Interview: Walk Off the Earth

Burlington-based band Walk Off the Earth talks viral videos, saving money, and the joy of doing what they love

Emerging from the depths of YouTube (and Burlington) in early 2012 to expansive musical fame as “that band that played the Gotye song all on one guitar,” Walk Off the Earth has garnered attention for both their creative covers and their own work. While “Somebody That I Used to Know” (as covered by Walk Off the Earth) has exploded to 151,975,907 views over the past year and a half, the band has continued to put out increasingly catchy music and videos in their own DIY style.

Consisting of Gianni Luminati, Sarah Blackwood, Ryan Marshall, Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor, and Joel Cassady, Walk Off the Earth plays a sun-filled, acoustic guitar-based pop, chock full of ukulele and tambourines, and characterized by stunning five-part harmonies and distinctive vocals. Only this year did the band release their first full album, R.E.V.O. A collection of originals and one or two cover tracks, it’s a strong contribution to the world of pop – as well as being the perfect, jaunty summer album.

Recently, the band debuted their new video, a cover of Madonna’s “Material Girl,” and played a free show at the ING Direct Cafe in Toronto. Indie 88 got a chance to ask them a few questions, and they filled us in on the secrets behind their inspired music videos.

INDIE 88: Our Facebook fans want to know: How are you enjoying your success and how did it feel to happen so fast?

Taylor: It’s funny – we get that question again and again… On the outside it seems like things came together rather quickly, but we’ve been together for six years and prior to that we were all in other bands, so there’s nothing that feels over night-ish from our perspective. The cool part is that we all got to quit our day jobs. Everyday we wake up and do something we love.

INDIE 88: How did you all meet?

It’s funny because we were all in different Burlington bands, including Sarah. We’re not saying we were the best of all the bands by any means – but we probably are. So we came into one and made Walk Off The Earth so much better.

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INDIE 88: How did you decide to use YouTube to promote your music?

It came from wanting to sleep in our own beds. The idea was, basically: touring across Canada sucks. It’s so far you have to go to play another show. So Gianni and I sat there and said, “Well we can reach thousands of people through doing a video or we can go play to fifty people in Saskatoon.” So that’s where it started.

INDIE 88: Who shoots the videos?

Sarah: Over the years we’ve had a difficult time finding people that can focus a camera.

A lot of the visual ideas come from Gianni and Sarah. They have in their minds exactly how the video should go and we’ve tried to explain to some of our friends how to shoot it — we just end up saying, “Fuck it, I got to do it.” So it’ll just be Gianni and Sarah behind the camera and you’ll see — like in the Maroon 5 video — Sarah’s video taping, then she goes and videotapes herself in the mirror because it’s the only way it would work.

INDIE 88: How did being an independent band help you guys in the terms of promoting yourself?

It helps because you don’t have to ask people if you can do something, you just kind of go out and do it. I guess there are bands that might have ideas that won’t be helpful to their careers, and they may need someone to say, “You shouldn’t do that,” but we knew what we were doing, so it was good not to have someone telling us to wait.

INDIE 88: Is there any song you tried to cover and it just didn’t work?

Sarah: There are a couple, but it doesn’t happen very often.

INDIE 88: If you could open for any band past or present, who would you open for?

Sarah: I would open for ourselves, so I could actually watch us play. Not to be cocky or anything — I just really want to go to one of our own shows, almost like a strategy. I would like to watch and criticize.

INDIE 88: We’re chatting here at the Super Saver event, so I have to ask: who in the band is the most responsible when it comes to money?

Sarah: We are all pretty responsible, but every once in a while we will go spend some money. I think we’ve all gotten to the point in our lives where we don’t want to screw anything up. Especially when it comes to doing this for our lives, we want to be as smart as possible.

WALK OFF THE EARTH | Red Hands from Ellis Bahl on Vimeo.