The first time I ever heard Walk The Moon was at a concert this past January, and I was so taken with their live show that I felt compelled to walk straight over to their merchandise stand, buy the band’s debut record I Want! I Want! and shake the hand of lead singer Nicholas Petricca. Petricca organized Walk The Moon while a student at Kenyon College, albeit before a few lineup changes in the years after. The band calls Cincinnati its hometown, but with how infectious their hook-laden brand of indie-pop is, it’s not hard to see why plenty of dates on their current tour have sold out and why many listeners who have seen them live are instant fans.
This year has seen the band gain plenty of buzz, not mention gigs playing at some of the biggest music festivals around. They were on Spin Magazine’s “25 Must-Hear Artists” for Bonnaroo, and their song “Anna Sun” was named Esquire‘s song of the summer. The band is currently on tour with Fitz & The Tantrums, and will play a sold-out show in Cleveland tonight before playing Columbus on Friday and then two straight nights in Chicago. They’ll headline a few dates at the end of this year and then support Young The Giant starting in February. Plus, their new album on RCA Records will be out sometime soon, we hope. There are big things in the works for these dudes.
The aforementioned lead singer of Walk The Moon, Nicholas Petricca, was kind enough to spend a few minutes talking to The Wounded Jukebox before the band’s show in Pittsburgh on November 7. Questions, answers, and tracks below!
In the last nine or ten months, you guys have played Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and CMJ. What has it been the way for you guys to explode the way you have in that span?
It’s been a pretty wild year, for sure. Explode is definitely a relative term, cause there’s a band like Foster The People — as far as our trajectory goes, they’re a year ahead of us. But they’ve truly exploded over the last nine months with their record kind of going everywhere across the world and number-one singles and everything. But for us, on an independent level, the length that we’ve gone in just this year has been really amazing and more than we could’ve expected. It’s been awesome to play some milestones like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza and then Great Escape, which is sort of like SXSW over in Europe. But it’s been wonderful and we’ve met a lot of great people. We’re building right now the foundations of the fanbase that’s going to hopefully carry us for our whole career.
You guys have been working on a new record. Is it in the same vein as I Want! I Want!, or is it something different? Where are you guys headed?
Since it’s the first record with RCA, and our first record with any label, we’re sort of taking the best of the I Want! I Want! stuff and then… It’s going to be half best of the old stuff and then half the new stuff that everyone’s heard from the live shows and whatnot. So it’s pretty ideal for us. I love I Want! I Want!, but the RCA record is going to be the thing that truly introduces us to the world. I’m happy that songs like “Anna Sun” and “Quesadilla” will be on there, but there’s going to be a lot of new stuff as well.
Talk a little bit about the producers and other people you worked with so far in recording the new album.
Our producer was Ben Allen. He did the Gnarls Barkley stuff, and a lot of Cee-Lo Green’s stuff, and also my favorite Animal Collective album, Merriweather Post Pavilion. He’s done a million other things. But for a long time when we’d sort of talked about ‘Who would be our dream producer?’ he was the name that always came up. So it was a real honor to work with him — we were down in Atlanta with him for a couple months. We also had the help of a legendary recording engineer named Nick DiDia, who was also integral in the recording process.
Did you guys feel good about the sessions that you had down there?
Absolutely. This is actually the first time with this final lineup that all of us could do it together. It was everything we could hope for. The guys in the band are extremely talented and I think everyone sort of rose to the occasion. When you have a producer like Ben, there’s a lot of decisions where, in the moment you’re like ‘Let’s try this,’ or ‘Let’s go this direction,’ and I’m fortunate to be in a band with a bunch of guys that can do anything you ask of them. We definitely squeezed a lot of new life out of the songs that people know from I Want! I Want! and these recordings are far and beyond what we’ve done with the old stuff.
If you guys have a signature song, it’s definitely “Anna Sun.” Can you talk a little bit about how that song came to be, or what it’s about?
The name was inspired by a professor at Kenyon College, where I went to school. Her name is Anna Sun, and she’s a really inspiring person. The song isn’t really about her, but she has an awesome name (laughs). But it definitely has elements of college and the whole feeling of leaving childhood behind but keeping with you a sense of being a child your whole life and the sort of happiness and sadness that comes with that. There’s a lot of lyrics that are snippets of memories or stories of growing up. That’s sort of the vibe of the song.
I wondered what led to you guys deciding to do the video for “Anna Sun” the way you did?
A friend of ours who ended up being a videographer — his name is Patrick Meier — and his project is called Contrast Productions. He was just a friend of ours who is really talented, and he called me up one night with the idea of the one-shot, one-take sort of journey. It was just sort of a nugget of an idea. We started brainstorming over the course of a couple of months, and knew at some point that we needed to have a ridiculous dance sequence. So we brought on a dance choreographer and a dance team, and it just sort of evolved out of playing around. Actually a lot happened the night of. We had an idea of how it would flow the best, but it really depended on all the people who showed up and brought costumes and props and brought their own personality to it. It wasn’t really a whole lot of anything until the night of when everyone kind of put their own soul into it.
Did you get a lot of compliments on those dance moves?
(Laughs) Yeah, it’s usually the one that happens right in the middle of the dancing where I’m just sort of flailing around — that’s the one people say the most to me about.
You guys are in Cleveland (tonight) and Columbus on (Friday) and then you’re back in Cincinnati on November 25th. What are you looking forward to about coming home, about being back in Ohio?
It’s always great coming home. This is where all this began and that’s where we have the biggest sense of family, and a loyal fanbase. We’ve started to feel that way in a lot of other cities, fortunately, because things have been going really great. We’ve started to kind of take a foothold in places like D.C. and Los Angeles, but there’s something about the Midwest that feels a little different. We’re certainly proud of coming from Cincinnati. There’s a lot of bands that take the initiative to move to really big cities, and we’ve been fortunate enough to build everything out of home. I think people from Cincinnati are proud of having us come from there too. I hope they are.
So at Kenyon College, you majored in something like pop music, right?
At Kenyon, everyone in the music department studies some element of the classics. My degree was specifically in composition and theory, and so I studied a lot of the theoretical and styles of how everything is put together, which I ended up loving. And my senior thesis was applying classical theory to pop and rock music, and so the big idea was you can get the same amount of meaning and reward out of applying theory to rock and pop music.
Is there some kind of wisdom you learned then that you carry along now for songwriting?
I think more often than not the theory is less of a method and more of a language. It’s sort of like ‘Can you speak music?’ I mean, I have my own tendencies as far as verses and choruses and how things are put together. But there’s certainly no hard rules or laws to what we come up with. Somebody told me once — and I liked this — to never distrust the first thing that comes out, to sort of follow it through and so we try see through whatever idea comes to the table.
With “Iscariot,” there’s some really beautiful a cappella-style harmonies. What drove you guys to record that song like that without much instrumentation?
That song was actually one that I wrote for that last project in college. I always wanted to write something that was primarily just voices. At the time the band was all people from a cappella groups in college, and so we had a history with that. I think more than any other instrument, the human voice is the one that can really speak to people and carry you the hardest as a listener. It was just something I always wanted to do, and I thought it added another level of depth to the album.
What’s your favorite snack on the road?
We do mow through a lot of hummus and pita bread. We actually just left Williamsburg, Virginia where our friends have this ice cream and chocolate store called Kilwins. So no we’re just gonna get all kinds cavities and things from eating their chocolates and other goodies and stuff.
You guys do face painting and have a real interesting energy during your live shows. What do you enjoy most about being out in front of those crowds and performing a live show?
The best part is always going to be the audience and how connected we feel to them on a particular night. The face paint is one of those added small things where it’s more than just performing, it’s like having an experience with all those people and sort of sharing and creating together. That’s kind of a cheesy way to say it, but I love on a night where we’re doing the facepaint we’ll go out into the crowd and pass it along to people, and then you have complete strangers painting each other’s faces. There’s a sense of camaraderie that comes with that, and the whole point is just to have fun and be a kid.