Walk the Moon Return From the Brink With 'Epic' New Sound

Walk the Moon, 2017
Sami Drasin

From left: Walk the Moon’s Maiman, Waugaman, Petricca and Ray photographed on Aug. 7, 2017 at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s in Los Angeles.

Last year, the future of Walk the Moon -- the band known best for its blissed-out hit “Shut Up and Dance” -- looked uncertain. A summer tour was canceled so that frontman Nicholas Petricca, 30, could return to his native Cincinnati to help care for his ailing father, and the quartet took, he says, “some much-needed time to ourselves.”

For Petricca, that included recovering from a split with “the love of my life” (the woman who inspired the “shut up and dance with me” refrain) and from the startling success of a song that broke the then-record for the longest reign atop Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart in 2015 (27 weeks). “The song got so massive,” he says. “It was sort of like, ‘What do we do from here?’”

Sami Drasin
From left: Walk the Moon’s Waugaman, Petricca, Ray and Maiman photographed on Aug. 7, 2017 at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s in Los Angeles.

That November, the quartet reconvened in an Austin studio. “It was really amazing to feel like a band again,” says Petricca, whose spiky bleach-blond hair belies his contemplative manner. “To get back to where we started: boys making noise in a room.” When his father passed away the following February, the band turned the wake into “a jammer,” he recalls. “The way that painful experience was alchemized into something fun -- that’s the stuff of Walk the Moon.”

Today, at a retro-’70s bar in Los Angeles, Petricca, bassist Kevin Ray, guitarist Eli Maiman and drummer Sean Waugaman seem rejuvenated, psyched for the November release of their as-yet-untitled third album. A 2018 tour will follow. “These big moments necessitated something introspective,” says Petricca. “This record is evidence that we’re on the other side, victorious.” The band worked with producers Mike Crossey (The 1975) and Mike Elizondo (Dr. Dre). “[Crossey] is this rock’n’roll wizard, and Elizondo does these badass hip-hop records, so it was neat to combine those influences,” says Petricca.

The first single, “One Foot” (arriving in September), encourages the same ecstatic abandon as “Shut Up and Dance” but, unlike its ’80s-worshipping predecessor, follows EDM logic with a gravity-defying beat drop and reverberating vocals. It’s indicative of the album’s “bigger, epic sound,” says Maiman -- and of a reflective band coming back from its longest break yet. “‘One Foot’ is facing the void,” says Petricca. “The last record, we felt like we had a lot of answers. This time, we have a bunch of questions.”

Watch '5 Things You Should Know' about Walk the Moon's new album:

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2 issue of Billboard.