If you go
› What: Walk the Moon
› Where: The Signal, 1810 Chestnut St.
› When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
› Admission: $35-$199
› For more information: 423-498-4700
With the release of 2017's album "What If Nothing," Walk The Moon hadn't just returned from an extended gap between albums, the band came back with a new level of understanding about why they were in the band, the kind of music they wanted to make and what being part of Walk The Moon meant to them.
It was all the result of a period of considerable uncertainty that began in summer 2016 when the group canceled a tour so singer/guitarist Nicholas Petricca could be with his father, who was suffering from Alzheimer's.
According to bassist Kevin Ray, the unplanned stop came at a bad time career-wise. "Shut Up and Dance," the single from second album "Talking Is Hard," had spent seven weeks in summer 2015 in the top five on Billboard's all-genre Hot 100 chart on its way to becoming a triple-platinum hit. Pulling the plug on the tour, as necessary as it might have been, meant the band wouldn't be able to build on the momentum that had been generated by their breakout hit.
"For me personally, it was a strain because I saw what we had built with 'Shut Up and Dance' just sort of lingering in limbo and not capitalizing on it," Ray said. "It was tough. It was really, really tough."
What started as a canceled tour grew into a hiatus. Petricca was then dealing with the death of his father and other personal issues. For all four band members – Petricca, Ray, guitarist Eli Maiman and drummer Shaun Waugaman — stepping away from music prompted them to face important questions that had been hanging over the band unanswered up until then.
"We spent so many years not discussing just what the band meant to each other because we were just on the road every day playing shows," Ray says.
Ray said it was hard to ask tough questions of each other, but the answers showed that the four still had plenty of common ground and a shared sense of purpose.
"I think discovering that we all still had a lot of the same intentions was so comforting," Ray said.
They agreed that with the album that would become "What If Nothing," they wanted to rock up their sound and lyrically address some of the issues they had confronted leading into the project.
"The last record ('Talking is Hard'), I think we were trying to deal with a lot of stuff outside of ourselves," Ray said. "We were trying to answer a lot of questions about the world, the environment, politics or whatever. (On 'What If Nothing') we just sort of wrote what we know, looked inside and just asked questions that we had."
The more serious lyrical content, though, doesn't keep Walk The Moon from sounding plenty upbeat musically. The band makes good on bringing more of a rock edge to the proceedings with songs like "Headphones" (a rare pop song to feature guitars) and an overall anthemic feel to the album.
But fans don't have to worry that Walk The Moon has lost its pop chops. Hooks abound throughout, and songs like the bouncy "One Foot" and the hip-hop flavored "Kamikaze" should please the "Shut Up and Dance" crowd.
"We have the future in mind and we have the biggest possible version of ourselves in mind and we're working toward that," Ray said. "It's finally going to be time for us to have our party the way we've wanted to. That's what we're most excited about."
Walk The Moon plays at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at The Signal, 1810 Chestnut St.