The Walkabouts - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
Walkabouts have the distinction of being the first non-grunge act signed to the Sub Pop label, home and arguably founder of the entire grunge movement. Unfortunately, while fellow Sub Pop alums like Nirvana and Soundgarden were dominating the college charts throughout the early 90’s, Walkabouts settled comfortably into the roster’s “criminally ignored” category. Walkabouts steadfastly churned out melancholy Americana-tinged folk that never really caught on in the United States. Fortunately for the band, Europe was going ga-ga over their alt-country sound and Walkabouts settled for releasing most of their mid-90’s material exclusively in Euope.
Throughout the years Walkabouts have undergone numerous lineup changes but the core of the band has always remained vocalist/guitarist Chris Eckman and vocalist/guitarist Carla Torgerson. The pair met in 1983 while working at an Alaskan fish canary during a college summer break. A romance quickly ensued and after relocating to their native city of Seattle, Washington they formed Walkabouts with Eckman’s brothers Curt on bass and Grant on drums. Taking their name from Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 film Walkabouts, the quartet set about crafting a unique blend of alternative rock meets Americana story songs. The band issued its debut EP, 22 Disasters (Necessity) in 1985 to a warm reception but Walkabouts hit a snag after finishing its debut full-length, Weights and Rivers. Scheduled for a 1987 release, the album was indefinitely shelved for unknown reasons and Walkabouts decided to cut its losses by recording an entirely different full-length album. See Beautiful Rattlesnake Garden (High Llama) appeared in 1988 to little fanfare but the album did catch the attention of local indie label Sub Pop Records, who signed the band later that year. By this time, both Curt and Grant Eckman had exited the group and were replaced by drummer Teri Moeller and bassist Michael Wells, along with multi-instrumentalist Glen Slater.
Walkabouts released two full-length albums for Sub Pop, Cataract (1989) and Scavenger (1990), before being dropped from the label’s US roster. However, the band did manage to keep their contract with the Sub Pop international subsidiary Glitterhouse and released 7 albums as European-only releases in just three years (although three of those albums were released as the side project Chris & Carla) during the mid-90’s. When the alt-country movement of the late 90’s began to gather steam, many of the band’s European-only releases were finally released in their native country. Eckman and Torgerso continue to write and record in various incarnations with the latest Walkabouts release, Acetylene (Glitterhouse) appearing in 2005.