Last week MTV declared Cincinnati dance-pop quartet Walk The Moon’s “Anna Sun” its official song of the summer. The same song was also chosen as the official song of the summer by Esquire – in 2011.
Walk the Moon has been riding the “Anna Sun” wave for more than a year, since the band self-released an album, i want! i want!, in 2010. That led to a deal with RCA, and a major label debut on June 19.
As The Bay Bridged chatted with the foursome following their fun set at Live 105’s BFD music festival Saturday, the guys were foremost captivated by their previous show, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the previous day.
“We wish we had gone to school here with the lagoons and the beaches and the cliffs and everything,” singer and keyboardist Nicholas Petricca exclaimed. “And the girls!”
After the gig the band members walked five minutes from campus to the beach, commenting to each other about the frogs, birds and other wildlife surrounding them.
“And then when we got back to the car and back into the light,” guitarist Eli Maiman said, “I realized that some seabird had taken an enormous dump on me, and I had bird shit on my head, on my shirt and on my pants. I was covered, and it was like, ‘Go back to Ohio, dude.’”
The Bay Bridged: You guys are from Ohio, but not at all moody as the National. It’s like you’re from a bizarro Ohio in which LeBron James never left. Who are your influences?
Petricca: I guess you would say Talking Heads has been a really big influence. David Bowie, The Police are a big deal; that’s partly where we got our name (“Walking On the Moon”). Prince is a big one.
TBB: Why did you begin wearing colorful face paint at your concerts?
Petricca: It sort of originated from the “Anna Sun” video. When we were brainstorming about the video, we wanted to have a sort of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys vibe to it. When we released that video in our home town we had a big party, and we brought face paint, just to emulate the vibe of the video and then it sort of organically became this ritual that we did at shows. People started coming to shows with face paint, we started bringing it and it became this tradition.”
TBB: What’s “Anna Sun” about?
Petricca: The song is very much about growing up – that sort of in-between of being a kid and being an adult. That’s why this Peter Pan sort of thing resonated with us. There’s lots of imagery from college and from childhood, and it’s just kind of about letting go, or not letting go, of that whole part of life. There’s parts where I mention south quad at college and there’s lines to the pool and our station wagon, so it’s not necessarily just one story; it’s kind of lots of different parts.
TBB: If you had to choose, would you grow up or not?
Petricca: I’d like to think I could stay a kid no matter how old I am. I think we all feel that way. That’s part of why we want to be in a rock band.
Bassist Kevin Ray: The innocence of being young is so alluring now that we know what we know. Growing older, you’re like, “Man, I just wish I could go back and not have to worry about things.”
TBB: How long can “Anna Sun” remain the song of the summer?
Ray: As long as we can, man.
Petricca: We’re pretty amazed and pretty humbled that it’s happened twice in a row, and the album still hasn’t come out yet. The album comes out June 19, and so we’re excited by the potential that it might have.
TBB: Kevin, you have been quoting as saying you want your music to be the ‘most fun thing’ people have ever listened to. Bold statement. How do you back that up?
Ray: Oops! (He laughs, nervously). If we’re talking live, we’re talking interaction with fans. Our band’s strategy is to connect more with fans than they’ve ever experienced. There’s a disconnect between the band on the stage and the audience out there, and we want to feel like we’re almost playing in the middle of the crowd. We want to make it a whole dance party. If we can do that mentally, like we can get people to just feel like we’re partying with them, then that’s what we go for, that’s what we strive for.
Maiman: I’ve been working on this. There’s not a whole lot of premeditation to what we’re doing. It’s not like we’ve got a plan to make this fun. We know that’s what we’re striving for, and all we’re doing is following our instincts, because fun is a lot more fun when it’s instinctive and spontaneous. Planned activities are often kind of lame. We don’t want to come from a place that’s anything but genuine, and that’s really just our M.O.
Ray: We love reacting to each other and to the crowd. … So we really just want to leave it all out there on the table and react to what’s going on. We’re open to a bird taking a dump on us. The proverbial bird shit.
TBB: I read that producer Ben Allen was your “dream” choice for the record. What impressed you the most about his work and what did you hope he would add to the record?
Drummer Sean Waugaman: We really liked the Animal Collective record he did (Merriweather Post Pavilion). It’s one of our favorites. We also like a lot of his other work, like Gnarls Barkley. Reptar (Body Faucet); Reptar was awesome. And Givers (In Light).
TBB: Speaking of Reptar, I read that Nicholas and Kevin knew each other since you were toddlers. Did you watch Rugrats? Which one is Chuckie and which one is Tommy?
Petricca: My answer would be, I figure, I got Tommy, you got Chuckie, Eli, and then the Columbus guys (Waugaman and Ray) are Phil and Lil. (Everyone laughs).
Maiman: I was kind of thinking you’re Tommy (points to Petricca), Sean is Chuckie, Kevin is Phil, and…
Ray: You’re Angelica! (Everyone laughs).
Waugaman: You’re the wise instigator.
TBB: You’re the babysitter! OK. Last question. What’s one interesting thing about each of you?
Waugaman (jokes): I was in Black Sabbath.
Maiman: When I’m home, I like to cook a lot. I’m a pretty passionate chef of turkey. I cook a lot of turkey and a lot of kale. I particularly like exploring Mexican food and really watch a lot of Food Network. Additionally, and this is probably better, I was a jazz guitar major when I went to school — the conservatory of music at the University of Cincinnati. Near the end of my time there, I was one quarter away from graduating and I totally freaked out and decided I’d never make a living as a musician. I thought I was just completely on the wrong path in life, and I could never support a family or even myself.
So I decided to dedicate myself to doing pre-med for the final quarter because I figured I could get all my pre-req’s in one quarter. And I totally failed. I just totally, like totally bombed and ended up watching “Scrubs” most of the time; like that was the way I was training to be a doctor – by watching Scrubs. And so it didn’t work out, and now I play music for a living.
Waugaman: And he still watches Scrubs to figure that out.
Ray: I grew up skateboarding. That was the other half of my life. Music and skateboarding. When it was time to graduate high school and go into college, I gave myself this ultimatum: “You’ve got to pick one: skateboarding or … go to college and study music.” I chose the latter, but I’m a skateboarder through-and-through. I get bummed a lot because I bring a skateboard on the road and I never use it. I never get to skate.
Waugaman: I’m a really huge fan of Wikipedia. If there’s something I don’t know, I’ll Wikipedia it. I’ll be on that site for hours, clicking links and learning a bunch of random useless facts that I’ll never use in real life. I actually use them, surprisingly. Apparently the time has not gone to waste, but that’s pretty much what I did in college when I was supposed to be studying.
Petricca: When you say, “I wonder what the drinking age is in Kentucky,” Sean’s like, “15.” And I was a piano teacher before I did this full-time and really enjoyed working with kids and thought if I can’t do this, I could be a piano teacher. I could teach music. My mom’s a teacher too, and in fact, every single woman in my family, like extended family, they’re all teachers. So it’s something I could be in to. Actually, one of my students is the main kid in the “Anna Sun” video.