By Courtney E. Smith
Walk the Moon have created a hit song with “Shut Up and Dance,” to the tune of over 78 million streams worldwide and a No. 1 slot on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart–and it’s working its way into the top 10 on the pop charts. But these four guys from Ohio will tell you, it took a lot of writing to get to this particular gem, and no small inspiration from their real lives.
“‘Shut Up and Dance’ is based on a true story,” says singer Nicholas Petricca. “While we were out in L.A. actually writing for the new record, Talking Is Hard, we hit a roadblock writing the song that would become ‘Shut Up and Dance’; we didn’t have the chorus. We went out to blow off some steam at this awesome dance club and there was a girl there with a backless dress and beat up red Chucks who actually told me to shut up and dance with her.”
The true story, already in progress as a song, took some inspiration from other parts of real life also in the form of some of the guys’ favorite music. Petricca says listening to The Cars, Rick Springfield and Pat Benatar were sources of inspiration for the quirky track. And “big slammin’ guitars” were a necessity to what they call their “dork anthem.” But the song didn’t exactly come easily–or quickly.
“We wrote 50 songs for Talking Is Hard, so obviously a lot of them did not make it,” says guitarist Eli Maiman. “‘Shut Up and Dance’ was actually one of the last songs written for the record. We obviously had a lot of material and had a lot that we felt good about for awhile, but we wanted to push and see if we could come up with anything else. I’m really, obviously, glad that we kept writing. It’s a testament to keep pushing, even when you think you’ve had a good idea and you’ve got it. Keep pushing just a little bit. Sometimes that’s when the really good stuff bubbles up.”
Now the thing everyone wants to know is: if this is based on a real girl, did it have a happy ending for Petricca? Are they together still and is she inspiring him? He reveals the answer, but Maiman weighs in with the thought that if you have to ask, you’ve missed the point of the song.
“Yeah, the song has a happy ending in real life but it’s less about me and more about getting out of your head and living in the moment. Luckily I had that person there to get me out of my funk and get me into my body and realize, ‘How awesome is this? I’m here, in L.A. I’m making music for a living. This is crazy!’ I think so often we get tied up in our phones, in who said what to who. It’s just like, just shut up and dance.”