Walk off the Earth

Burlington, Ontario’s Walk off the Earth (WOTE) are an indie-pop band known for their innovative videos, carefully crafted cover songs, strong vocal harmonies and unique blend of folk, rock, pop and reggae. The band rose from relative obscurity in early 2012 and became an international sensation with their cover of the Goyte song “Somebody That I Used to Know.” The video, featuring the five band members performing the song simultaneously on one guitar, became one of the most watched YouTube videos that year. WOTE’s adventurous yet accessible pop sound has helped earn the band multiple Canadian Radio Music Awards, two SOCAN Awards and a 2016 Juno Award for Group of the Year.  

Walk off the Earth
Image courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc.

Background and Formation

Gianni “Luminati” Nicassio (vocals, multi-instrumentalist) and Ryan Marshall (vocals, multi-instrumentalist) began playing together in Burlington in 2006. They gradually met the current Walk off the Earth lineup through other local bands. The name Walk off the Earth reflects their desire for fans to forget about their problems and to “walk off the earth” when listening to their music.

For the first two WOTE albums, Smooth Like a Stone on a Beach (2007) and My Rock (2010), Luminati and Marshall were joined by Pete “Pablo” Kirkwood on drums. Both records were produced by Luminati and released through his independent label, Slapdash Records. Kirkwood left the band following these two albums.

Luminati and Marshall were then joined by classically trained pianist and multi-instrumentalist Mike Taylor. Taylor gained the nickname “beard guy” after YouTube users identified him by his facial hair in the “Somebody That I Used to Know” video. In 2011, Joel Cassady left Humber College’s music program to become a drummer and multi-instrumentalist for WOTE.

Sarah Blackwood was the lead singer of the Burlington punk band The Creepshow as well as a solo artist before joining Walk off the Earth. Luminati and Blackwood (who had a son together in 2013) met when he helped record vocals for her; he later produced her second solo record. Blackwood became a regular contributor to the band in 2010 and performed as a guest in the “Somebody That I Used to Know” video. Following its success, Blackwood left The Creepshow and joined WOTE permanently.

“Somebody That I Used to Know” (2012)

The band began uploading cover songs to YouTube in 2009. After coming up with an idea to have multiple people play one guitar, Luminati heard Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and thought it would be the perfect fit for their next video. The performance was filmed in Luminati’s kitchen the day after a New Year’s Eve Party using a Canon 3Ti camera. Although it was recorded in one shot, it took a week and a half for the band to perfect their parts and around 14 hours and nearly 30 takes to get it right.


Uploaded on 5 January 2012, the video received 35 million views in less than three weeks and attracted global attention, including praise from such celebrities as Adele, Coldplay, Russell Crowe and even Goyte. On 23 January, WOTE performed the song live on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The song made it to the top of the iTunes singles chart in Canada, Sweden and Germany, and secured the band a contract with Columbia Records. “Somebody That I Used to Know” also earned a platinum digital download certificate in Canada. By 2015, the video had garnered more than 165 million views.

R.E.V.O. EP (2012) and LP (2013)

WOTE’s major label debut R.E.V.O. (an acronym for the band’s motto, “Realize Every Victory Outright”) was released in October 2012. The four song EP was produced by Justin Koop and co-written with producer-songwriter Thomas “Tawgs” Salter. The first single, “Red Hands,” was the first song written by the band’s current lineup. It went double platinum in Canada, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Alternative Songs chart and No. 9 in the Canada Hot 100 chart. “Red Hands” also won SOCAN Award for Song of the Year in 2014.

The full-length album, R.E.V.O., released in March 2013,includes the EP’s four tracks, six more original songs and the band’s cover of “Somebody That I Used to Know.” The album showcases the band’s diverse sound with songs ranging from anthemic folk-pop (“R.E.V.O.”) to reggae (“Summer Vibe”) and rap-rock (“Sometimes”). R.E.V.O. was certified gold in Canada and earned the band Juno Award nominations for Breakthrough Group of the Year and Pop Album of the Year in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Sing It All Away (2015)

The band’s second full-length record with Columbia Records, Sing it All Away, was released on 16 June 2015. The two lead singles, “Rule the World” and “Sing It All Away,” were released in March and April 2015 respectively, and have an upbeat, anthemic pop sound similar to that of the band’s first album. Sing It All Away also features “Home We’ll Go,” a collaboration with producer Steve Aoki.

Sing It All Away reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Canadian album chart while peaking at No. 14 on the magazine’s Top Alternative Albums chart and No. 71 on the Billboard 200. The band supported the album with a 15-city US tour in 2015 followed by a cross-Canada tour and a 15-city European tour in 2016.

YouTube Videos

The videos uploaded to WOTE’s YouTube channel have earned more than 3.3 million subscribers and more than 800 million cumulative views. In 2012, they released compilations of their YouTube cover songs in the 16-song albums Vol. I (2012) and Vol. II (2012), through Slapdash Records.

The videos for WOTE’s cover songs are typically visually compelling, one-shot videos conceptualized by the band members themselves and primarily shot on an iPhone. In their cover of Lorde’s “Royals,” the band swaps ukuleles while playing various other instruments. For their imaginative cardboard-filled video for the single “Little Boxes,” WOTE received a 2013 Juno Award nomination for Video of the Year. Teaming up with Canadian beatbox champion KRNFX, WOTE’s a cappella cover of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” — their second most watched video behind “Somebody That I Used To Know” — earned them a YouTube Music Award nomination in 2013.

Mike Taylor’s Death

On 30 December 2018, the band confirmed that Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor had died in his sleep of natural causes the night of 29 December. In a statement announcing “the passing of our beloved brother and band member,” the band wrote that “our deepest sympathies are with his two children… We ask for privacy for his family in this trying time.” The band cancelled a performance at a CBC TV New Year’s Eve concert in Niagara Falls that was meant to kick off a world tour. The flag at Burlington City Hall was flown at half mast and Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said in a statement, “Mike and the band returned to our home town many times to show their support and love for the city and we thank them for that.”

Awards

  • Molson Canadian Favourite New Artist, CASBY Awards (2013)
  • Best New Group or Solo Artist: Hot AC (“Red Hands”), Canadian Radio Music Awards (2014)
  • Best New Group or Solo Artist: CHR (“Red Hands”), Canadian Radio Music Awards (2014)
  • SOCAN Song of the Year (“Red Hands”), Canadian Radio Music Awards (2014)
  • Fans Choice, Canadian Radio Music Awards (2014)
  • No. 1 Song Award (“Red Hands”), SOCAN (2014)
  • Group of the Year, Juno Awards (2016)

Songs of Walk off the Earth

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