“Who’s got nice, happy feelings?” lead singer, Nicholas Petricca, yelled to the bursting audience gathered at O2 Forum — the crowd erupted. Hours earlier, a hum of excitement emanated from outside the venue as masses of people donning face paint and iridescent clothing pranced about, impatiently waiting to see WALK THE MOON. Now, that explosive energy was culminating into an electric atmosphere.
Petricca paused. In a more thoughtful tone, the singer asked, “Who’s got dark, stormy feelings?” Hesitant but persistent cheers rang out. “Me too,” Petricca admitted. “Let’s dance about it.” And with just three lines, he subconsciously summed up WALK THE MOON’s tremendously eventful past two years — despite a hiatus brought on by emotional turmoil, the band has channeled those “dark and stormy feelings” into a massively dynamic third album.
Through a balanced set of oldies-but-goodies and their latest hits, WALK THE MOON made it increasingly clear that whatever contentious feelings may have been present before the hiatus are now nonexistent; their chemistry on stage was undeniable. Bassist Kevin Ray, Drummer Sean Waugaman and guitarist Eli Maiman hold their ground, but it’s seemingly impossible to outshine the light that radiates from Petricca. His vocal talent is obvious, but his energy is inescapable. He has a flare for drama; whether it was sliding onto his back during “Tightrope” or his endlessly oscillating hips, it was impossible to keep your eyes off of him.
WALK THE MOON have an insane amount of likability, and they’ve more than proven that the hiatus hasn’t held them back; it’s propelled them forward. With an upcoming US tour supporting 30 Seconds to Mars and a slot at Lollapalooza, WALK THE MOON should not be counted out just yet. We caught up with the always-charming Petricca before the show in London to talk all things What If Nothing…
So the first single from the latest album was One Foot. Can you tell me a bit about the story behind that song?
I’m stoked that that song is the lead single off the record because it kind of represents an overarching theme on the record, which is stepping out into the unknown and having the courage to walk into uncertainty and persevere. When we were writing the record we had just come from an intense break — both for personal reasons like my father’s illness and just tension within the band. There was some uncertainty if we would move forward together. But we worked through our shit, and I’m happy to say that we chose to press on as Walk the Moon. This song represents some of that energy.
And you’ve got a great video to back it up. How did you come up with the idea for it?
We’ve been really fascinated with the desert as a theme for the album because of its blank slate-ness. The album title What If Nothing represents this kind of in between — like all your fears and all your dreams. It’s, “What if it’s all for nothing?” or “What if it’s all for everything?” The desert has this beautifully clean slate — it’s dangerous and empty; it could be death or the beginning or new life. So we knew we wanted to film in the desert, and Joshua Tree has this very alien landscape that we love. It’s very surreal and has the desert imagery. The song lyrics kind of relates all of that into a personal relationship so we wanted to have an actress involved in in, too.
I noticed that you’re wearing face paint in the video, too, which reminded me of the video for Anna Sun where you’re also wearing face paint. What was the reasoning behind that?
We’ve done the face paint live on stage from the very beginning; it’s just part of the D.N.A. of the band at this point. Everybody, I think, has a different personal connection to it — whether it’s us the band or the fans. For me, it’s this expression of magic — this inner magic. I guess there was a time, maybe a couple videos, where we weren’t wearing it. I don’t really know why we ever stopped doing it, but it’s been happening this whole time. So, it was definitely intentional but kind of updated.
One thing I’ve always loved about you guys is your colorfulness and style. How would you describe your style & what are some of the things that inspire it?
On this record, there’s this sense of duality — the light and dark. We’ve been wearing clothes that have that stark white and black contrast, and at the same time, I’m also always reigning in my inner space pilot. A kind of future wizard showman pirate. That’s always been a part of me. There’s a futuristic feeling for the album which comes across, too.
“This record is also more brave and bold, and we’re taking more risks.”
The last few years have been quite eventful both professionally and personally for you guys — How did the events leading up to the hiatus and the break itself affect the band & music?
This hiatus happened at the peak of everything. We pumped the breaks after “Shut Up and Dance” and cancelled the tour, which is something we never thought we would do, because of my dad’s illness. He had Alzheimer’s, and he was battling it for 15 years. It was coming to a point where I couldn’t focus on the band at that time, so we took that time off the road. The space allowed us to have some perspective on what we had been doing — a sort of tunnel vision on the previous five years. It allowed for us to see some of the issues and the problems and the baggage that was there. It gave us the choice to get through it because the music wasn’t going to happen until that was acknowledged. I think the record is better for it; I don’t think it could exist without it. I was also breaking up with the love of my life at the time, so that and my dad and the band and the political climate in the U.S. at the time were all serving as canon fire for this artistic fire that exploded.
And you’re touring for your latest album What If Nothing. How does this record contrast musically to your previous ones?
Of course every record is going to be different because it’s a snapshot of your life and where you are and your experiences at that time. It reflects us being different people than we were a few years ago. This record is also more brave and bold, and we’re taking more risks; we’re more comfortable with it, and we’re better at it. We’re just better players now. I’m more willing and able to tune in to some of the more raw and personal emotional material going on inside me, and there’s deeper, darker, realer stuff happening in my life — in all of our lives — to pull from. I think we’ve always been a really eclectic band, and every record has been pretty diverse. I think we’re incorporating genres into our sound in a different way. There’s an urban and reggae influence that wasn’t there before; there’s this kind of heavier more aggressive side thats coming out that wasn’t there before, too.
What’s your guys’ mentality like going into this tour?
Fired up. We just came from press tour in North America, and while we were on the road, “One Foot” went No. 1 on Alt Radio and stayed there for four weeks. So it was this momentum building — just a really exciting time for us to be sharing the new music for the first time. So coming into this tour, we’re coming off crazy energy. We’re not as established in the U.K. as we are in America, so in some of these cities we’re reminded of where we got our teeth. Simultaneously, they’re really fun and nostalgic and a little humbling because we’re still working our asses off to bring our sound to new audiences.
What would you say is your favorite lyric you’ve ever written?
It changes. Right now I’m really feeling “Kamikaze.” We’re about to put out a music video for that song, so I’m really stoked on it. In the chorus, the lyrics, “Stepping out of body, no matter what you call it, I’m a kamikaze. Abandon all your logic, and put your money on it.”
That really encapsulates the feeling for me of being a soldier for love. Anybody who is setting out to follow their dream or change the world of pursue their art is making a huge bet on a big question mark. They’re really putting themselves out there and jumping out over the water and hoping their wings work, so I love that. When that line fell through, it just felt like a jackpot.
What’s next for Walk the Moon?
There’s a music video coming, and this summer we’re going on tour with 30 Seconds to Mars all through North America. That’s gonna be f***ing awesome; I’m really amped up to be on that bill. They just released their new record America, and they’ve got all kinds of crazy sh*t going on with it. I’m excited because they’re definitely making some kind of statement; I’m not totally sure what kind of statement, but I appreciate the bold vibe. I’m excited to be a part of that storm and play for humongous crowds.