If you tune in to any pop station, you’ve heard “Shut Up and Dance,” the hit song from Cincinnati indie rock/pop band Walk the Moon. They debuted their second major-label studio album in December, where it peaked at No. 14 on Billboard’s Top 200 list. While the group has performed in Las Vegas many times over the past four years, September will mark their first venture Downtown to perform for Life Is Beautiful. We were able to catch up with the band–lead vocals Nick Petricca, guitarist Kevin Ray, bassist Eli Maiman and drummer Sean Waugaman–before their recent show at House of Blues.
Your second studio album, Talking Is Hard, has a new sound. What was the inspiration for the change?
Nick Petricca: On Talking Is Hard, we went in with intention of exploring uncharted territory. We wanted to stay true to our spirited, indie rock, quirky selves. On this record, we were trying to see how far we could take our sound and still be Walk the Moon. You hear some hard guitars and rock ’n’ roll screams and some stuff is romantic and sort of soundscape-y. The lyrics are more world-conscious, not just about the party.
Several songs on your new album, such as “Different Colors” or “Up 2 U,” have a larger message. Is the album meant to have a deeper meaning?
Nick: After touring so much with the first record, we were seeing that our music was having a positive effect on people. So on this record, we took ownership of that. We made it a point to use our superpowers for good. The record as a whole is about empowerment. Talking is hard and it takes courage to speak your mind, to say what you mean and to be yourself.
Eli: Even “Shut Up and Dance” comes across at first as being sort of surface level, but it still has this message of empowerment, of getting out of your head and into the moment and into your body.
You’ve been on tour for two months and singing a lot of these songs for the first time live. What’s the reaction been like?
Nick: With “Different Colors” we had some people come out and share their stories with us. I had a mom come up to me after an acoustic show a couple of weeks ago. Her son was going through a transgender transition, and that song really spoke to her. And she wanted to know if that was intentional, and we were like, “Absolutely!” It was so cool to make that connection with a person who is living it in real life.
Kevin: The best surprise is that everybody really dove first into all the music. People are singing every single word, and just dancing their asses off.
Sean: And a lot of the people singing every single word have never been to a Walk the Moon show. We ask every night if this is their first show, and 90 percent of the hands go up.
You guys are known for your high-energy performances and music. You have any secrets for how to capture that in the recording studio?
Sean: When we recorded Talking Is Hard, we bottled that by eating as many microwave burritos from the gas station as possible.