In the present era of social media, anytime a record company, either major or secondary, gathers in their respective board rooms to plot marketing strategy for their upcoming projects, the example of Burlington Ontario’s Walk Off the Earth and the viral video success of their Gotye “Somebody That I Used To Know” is inevitably cited.
Walk Off The Earth is a group of five multi-talented musicians comprising of Gianni Luminati, Ryan Marshall, Sarah Blackwood, Mike Taylor and Joel Cassiday who can, and do, play virtually every instrument (not quite sure if they play the bagpipes – but someone would surely have a go) plus Luninati, Marshall and Blackwood all trade off on lead vocals.
Having performed in various previous band lineups,(Blackwood most noticeably as lead vocalist in The Creepshow), Luminati and Marshall initially formed Walk Of The Earth and recorded two obscure independent releases `Smooth Like A Stoned Beach’ (2007) and `My Rock’ (2010). But as Blackwood , Taylor and original drummer Peter Kirkwood joined the fold, the band also developed a penchant for videotaping covers of existing songs utilizing their own unique instrumental and vocal interpretation.
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When WOTE shot a clip of themselves performing Gotye’s current hit “Somebody That I Used To Know” with all the band members systematically strumming one guitar, that clip shot into viral heaven when uploaded on you tube, in January 2013, chalking up over 127 million hits in just four months. Suddenly WOTE were appearing on prime North American daytime television shows like The Ellen DeGeneres Show and that quirky video was receiving global attention.
Now about to release their second release on Sony Music, Ryan Marshall is on the phone to plug “Sing It All The Way” and to reflect on the band’s amazing recent success. The day after sharing the Much Music Video Award stage with the likes of Ed Sheeran and The Weeknd, Marshall laughs when reminded that all artists are now striving for similar video viral exposure.
“If we could have pre-planned that we would have had about 50 of them,” cracks Marshall in reflecting on “Somebody That I Used To Known”’s global impact. “It was the right time on the right day and everyone wanted to share it. You can’t plan these things, it was shit luck. What was also great about our situation was that we also received exposure on our other video covers and people started to buy enough copies of our two independent records that we had to do another print run. This was before we even had a major label involved”.
Inevitably, a major label, did step in (Sony Music) but they wanted an instant record release to cash in on the Goyte exposure. “Everything went crazy so fast and we didn’t have a full album ready but we had to keep the momentum going,” noted Marshall. “Of the 12 songs we had written, I think we used 11 of them on the REVO record (released early 2013). “It was a rushed job but the minute we had finished that album, we started to work on the next record, and by the time we were due to record “Sing It All The Way” we had something like 36 songs to choose from.”
Aside from having their Gotye cover on a record, REVO also boasted one original hit single “Gang Of Rhythm” which set the stage for tours of Europe and The U.S in 2013 and 2014. What was also helpful was the band’s penchant for further video cover success. Maroon 5’s “Payphone”, “Rude” by Magic, Madonna’s “Material Girl” Adele’s “Someone Like You” and a stunning A Capella cover of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” all received WOTE’s specialized treatment and when their video of Lorde’s “Royals” was aired at the 2014 Grammy Awards, Marshall’s phone virtually exploded. “I was bombarded with calls, `Hey did you just win a Grammy’. To start being recognized in any form of music awards show reminds you that you are doing good and you should keep pushing.”
Produced by the band’s Gianni Luminati with assistance from veteran producer Thomas (Tawgs) Salter, ‘Sing It All The Way’ presents itself as an ideal summer record full of sassy, danceable arrangements with a true party atmosphere. Leading the way is the irresistible “Rule The World” with its infectious, anthemic vocals and high energy instrumental arrangements which again displays the band’s full artistic prowess. Other tracks such as “Climb Out Your Window”, “Boomerang” and the sing-along title track are equally infectious and WOTE have also recorded two different versions of one song “Home We Go”, the second version featuring an EDM treatment courtesy of dance maestro Steve Aoki .
“Steve had said to us, `If you feel you have something on the record, that’s up my alley, I’d love to work with you guys’, noted Marshall. “So we cut a dance version of “Home We Go” and he loved it – I love both versions.”
Marshall feels the band has succeeded because they had been in bands and projects before WOTE and that previous experience had allowed them to gel together as a band. “We kinda did things backwards,” he allowed. “Most musicians start as a band and then drift off to do their solo projects but we had done those solo projects, realized they weren’t working and by coming together we realized we had a special connection. There are no egos within the group, no arguments about who sings what or who plays what or who is at the forefront in the videos .”
“A lot of people are puzzled by what genre of music we are and we don’t have an answer for that,” he continued. “The producer doesn’t come in and say `I have to make them sound like this’ We just let the songs go where they want to go.”
Marshall discounts a theory that WOTE is a basic novelty act. “I think we have a unique sound, which comes across even when we do covers, we give all these songs a distinctive Walk Off The Earth seal. Even before we were signed to Sony, we’d do these shows and tours and when we came off stage, we just had this feeling we had a special rapport with our audience. What Sony did was allow us to reach radio and to reach people around the world. We weren’t expecting that kind of blast but we did have the experience to capitalize on it when it did happen.”
WOTE have also expanded their media roles performing two songs and appearing in a cameo role in the season 4 premiere of CTV’s The Listener and they will soon make their big screen debut with a cameo appearance in Murray Foster’s The Cocksure Lads movie which premieres August 5th.
A slight drawback to future touring plans is the impending birth of Sarah Blackwood’s second child, but according to Marshall, not even the arrival of a new baby is going to hold the band back from extensive touring activities. “Matter of fact we are performing Canada Day in Brampton and I am sure Sarah will be seated for the set.”
As for media exposure for the new record, the band has already appeared on NBC’s Today Show but Marshall’s one lingering regret is that WOTE never got to appear on the David Letterman Show. “Really bummed about that,” sighed Marshall. “I guess we’ll have to settle for Jimmy Fallon.”
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