WALK THE MOON’s frontman Nicholas Petricca talks death, breath, and his new studio Kundalini Yoga By The Sea
You might recognize the lyrics and the catchy dance tunes of massive hits including “Shut Up and Dance” (“She said, ‘Oh oh oh, shut up and dance with me”) and “Anna Sun” (“This house is falling apart”). These songs by the band WALK THE MOON became quintessential Songs of the Summer in recent years. In addition to inspiring us to dance, Nicholas Petricca, lead singer and lyricist of the band WALK THE MOON, is a straightforward, authentic fan of Kundalini Yoga.
Since 2011, Nicholas has experienced fame and the chaotic rock-and-roll touring with WALK THE MOON, averaging 300 performances a year.
And since 2016, Kundalini Yoga has been his go-to practice, helping him transition from overnight sensation to long-term hitmaker, with a new album and a new outlook. His impassioned transformation has led Nicholas, just 31 years old, to become co-founder of Kundalini Yoga by the Sea (KYBTS), a neighborhood studio in Santa Monica.
When did you start practicing Kundalini Yoga?
At different points in my life, I had heard about yoga, trying Bikram and Hatha yoga. I always appreciated it, but it never personally resonated. Then in November, 2016, a dear friend was training to become a Kundalini instructor, and I was fascinated. I went to (now closed) Golden Bridge and experienced such joy. I was just grinning, feeling connected in this joyous way: I liked the fast, repeated motion connected with breath, the chanting, the singing. In yoga, began to learn more about my chakras and connected with them for the first time. In one class, Kundalini Yoga awakened a new energy in me.
Kundalini Yoga By The Sea
Instantly, I became a member of the studio, going every week. My band moved to LA temporarily to write and record. I found out three months into my Kundalini practice that Golden Bridge was closing its doors, and my favorite teacher Dharam Dev Khalsa mentioned she was looking for a new studio. I knew I could do something, and I expressed interest in making the new studio a reality. She was intrigued, introducing me to Kia Dharam Atma and Lisa Arshawsky, and the ball got rolling. I strongly felt the call to keep this community going and to create a space for the community. Kundalini Yoga by the Sea (KYBTS) opened in June, 2017.
Becoming involved in KYBTS was serendipitous, synchronistic. At the time, I was in middle of a transformation. My band had reached global success with “Shut Up and Dance.” We had toured continuously for five years. One tour covered 25 countries on five continents in just two months. We were on the verge of burnout, my father was sick, and I was searching for a path to inner peace.
I don’t come from a yogi community or family, and I still feel like a newcomer. I’ve been shown something that not everyone has seen, the Kundalini community and experience. Kundalini Yoga is a bit of a hidden gem. In Kundalini, I love the emphasis on the inner teacher.
Tell us about your transformational year…
In the summer of 2016, my father’s Alzheimer’s Disease was getting worse. The band reluctantly cancelled our tour, and I went home to be with family. It affected me emotionally and artistically. My dad’s disease brought me in touch with darkness, depression, and tragedy. It shifted the depth with which I approached my music. My family found that, in the darkest moments of Dad’s condition, music was one of the few ways we could still connect and smile together. I know that whatever came next for me creatively would be transformative.
We began writing and recording in LA in November, 2016, with me going back and forth to Ohio. I was actually in the studio at end of January when I got the call that my father was in bad shape and I headed straight home. He passed in early February, 2017.
I came back to LA after his funeral. I returned to my yoga class and felt his presence with me and I didn’t want to let him go. At the end of that first class, Dharam Dev Khalsa played a song with the lyrics, “My love embraces you long after we have said our goodbyes. And I will be with you. I will be with you. And I will be with you.” (From “With You” by Jai Jagdeesh.) Pretty amazing.
How has your yoga practice changed your life?
Kundalini lessons shift how I approach daily life, moment to moment. I have a sense of stillness and trust in my inner teacher, recognizing myself reflected in the world around me. I am finding that oneness and sameness of the spark of life within me and around me, trusting the flow.
My yoga practice has also improved my relationship with my bandmates. Only through loving communication could the band approach our demons and then make the best album we’ve ever written (What If Nothing, released in November, 2017).
What does yoga do for your lyrics?
The message in my music, I’ve found, runs parallel to the themes of empowerment and transformation in yoga. Our latest record (What if Nothing) is by far the most emotionally raw and vulnerable, more than any before. The lyrics are pretty autobiographical. On our first single “One Foot,” the refrain repeats “One foot in front of the other,” and that’s the only way we’ve made it through this process. I would say the song “Sound of Awakening” is the autobiography of my personal transformation. It was written as my dad was dying, and in a way it’s a love song for my mom.
And the difference
Is just illusion
How does the breath used in Kundalini practice affect your singing?
Breath is consciousness. Historically, even Biblically, breath is associated with spirit. With that understanding, breath shifts how I look at what I’m doing. When I focus a laser beam of breath into a microphone in front of thousands of people, I’m sending out this soul message, a spirit shockwave. The vibration of my voice carries the words connected to my experience and the melody that has come through me. This vibration carries all this, let’s say, spirit juice. Breath is the vessel through which people are receiving my art. Nowadays, I view myself as a rock and roll shaman, ha.
How do you practice on the road?
My KYBTS partners have lovingly set up me up with links and videos to Kriyas I can practice on tour. Unfortunately, it’s definitely a challenge to find any private space at all on the road. The tour bus sleeps 12 people, all living in a shared space. We temporarily get a dressing room at each venue, but then suitcases and gear are always coming in and out. As a group, the band works together creatively, and we live together as roommates, business partners, best friends, and performers. We never get to check out of the office. So I tend to practice yoga when I get a hotel room to myself on days off, once or twice a week.
What is special about Kundalini Yoga by the Sea?
Number one, I love the community. I am really connected with the vibration of the community being so kind and committed to everyone’s personal growth.
Visit Kundalini Yoga By The Sea
We want to extend our invitation to check it out. There are weekly classes, special workshops, and events, as well as opportunities to hang out, like the Chant and Chai Evenings. We have regular events that include Dance Soulsa, New Moon and Full Moon Sound Baths, Healing Circles, Reiki Trainings, and KRI Certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Levels 1 & 2 Intensive Weekends.
First Class Free: Nicholas Sent Me!
Let it be known! If readers of LA YOGA Magazine come into the studio and tell them, “Nicholas sent me,” they can have a free first class. Sat Nam!
Kundalini Yoga By The Sea in LA YOGA
More Information about WALK THE MOON
Kundalini Yoga By The Sea
For more about the Yoga studio Kundalini Yoga by the Sea, visit: kundaliniyogabythesea.com
Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA who volunteers in a variety of capacities for nonprofit organizations and artists around Los Angeles. She practices yoga as a counterbalance to her daily impact sports and is a mother of four grown children who also practice yoga . Now, she’s working on teaching yoga and joy of life to the grandkids!