There’s a light on the other side of 2020, and Walk the Moon are intent on shining it.
Working through the pandemic, remotely, frontman Nicholas Petricca, guitarist Eli Maiman and drummer Sean Waugaman sifted through old demos and new songs, piecing together their fifth studio album Heights, out fall 2021. Returning to a more enlightened state from their fourth album, What If Nothing, Walk the Moon are leaving new reflections on the past year… and how good it is on the other side on the first three singles “Can You Handle My Love??”, “Giants” and “I’m Good.”
Produced by Tommy English and Mike Crossey, “Can You Handle My Love??,” a collaboration with K.Flay and Tommy English (BORNS, Kacey Musgraves), opens up instrumentally from the guitar- and synth-stealth tracks with a more piano-led chant, a track Petricca calls a self love anthem. “For me, it’s being at a point in my life, where I’m really seeing myself fully through the dark and the light and the imperfections and enjoying owning that,” he says, “and how ridiculous it is to try and be perfect.”
Some of the songs on Heights are almost as old as the band, while others were crafted in real time in the studio. “The album is buttressed by songs that are eight or nine years old,” shares Petricca. “We’re a band that writes a lot of songs for each record, so there’s a lot of material that doesn’t get used, and it’s not because we don’t love those babies. Sometimes it takes a while for them to grow up, or for us to find the right way to really bring them to life.”
Maiman admits that the band have always found themselves entrenched in demos. Producer Mike Crossey, who has worked with the band since their third album Talking is Hard in 2014 and What If Nothing in 2017, is tuned in to transferring older WTM demos into finished tracks. “We find ourselves 10 years later with demos thinking ‘we should turn this demo into a real recording,’” says Maiman. “Mike really has a great way of helping us focus on turning old songs into new songs, so it helps to have an outside perspective.”
Heights has an overriding feeling of hope and perseverance says Petricca. “That’s been at the center of who Walk the Moon is for a long time. Our last record was more of a dark horse, exploring more moody territory, but Heights is more within the spectrum of what Walk the Moon does, and having come through the pandemic and navigating how we’re going to make an album was this microcosm of what everyone in the world is going through, pulling through challenging times, and having faith that there’s light on the other end,” Petricca adds.
“I think we really gave ourselves permission to stretch out for the first time whereas previous records tend to be pretty tight,” says Maiman. “This one really helped us stretch our legs. You can hear it a little bit on ‘I’m Good’ with its long outro. We were really able to breathe and present an alternate perspective on what we’ve been saying for the last four minutes.”
Reflecting on Heights and the band’s more than 10-year history, for Petricca Walk the Moon’s lifespan since their 2010 debut, I Want! I Want!, is set before and after their 2014 mega-hit “Shut Up and Dance.”
“My personal journey with that song was… I think of it as an identity crisis,” admits Petricca. “We knew that song was going to be something special and have an impact. As it was growing, we were overjoyed, and then there’s a period of time where it felt like the band was defined by it, so I had this mixed relationship with the song.”
Now, having had time more time to live with the song, Petricca says there’s another appreciation for it and its continued connection with fans. “I still get videos sent to me all the time of somebody at a wedding or other milestone moments,” he says. “It’s become this epic staple in a lot of people’s lives in different ways. I guess there’s this little punk kid inside of me that was mad for awhile, but I’m appreciating how beautiful and rare it is for a song to do all that it’s done.”
Petricca adds, “Whatever success and hits we have in the future, every song is really going to have its own life. I’ve just had immense joy and appreciation for what we’ve accomplished and feel like we’ve set ourselves up for an amazing comeback.”