TWJ Interviews: Walk The Moon
When we first spoke with Walk The Moon back in November of 2011, the band’s ascent was just beginning. Their debut album was still months away, the band’s four members were plugging away on a tour that criss-crossed the US, and they had played about every festival on the map.
And now that we’ve seen these dudes five times live over the past 18 months, we can safely say they’ve continued to grow as a band. The momentum hasn’t slowed down, and neither has the touring. This past weekend, the band played the 10th edition of Louisville’s Forecastle Festival, and The Wounded Jukebox was there in force. But before all that craziness went down, Walk The Moon’s bassist Kevin Ray (third from left above), a Columbus native, took part in TWJ’s first-ever on-the-road interview. It was magical time, and what follows are our questions and his answers about the band’s growing popularity, its nonstop touring schedule and the invigorating power of playing your hometown. Enjoy!
It’s been exciting to see the band’s following grow over the past six months or so. What’s it been like for you guys?
We’re happily busy. But we’re so busy that we haven’t really had a lot of time to sort of sit back and reflect. We’re trying to pinch ourselves as much as possible. We just wrapped up our first headlining tour, and then we went to Europe for a week and then Amsterdam. And now we’re on our way to Providence for a show and then to the Forecastle Festival. And then we go on tour with Neon Trees, right into a tour with Fun in Europe. It’s just like going going going going. So any chance that we can take to step back and take a look at that, we’re really blown away. It’s been an exciting ride. What’s been nice is being able to talk with fans and see that they’re genuinely excited to see us grow.
With “Anna Sun” being so well-received, what’s it like having that song in your arsenal – you know people are waiting for it, and that they’ll go nuts when they hear it – what’s it like having that in your back pocket?
It’s like a band with single – you kind of expect everyone to be standing around waiting for that one song. We never take that for granted, the power of “Anna Sun” as our little indie rock anthem, if you will. People really connect with it and it’s sort of the flagship song and how people usually discover us, along with the video. It’s really been our business card into the industry, and we couldn’t be happier with what “Anna Sun” has done for us. What’s been neat to see is, now that the record’s out, people aren’t just waiting for “Anna Sun,” everybody’s dancing and singing along to all the other songs, too. And it makes us more excited to see what happens with the next single or when another song takes on a path of its own.
It’s an overwhelming feeling when you see people hear that first chord of “Anna Sun” and realize what’s coming and they go nuts. It definitely helps make the song fresh every time. It’s expected of a band to get sick of playing that single, but we see that some people are hearing it for the first time and are discovering it. That really fuels us to be excited about playing it every time.
You guys are always so energized on stage at your live shows. Where does that energy, that fun come from for you guys?
Oh boy. I think part of it is a competition we have with each other. It’s who can keep moving the most. People show up knowing the music, and that helps energize us. We’ve been opening for bands and at venues where no one has heard of us for awhile now. But now that we’re starting to play headlining shows, and people are coming prepared, there’s so much energy. The energy just triples in the room when you see people know the music, and sing along. It might be a little cliché, but we’d almost rather be playing on the floor and be out there with people feeling the energy. It keeps us going – it makes me go nuts, I kind of black out. And everything is still new, we’re not settling into a routine. We’re constantly discovering new levels of that energy because it’s getting bigger and better. At least for now we can say that we can’t get enough of it.
First off, that’s my favorite show we’ve ever played. I grew up in Upper Arlington, Sean (Waugaman) and I both did, and went to school together. We were in our first band together and played in different bands over the years. I actually used to work for PromoWest Productions as an intern and at that venue, the (Lifestyle Communities Pavilion). So not only do I have that personal connection with that space, that venue, but Sean and I have been CD101 listeners our whole lives. That’s where we get all our new music, and we can’t get enough of Lesley James and Tom Butler and the whole CD101 crew. All those people. So to be involved in that was just completely overwhelming.
We would’ve been happy with the opening slot, but to be on right before Naked And Famous, walk out and see 5,000 people, sold out, everybody going nuts, that was incredible. It was the best feeling. I remember we played the first note, and like instantly 15 people went up and started crowd surfing. It was kind of funny, because we were instantly concerned for the lives of those people like “Oh no, oh no, someone’s going to get hurt.” I wish there was video of it, because I would love to see my face, my expression being at that concert, because I was kind of in a different world. It was awesome.
What was it like spending a day with the kids from PS22?
Wow, those kids are awesome. Their teacher, Mr. B, is such an example of a self-motivated teacher. He kind of took the initiative and realized those kids needed some kind of outlet and now the kids that were really dedicated and wanted to sing got an opportunity that completely blew up, in a good way. It really speaks to all four of us because we grew up in schools where arts programs were abundant and a big part of the school budget. Sean and I growing up in Upper Arlington, there were like three choirs and four orchestras and three bands. To go to a place where kids don’t have that opportunity, it feels so good to see someone trying to hard to keep that as a priority.
And the kids appreciate it. They’re all so mature about the whole thing, and all Mr. B has to do is sing a line and they’ve got it. Plus the fact that they’re all so freakin’ cute. They’re all 10-year olds – they have no inhibitions, they’re excited to be a part of it just like we were. I think you can see it on our faces, we just wanted to stay there all day. It was really fun.
There’s a lot of references to these kind of physical encounters, especially on this record you guys just released. Why do you think those moments of contact lend themselves to becoming lyrics or becoming songs?
I think a lot of the basis for Nick’s lyric writing is real life, real emotional and physical memories. A lot of what makes him write what he does are experiences of his own that start out as a little seed, a little idea, and he kind of rolls with it. Especially at the age where a lot of those songs started being written, that’s what a lot of it is about – those physical experiences – at its most basic level. So that’s why it’s so apparent in the lyrics. We’re boys who like girls and there’s no other way to mask that. We’re in our early twenties, and just writing about real life experiences. I think that’s why a lot of people connect to it, too. A lot of people remember being that age and feeling that way. It’s very real.
Oh there’s always experimenting left to do. It’s a lot different now because we are never, ever, ever home. We’ve been practicing for a long time. It’s like ‘We’ve got 10 minutes left in sound check, let’s just jam,’ or we’re staying in a place where someone has a guitar or a piano in a hotel, and we just go for it. Ideas can happen at any time, so we’re always ready with like an iPhone to record that little granule of an idea.
And there’s no formula. We definitely have never set out to write a song a certain way. There’s never been any guidelines. Which is great, because if someone just got a bass line that they thought up at 2 am last night, let’s just roll with it and see what happens. And let’s get weird, let’s try and add something that we never thought would work and just experiment. Because at this point in time, the record is out there, we’re not paying for studio time and we don’t have to pump out 10 songs. We’ve got time to be playful and be experimental. We’re having a lot of fun writing right now, that’s for sure.
Are you excited about seeing any bands at Forecastle?
We haven’t made up our own personal schedules. We’re definitely going to be, by the end of the night, barely holding onto consciousness and rocking out to Wilco. But now at Forecastle, with it being close to home, we’ll have family and friends and girlfriends there, and I think it’ll be more like ‘Let’s just hang out and see where we’ll end up.’ Maybe we’ll end up seeing someone we never thought we would and be blown away. We’re excited. It’s great to see Louisville putting on such a cool event. We love Louisville.
–Sean and Matt