Nicholas Petricca, lead singer of Walk the Moon, thinks you're a dork.
"I think everyone is a dork, and anyone who pretends that they aren’t is just hiding something about themselves," he says. But don't worry — that's a good thing. He adds, "Being a nerd just means you’re passionate about something. And I think it’s so important to keep that inner child alive, that part of you that was not afraid to wear a cape, and run around like an idiot in broad daylight. I think we all might be a bit happier if we did that every once in a while."
That sentiment is partially responsible for Walk the Moon's song of the summer, "Shut Up and Dance," a crossover hit from their usual alternative airplay. Petricca, who co-wrote the song, says, "We really wanted to create an anthem that was kind of a dork anthem, for the everyday kid who’s too nervous to talk to the girl, or too scared to get out of their own comfort zone."
But that's not the whole story. Though the band wrote most of their latest album, Talking Is Hard, in an "old, haunted lodge" in Kentucky, they came out to L.A. to finish up the album. They had a general idea for the song that would eventually become "Shut Up and Dance," but they were missing one crucial element: the chorus. So one night, hoping to "blow off some steam," Petricca and a few friends went to Funky Sole at the Echo, a weekly throwback dance party, and one of the band's go-to Saturday night activities when they're in town.
"I’m at the bar," Petricca remembers, "just waiting forever to get a drink, and feeling frustrated, and being like, ‘Ugh! This sucks, I’m having a terrible time.’ And my friend, who was wearing a backless dress, and beat-up red sneakers, she was like, ‘Just shut up, and dance with me!’ And there was this sort of angelic moment. And I realized, of course, I’m not here to drink, I’m here to have fun with my friends and dance. So we danced, and I came home that night and wrote the chorus."
Preferring to keep his private and professional lives separate, Petricca doesn't go into too much detail about the friend who inspired the song, though he says that she knows the song is about her, and loves it. "Pretty much all of my songs start from a place that’s sort of biographical, there’s always some moment or some feeling in my real life that inspires the lyric." But, he adds, "As soon as my pen hits paper, it becomes about [the song's] own world, its own characters."
Though the band has Cincinnati roots, Petricca now splits his time between Ohio and a bungalow in North Hollywood, and the group recorded their most recent album in L.A. They're big fans of Berlin Currywurst, and used to frequent the now-closed location on Cahuenga in Hollywood.
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"We went [there] every single Sunday, when we were recording the record this time last year, and they had this great beer garden, and it just became this family hang. Eli [Maiman, the band’s guitarist] would bring his brother, and I’d bring my friends, and it would be a rotating crowd, like Cheers."
That vibe of an extended family made up of friends pervades Walk the Moon's music and concerts. While touring can be exhausting, Petricca says the love they give to and get from the audience gives them strength. "That’s what keeps us going, for an hour and a half straight onstage, and for three months straight [on tour]. The energy from the audience is totally inseparable from our performance. It’s something that we double up, that we recycle and give right back to them."