Five people, one guitar: How Walk Off The Earth went from viral to sensation
Walk Off The Earth (credit: Erin O'Connell)
Sunday night, the parents of Walk Off The Earth's Gianni Luminati had a party at their house for friends, family and the other parents to celebrate the viral sensation of the Burlington, Ont. band's "Somebody That I Used To Know" video. So far, the "5 people 1 guitar" execution of Australian artist Gotye's original song has surpassed 27 million views on YouTube.
"Our parents are all proud of us for sure," says Luminati, whose real surname is Nicassio (he's the one in the video with the long hair).
Yesterday, the members of Walk Off The Earth -- Luminati, Ryan Marshall, Mike Taylor, Joel Cassady and Sarah Blackwood -- were on flights to Los Angeles to not only do press and take meetings, but to tape an episode of TV talk show "Ellen" on Thursday. Their appearance will air on Monday, January 23. "We're going to perform it live and everyone can see that we can do it," Luminati says.
When he spoke with MSN on Saturday afternoon, he didn't even know if they'd be able to do "Ellen." Since he uploaded the video at 6 a.m. on January 5, everything has been a mad scramble: to get management; to get a publicist; to get photos with Blackwood because she just joined the band; to finish the website; and, in the case of "Ellen," get all the necessary travel documents.
"We don't have all of our IDs and stuff and we need visas to perform," Luminati explained. "Ellen definitely asked us to play and the date is booked but [we're] just trying to deal with getting us visas and making sure everything is ready and legal for us to get down there in time.
"Our flights are for Tuesday because we have to go down there anyway," he added. "The actual 'Ellen' thing, we're pretty sure it's going to happen."
It's not as if Walk Off The Earth came out of nowhere. The unsigned band, together since 2006, has made it their mission of sorts to make creative online videos and cover songs (ie. LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem, Radiohead's "Karma Police), although they are an original band. Before "Somebody I Used To Know" went viral, Luminati says their YouTube and Facebook pages had "quite a decent following," about 30,000.
He's not actually sure how it went viral, but among those sharing the video that was recorded after "about 35 takes" with seven microphones are Justin Timberlake, Ryan Seacrest, Russell Crowe, Alyssa Milano and Jason Alexander (George from "Seinfeld"). Even Gotye plugged it.
"He tweeted 'great job' and called it 'brilliant' and stuff like that, so that was pretty nice of him," says Luminati. "We wrote back and to our fans, 'Hey, everybody check out the original.' It's [Gotye] a brilliant video."
Gotye's video, uploaded last July, had 38 million views last week, but is now over 45 mil so it's paying off nicely for him.
Walk Off The Earth doesn't get any money from the enormous views on YouTube because it's a cover song, but it has had other benefits.
"We're pumped that people are viewing all of our original music and we just checked and our record that we put out three years ago (called 'My Rock') is charting on iTunes. It's like No. 31," says Luminati. "Our first album hit the chart too. The single that we put out for this song was No. 1 on iTunes for a couple of days too and we're doing really well on all the iTunes stores in Europe."
Walk Off The Earth also just made a new original song, "These Times," available for free download on its website.
"It's off our upcoming album," says Luminati, who is co-producing it with Justin Koop (Grade, Silverstein) at B Town Sound where he works. "We've been trying to get it out for a while and we didn't have the money to finish it, but we have this song done. It's not the main single, but all of our fans that have been with us for a while have been waiting for the album, so we thought it was the right time to give away a free single."
The band has recorded seven songs for the new album and hope to add a couple more, especially now that Blackwood (who does double duty in psychobilly band Creepshow) is a permanent addition. Until now, Walk Off The Earth has released everything independently on their own label, Slapdash, but some of the meetings they're currently taking might result in a label offer.
"Once this blows over in the next two weeks and we can stop flying around everywhere, we can sit in the studio for a bit," says Luminati.
Toronto rock band The Envy, signed to (Gene) Simmons' Records in Canada and Republic/Universal in the U.S., just got in on the action as well, by posting its own video for "Somebody That I Used To Know" with "1 person 5 guitars" and issuing a challenge to Walk Off The Earth.
"Truth is, we really, really love this Gotye song," The Envy singer Shaun Frank told MSN, "and when we saw the Walk Off The Earth video we were really impressed and inspired.
"Our guitar player, Void, turns to me and goes, 'Pfft, 5 people 1 guitar? How about 1 person 5 guitars?" I thought he was just joking, but then he comes back that evening with the whole song orchestrated, all the parts of the original song to a T, played on 5 different guitars, going through some effects and 5 different amplifiers. So we shot the video.
"Now, we'd like to extend a challenge to the amazing and talented Walk Off The Earth to a showdown, on live television of the song -- them doing 5 people 1 guitar, us doing 1 person 5 guitars."