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How Walk the Moon scored a summer pop hit in 'Shut Up and Dance'

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Walk the Moon’s infectious anthem “Shut Up and Dance” made it to the top 10 last month, seven months after the song first dropped. What’s the secret to writing a dancefloor earworm? The group’s lead singer breaks it down.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW…

Frontman Nicholas Petricca, 28, says their single was inspired by an epic night out in Los Angeles two years ago. “I went out with my friends to blow off some steam,” he recalls. “I was at a bar trying to get a drink and started complaining because it was taking forever. And this girl in a backless dress and red Chucks came up to me and said, ‘Just shut up and dance!’ And I thought, ‘Yeah, f— the bar, f— the alcohol. Let’s just rock out!'”

…AND HIT THE BOOKS

Walk the Moon formed in 2010, when Petricca, a music major, linked up with bassist Kevin Ray, drummer Sean Waugaman, and guitarist Eli Maiman, who had all studied music, too. Petricca says those academic chops are crucial to writing catchy tunes: “It enables us to talk on a different level than other bands.”

HAVE A FUZZY, FEEL-GOOD MESSAGE

The “kooky and dorky” vibe of their music has been key to scoring a bigger fan base—and Petricca says he’s not ashamed of that. In fact, their music has been life-changing. “[One high schooler told us], ‘I went through some really rough times, and since I found your music, I’ve found a way to deal with those feelings,'” Petricca says. “And it’s like, ‘Whoa, this is real s—!'”

IT’S TOTALLY RADICAL TO LOVE THE ’80S

Petricca admits he’s influenced by the electronic sounds of groups like the Talking Heads and Tears for Fears. (The band also took its name from the Police’s 1979 hit “Walking on the Moon.”) “The ’80s were a time that celebrated the bizarre,” he says. “That’s when electronic music sunk its roots into pop. You had a combination of electronic and live music and weird personalities. That’s really inspiring to us.”

GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH YOUR FANS

The guys carve out time on tour to meet with their biggest admirers. “We’ve also been asking the audience each night if they’ve never been to a Walk the Moon show—and with this tour, it’s been more than half the audience each night! It’s really cool to see the momentum building.”

CELEBRATE DIVERSITY

The band loves that some concertgoers sport neon face paint at every show. “It’s a way for the hardcore fans to express themselves,” says Petricca. “It’s such a crazy world right now, and we have all these amazing things like sexual-orientation equality coming into the limelight. We’re just trying to use our superpowers for good, you know?”