Face Time with WALK THE MOON



There’s something about WALK THE MOON that’s absolutely out of this world. Their music is addictive, energetic, and fun. With a mix of art-rock and dance-pop that’s “a little left-of-center,” the Cincinnati natives evoke the excitement felt by indie fans everywhere after hearing Phoenix, MGMT, and OK Go. The band is comprised of lead singer Nicholas Petricca, who also plays the keyboard and synthesizer, bassist and vocalist Kevin Ray, drummer and vocalist Sean Waugaman, and guitarist and vocalist Eli Maiman. WALK THE MOON makes sure that their performances are very visual (both the band members and their enthusiastic audiences wear a lot of face paint). The band members are quite keen on nostalgia: reliving those times between childhood and adulthood, “up against the wall on the west mezzanine,” in their music.

WALK THE MOON recently played their first CMJ, after a year of playing shows with Grouplove, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Gotye, and currently Fitz & the Tantrums. Their anticipated new album, coming out early in 2012, is sure to be filled with pop-beats and catchy song lyrics.   

We spoke with lead singer, Nicholas Petricca about the importance of face paint, the importance of memories, and naming their hit song after a former professor.

ILANA KAPLAN: I first spoke to some of you guys after your show at Santos Party House. I’m so happy I ended up there accidentally. Was that the first CMJ you played?

NICHOLAS PETRICCA: It was! It was our first one.

KAPLAN: You guys are from Ohio originally. How long have you been together and touring?

PETRICCA: I started the band a few years ago. This lineup didn’t come together until this year, really. We had started touring with some of these guys summer of last year. We’ve been playing in our town for a number of years. We’ve been doing that off and on. This year has been insane. We’ve been on the road way more than we’ve been at home.

KAPLAN: Do you guys have face paint at most shows, or was that just a special occasion?

PETRICCA:  We have it at most shows. Yeah. Actually, almost a year ago, we released the “Anna Sun” video. There was this sort of theme of being a kid, painting faces, and a “Neverland” and “Lost Boys” sort of thing. We did it at our CD release show in Cincinnati and people decided to come to our shows with face paint. We started bringing it. It became a live tradition.

KAPLAN: How did you guys come up with “WALK THE MOON” as a band name?

PETRICCA: It’s a record from The Police. The Police definitely have a mystery and playfulness that we try to have as well.

KAPLAN: Is this what you had in mind when you formed the band, a lot of fun, dancey, electro-pop music? Did it kind of come together on its own?

PETRICCA: I think the plan was always to make pop, rock and roll that was a little left-of-center. It was pretty much the stuff that has always inspired me growing up. I wouldn’t say that I predicted necessarily that it would sound quite like this. I think we were finding our sound for a few years before landing on our sound.

KAPLAN: Do you guys have a release date for an album coming out?

PETRICCA: We’re looking at the beginning of the year next year. February or March for the full-length. There will some tracks being released before then, as sort of a teaser, but I don’t have a lot of details about that yet.

KAPLAN: Who are some of your influences?

PETRICCA: Talking Heads, are one of them. David Bowie. The Police, like I mentioned earlier. Tears for Fears. Phil Collins. Something like that, I guess.

KAPLAN: When did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?

PETRICCA: I started playing piano when I was seven, but I didn’t start laying out music until the end of high school or the beginning of college. It was always something that was a part of my life. My parents raised me on their records from the ’60s and ’70s. I really started taking it seriously when I was 18 or 19.

KAPLAN: Can you tell me a little bit of backstory on “Anna Sun?”

PETRICCA: That question is always interesting, because I don’t think any song is about something super specific. It’s important to me that a song can be about anything a listener gets from it. There are a lot of images in the lyrics about childhood or from college, but the song is not necessarily a super-happy song or a super-sad song. It’s somewhere in the middle. I think it’s about nostalgia and maintaining the sense of being a kid into adulthood. It’s about keeping that or losing that.

KAPLAN:  I heard that “Anna Sun” is about a former teacher. Why did you choose her name as the title of the song?

PETRICCA: Anna Sun was a professor who has a beautiful name. She’s an awesome person too. She’s a famous essayist. I actually had her husband as a teacher as well. She just has a really inspiring name, I think.

KAPLAN: What bands would you like to tour with?

PETRICCA: There are some awesome Australian bands that we’ve been tuning into lately. Gotye. We played with him at CMJ. I really like Miike Snow a whole lot. I think that would be fun. Phoenix would be awesome.

KAPLAN: I immediately thought of Phoenix when I first heard you guys. It has the same catchy and fun feel. If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

PETRICCA: I have no idea. When I was little, I wanted to be a cartoonist. I used to sketch all the time-little characters and stuff like that. I’m pretty good at drawing I guess. I’ve definitely fallen out of the habit. In college, I was going to do acting actually.

KAPLAN: What were some bands that you did tour with in the past?

PETRICCA: We’re on tour right now with Fitz & the Tantrums, which is awesome. Definitely the biggest and longest tour we’ve ever done. We did a few dates with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. They’re a really special band. We were on tour with Grouplove, who we love. They’re great people. We really haven’t done a whole lot of touring as support for bigger bands. It started really this year.

KAPLAN: What can we expect from WALK THE MOON in the future?

PETRICCA: I don’t know. This ground we’ve found ourselves on in the past year, signing with management and with a label. We’re really lucky to have these opportunities. Everyone’s in love with it, as far as on our team. We’re on the steps on the way to what we want to achieve. Our first record with the label comes out next year. I think we’ll be playing for as many people as possible and as much as possible. I can’t wait to write more songs with these guys, with this lineup and to see how the sound will evolve. The handful of bands that I’ve always respected their careers, bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, just continue to re-define themselves. They just continue to make more music. That’s what we would like to do.