At the end of 2014, Walk the Moon’s breakthrough hit, “Shut Up and Dance,” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100.
And 53 weeks later, the song still lingered.
The blazing pop-rocker with a chorus tailored for live singalongs and wedding receptions alike remains Walk the Moon’s global phenomenon.
But the quartet incubated in Cincinnati – Nicholas Petricca (vocals), Kevin Ray (guitar/bass), Sean Waugaman (drums) and Eli Maiman (guitar) – isn’t exactly the one-hit wonder some might assume.
They followed “Shut Up…” with the minor hit “Different Colors,” then returned in 2017 with another earworm that made you simultaneously adore and want to throttle them – the Disney-esque “One Foot.”
As the band prepares for its Music Midtown return—they’ll perform at 4:45 p.m. Sunday on the Salesforce Stage—they’re also slowing unveiling new music. The singles “Timebomb” and “Eat Your Heart Out” were released this year and will ostensibly land on their still-in-the-works fifth studio album and follow-up to 2017’s “What If Nothing.”
Walk the Moon is also recognized for its colorful live performances—an opening stint with Muse earlier this year proved a compatible combination—and frontman Petricca promises another visually stimulating show.
Calling last week from the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles, as he made his return from the annual Burning Man ritual event in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada (he goes to experience the art and the community), Petricca spoke candidly about the current state of Walk the Moon and what fans can expect soon.
Q: You guys were here a few months ago opening for Muse. What was that experience like?
A: We’ve gotten to tour with so many bands, but it’s rare that we would share the stage with someone we have looked up to for so many years. Muse was my number one favorite band in high school. I worshiped “Absolution,” so it was an extra special experience to walk around their stage. Muse is a band that brings their outer space nerd dreams to life every night. They really go full power with their production; our opening set was basically taking place on a spaceship! It was super-inspiring and kept us on our toes. An opening slot is like that, anyway. As an opener or at a festival you’re performing for people who may not have heard your music before and you’re introducing yourself every night.
Q: You last played Music Midtown in 2011, and you were really familiar with Atlanta by then.
A: We had spent the entire summer in Atlanta that year. That’s where we recorded our first major label album (at Doppler Studios). We lived right on 12th and Piedmont, right by the park, so to play the festival that year felt like playing a hometown show. It was a really exciting time for us—a lot of firsts. We were rock ‘n’ roll virgins kind of, just getting our feet wet in this world in which we would spend the rest of our lives, we hope. It was a great place to make the record. Atlanta has so much cool music history. We’re huge fans of Outkast and knowing that we would be making a record with one of our favorite producers (Ben Allen), it was a dream.
Q: What’s the best part about playing these big festivals? You were also here in 2016 for Shaky Knees.
A: We live multiple lives—one in the shadows in secret in the studio where we don’t see another human for a long time and then the polar opposite, playing shows where you’re interacting with thousands of people. Festivals are an extreme version of that. It’s actually a place we feel at home. Walk the Moon was born out of this playful, tribal energy. We’re very much a community-oriented band, so to be at a festival where there is a community of bands—it’s a meeting point of all these different, interesting artists.
Q: Since you’re cutting back the touring the rest of the year, does that mean you’re finishing up the new album?
A: There are two big reasons we’re not playing as much the rest of the year. Our guitar players Eli (Maiman) and Kevin (Ray) are both having kids, and at the same time, which is magical. So we’re taking time off the road while half the band become dads, and yeah, the other (reason) is we’ve been in and out of the studio a lot. We have so many songs in the running and various stages of completion. We are looking toward what the next album will be. It’s like a Transformer that has its legs, but maybe not its left arm.
Q: You’re heading toward the 10-year mark of being together in this incarnation, and you’ve had several hits. But do you find people still just associate you with “Shut Up and Dance”?
A: It’s impossible to know, but it does seem like there are new ears every time. Whether it’s our headline show or not, we’re usually asking onstage who has been or hasn’t been to a Walk the Moon show before, and it always surprises me that half the audience hasn’t.
Noon-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday (SEPT14-15). $165 (two day general admission, GA+ upgrade available for $100 per day); $600 (two-day VIP) and $1,200 (two-day Super VIP). Piedmont Park, 400 Park Drive NE, Atlanta. 1-888-512-7469, musicmidtown.com, frontgatetickets.com.
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