Unless you’ve been living under a rock you must have heard the song ‘Shut Up and Dance’, I caught up with the guys behind the hit before their show at the O2 Academy Liverpool. Nicholas Petricca, Kevin Ray, Eli Maiman and Sean Waugaman make up Walk The Moon, an alternative rock band from Cinncinati, Ohio. They talked about using their platform to affect positive change, what they want to achieve and their fondest musical moments.
How did you guys meet?
N: Well Kevin and I met a long, long time ago when we were toddlers.
K: On a video game chat room.
N: Right, sex chat. No, our parents were friends when they were young so we’ve known each other for a long time but the band didn’t start up until after college. It started up as this college project and got more serious when I came back to Cincinnati and started digging into the music there and that’s how I got connected with these guys. Just in local bands and stuff.
What do you guys want to achieve through your music?
N: You might say there’s two separate things, there’s like a goal for us personally just as humans, I think we have dreams of winning Grammy’s and touring the world and joining that echelon of bands like Coldplay or The Killers or Green Day. But we also love the effect that music can have on the world and it can affect positive change and empower people, so that’s very much a big part of hearts as well – to save the world with music.
That’s a really good answer. How does the writing process usually work for you guys?
E: I think it’s hard for us to really nail down what the process is because it’s so different every single time, the consistent thing is that most of the lyrics are coming from Nicholas, but in terms of the vibe of the tune and the instrumentation and the arrangement it can really come from anywhere. So, a lot of our songs come off of laptops from being on a plane or being on a bus, and then other songs come from us jamming in sound check or in a practice room. You’ve just really got to be open to receiving the idea when it dawns on you and go from there.
What do you think is the most important, the easiest and the hardest part of writing a song?
E: I think the hardest part is getting a third person perspective on it, it is being able to look at a tune kind of objectively and not as the writer, as someone who’s just hearing it. If you play the song for one of your friends and they love it and you play it for your next friend and he says it’s the only skip track on the entire CD of demos, you’ve got to be able to like take yourself out of it but also [makes choking noises] you know, it’s a lot of that.
N: Eli shrugs and makes a funny throttled noise from his mouth. [Laughs] Yeah, that might be the hardest part, I don’t know man.
K: Is there an easy part?
N: Is there? I was gunna say the easiest part is having fun, but sometimes that can be the hardest part. Like, you need to follow the flow, you need to follow what feels good, but sometimes it’s the hardest damn thing just to find something that feels any good to you on a particular day. I guess we’re not really answering your question.
E: I think you stabbed at the most important part there which is just like, at the end of the day it has to represent you, and it’s great to get other people’s opinions, but at the end of the day you have to feel like it really represents who you are and what you want to be artistically.
K: Maybe it’s the most deceivingly easy part, on the surface it seems really hard to do that, but afterwards your like ‘oh well, after I figured out how to do that it seemed really easy.’
Which songs pushes you the most live?
K: There’s a lot, a lot of the songs on the new record ‘Talking Is Hard’ were not necessarily written with all of us in a room playing all of the parts. The performance came later and we had to figure out how to perform it and some of these songs are very tough arrangement wise. There’s a song called Avalanche that has some very tough vocals to sing. Nick complains about that all the time.
N: I complain about that song all the time. I feel like it sounds very, very simple, but yeah that song kills me every night.
K: A lot of the stuff that, at least a few of us are playing our instruments and singing a challenging part at the same time and that’s, that’s when it gets really tricky.
S: I make things hard on myself ‘cause we, we did the drums in a lot of layers. So it was me recording like three or four separate parts all layered on top of each other. When we got to rehearsing it for a live show I was just like ‘oh, this is going to be really hard to do.’
N: Yeah, we call Sean the Octopus because his arms are always just flailing in so many different directions.
S: Yeah, I got two more installed.
‘Shut Up And Dance’ has been so massive. Do you ever feel any pressure from that success, like that you need to recreate that and make something that hits the same level?
N: Yeah, I feel that must be the struggle or the challenge that every band faces, every successful band faces once they have a big hit, trying to do it again.
K: And is doing it again the right thing.
N: Right. ‘Cause we definitely shake our fists at those bands that like ‘ah this one sounds the same as the last one’, so we want to keep evolving we want to keep broadening our musical selves, but like what we were saying about the writing process you just have to do what feels right and do what feels good. Our next single is ‘Work This Body’ and we just put out our music video for that and we’re very excited about that and coincidentally that song is kind of about taking those fears and those things that would normally bring you down and using them to inspire you and motivate you to work harder and go after what you really want.
‘Talking Is Hard’ is brilliant, you touch on a lot of ‘heavy’ or serious topics on the album. Do you think it’s important for artists to bring these issues and topics to light?
N: I wouldn’t say that it is a requirement for an artist to be a good artist, but it can get awful boring for me as a listener listening to someone if they are singing about the same thing all the time. I think music is very powerful, music has the ability to change us from the inside, or change our perspective, so I don’t know if it’s necessary but I would say – I love it when artists take their platform and use it to send a message. And that’s certainly what we try to do.
K: To add to that, we travel a lot, musicians, artists, like travel a whole lot and we come face to face with a lot of these issues. We meet so many different people, who have different struggles and deal with these things on a daily basis, so we just have access to these things and I think we get a unique perspective on these things too. If we were just this band, but we never left Ohio then maybe we wouldn’t really have the knowledge to write about these things.
What is your fondest musical memory?
E: Well, I’m sure it’ll be different for all of us but one that definitely sticks out as a band was headlining Red Rocks last year. It’s kind of this dream venue where so many live records have been made and it’s a legendary venue. Being able to headline it and play a sold-out show there was really, really awesome and it was a perfect night, the audience was super alive. It was magic.
What is your earliest musical memory?
E: I remember dancing in my kitchen when I was 3 or 4 to ‘Hey Bulldog’ by The Beatles, and I had this move where I’d like sit down on the floor and lift my legs up and just spin around in circles and that was my dance.
K: And you never achieved your dreams of becoming a professional break-dancer.
N: It stopped there. I remember being on vacation with my parents, very, very young. We would go to this lake house and they would play like the ‘Best of Henry Mancini’ or these composers from the 50s and 60s playing this beautiful cinematic, mysterious, orchestral music. I remember, even at that age, feeling like I was on an adventure, like it would set my imagination off.
K: My grandmother was an incredible pianist and piano teacher. When I was like, I can’t remember exactly how old, but 2 or 3, I would sit and listen to her play piano and she would teach me. I hated practising so I never stuck with piano.
My Mum gets me to ask this at every interview, what is your favourite app on your phone?
E: My favourite app is my metronome app because I love practicing.
S: I probably use the metronome app most often as well, you know, just listen to it to go to sleep.
N: That happens on stage too. [all laugh] The voice memo app is just, I can’t live without it, ‘cause that’s where I feel I store my brain. There are literally thousands of musical ideas in there and the album would be very different if I hadn’t had that damn app.
Have you ever met an idol and freaked out?
N: We got to meet Brandon Flowers when we played a gig in Vegas – the Life is Beautiful festival. He was headlining and he actually ended up bringing The Killers on for half the set and it was a surprise Killer’s show in their hometown. That was really special. Our green room was next to his so I got to talk to him and tell him that his band was the band that made me want to be in a band. That was a cool personal moment.
Any advice to any aspiring musicians?
N+K: Give up! [laugh]
N: Just get after it, don’t let anything stop you. You’ve got the technology, you’ve got a phone and a laptop and you don’t need to leave your bedroom and you can create infinite music. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Keep an eye out for more Walk the Moon. Their first live album YOU ARE NOT ALONE (Live at the Greek) is available online now and they are touring the US with Misterwives this summer so be sure to pick up tickets for their incredible live show.
Check them out on social media:
Facebook: WALK THE MOON
This interview took place on 20/2/16.
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