A conversation with Kevin Ray of Walk The Moon

By Evana Bodiker

October 14, 2015

Walk the Moon isn’t your typical breakout pop radio band. In fact, they’re more than a summer hit; the rising sensations hailing from Cincinnati stormed the radio this summer, proving there’s no need for a term like “pop crossover” when a single song can redefine what it means to be on the Billboard Hot 100. Walk the Moon’s summer smash hit “Shut Up and Dance” not only gave courage to those on the corner of the dance floor, but it also reinvigorated the machinist mores of popular radio to make the necessary room for rock bands with a penchant for dancing. With vibrancy, gusto, and heartstrings in good old rock and roll, the band watched their star rise this year: High up enough to shimmy with Taylor Swift at her 1989 World Tour stop in Foxboro, Massachusetts, to sell out a show at the prestigious Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, and to garner a VMA nomination for Best Rock Video. The smash success of WTM’s most recent album “Talking Is Hard” is hard to measure at the moment as the band is still riding the wave of their mesmerizing tunes on US crowds, and the expanding fan base in Europe.

Despite the exciting milestones Walk the Moon landed on this year, the band still has their eyes on bigger voyages. It’s safe to say that 2016 holds even more landmark moments for this rock band that has been putting in their time on the road for six years. Currently on the #TalkingIsHardTour, Walk the Moon has made their way through the greater part of the US and is traveling to Europe at the end of the year to make this seemingly never ending dance party a global one. For a band who thrives on bringing their crowds to their feet, it’s without a doubt that Walk the Moon will continue to sonically infect ears of many new fans to come across the pond and here in the US.

On Monday, October 19th, the tour will make a stop at the Fillmore Theater in Charlotte. While the last time WTM was in the Queen City was in summer of 2014, the crowd on Monday is sure to rival the one the band saw at the PNC Amphitheater. Charlotte is more than ready to sing along to the infectious melodies and jump to the heart pounding beats of WTM’s impressive repertoire, especially after such an exciting summer for the band. After all, Monday’s show is completely sold out.

Kevin Ray of Walk The Moon via Megan Gotch of iamhighvoltage.com

Kevin Ray, bassist for the band, took some time to discuss with CLTure all the amazing feats his band has accomplished over the past year and what the future looks like for this skyrocketing quartet.

CLTure: With “Talking is Hard,” and specifically the single, “Shut up and Dance,” Walk the Moon has made the ultimate departure to pop radio. How do you think your fan base has changed since your first smash hit?

Kevin Ray: I wouldn’t call it a departure. It’s really amazing that the song has grown so much that it is played on pop radio. We still consider ourselves a rock and roll band, and I think we always will. The fan base has simply gotten bigger, and there is still such a genuine connection between the fans and the music.

CLTure: Sonically speaking, do you think that “Talking is Hard” is different in a lot of ways than the self-titled debut album? What was the direction in which the band wanted to head with this sophomore album?

KR: We were so proud of our self-titled release, but going into the making of “Talking Is Hard,” we made a conscious decision to push ourselves beyond the sonic landscape of the first album. We still wanted to maintain the playfulness and rambunctiousness, while exploring more aggressive tones and even a softer, more delicate side of our personalities.

CLTure: “Shut up and Dance” was arguably one of the biggest songs of the summer. When writing and recording it, did the band foresee it blowing up the way it did?

KR: We had a very good feeling about “Shut Up And Dance,” but then again, we usually have a pretty great feeling about all our music. It wasn’t until we played the song live for the first time that it was solidified as having such crazy potential. The audience was singing along by the second chorus, which made all of us sort of nod at each other.

CLTure: How has the band grappled with the transition from being an up-and-coming opening act to a VMA nominated headliner?

KR: It has been a very long journey getting to where we are in the industry today. You could say that we have been training for this over the past 6 years. Going from opening small clubs, to headlining them, then back to opening large clubs, and so on. Eventually we were opening arenas for some massive artists, and learning how to fight for your life in a situation like that teaches you so much about how to have confidence in front of any crowd. When it comes to life off the stage, not much has changed. We’ve been touring so regularly through all of this, that our crew has remained relatively unchanged. They are such a huge support system on a daily basis, so the one thing that has changed—the time commitment—has been much easier to deal with.

CLTure:  Any plans for the next single that will inevitably turn the nation into one big dance party again?

KR: We are super excited about our newest single, “Different Colors,” and watching that start to grow. It’s a pretty different song from “Shut Up And Dance,” in that it is a little more aggressive, and it has a completely different message. The song is all about diversity and celebrating everyone’s differences.


CLTure: What is your favorite song to preform live? Do you think it gets the same response from the audience?

KR: I love playing the song “Up2U” live. It is quite a departure track for us, with heavy guitar riffs and big screaming vocals. It definitely gets me head-banging when we play it live. I think the audience has a similar reaction.

CLTure: What is your favorite part about performing live?

KR: One of my favorite parts of performing live is connecting with the audience. If I can find that genuine connection during a show, it can elevate the entire night. It’s a feeling that can’t be replicated anywhere else.

CLTure: The band’s sound is typically enigmatic, upbeat poppy, and generally, very ecstatic. Then there are songs like “Iscariot” (from the self-titled album) and “Come Under the Covers” from “Talking Is Hard” that pop up in the repertoire. Will slower, more serious songs like these find their way into the live show?  

KR: Slower, more dramatic songs have always had a special place in our live set. I think it is a special moment for fans when we focus the energy with a song like “Come Under The Covers.” We have been playing that song in our sets recently and it has become one of my favorite songs to play. It’s maybe a little unexpected and really showcases our musicianship.

CLTure: Are there any bands you all would love to tour with?

KR: We have learned so much from touring with other artists. They have taught us so much about how we should treat other artists on the road and how to maintain our sanity! I’m sure we would all love to tour with someone like Taylor [Swift] and could probably learn a lot from her and her team. I would also throw Prince and Two Door Cinema into the hat.

CLTure: This is your second time in Charlotte in a little over a year. Last time the band played in Charlotte was in August 2014 with Panic! At the Disco. Any lasting impressions of the Queen City and her music fans?

KR: I remember that show well! That is such a fun venue and the crowd was amazing. One of my best memories from that show was getting to hang at a nearby bar afterwards with a bunch of locals and play games and listen to good music. Everyone was so nice and hopefully we can do the same thing this time around.

CLTure: With indie rock musicians, lately there has seemed to be a trend with experimentation that often leads to a band’s sound changing altogether. Since Walk the Moon is already an inventive indie rock band, does the group feel pressure to experiment and change the sound? Or do you feel like the evolution of sound is more organic for the band?

KR: I don’t think we feel any pressure to experiment any more than we already do. We take a lot of influence from the 80’s, which were a time when pop artists were experimenting in every aspect, whether it was music, fashion, or live production. We like to push ourselves to create new sounds all the time, so experimentation is a very organic process for us.

Photo by Anna Lee of mindequalsblown.net

CLTure: 2015 is coming to a close. If you had to pick one event, what do you think was the band’s best and most memorable moment of the year?

KR: I think playing Red Rocks in Denver is on every band’s bucket list, and this year we played a sold out show there. It’s such an iconic venue and the view from stage is breathtaking. We will never forget that night, I’m sure.

CLTure: Who are some of the artists on your playlist? Any guilty pleasure songs you want to divulge?

KR: The new Ryan Adams cover of “1989” is on everyone’s playlist, I’m sure. We have also been listening to a lot of Misterwives and Holychild. I’ve, personally, been digging back into some of my favorite hip-hop lately, like Outkast, Snoop, Mos Def. The list goes on and on.

CLTure: Looking ahead to 2016, does the band have any plans to get back into the studio?

KR: I think 2016 is all about taking “Talking Is Hard” as far as it can go. We are seeing an amazing reaction abroad, so we will be spending a lot more time outside of the US, but we are probably also looking at some of the biggest domestic shows we’ve ever done. It’s going to be all-out touring next year. We are constantly writing though, whether it is a cool collab, or just working out some ideas in soundcheck. I wouldn’t put it past us to hop into a studio here or there just to get the juices flowing.

Catch Walk The Moon in Charlotte, NC on Oct. 19 at Fillmore.

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