Road to the Governors Ball: Walk the Moon

jason stives interviews the rock band before they take the stage at the governor’s ball in nyc this weekend…

The ugly truth of current rock music is that gets splintered into sub categories if a band shows any variation from what is normally associated with the word rock. Some will tell you rock means power chords and scruffy singers talking about drinking and not giving a shit that their girlfriend broke up with them (but they secretly do!). For others, it’s just the desire to express a variety of feelings through chorus sing alongs, dancing, and high energy performances. For indie rockers, Walk the Moon, no labels other than rock are required, they are just an awesome, fun band.

Like many trending, buzz bands, Walk the Moon have had a good year thus far. The Ohio based quartet have seen a strong increase in popularity thanks to a diligent touring schedule and a collection of infectious pop songs that combine dance floor beats with the high energy of a uproarious indie rock band. Their single, “Anna Sun,” caught many people off guard and has grown in popularity on mainstream and college radio stations and has even been dubbed by some critics as the first noteworthy song of the summer of 2012. Momentum and time will decide where the band goes from here but in the moment, Walk the Moon is hot. Red hot.

When Pop-Break’s Jason Stives caught up with lead singer Nicholas Petricca, the band were in bumper to bumper traffic heading into Chicago for a headlining show. This provided ample time to discuss the group’s sudden rise to fame, his love for older acts like Jimi Hendrix, and what it’s like to be in the presence of the best backing band in the world, The Roots.

Pop-Break: Hey Nicholas, it’s nice to meet you! How is the tour going?

Nick Petricca: It’s nice to meet you, Jason! Its going great, man. Right now we are in traffic on our way to a gig in Chicago so we are going to be here for awhile (laughs).

PB: Oh lovely! (Laughs) So with you guys gaining a lot of popularity over the past 6 to 8 months, has touring been a little bit different than usual?

NP: Well we have been touring for a couple years in a way but we started doing bigger tours opening for bands like Fitz and the Tantrums, Kaiser Chiefs and Young the Giant in the last 6 to 9 months. So this summer we are doing our own headlining shows and it’s the first gigs since all this craziness started. We have been playing longer sets and deeper tracks and have been able to get more in touch with the audience then just rushing off the stage.

PB: And your new album comes out Tuesday, but you released the Anna Sun EP back in February. Why release an EP of three songs that would ultimately be on your album four months later?

NP: Well we wanted to have something out there to wet the fans appetites I guess. We knew we wanted to push something to radio and lay some ground work before the album came out. It seems to be doing pretty well for us.

PB: Definitely. A lot of people love Anna Sun; it’s definitely a very fresh pop song. Did you know when you wrote it that it was something special or do you kind of treat all songs with the same sense of importance?

NP: It’s hard to say. There are definitely some songs we rehearse that just feel better if you will. We are still writing new songs even with promoting this album. Not necessarily for marketing measures (laughs) but we want to see how some of these songs work so we put them in our sets sometimes. The best place to get a strong sense of what sticks is by playing them in front of a crowd.

PB: Has the reaction been positive for the new stuff you are playing?

NP: Yeah. Very positive. It’s been nuts, we have been playing new songs for a couple months and they seem to be catching on really quick. We play songs that we haven’t really released and people come to shows and they know all the words already (laughs). We are like WHAT!? How? We don’t even have a record to leak yet! But that doesn’t bother us it’s just a really cool experience to have.

PB: This may seem like a very odd thing to ask an artist but I’m going to do it anyway (laughs). Besides being your single, what is it about the track you feel people are really connecting with? It’s very infectious and a lot fresher than some of the things that are out there.

NP: For me I think it’s partly the subject matter. It’s a song about growing up and about that fertile ground between being a kid and an adult. That’s kind of a rite of passage for everyone to go through and it’s a very personal song full of emotion. I think partly that might have something to do with it and a lot of the lyrics are kind of memories from college and what not. It’s definitely a nostalgia song in a way.

PB: You mentioned nostalgia. I know the band got its name from a Police record and I have read that you have been influenced greatly by acts like the Talking Heads and David Bowie, a lot of older acts. Do you feel the music of that era offers something that current music struggles to convey?

NP: Again, it’s hard to say. I guess it’s easy to say like they don’t make it like they use to and in some sense that is true you won’t get another Bowie or David Byrne. But as seemingly mainstream pop as they were then they can be on the same level in so many ways as most modern pop music like Rihanna. Good craft is good craft regardless of the period and we take a lot of that music that influenced us and try to integrate that into a modern sound if you will.

PB: You have said in interviews your parents had you listen to a lot of their records from the 60s and 70s. In the time you have grown up and become a musician is there one album in particular that sticks out as being very important in your musical growth?

NP: I would say growing up Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? was key for me. That was the first record I remember thinking, this is what badass is like, like I can see myself listening to this and absorbing it. Mind you we don’t sound anything like Hendrix (laughs) but I think we strive to make music that people can lose themselves to.

PB: I’ve been seeing footage of you guys live and I like the war paint thing you guys wear. It’s kind of become like a stage persona in a way or a trademark but it doesn’t take away from the music.

NP: Yeah it’s like a ritual for us. It’s another way to connect with the audience, a one kind of community thing. I mean we don’t show up for interviews in that but it’s more about the performance and enhancing it. It was something that started small with the people coming to our shows and now it’s really a part of how our fans identify with us. There is no separation between us and the fans because of that.

PB: You guys are from Ohio. Normally, Ohio doesn’t strike people as an energetic hub for bands but the state has a lot of history with great bands. Coming from there, how did you guys discover the fun, energetic sound that ultimately has made up your appeal?

NP: Do you mean like how we formed or talking about the scene?

PB: The scene more than anything. I feel like you don’t hear about a lot of great bands coming out of Ohio.

NP: Well coming from an indie DYI mentality, Ohio is actually a great place to be coming out of geographically for bands. Like we are maybe 6 or 7 hours to the west cities and then you are near the east coast for New York and things like that. So geographically we started just doing the rounds and could travel equal distance each way and cover all the basics. If you are somewhere like Austin you are in a music hub in itself and don’t have to go too far to find great new music and places to play. But there aren’t half the music markets around Ohio as there are down there and thankfully we are in a good proximity to many great markets. As far as the music scene is concerned the more I became involved with it, I realized how rich the area is for music. There are some great places in town to play and there is just a hungry music scene. So it made it a lot easier to find a scene even if it wasn’t a huge market compared to Chicago which is a good 6 to 8 hours from where we are.

PB: You guys played on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon recently. How was your first experience on national television like?

NP: It was absolutely fucking terrifying (laughs). Mainly because the experience is so long because you get there at 8 in the morning but they don’t tape till like around dinner time. Then there is camera blocking and you wait to record so you are just nervous constantly. You look up the viewer figures and it’s like oh ok 1.6 million a night, no biggie (laughs). But Jimmy Fallon was really nice and it’s something you think about growing up. So to finally play on television was really awesome!

PB: Like most musicians who visit that show, I assume there was a desire to play with the Roots, right?

NP: Oh God, totally. That was the other thing you are performing so close to them. Like where the performance space is you are 20 feet away from Questlove (laughs). So there is that part of you that is nervous even being near the Roots. I would have loved to have played with them but I guess that’s just wishful thinking.

PB: Where do you guys go from here? You are touring and you are playing the Governor’s Ball next weekend on Randall’s Island. Is it just a lot of touring from here on out and promoting the album?

NP: Yeah basically we are going try and play as many places as we can and meet as many people as we can. We are going to finish out our headlining dates in Europe mid way through July and then come back and play a couple festivals like Firefly in Delaware. Then we go back on the road with Neon Trees in August and then we are off to Europe in September with fun. So hopefully when we get back we will be doing some more headlining shows, so yeah, a shit tone of gigs which should be fun!

All Photos Courtesy: RCA Records

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