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Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012

Walk The Moon’s Chipper Communal Rock

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A lot of things were different for Walk The Moon when it came time to record their second album. Where the group’s debut, I Want! I Want!, was self-produced and self-released, the band signed to major label RCA Records for their follow-up. That meant recording in a professional studio with an experienced producer, Ben H. Allen, whose resume includes projects with Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley and Christina Aguilera. It also meant a much bigger budget and access to a much wider variety of instruments and sound equipment.

But there was one thing the band didn’t want to change.

“We kept in mind that we wanted it to still have the essence of Walk The Moon,” guitarist Eli Maiman said. “We wanted the record to be just like the most fun thing you’ve ever listened to in your entire life.”

Whether their self-titled second album stands as the most fun album in music history is debatable, but Maiman and his bandmates have plenty of reason to be happy about the response to the album. The album’s first single, “Anna Sun,” went Top 10 at Modern Rock, was Top Five with AAA radio and was named MTV Buzzworthy song of the summer. The group itself has been touted as a band to watch by video outlets like VH1, MTV and VEVO.

While the group has had good success with radio, Maiman insists that the band’s true home is on the road. “When I think of Walk The Moon, I think of the live performances and the shows,” he says. “When we go into the studio, that’s really what we’re after. We want to capture the essence of the performances, the live performances.”

The live show is where it’s become apparent that Walk The Moon has connected with fans. It’s there that the band has gained a visual trademark: the face paint the group members and a good number of fans wear during the shows.

The face painting phenomenon stems from the “Anna Sun” video, which featured the singer/keyboardist Nicholas Petricca and fans wearing face paint at an outdoor party.

“After that came out, fans started coming to the shows in face paint and it made sense for us to do face paint,” Maiman said. “It became a really great way to interact with the audience before a show. We would take a plate of paint out and talk to people and paint their faces and meet them.

“A fun kind of by-product of that is that the live performances became a very communal experience,” he said. “We want it very much like we’re all here together having one big experience.”

The fans that are communing now with Walk The Moon are discovering a band with a fairly short history. The group was started around 2008 by Petricca while he was attending Kenyon College in Cincinnati. But the current lineup didn’t become complete until February 2011 when Maiman came on board, following bassist Kevin Ray and drummer Sean Waugaman.

By that time, I Want! I Want! had been released, and while Maiman said the band is very proud of that album, they felt it didn’t reflect what Walk The Moon sounds like on stage. That’s a key reason why, in addition to five new songs, the band re-recorded six of the songs from I Want! I Want! (including “Anna Sun”) for the self-titled album.

“We felt that we owed it to the songs to really get them right,” he said, adding, “there are certain songs that we also felt were so good that they deserved a major label push.”

That doesn’t mean the band wanted to make a slick record, Maiman said. And indeed, while the second album is far from a lo-fi affair, the band’s poppy synth-and-guitar comes with considerable punch and a bit of grit. Tunes like “Anna Sun,” “I Can Lift A Car” and “Jenny” are big, bright and full of pop hooks (and just enough quirkiness to add extra interest to the songs).

“We didn’t want it to be too clean,” Maiman said of the second album. “We didn’t want it to be overly glossy, which I think you can hear on the record. We’ve got points where you can hear us talking. There’s a point in ‘Shiver Shiver’ where the arrangement changed because Sean dropped a drum stick.

“We want to be an in your face, raw rock band playing music,” he continues. “Everything we do on stage is live. There are no tracks. Everything you’re hearing is happening on stage when you hear it. That’s something we pride ourselves on and that’s definitely something we want to keep doing moving forward.”

Walk The Moon plays the Turner Hall Ballroom on Saturday, Dec. 1 with openers On and On. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.