Walk the Moon puts focus on fun

Band is making its mark -- on the charts and on fans' faces

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If you go

What: Walk the Moon, in concert.

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 21.

Where: Roseland Theater, 8 N.W. Sixth Ave., Portland.

Cost: $18 through TicketsWest, 800-992-8499 or ticketswest.com

Information: roselandpdx.com

A lot of things were different for Walk the Moon when it came time to record its second CD.

Where the group's first album, "I Want I Want," was self-produced and self-released, the band was signed to major label RCA Records for the second release. That meant recording in a professional studio with an experienced producer, Ben Allen, whose résumé includes projects with Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley and Christina Aguilera. It meant having a much bigger budget and access to a much wider variety of instruments and sound equipment.

But there was one thing Walk the Moon didn't want to change.

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

Whether the second CD — a self-titled release — could win a title as the most fun album in music history is pretty debatable, and for that matter, a rather subjective matter. But Maiman and his bandmates have plenty of reason to be happy about the response to the album.

The first single from the CD, "Anna Sun," went top 10 at modern rock, was top five with AAA radio and was MTV Buzzworthy's song of the summer. The group has been touted as an artist to watch by such video outlets as VH1, MTV and VEVO. A second single, "Tightrope," was released in early October.

The band has now been able to tour behind the self-titled album for a full year — a sign that the album has had staying power.

While the group has had good success at radio, it's clear in talking to Maiman that the live show is central to everything Walk the Moon does.

"I think Walk the Moon is a live band," he said. "When I think of Walk the Moon, I think of the live performances and the shows. 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 music 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 showed 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. "And 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. And the face paint really helps with that."

The fans who are communing now with Walk the Moon are discovering a band with a fairly short history.

Petricca started the group around 2008 while he was attending Kenyon College in Cincinnati.

But the current lineup wasn't complete until February 2011 when Maiman came on board, following bassist Kevin Ray and drummer Sean Waugaman into the lineup.

By that time, "I Want I Want" had been released. And while Maiman said the band is very proud of that album, I felt it didn't reflect how Walk the Moon sounds on stage. That's a key reason why, in addition to including five new songs, it also 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. "(Also) 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, as songs such as "Anna Sun," "I Can Lift A Car" and "Jenny" are big, bright and full of pop hooks (and just enough quirkiness to add interest).

"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 said. "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."