channel drunk-uncle-at-a-wedding. (Luke, the band’s party motivator, is a manifestation of his hair: reasonably clean-cut but otherwise chaotic.)

The same year they recorded their debut EP “Songs for Dads.” But are they really tunes for fathers? “No, we just thought it was funny,” explains Walter.

In 2015 they released their 2nd album, “Young Men” and fan favorite song, Hunk Beach, which has nothing to do with a hunk or a beach.

Buzzing from their burgeoning repute, the guys decided a two-to-three month band tour in a windowless passenger van was an excellent idea. So they hit the road.

Problem being, they had no clue about logistics and they didn’t have a manager. Result being, they botched the booking. Badly. Walter explains, “We’d play Utah, drive five and half hours to some motel, then drive twelve hours the next day to our next destination just in time for sound check. We’d do this over and over again.”

In 2017, still reeling from their ill-planned tour, Walter received a call which confirmed their rising popularity: an invitation to play a set at the prestigious Lollapalooza music festival, alongside esteemed bands such as Blink-182, Machine Gun Kelly, and Lorde.

Reviews praised their performance as “rocking the stage,” and “the show began the day on a high adrenaline rush… to songs off of The Walter’s first collection ‘Songs for Dads’ and a new unreleased track that received exciting vibes.”

Though their fan base was growing, the low pay, hard work, and stress they endured throughout the previous months made continuing the band untenable. They broke up.

In 2019, John C. Reilly (heard of him?) reached out to the diasporic Walters, curious to know when the heck they’d re-band. He and his boys are big fans - in fact, they performed Fancy Shoes, Walter’s favorite song, in a school talent show.

John wasn’t the impetus for The Walters comeback, but it didn’t hurt that a movie star was knocking at their proverbial door.

By 2021 they were older, mature enough to know they needed a manager, and wanted to make music. They reunited at the end of the summer, just in time to see I Love You So pick up speed and cyclone its way through TikTok.

The first song they recorded after reuniting was Million Little Problems. Today’s pop musicians love to sing about their mental struggles and personal challenges, and Problems siphons from this trend:

I try to tell myself I'm worth it

I try to build myself back up

But man life's been so uncertain

I guess I'll have to test my luck

But if you’re expecting an angst-y ballad then you clearly haven’t read this article carefully. It’s an upbeat, fun-loving listen with a visually stunning video.

The video is a prepster’s send-up of hip-hop decadence: instead of Rolies and bling we see Cartier clocks and vintage china. Instead of party-to-excess, The Walters are afflicted with sloppy table manners. And my favorite part: Walter on a stationary bike wearing an oxygen mask. It’s witty, makes little sense, and includes a special appearance by Flavor-Flav.

With their next first song written, they’ll record an album and embark upon an international tour, this time with hired people who know what they’re doing.

As Walter and I wrap up our interview, I ask if he’ll ever teach a class at Staples. He laughs, then admits, “Generally speaking, we aren’t very talented musicians. I lost my theory a long time ago, but I love writing songs. Sometimes it’s good to know you don’t need to be the best in your jazz band or your orchestra to be successful in music.”

*a great watch on YouTube.

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