It’s testament to a band’s talent to create a song catchy and carefree enough to be declared the Song of the Summer. Earning the title two years in a row is the sort of unprecedented honor that, to quote Spinal Tap, “turns it up to eleven.”
So it goes with indie-rock band Walk the Moon’s deliciously infectious “Anna Sun”, a song so evocative of summertime, it nearly shoots rays of sunshine into your ears. Esquire Magazine called it first in 2011; this year, MTV’s Buzzworthy Blog and Seventeen Magazine made the declaration after over 45% of fans voted it the Official Song of the Summer .
“We couldn’t be more proud to be the song of the summer two years in a row,” says bassist Kevin Ray. “It’s great; we wouldn’t mind being it every summer.”
Originally appearing on the band’s 2010 release i want! i want!, it was re-recorded earlier this year for the EP Anna Sun with the band’s current lineup (Ray, guitarist Eli Maiman, and drummer Sean Wagauman joining singer Nicholas Petricca) and can be found again on their freshly released self-titled debut on RCA Records. The 20-something Cincinnati natives have long been waiting to release their new material.
“We feel like we’ve been pregnant for 9 months and finally get to give birth to this child, this album that represents us in every possible way, and it feels great,” Ray says. “We started recording almost a year ago, so we’ve been sitting and thinking about this music over and over and now finally we get to tell the world about it.”
While “Anna Sun” has enjoyed an unusual amount of success, it’s unlikely to be their last hit; all 11 tracks of Walk the Moon are filled with catchy hooks, sing-along choruses, and beats that beg to start a dance party. A large part of their success as songwriters can be attributed to how well the band’s individual inspirations blend together.
“We all share some of the same major influences—Talking Heads, The Police, The Killers—but the good thing is we all come from different backgrounds, listening to different music like 90s rock, David Bowie, Prince, The Beatles, and I think all those influences show up in the stuff the four of us have come up with together,” says Ray.
The only downside to the self-titled release will come to fans looking for i want! i want!, which is no longer available online or in stores.
“We’re focusing on the new album and the band how it is today, so we decided to take it offline and out of retail as the new album better represents where we are now,” Ray explains.
Fortunately, older favorites such as the funky hip-shaker “Jenny” and smooth “Lisa Baby” have been re-recorded with the new lineup to “make [them] more representative of the band today.”
Walk the Moon stands strong on its own, but nothing beats the magnetic energy the band brings to their live shows. They’re currently on what will be the band’s longest tour together so far: first they’ll play throughout the country, with a few European dates mixed in; then, they’ll finish up in the States before heading back to Europe with fellow good-time band fun. If reading that feels exhausting, living it is even more so.
“I’ve done multi-month tours before as a sound guy and it was exhausting, but as a performer it’s really exhausting.” Ray says, “But the reward is much, much more. We get to meet new faces every day and have a crazy dance party every night.”
Some may think that, despite the frenzied schedule, touring is a glamorous endeavor. Not so, Ray clarifies.
“We still have a van and a trailer, and it’s still just our tour manager, our sound guy, and us. It’s very humbling when we pull into a van and the venue people ask where our bus and crew is, and it’s just us doing everything. But it’s a good bonding experience where it’s just us. We’re looking forward to where it takes us.”
For a taste of their live charisma, check out videos of the band leading renowned Staten Island PS22 chorus in a singalong of their Anna Sun EP. The elementary school chorus, directed by teacher Gregg Breinberg (“Mr. B”), has received international recognition for their talents.
“It was life changing; those kids were so inspiring,” Ray says reverently. “The four of us grew up taking music classes, and music was readily available at school; that fueled our love at an early age. It’s weird that schools don’t really have that anymore, and [Mr. B], this inspiring teacher, decided to grab kids with a love for singing and start a choir, and it exploded. The kids love [singing] and respect it and the practice, and [they] make some beautiful music together. To be a part of that was amazing. They were excited we were there and we were excited to be there. It was a whole barrel of cute all at once. I couldn’t stop smiling, and you can see that in the video!”
The absence of the PS22 kids from the tour won’t affect the childlike spirit concertgoers evoke at their shows. Fans have followed the band’s lead in wearing colorful face paints to create a fun, vibrant atmosphere. The now-ubiquitous practice started last year during the filming of the “Anna Sun” music video, shot in their hometown with friends and local dancers serving as extras. The clip starts in a warehouse party, done in the one-shot style made famous by OK Go, and ends outdoors, where face-painted partygoers thrash around in a loose homage to the Lost Boys from the film Hook. Cynics may think the practice is a shtick, but Ray insists the band has no intention of making it a focus.
“We realized [at the video shoot] that it was the greatest way to get involved with fans who had no idea who we were, and it kinda stuck. It’s a good way to connect with fan and creates a sense of community amongst fans. They come out in paint, and if it’s mellow we come out and paint faces, and it adds to the experience and gets me hyped up for showtime.”
Although Walk the Moon will be painting faces from Pittsburgh to Paris, Ray was looking forward to their Philadelphia show at the Theatre of Living Arts, on June 21st, not only for the reception of the fans but also everything Philadelphia has to offer.
“[Philly has] all these historical places in a small space, and the culture is beautiful. A lot of people have a lot of pride in Philly, and it’s nice to see that, coming from a relaxed suburb outside a small city in the Midwest,” he explains. “We played the TLA before, opening for Fitz and the Tantrums, and it was awesome. I really like that room; it’s interesting how [the stage] is offset and everyone gets a good view. I remember the crowd very well–after the show there was a huge line and we stood there for an hour after the show meeting people. It was great! And Ishkabibbles is right across the street! Last time we all said we weren’t gonna eat cheese steaks before the show and, like, 20 minutes before we went on, we were like ‘Ah, screw it,” and got them and felt terrible [during the show], but they were great. We’ll wait until after the show this time.
by Dana Giusti