At a typical show, Walk the Moon arrives onstage with their signature face paint markings smeared with a perfect chaos, greeted by roaring crowds that throw the same paint around like confetti. The band begins playing, touting an arsenal of indie rock dance floor anthems that layer shimmering synthesizers over stadium-sized guitar riffs, held together by Nicholas Petriccia’s soaring vocal lead. Even off the stage, the band’s music videos capture a peculiar magic, whether it’s the Peter Pan-inspired “Anna Sun” video or the 50s throwback of “Shut Up and Dance”.
But with respect to the band’s performance and aesthetic, Walk the Moon’s greatest asset is their genuineness, their greatest weapon their effortless panache. Their music ignites a whimsical, nostalgic fire, harkening back to the days where music was less uptight and more about relentless, shameless, irresistible fun. On every record, you can tell damn well that every member of the band had a great big grin on his face when the final note falls. All in all, Walk the Moon is a band straight out of a fairy tale.
When it’s time for me to speak to guitarist Kevin Ray, he’s every bit the laughing, happy guy you see onstage at every concert, despite the fact that he’s had to spend the entire day crammed into a bunch of planes puddle-jumping across the eastern United States, and that he had to sprint across a lobby to find a charger because when he landed his battery was at 1%– a feeling we all know. We talk about a few things– that one time the band lived in a Masonic lodge for 6 weeks, the origin of the face paint, and a few apt comparisons to Beyoncé being highlights, but the biggest one was the band’s appreciation of their fans, who they go above and beyond to thank. In an industry where marketing sometimes erodes artistry, it’s inspiring to see a band that is so genuine in their music, their aesthetic, and their message.
LL: First of all, let me thank you personally for making that run to charge your phone.
Kevin Ray: [laughter] I didn’t wanna lose you in a lobby. That’s just not right.
I know that 1% battery feeling so well. So, what’s happening with Walk the Moon right now?
We all had a little glimpse of vacation for the holidays, which was nice, but now we’re hitting it hard. We’re gearing up for a big tour beginning in March that’s gonna hit the whole United States, parts of Canada, and then from there is gonna hit the summer festivals. We’re doing a select few festivals this summer which we can’t wait to announce once they let us. And from there, who knows? We’re just excited to watch “Shut Up and Dance” do its thing on the radio, and kinda follow it and scoop up whatever we can. We’re pumped!
I’m excited to hear those festivals announced. But speaking of “Shut Up and Dance”, Talking is Hard came out about two months ago– how do you think the reception has been?
K: It’s been awesome, if not better than we imagined. We spent a lot of time on this record– if you go back to when we actually started writing some of these songs, its been a two year process. To see it finally out in the world and doing well is incredible. As a relatively young band, you go into your sophomore album with so many expectations. You’ve watched bands before you fail so badly at their sophomore album, you know? To see that not come to fruition, and for the record to do well and people digging it, treating it not as a second album but as a continuation of what you’ve been doing? It’s great! People were coming to the shows with the lyrics memorized before the album was even out.
A little birdie told me that a lot of this album was written in a creepy Masonic lodge in Kentucky. I’m gonna need details on that one.
K: We’re gone for the weekend doing some shows, but we’re actually back at that creepy Masonic Temple soon! That’s kinda our spot in Kentucky. Right across the Ohio river from Cincinnati there’s this town called Dayton, and there’s this old, old, old Masonic Lodge, temple….place. It was bought by a local artist, and the whole basement area is dedicated to graffiti artists and even has a screen printing shop. Then there’s two whole levels on top of that that are…big theatres, basically. The one that we rehearsed in was actually a ceremony room, which is totally creepy. There’s weird art and weird like gargoyles and creepy stuff just all over the place, and when we were writing the record we actually lived there– I actually lived in the lodge for six weeks while we were writing. It was cool. It was inspiring, and just different; it made you think differently about everything. We were in a weird part of town, on the border between two very different neighbourhoods, so there was also an eclectic mix of people around all the time. It’s great to actually be in one place for an amount of time and just write music. A lot of music these days you just write on a computer while you’re on a bus or a plane, and to be able to write music. To be in one place and just write music is a dream come true. Even when I was growing up, I would watch documentaries about all my favourite bands doing that– you know, like the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s just renting out a mansion in the hills and writing a whole record, and we got to do something just like that.
That and you can officially say you wrote an album while a gargoyle was staring at you. You may be the only band that can do that. Another thing about Talking Is Hard is that you guys chose to drop the album a week earlier than expected. What led to that decision?
There’s no straight answer. I think we just wanted it to be out there, and we wanted to do it in a slightly unique way. It sort of catered to the superfans: the people who couldn’t wait any longer and would do anything to get their hands on it early, and we just kinda sneakily put it out there and the word spread on its own. The industry is so driven by streaming these days, and we’re not expecting to drop an album and sell a million records. We just wanna get the music out there as soon as we can. It was a nice little treat for our fans for waiting so long to hear it.
It’s kinda like a miniature-Beyoncé.
Basically, we’re just aspiring to our hero Beyoncé.
Basically, Walk the Moon is just four male Beyoncés.
Pretty much, we’ve got the curves.
Annddddd that’s going in the interview. One thing I really admire about Walk the Moon [aside from the curves] is your music videos. Whether it’s “Anna Sun” or “Shut Up and Dance”, they’re all really remarkable. Where do you get the inspiration for them?
They really come out of anywhere. Some of the videos just start with a tiny little joke of an idea sometimes, and other things start with artists who are friends of ours who come to us with an idea and we just start spinning it. The “Anna Sun” video was born before anyone knew who Walk the Moon was, and I was lucky to be there when it first started to fester as an idea and we turned it into a big project that was a blast, and we got our friends to do it with us. And that’s the theme of all the music videos– we like to do it with people who we love and trust and are inspired by. Our friends will always be a part of the music videos in some way, whether they’re directing it or filming it or acting in it. It’s always just our friends, and that’s not just limited to people we know well, but anyone who’s really involved in some way. We’ll take free labor any day! [laughter] Too many music videos are just a band playing in a big fancy room, and we want to make something more of it and involve people who inspire us.
Another signature of the band is the face paint. Where did that start?
The face paint actually started in the music video for “Anna Sun”. We had tossed around the whole Peter Pan and the Lost Boys idea, and someone said “What about Rufio and the face paint?” We sorta ran with that, and really it was all driven by the fans. We would set up face paint stations at shows and fans would start to come to shows with face paint. We started to paint our faces, and even let fans paint our own faces sometimes. It’s also become kinda a calling card, sort of. It’s great advertisement. People are talking down the street after a show covered in face paint and people can’t help but ask why they’re wearing it, and since then it’s really just been taken over by the fans.
When you guys are on tour, in the van, on a plane, what music are you listening to?
Well, a lot. We tend to soak up music pretty quickly. We have a fantastic crew who have a really eclectic taste in music, and whether one of us has discovered a new band or our tour manager has discovered a new band, we all hop on it pretty quickly. For instance, right now I’m listening to Glass Animals and the new Weezer record– we’ve got a chance to hang out with Rivers and the rest of the guys in Weezer, and we can’t help but go back 10 years and listen to old Weezer as well as the new record, which rocks. Really, music just comes from anywhere, there’s no real method to it.
My favourite question: A lot of bands, when they start to play in high school, have some truly horrible names. What is the worst name that you have ever performed under?
Oh, here we go. This is gonna be an exclusive, because I don’t think anyone’s ever asked that. Mine was in 7th grade with Sean, our drummer; I played guitar and sang, and he played the drums, and we had a bass player. We basically just covered Nirvana. That’s all we cared about.
Oh my god it was one of those bands. Yes.
And our names were Anthony, Sean, and Kevin…so we called ourselves A.S.K.
Oh my god the acronym.
We thought it was was super cool, like someone would come up to you and be like “What’s your band name?” and you would say “A.S.K!”. And then they’ll say “What’s your band name?” and we’d say, “A.S.K!”. And we thought it was so cool. We got so much crap for that. And at one point, Walk the Moon was actually called “Wicked and the Mix”.
Still better than A.S.K. Still not the worst I’ve gotten though.
Really? Who were some other ones?
Local Natives used to be this super scary Orange County metal band, so that was a thing. Anyways, regarding Walk the Moon…what’s next?
To see the full potential of this record– I was about to say that the hard part is over, but some people might say the hard part is just starting. We’ve been nursing this child for over a year, and now we’re pushing it out into the world, and we can’t do anything to effect what it does other than play our asses off. So we’re gonna play as much as possible, meet as many people as possible, and go to as many places as possible, and just support this child and watch it grow. And at some point, we’ll think about writing again, but that’s not for another year. We think this record is gonna be a big one, and we’re just really psyched about it.
Keep up with Walk The Moon on their website here.