Walk the Moon: ‘We Don’t Have Any Mediocre Fans’
The '80s are not dead thanks to bands like Walk the Moon.
The indie-pop quartet reached a new level of popularity with its infectious smash hit, "Shut Up and Dance," and ahead of their show at the Fillmore in Detroit, lead singer Nicholas Petricca, bassist Kevin Ray, drummer Sean Waugaman and guitarist Eli Maiman invited us onto their tour bus to chat. From being legit pop stars and welcoming new fans into the family to the controversy in Indiana, we covered it all with Walk the Moon. Check out our exclusive conversation below:
How long did it take you to write "Shut Up and Dance"?
Nicholas Petricca: There were different pieces that came together at different times. We were out in L.A. writing for the record and we had this vibe for the verse, which has that feeling that something is about to happen. We kind of hit a block and that's when we went out that night and came back with the chorus the next day. The whole thing took maybe about a week or so.
Does that happen often where you need a change of scenery or extra push to finish writing a song?
Petricca: It's hard to compare the writing because the process is different with every song. Some songs take two years to write and other ones happen in just 15 minutes. We spent like a month and a half in a Masonic Lodge writing for this record in northern Kentucky, and we had a goal of writing at least a song a day. You run into a lot of road blocks, so I think we found ways to push ourselves over those walls.
What's the biggest change on how you create songs now with Talking Is Hard versus your first album, I Want! I Want!?
Eli Maiman: I think we're at a different place in our lives. If you listen to a lot of the songs off of I Want! I Want!, and even our self-titled album (2012's Walk The Moon), a lot of it is kind of indicative of a group of dudes who are in their late teens, early 20s, going through the college thing and having that experience. We are at a different place in our lives at this point, and also we're at a different place in terms of what we understand our voice to be and how far it will reach.
And so with this record we really pushed ourselves into territories that we hadn't explored previously. Some of that was really using the opportunity to say something and stand up for some things we believe in. There are messages across the record, some are subtle and some are blunt objects, using the opportunity to try to do something positive.
Speaking of different territories, you guys are legit pop stars thanks to the success of "Shut Up and Dance." Does that make you feel different or bring additional pressure?
Petricca: It definitely adds pressure but it's good. That's what we want. We went into making this record, and really starting this band, with a lot of ambition. We really respect and love those bands like Coldplay or the Killers, or older acts like Prince and Talking Heads, that have reached a huge audience but stayed true to themselves. That's what we're trying to do. It means a lot more work for us but that's what we want. We want to have the opportunity to reach as many people as possible and still be us.
Your show in Detroit was upgraded from Saint Andrew's Hall to the Fillmore Detroit due to tickets selling out quickly. Has that been the case throughout the tour?
Petricca: The tour has been blowing up. It's pretty surreal. A lot of these places that we're playing and places that we're booking for the summer, like flippin' Red Rocks, are places that we grew up hearing about and now it's got our name on the marquee.
Have you noticed new fans since "Shut Up and Dance" blew up?
Petricca: Definitely. My favorite part of every show is when we ask the audience who's never been to a Walk The Moon show before. On this tour in particular it's been like more than half the audience each night. It's really amazing to see it grow.
It's well known how fans can become possessive about artists they've loved before the rest of the masses. Has there been resentment from older Walk the Moon fans since you guys have become more popular?
Kevin Ray: Yeah, there's a bunch of that, and we love that die-hard support. I think what's really interesting is that a lot of these people who've raised their hands saying it's their first time at a show are still singing old songs. They want more than just Talking Is Hard and they'll go find anything they can and that's really awesome. We don't have any mediocre fans. Everybody's getting into it as much as possible and we love it.
Have a lot more companies approached you about licensing your songs?
Maiman: Absolutely. A decade or two decades ago Nirvana wouldn't have been able to do that and get away with it. But at this point there's kind of an unspoken agreement between fans and the band where like, they're going to steal your music and you can do whatever you want to make cash.
Sean Waugaman: I think we're in a Czechoslovakian juice commercial. [Laughs]
Do you guys disconnect from the world while you're on tour?
Ray: There is sort of a disconnect from what's going on because you're always so busy on tour. I don't have cabin time to catch up on Netflix.
Mainman: We did about four hours of promotion this morning, we're talking to you, we have sound check, we eat a little bit and then we go on stage. In the 10 minutes between eating and going on stage, I don't feel like digging into the latest news.
Ray: The daily social makeup of Walk the Moon is what we get back from our fans. If anything we try to interact with our fans as much as we can on Twitter, Facebook and outside the venue. It's mostly focused on that.
Mainman: That being said, we did get the opportunity to participate a little bit when we were in Indianapolis because of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Kevin lives in Indianapolis so we were able to bring some people to the show who were able to raise awareness and education about the issue.
There are artists who refuse to perform in Indiana to protest the state law being passed. Do you think that's the fair way to go about it even if it hurts businesses who are against discrimination of the LGBT community?
Ray: It's really hard because people want to take a stand and they want to be heard. It's a very striking thing that's happening. There's probably different right ways to go about it. We just decided that we wanted to support the people in Indiana who were going to make the difference anyway. We wanted to be there for them and not bail, so we stayed.
Walk the Moon's Talking Is Hard is available now via RCA Records. You can pick up your copy here.