Walk off the Earth – the YouTube Phenomenon

17/04/2012 18:56

A few months ago four guys and a girl singing Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know, all of them playing a single guitar, posted their special video on YouTube. The video has gone viral and the bunch has become a massive hit on the Internet, with their one-guitar cover receiving over 20 million views in just ten days.


Their names are Gianni, Sarah, Marshall, Beard Guy and Joel (okay, his name is not Beard Guy, but everyone calls him that. Actually, his name is Taylor). Although they’ve been doing music, especially covers, for quite a while and posting them on their YouTube channel, it was only their one-of-a-kind video that brought them wider recognition. In today’s music world ruled by thumping beats, electronic sounds and dancey disco tunes, these folks, sometimes dubbed “the new Beatles” by their fans, found a way to make the classic acoustic guitar sound popular again.


At first they jokingly proclaimed they had made their Somebody That I Used to Know cover on a single guitar because they simply didn’t have more guitars. Gianni later said he had had the idea of five people playing one guitar for a long time and that Gotye’s song was the perfect fit. Gianni says it took them about 14 hours to shoot the video at one take. The video fascinated not only the regular YouTube audience, but was also praised and tweeted by celebrities such as Russel Crowe or Alyssa Milano.


Rejected by labels at first, this band, since the release of their viral video, has been receiving various offers from music record companies. They even went on the Ellen TV show to perform their complicated piece live. Their lives and careers are undergoing a major change these days thanks to their successful music. As Marshall puts it, “It means I don’t have to sell toilets anymore.” This band obviously proves that in the midst of countless talent shows and fabricated starlets, true talents can still find their own way to recognition.


Whereas most of today’s acts are working with various producers, mixing and re-mixing their music in the most state-of-the-art studios, these guys are incredibly talented multi-instrumentalists and singers who record their music all by themselves in their own houses, shooting videos with a single iPhone. They use a myriad of instruments, but their sound is mostly based on the churning sound of Gianni’s and Marshall’s guitars, accompanied by Sarah’s ukulele.


All of them sing while playing their instruments, but it is mainly Gianni, Marshall and Sarah who provide the lead vocals, whereas Joel and Beard Guy chime in for harmonies. A lot of their videos are one-take and are recorded live. Since they are homemade, the guys try to find other ways to make up for the lack of the high studio quality by switching instruments, using stop motion animation, or simply letting their talents shine. And it seems to work really well.


Who are Walk off the Earth?

 (From left to right: Joel, Gianni, Sarah, Marshall and Taylor)

Gianni plays almost every instrument possible, except for the trumpet, which he proves in one of their videos. He mostly plays the guitar, but often switches between various instruments such as harmonica, double bass, piano or the drums. He provides the ideal vocals for Walk off the Earth’s guitar music - raspy and melodic at the same time. It’s usually his house and his iPhone they use for shooting. Also, it’s usually him who picks the songs the band will cover.


Sarah is quite a new member of the band, but she is definitely no newbie in the world of music. Her musical background is quite varied: she’s already tried a variety of genres. She’s gone from playing in a punk rock band through solo country music to being a part of a now well-known YouTube band. She is mostly a guitar player, but with WOTE (as the band is often abbreviated) she plays the ukulele, which makes a brilliant combination with her tiny stature, cute looks and sweet romantic voice, often intertwined with Gianni’s.


Marshall is a guitarist as well, but sometimes he also plays the piano and other instruments. He and Gianni were the ones who originally started the band, later taking in the other guys. He also sings along with Gianni and Sarah in most of the band’s songs and covers. His soothing, slightly throaty voice is a perfect ballad-maker.


Joel plays the drums and provides all kinds of percussion in WOTE’s music. He is kind of a quiet member of the band, not participating much on the interviews and such, but he’s a pretty talented drummer. In a video he’s uploaded on his YouTube channel you can watch him drum to various styles such as salsa, jazz or funk.


According to their Facebook page, Taylor, a.k.a. “Beard Guy”, plays the keyboard and provides vocals. Other than that, he mainly stands by the rest of the band, looking tough and awesome, playing the keyboard with his toes or pulling a string on a guitar every once in a while and providing a comic side to their music. At least that’s what you get from the videos. But he’s probably more important than that. He may even be something like a puppet master behind the curtain who controls everyone and everything that happens on the stage.


What you shouldn’t miss:

Their viral cover of “Somebody That I Used to Know” played by all five of them on one guitar. It’s a beautiful piece that showcases not only the band members’ talents and perfect sense of cooperation, but also their amazing voices. Come on, the video has received over 70 million views, so if you haven’t seen it yet, now is the perfect time. You don’t want people to think you’re living in a cave.


The less-bitter-and-more-sweet cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You.” This video is a parade of the members’ musicality and innovation. You can see how they change the key of the song and switch between several instruments with fluidity and no hesitation. And above all, Sarah plays the ukulele, which gives the song a fresh new feel. On that note, I’d like to draw your attention to how the ukulele magically appears out of nowhere.


Their cover of Rihanna’s “Cheers.” This video is basically Sarah and Gianni singing while playing the ukulele and the guitar, respectively. It’s a cheerful cover (no pun intended), with a happy feel to it. The way Sarah’s and Gianni’s voices work together is simply amazing. Also, check out that all the time Gianni is playing the guitar, he is also using it as a percussion instrument.


And finally, their original song called “Corner of Queen.” It’s a simple, catchy song that Gianni, Marshall and Sarah wrote while busking. Once you hear it, you won’t be able to get the “from dusk until dawn ooh-oh-oh doin’ no wrong, in rain or the sun ooh-oh-oh singin’ my song” tune out of your head. If this is a song they wrote while playing in the streets of Toronto, I’ll be interested in what they’re about to record in the studio.

Walk off the Earth definitely have all they need to be successful. The band members are all talented musicians and great singers, they are very good-looking and they seem to work together in an unbelievable way. Only time will tell if they are be able to compose their own songs that can truly attract masses. Up to now they have managed to captivate their audience mainly with covers, which has been working rather well as the views of their YouTube channel are going up to 130 million.


But to be the next Beatles or the new U2, they need one more thing – timing. The truth is today’s music isn’t about guitars and instrumental work, but it’s mostly dance beats and computer generated sounds. The acoustic guitar disappeared from the charts a long time ago. On the other hand, musical trends seem to repeat themselves: one day uptempo dance music is popular and the next day Adele rules the charts with her more downbeat heartbreak songs.


Now it seems these guys’ appearance couldn’t have a better timing. Hopefully, they will be able to make the best of it. Perhaps, after they are signed with a label, they will need to produce some more stadium-rock songs or some Oasis-like pop ballads. Or maybe not, maybe sticking to the style they started developing for themselves will be the best option. Whichever way they choose, as long as they do it with passion and as long as their music stays this beautiful and captivating, it’s all that matters.


Ľuboš Dudík



Date: 07/11/2013

By: Muskoka

Subject: beard guy

The talents of the Beard Guy may have been over looked. Very early in the careers of all of them, Beard guy was playing with an amazing sense of timing. To the misfortune of many, Bearded Guy has never been placed front and centre so his capabilities to many are rather unknownj,

This would be a fresh display of a band member's talent and would round out the capabilities of the entire band.

Date: 19/04/2012

By: ld

Subject: re:

yup, i think, it partially is, i mean you have to be passionate about the music you do, that is really important. but if you want to make a living that way, you have to consider the business-side of things. no one would like to do music for free and wind up being homeless :)

Date: 20/04/2012

By: tc

Subject: Re: re:

somehow ur under the impression that making big bucks is the ultimate goal in music. what about the countless DIY and low budget artists that make up the vast majority of music 'business'? ppl who have regular jobs and only make music in their free time? these artists dont give a damn about fame or sales
, they have a few local gigs and hope that a handful of their cds or cassettes would get sold

theres a world outside the radio yknow

Date: 18/04/2012

By: TopCommenter

Subject: article

music is all about them looks, charts, sales and stadium gigs. aint that right funny boy. ugh I hate ppl like u

well-written article tho, had me loling in many places too

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