Posted by: Necci – Sep 23, 2013
Walk The Moon is just one of those bands that you just can't help but fall in love with. Whether you're an ardent music fan or a casual radio listener, you're going to learn every last note and lyric of every last song quicker than you'd care to admit when you start listening to their catalogue. Power pop, art rock, indie rock; whatever genre meets genre label you want to slap on it, the bottom line is that the band is enormously talented and clearly one everyone should be listening too.
They flew onto the radar with "Anna Sun," a song so great that it not only anchored their 2010 self-released debut and last year's major label debut, but has showed up on “Best Of” Lists for three years straight as more and more people discovered it. Listen to the rest of last year's phenomenal album and you can't help but wonder how any of these could be passed over for radio airplay.
Seeing them live just makes their case for greatness that much more compelling. While the band glows with childish face paint, the real glow comes from their passionate performance, intricate compositions, and unbelievable connection that everyone in the room feels.
I got to chat with lead guitarist Eli Maiman leading up to their September 24
show at The National, their first headlining show in Richmond. He shared the band’s philosophy on live shows, their plans for follow-ups, television obsessions, and, above all else, just why you can’t help but love Walk The Moon.
Well to start off, it seems like you guys have been on tour forever.
That's certainly how it seems to us. We've been touring really heavily for like the past three years actually. We've been all over the world. We went to England and played arenas with Pink. We played lots of big show in Australia with a great band called The Rubens who are just starting to break out here. We've definitely been running around a lot, but we actually just took two months to hang out in our home town of Cincinnati and write the next record. We've got a full record of new material that we're now going to test out on the road for the next two months while we're doing our American tour.
So with all that touring going on, how did the new record come about?
Well, a lot of it began as garage band demos, kind of what we call "in the box." It will be like mixed vocals, but then everything else is kind of programmed around it. We had tons of ideas stored up on the computer from being on tour and just writing in the bus, on an airplane, or before sound check. We rented a Masonic Lodge in Northern Kentucky and a couple of us lived there. It was really nice to actually have the space to write. We just set up in the main room and wrote together. We worked on some ideas that we had laying around, but mostly just kind of developed jams that we would feel inspired by on a given day. Worked pretty much at the rate of a song a day so we feel pretty good about that progress.
Now, I know you guys are big fan of Little Dragon from Sweden and [lead singer] Nicholas [Petricca] collaborated with Madeon on a single last year. Should we expect a more electronic sound on the new album?
I think you can from the drum perspective. Sean [Waugaman], our drummer, experimented with a lot of different sounds and different textures. I think it really adds a new layer to what we're doing. The new stuff is maybe more heavily influenced by stuff from the 80s than we have been before. The drum sounds are heavily influenced by Prince, David Bowie, and ELO so we've had a lot of fun exploring that territory.
What was inspiring your guitar work while writing?
I was listening to The Smiths a lot and I was thinking about Johnny Marr. I think I discovered that I'd been subconsciously influenced by Johnny Marr for a long time without ever knowing it. Like I was taking it as The Smiths and Modest Mouse instead of just Johnny Marr. I really just kind of committed to his music and being in that sound. I was also heavily influenced by this new instrument that I bought which is this really weird Fender electric twelve-string that was made for like three years in the 80s and then three years in the early 2000s. It's a model that just didn't sell well, but I think it's just the coolest instrument I've ever played. It's got a really odd sound too. It doesn't sound like a jangly electric twelve-string like you'd associate with The Byrds, The Beatles, or that kind of 60s folk rock. It just kind of sounds like this big, awesome, rock and roll guitar. I'm using it on a lot of the new stuff and I was definitely influenced just by the sound of the instrument and just how it felt. It's great unless I find it out of tune on stage because tuning a twelve string in front of a thousand people is not one of my favorite things to do.
Your self-titled album came out last year, but the majority of the songs are from your self-released album i want! i want! which is from 2010 and probably written well before that. Does it feel weird to finally have new material and a new record on the horizon?
Yeah, it was definitely exciting when we started playing some of the new stuff in the shows and people reacted really well to it. It's really exciting. It's a little hard because we just took the two months to write the record so we won't even put anything on tape until November of this year. How long is it going to take for the machinery to get it moving to actually put it out into the world is a whole another story, you know? It's a little frustrating because we're so excited about it and we want it to be out now, but we know there's definitely a process so it's going to be a while before we can put it out in its final form.
Now, for your self-titled, you did carry some songs over from i want! i want! Do you think any of those songs that are left over, for instance "Me And All My Friends," will pop up on the new record?
We're still thinking about it. We've got those songs in the can, so to speak, and if we're moved to put them on the next record, we'll just do it when we hit the studio in November. I think we really want to put out new material though, and we want the focus to be on new stuff rather than on the past. Looking forward, you know? There would have to be a pretty serious gap in the album for us to use an old song I think. If there's an obvious spot where a song like "Blue Dress" would work really well, then we'll use it. We're really psyched on the new stuff that we've written so we're mostly going to focus on that.
So you four are coming to Richmond this coming Tuesday, September 24th. Do you remember the last time you were in Richmond?
Yes, I think it was like two years ago with Fitz & The Tantrums and we played at The National. We're definitely excited about coming back as the headliners and throwing our own party.
Here's something I've always wanted to know. From a band perspective, is there a different way you approach shows that are on the weekday as opposed to shows that are on Friday or Saturday?
I don't think so. It's an interesting question. There are some technical things with the way the show runs, like it starts maybe a half hour earlier than a show would on a Friday night. In terms of our set, we're going to go out and present the most fun and energetic show we can every single night. You know, sometimes people need a release and escape more during the week than the weekend and if we could provide that experience and a little bit of joy for a couple of hours for people, well, what else can we ask for?
Now, face paint is definitely a huge part of your live show. Anyone who's seen you live knows that you guys are decked out as well as about everyone in the crowd. Do you think this is something you guys will keep for your career or something you'll start phasing out like the Chili Peppers did with their socks?
We're definitely open to both of those. I could guess, but there's really no point. We're going to see where it takes us. If people still like doing it and we enjoy doing it, we're going to keep doing it. It was never like a marketing plan, if that makes sense. It just turned out to be a really happy accident for us. It was supposed to happen once for the "Anna Sun" music video (which you can view here). The face paint was just supposed to deepen the sense of Peter Pan-ness, Lost Boys, and the influence of the movie Hook on the music video, but it just took on a life of its own very much so like the way "Anna Sun" did early on. Truly, we had no plan with it. We're just having fun doing it right now and I think it creates a cool sense of community, with the audience members and the performers. It kind of breaks down that wall between the stage and floor. I think it's a positive and as long as it's positive, we'll keep doing it.
How long before you go on stage do you guys put the paint on?
Oh, moments! We usually forget. It's usually the last thing that happens. [Bassist] Kevin [Ray] will be doing his hair...like he does, we'll be all ready to go, and someone will go, "Oh, shit - face paint!" I've had to paint my face on stage before because God knows I forget. You remember very quickly though when you go out there and you see the first six or so rows just covered in paint. You're reminded relatively quickly that you're a jerk and you need to put on your face paint.
At your live shows, audience participation is a major part of the performance. Is that something you guys focus on specifically for your shows?
Absolutely. We definitely don't imagine Walk The Moon as a spectator sport. We want people participating and actively engaged in the show. If nothing else, we'd love just to get people off their phones for a few minutes. You know what I mean. Get people to stop tweeting about the show and just enjoy the show and be there in the moment. I think it's a good way to keep people engaged altogether though.
Festival season is just about winding down and for a band that's been on the road for three years, I'm sure you've played the vast majority. Of the ones you've played, what stands out as your favorites?
It's really hard. Bunbury in Cincinnati is a really great festival especially for us getting to be home and perform for a hometown crowd. It's so rewarding. This year we got to perform there right before fun. which is really, really cool so that's definitely a band favorite. We're also big fans of Firefly. We thought it was a really fun experience. We got to play last year, but we didn't get to go this year unfortunately. Firefly's a real special festival.
Any ones you haven't gotten to do yet that you'd love to?
Yeah, we'd love to do Coachella. We'd love to do some stuff in other countries too like Splendour In The Grass in Australia. There are a lot of festivals just all over Europe we'd love to do. When we were touring Europe with fun., we kept hearing from fans, "Oh, you got to go to this festival in Norway. Then go to this festival in Sweden and this one in Austria." We want to do all of them. We just want to do it all. There's just not enough hours in the day or days in the year though.
How do you guys keep busy on the road?
Breaking Bad, man. Breaking Bad, discussing Breaking Bad, and more Breaking Bad. In a few weeks, it will turn into Walking Dead and I'm also working my way through the Game Of Thrones books. We stay pretty occupied in addition to demoing new songs and the like. Our Netflix accounts are definitely important to us.
How do you avoid spoilers for the show while touring?
Yeah, I think at this point you just have to take your spoilers like a man. They're going to happen! We're on a bus now though and it's just an endless pit of wonder. We've got DVR on the bus which is just awesome. The other day, we were doing this festival called LouFest in St. Louis and The Killers were playing the same time as Breaking Bad so I was freaking out a little bit because I really wanted to see The Killers. But we got DVR so we got to play a great festival, watch The Killers, and then watch Breaking Bad. It's amazing. Life is great.
Now, if you had to pick, who in the band would be Walt?
I think it's got to be Nick. I think in any band the lead singer would be the control freak, for a lack of a better term. The power hungry, control freak has to be the lead singer. Outside of that though, I'm Jesse and Sean is probably Saul. Kevin would be Badger.
Funny how you went to Badger before Skylar.
I would never do that to one of my friends. I would never say that someone is Skylar. That's just not cool.
What kind of bands are you guys getting into lately?
I'm really excited about Smallpools. We're going out on tour with them next month. Right now we're touring with this great band called Magic Man who I'm also really excited about. They're super nice people and a great band to have opening up for us. We really like Royal Teeth and The Mowglis too. We're pretty obsessed with the new Empire Of The Sun record, Ice On The Dune. They continuously blow our mind. A program director in Cleveland just turned us onto this band called Enter The Haggis that's pretty cool. This was like a few days ago. They do like folk, Irish, pop tunes. Super cool. I'm excited to find out more about Enter The Haggis.
Okay, time to wrap it up. If you were a promoter, how do you think you would entice the music fans of Richmond to come out to your show?
Oh, um...yeah...well. You know, this question makes me feel too much like a whore. I can't do it. Too much like a cheap whore, man. I just can't. We're just going to come and we're going to play some rock and roll. It's all live instruments, no tracks. Everything you hear will be actually happening on stage. We're going to have a good time and we're going to dance. Everyone should come out for a real special night.
Walk The Moon returns to Richmond on Tuesday, September 24
with Magic Man as the opener at The National. You can find more information and tickets http://www.thenationalva.com/events/detail/walk-the-moon “>here.
By Doug Nunnally