By Jack Rico
The viral music sensation Walk Off The Earth, known for doing amazing covers of popular songs on YouTube, including the smash cover hit with “Somebody That I Used To Know” from Gotye, has signed a record deal with Columbia Records and have a new album currently out this week called – Sing it all Away. ShowBizCafe.com spoke to band member Marshall about adjusting to the big time, why music videos are more important than ever and why performing on Saturday Night Live would be a dream come true.
ShowBizCafe (SBC): Hey Marshall. Congrats on the release of the new album. Tell me a little bit about how the name of your band came to be.
Marshall: Well, it was one of those intoxicated evenings where we decided, “Okay, we need a band name. Let’s figure something out.” You know, there was no rhyme or reason. The idea behind it was we were trying to figure out what people felt or what our music made people feel when they were listening to it. So we came up with this idea that, you know, our music was so entrancing that if people put on a pair of headphones and listened to it that they would just walk right off the earth. And that’s where it came from.
SBC: I remember I saw you guys on YouTube doing the Gotye song (Somebody That I Used To Know). I think everybody on the planet saw that video. I was happy to hear when you guys signed a record deal with Columbia Records. Tell me about the journey. I mean, is this something that’s surreal to you, still? Or are you now jaded with the experience? Have you assimilated fame, celebrity and being a musician on a professional level?
Marshall: Have we assimilated, like “Star Trek.” Yes, we have. I mean, basically, we try to do the indie band thing like everybody else when you just start out, you know. We did a couple of Warped Tour runs. That was when it was just a three-piece. Sarah was doing her own thing and she was touring the world. They were playing 2,000-person venues in Europe. We all were from Burlington and we ended up getting together through YouTube videos. And it was just one of those things where it’s a conscious effort to not have to get in a dirty white van and trailer and drive across Canada to be able to play four shows to find an easier way to get our music out to people. So, obviously, YouTube did that for us. But what happened when that video went viral, there was a body of work behind it. There was already 30 or 40 videos that people stuck around on our channel to watch. And I think that was, you know, obviously, the viral hit at Columbia. But I think the body of work and all of the existing fan base and some originals that Columbia thought were pretty good and something they wanted to put some money behind. I think that was a little additive to them rather than just signing another viral hit on YouTube. There was actually something else there – something else that fans had gravitated to and showed some interest in.
SBC: One of the things I notice about groups, bands, solo artists is the “imaging”. I mean, when you firs got the band together with Columbia Records, did the record label come to you and say, “All right, here’s how you need to dress. Here’s how you need to look.” Or was it all you guys. How would you describe the brand image of the band?
Marshall: That wasn’t something that Columbia pushed on us. And I think that was part of the whole thought process going into it. You know, we obviously had a pretty good handle on what we were capable of doing with social media and through the Internet. A big part of the partnership with a label like Columbia is we obviously had no idea how to get on radio. And Columbia is the biggest label in the world right now and they had the biggest artists in radio right now. And that’s something that we needed and, you know, we knew that maybe there might be other companies that are able to help us better with social media, but we totally had a good handle on that. So it was kind of like: Hey, we think we’re good at this; we know you’re good at that, so let’s see if we can add those together.
SBC: Let’s talk a little bit about the album coming out June 16th, “Sing It All Away.” How would you describe the sound of the album compared to the previous two that you guys did?
Marshall: I think sound-wise it just feels bigger. It’s obviously not the best descriptive word, but I think once you hear a lot of the songs you go, yeah, it’s bigger. We did a lot of – you could call them [gang vocals]. We did a lot of tracking and big chant [sings] in “Rule the World.” And we brought like 70 people into a room and, you know, miked up the room and just got this incredible sound. And you know when you listen to it with headphones or on speakers and it’s not just on the radio, you’re going wow, this is a big feel. We were able to put a lot more time into this album than – the last album was R.E.V.O., which came out right after the YouTube video. So, we were a little rushed with that album. We put that album together in about three months, including songwriting, production, master and done. The minute R.E.V.O. was finished, we started writing for the next album. So we’ve had like almost two years to be able to get this album out. We wrote over 30, 35 songs and we were able to cut it down to a very hard 11 songs. I think it adds to the quality of the content on the album, definitely.
SBC: Let’s talk about the “Rule the World” music video. Describe how you got this done. It seems very inventive, very cool. How did you get this music video together and what was the feeling behind it creatively?
Marshall: Well, we have an amazing director involved, John Poliquin, and he’s Canadian, believe it or not, from Vancouver. We tried a couple of treatments on that video idea and, you know, Johnny comes up with a lot of video ideas on his own. So when we look at other treatments from other producers or directors, we kind of like for something that we don’t understand or something that we’ve never seen before. Because we do so many videos [on YouTube] and now when John put the treatment for “Rule the World,” we kind of looked at it and said, “I don’t really know what’s going on here.” It’s almost like “Roger Rabbit”. They did the cartoon animation with real live people and people probably said, “I don’t know if you can do that.” And so when we looked at this treatment, we said, “Okay, that’s kind of cool.” We’re going to bring the whole digital effect in with this 360 camera that’s going to encapture everything that’s going on around us at the same time. It was just a really cool idea and I think a lot of people love the video. We love it. I think it looks great and it turned out really well.
SBC: Do you think that the music industry should do away with music videos? I mean, MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore. Nobody really plays music videos anymore. And I know there’s a lot of resources and money and time – creative time – that goes into doing them. You guys already do music videos on your own, but radio play is where it’s at. Where do you lie on music videos and its future?
Marshall: Me, personally, I think the only way is with music videos. I think we’re in a generation right now where people’s attention span have really shortened. And music is no longer two dimensional. You know, people don’t want to just listen to it, anymore. They want to see the music. And I think that’s why YouTube is doing so well. When people want to hear a song they go to YouTube and they watch it. You know, they don’t go to iTunes and – sometimes they do, obviously. But I’d say the first thing people are going to do, “Hey, have you heard that song?” “No, let’s pull it up on YouTube,” and you watch the video. You end up watching somebody else do the song. To me, people need that third dimension of music, which to me is the digital aspect of it.
SBC: Are you guys feeling comfortable on tour yet? Have you worked out all the kinks? Are you guys still experimenting?
Marshall: Yeah, we’re getting into a groove, now, you know. The first couple of shows, you know, the new set, new tour, you gotta get some bumps out. But, you know, we’re getting into the groove. There’s a lot of things going on on stage with this band. There’s a lot of people at a time and there’s instruments flying around. There’s a lot of things going on. So, yeah, it’s almost like you have to learn a dance routine because you can’t step off your line when you’re going from one mike to the other because you’re going to end up bumping into somebody. This tour, we’re doing a lot of intimate plays, and the stages aren’t that big. So we have a really tight production going on very small stages that can barely fit a drum riser. There’s some pretty good dancing happening on stage to work around.
SBC: Why should people buy your album and go to your concerts?
Marshall: Well, I mean, the album is just good music. We’re really involved in social media and we’re on the Internet every day. I think we’re starting to become obsessed with listening what people have to say about our shows and our music. No one’s ever said that we suck, so, I think that’s a good sign. But as far as the show goes, you know, we try and literally put on the most energetic rock show that people just want to enjoy. We have a gigantic singalong, basically, for the whole set. The crowd’s involved and it’s just a really fun time. As crazy as it is, it’s an all age show. We literally have 6-year-old kids showing up at the show, and last night we have an 89-year-old lady at the show. So, you know, it’s wild and there’s people jumping and screaming and singing the whole time.
SBC: Last question. I remember when I was a journalism student, I always said to myself, “If I ever make it on the ‘David Letterman Show,’ I made it in this industry.” What is that moment for you?
Marshall: Yeah, we must be close to the same age because that was my goal, and now we’re screwed!
SBC: Lol. The timing sucks. Do you have an alternative back-up plan?
Marshall: You know, it’s going to have to be Jimmy Fallon because he’s funny as hell. It’s either that – and obviously every band wants to try and see themselves on “Saturday Night Live” at some point.