Walter Sickert & The ARmy of BRoken TOys are the spinners of a charming, demented fairy tale that gathers new characters all the time. At the heart of the colorful fantasy is Walter Sickert, the writer, ringleader and conjurer.The name of the band came to Walter in a dream. He had been living in a haunted barn in the woods of New Hampshire and would often record very late at night. During one of these sessions on a mid-winter’s eve, he fell asleep curled under a pile of broken porcelain dolls. The dolls kept him warm and infiltrated his dream, marching as a musical army and finishing the recording he was working on, much like the elves in the tale of the shoemaker. Upon waking Walter realized that the song he had been working on was indeed finished and embarked on a journey to find real life broken toys to join him in his musical alchemy.
The first to join The ARmy of BRoken TOys was Edrie, an accordionist from a North Dakota farm. The two, brought together initially by sadness were soon making music so powerful that more broken toys flocked to them. They brought talent of all shapes and sizes: Rachel Jayson, a conservatory-trained violinist who conducts several orchestras; Meff, a playwright and mandolin player, is always mentally writing the next play; jojo, the Burlesque Poetess, writes poetry and teaches ukulele at the Passim School of music; TJ, the gravel-voiced punk and hardcore drummer; and Mike Leggio whose upright bass has taken him all over the world. Add to this a troop of thirty-six performance artists who bring contortion, burlesque, and aerial performance to The ARmy of BRoken TOys’ arsenal.
Walter lives as a conduit for art of any kind. Music, illustration, video – his ideas are like Jack’s magic beans – fast-growing and irresistible. “Walter is one of the most prolific and easily flowing artists that I’ve ever worked with,” Rachel Jayson says of his astounding output. “Songs just kind of pour out of his face and his body.” The ARmy of BRoken TOys takes Walter’s handiwork and filters it, developing music that is influenced by everyone. The results have been described as a “Dada-esque circus carnival run amuck,” by Boston Survival Guide.
While Walter Sickert & the ARmy of BRoken TOys can create mayhem anywhere, they’ve found the perfect workplace to hone their craft. The WIREFOREST sits atop a steep hill overlooking the city and the ocean. “The studio where Walter makes his art, is painted entirely black and when the lights are off the room seems to expand outwards as if you were in the middle of a black hole,” says Edrie of the space. The band has recorded countless hours of music in the WIREFOREST’s upstairs studio.
It was therefore important, when the band chose to record their latest album, Soft Time Traveler (due out April 16) outside their home studio, to find a place with a similar spirit. Enter Watch City Studios in Waltham, MA, where Walter and the rest of the BRoken TOys found a homey collection of odd antiques including a functioning wax cylinder player and vintage victorian embalming paraphernalia. “It was exactly like walking into a museum of the inside of Walter’s head,” says Edrie. “With the added benefit of the same soundboard that Thriller was recorded on.” The album is frenetic yet melodic, and sounds like an exorcism by Lewis Carroll.
Whether live or in album form, Walter Sickert & the ARmy of BRoken TOys will transport you to a realm where imagination rules, and sound is alive. You may not sleep tight, but your dreams will be like none you’ve ever experienced.
Praise for Walter Sickert & The ARmy of BRoken TOys:
“Ringleaders Sickert and co-singer/accordionist Edrie come across like a pirate and an exotic marionette, respectively, and the music, hinged to Sickert’s remarkably grizzled voice, draws from the bloodthirsty side of folk and cabaret.”
–Brett Milano – Boston Phoenix
“This “steamcrunk” ensemble incorporates visual performance art with a unique rock, classical, and blues sound that pairs perfectly with Sickert’s powerful raspy voice. And they sure as hell know how to host a party”
–Christina Lacoste – Weekly Dig
On “Droog and Devotchka”: “The romantic drunkenness of Walter Sickert’s voice pushes against the meter, and moreover, I love this tasty arrangement from the Army, which includes the sweetest little fiddle/mandolin hooks I ever did hear.”
–Jonathan Donaldson – Boston.com – Inbound Sounds
“Walter is a presence on the stage, commanding this troupe of performers through renditions of the classic Batman theme song, and an apocalyptic tune, and one written just for this show. It’s hard to fully process this band, with the dancers, singers, instruments, and general zaniness of the set. But trust me when I say this band cannot be absorbed via CD. You need to see them live.”
–Max Bowen – The Noise
“Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys isn’t a band as much as a collective of like minded outsiders frolicking in the band system. Or maybe they’re a cult, we don’t really know. What we do know is that their performances are marked with a barely constrained chaos, most times spilling from the stage into the crowd into some frenzied near orgy of steampunked bunny ears.”
–Richard Bouchard – bostonbandcrush.org