When WALK THE MOON announced the release date for their sophomore album and supporting tour dates back in September, their social media world stopped or exploded or changed in some capacity. Fans from all over the world tuned in to Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to witness the band’s next move in the musicscape.
The multi-platform announcement and the new single that came with it, “Shut Up and Dance,” confirmed the group’s infallibility, and I couldn’t wait to see what was next. Just a month later, WALK THE MOON’s surge in popularity prompted iTunes to give them the coveted “Single of the Week” recognition for the song. It’s been a crazy few months for them, and they’ve been busy. Oh, they’ve been busy.
I was lucky enough to sneak a few minutes to chat with Nick, Kevin, and Eli from the band. We sat in the greenroom of the infamous Bowery Ballroom in New York City and discussed the inspiration for their latest album, their kooky fans, and…Nerd Rope?
First thing’s first: did you partake in any Halloween craziness two night ago or keep it low key? I’m assuming the former.
Nicholas Petricca: Halloween was our last day off of the tour, so we took it pretty easy. Normally we make a big deal of it, but instead we stayed in, cuddled, and watched a scary movie.
It’s been so long since we chatted last, and you’ve been so busy! Your new album, TALKING IS HARD, is coming out December 2nd, you released your newest single, “Shut Up and Dance,” got a shout-out on PerezHilton.com, and performed the song on Late Night with Seth Meyers. And you’re touring! What is the number one biggest accomplishment you think you’ve achieved since the release of your first album in 2012?
Kevin Ray: Talking to you!
NP: Making it through and finishing the second album!
Where did you record TALKING IS HARD and where did you gain most of your inspiration for the songs?
Eli Maiman: We recorded this record in Los Angeles, in North Hollywood, with one of our most favorite people on this planet, [producer] Tim Pagnotta. He is famous for recording Neon Trees and writing with Tokyo Police Club and Matthew Koma.
KR: And of course being the lead singer of Sugar Cult.
EM: Yeah! Of course! So we took three months to live in Los Angeles to do some pre-production and some writing with him. Then we dove into some very serious recording situations.
Did you gain any inspiration from living in Los Angeles or did you already write the songs and were just recording there?
NP: We did some writing in Los Angeles and have kind of made California our second home. We have some of our best friends there and family and girlfriends, so that was a fun, safe place to write, but we did most of the writing in an old Masonic Lodge in northern Kentucky Summer 2013.
We took over this place, which has been repossessed by this weird guy who has made it into almost an artist commune. There are graffiti artists, ghosts, old taxidermy everywhere, and we sort of took over the second floor, which is the old ceremony room and has wide open spaces and tall ceilings. Very strange, old energy there. We were there for a month and a half writing everyday. We wrote almost 50 songs for the album, and most of what’s on it is stuff we wrote there.
What kind of sound should fans expect from this new album? Is it similar to your first album or is it a departure from that sound?
EM: It was important for us to maintain some of the spirit from the first record and to not be one of those bands that pulls a 180 on their second record. We definitely wanted fans to follow us on this adventure of the sophomore record. That being said, we weren’t afraid to try anything while we were in the lodge. That was the first time we were able to focus on writing for an extended period of time ever! Really!
We weren’t afraid to explore any influences or wild ideas that maybe three years ago WALK THE MOON wouldn’t have done, so the result is that the spectrum of what WALK THE MOON is really got blown out on both ends. There are songs on the record that are more hard, more in your face, more ferocious than anything we’ve ever done before. Then there are tender moments and moments of more vulnerability than we’ve ever put on record before.
But it still holds the same spirit.
NP: Right. Lyrically, we grew up as sort of the party band, and we’re definitely taking this record as an opportunity to dive deeper and explore more intense, globally conscious issues, which is really fun. We still wanted the record to be a blast to listen to, so in these darker moments, more serious moments full of poignant subject matter, there’s a fiesta!
KR: Being an adult doesn’t have to suck.
EM: Being responsible doesn’t have to be boring or lame or tedious. We can still rock, but do good things for the planet.
Are there any songs on the album that are particularly meaningful to you?
NP: Definitely. “Shut Up and Dance” is special for us because it encompasses everything that we were before and everything we’ve been dealing with to get to this point in one song. It says, “Take a second, live in the now, and let go,” so that’s an important one for us.
[Suddenly, Jonesy, tour mate and friend of WALK THE MOON, walks in…
Jonesy: Somebody out there wants to buy my [WALK THE MOON] hoodie off me.
EM: Jonsey, we’re in an interview right now.
Everyone laughs. End scene]
KR: When we wrote and recorded the first album, things were still very fresh between the four of us. There were a lot of new experiences, and we were still getting to know each other. Now we’ve spent three, four years together, most of it on the road, getting to know each other more than we know anyone else. This album is going to reflect that. We know each other better and deeper, and so our songs are much more meaningful in that way.
NP: We’ve spent the last four years cooped up with one another but also meeting hundreds and hundreds of people, and they have really influenced and continue to influence everything that we do. They were such a big part of the “Anna Sun” video, and they’re still with us to the same degree.
You have an immense social media following on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You kind of just touched on this, but have your fans inspired you artistically?
NP: We’ve found that our fans are super kooky and weird, like us, and they have a great sense of humor. I think this record overall has a sense of humor. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, even the hard stuff has a sense of…
NP: Yeah, whimsy. Like, there were parts where we screwed up but left it in there because we thought it sounded cool or weird. In the “Shut Up and Dance” music video, we just went all out with the weird.
EM: There has always been this sense of chance inspiration early on where we went, “That’s great! Go with that!” That inspires us, and I think a lot of that might come from the fans, too. We meet someone weird on the road, and they might inspire this mood and then maybe we write a song about that. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
NP: A lot of our inspirations musically, much of which extend from the mid/late-80s, are also great inspirations visually because that was a time that celebrated the weird. You had so many strange characters that were idolized, whether it was Bowie or Byrne or Mercury. So many of those old videos and vibes on stage were so strange but didn’t take themselves too seriously. Owning that as been something that we really enjoyed in this time.
So now I’m going to ask you some questions, and you answer them as quickly as you can.
Favorite snack to eat while on tour?
EM: Nerd Rope! A fan in Portland while on tour brought us this huge box of Nerd Rope, which I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten a majority of in my bunk. Most of the time it’s 3 or 4 in the morning, and I’m in my bunk watching American Horror Story with my Nerd Rope.
KR: We’re going to clean the bus up at the end of the tour and lift Eli’s covers up and see Nerd Rope packages.
EM: I have Nerds in the chest hair.
KR: I’ll say almonds. That’s nowhere near as exciting as Nerd Rope.
Album of the year?
KR: I was totally into the Sia album. I’m still into the Sia album.
NP: Bear Hands, Distraction.
Artist you’re obsessing over right now?
NP: An artist I’ve rediscovered through our writing and recording process is Mr. Mister. I love Mr. Mister. They just don’t apologize for anything. They just don’t fuckin’ care.
KR: I’ve rediscovered my love for ’90s grunge.
EM: I’ve been re-submerging myself in Björk lately and just returning to all of that deep goodness.
Favorite time of day?
NP: I love sunset. Last summer when we were making the record, there were late sunsets, around 8 or 8:30 pm, and that would be around the time we would end each day. We had the ability to record straight to a USB, so I could drive home and listen to what we did that day while the sunset was happening, looking out to the city skyline.
KR: I was actually living in the lodge where we were writing, so while they took the USB home to listen to it, I was in the lodge looking out the windows at the sunset in this weird creepy building with lots of sounds going on, so it was a cool time.
EM: I’m the total opposite. I like 6:50 or 7:10 am. That’s when the day has the most possibilities. The most options, when my head is the most open, is at like 7:00 am. Have you ever heard that phrase, “The man who doesn’t accomplish half of what he wants to do in a day by noon risks getting nothing done at all”? That’s me. If I don’t get moving by noon, nothing happens all day.
KR: Nothing happens on a day off.
Okay, that’s it for me. Anything else you want to say to your fans?
NP: December, December, December 2nd, 2014!
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