The guys who gave you 'Shut Up and Dance' are back

By Madison Vain
September 12, 2017 at 10:59 AM EDT

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Cincinnati, Ohio alt-rockers WALK THE MOON took over the pop world with their 2014 single “Shut Up and Dance,” which proceeded to dominate the Hot 100 as well as subsequent wedding season playlists everywhere.

But with that success came the feeling of being misunderstood as a band on a global platform as well as tons of life changes back home that eventually demanded the group take time off. For bassist Kevin Ray, that meant marriage, but for frontman Nicholas Petricca, it meant a struggle with grief from losing his father, as well as a reevaluation of his sexuality. “Coming back together,” Petricca tells EW, “we had to navigate a lot of that stuff.”

Below, EW caught up with the frontman about that journey and how it informed their “epic” new LP.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your 2014 single “Shut Up and Dance” became a massive pop hit. How did you guys handle the success?
NICHOLAS PETRICCA: We weren’t prepared for that. We were in this position where we had this awesome group of hardcore fans who know us and knew the album and then this new huge crowd of people who mostly knew just that song. To us, this [new album] is this awesome opportunity to reestablish ourselves and let people know we’re a rock & roll band.

That song helped you tour all over the world, but in the spring of 2016, you had to cut that run short.
My dad had Alzheimer’s, and I realized how much my family needed me. That was a really intense moment for us. After five years on the road, 300 days a year, and then suddenly this big void? It brought up stuff within the band: I was [then] dealing with the death of my father, and meanwhile, Kevin [Ray] was getting married and my love life was upside down. I was exploring my spirituality and my sexuality. Coming back together, we had to navigate a lot of that stuff.

Does all of that show up in the new music?
This album is based around looking into the unknown and realizing that it could all go to s— or it could be the best thing in your life. This record, even more than the last one, is really raw lyrically, while the sound seems more epic. We’re reaching higher and further with each sound, but the lyrics are closer to the heart.

How is the group doing now?
Making the record was not necessarily a smooth ride, but it’s the most excited we’ve ever been about our music. I think it’s because we dug deeper and we’ve been more vulnerable here than we have been on any other record. We made it through to the other side.