A Conversation With Walk Off The Earth: The DIY Band's Explosive Rise
    • MONDAY, AUGUST 10, 2015

    • Posted by: Don Saas

    What happens when you're a band with DIY roots and those DIY roots are core to who you are as a band and why so many of your fans love you but then you sign with a major record label? Does your sound change? Do you lose the fans who made you famous in the first place. If you're indie darlings Walk Off the Earth, you just use it as a chance to get bigger and you don't lose your artistic integrity in the mix. We had the chance to chat with Walk Off the Earth about their new record, Sing It All Away, signing with a major label, and performing on stage while pregnant. You're going to want to check this out.

    You guys just released the video for "Rule The World" which will be on your upcoming record, which will be your second record with Columbia. For fans that know you best for your covers or for the mostly kind of folk pop vibes of R.E.V.O. tracks like "Gang Of Rhythm," the horns and almost electronic nature of "Rule The World" might come as a bit of a shock. It's a great tune but it definitely feels like a stylistic departure. What made you decide to reacquaint the world with your music with that sort of track?

    Sarah Blackwood: What's funny is I think, when people listen to songs, it's hard for most people to actually listen to the song. Ultimately, we're artists; we're writers, we want to write good songs and if you hear any of our covers, if you hear any of our tracks on the old album, our goal is to just write good songs. If you break a song down without all the production...if it's good, it's good no matter what. I think people are more deterred by the production than they are the actual song because, I mean, we wrote the song sitting in a room with one acoustic guitar: me, Marshall, and Gianni...just hanging out and writing. So, it's actually a little disappointing that some people aren't able to see that there is no departure; it's just more of a development. We've been making music for many, many, many years and...it's our lives. It's our careers; its what we do and what we love to do and we're always going to be developing and we're always going to be changing. It's actually a little disappointing for us that some of our fans aren't able to see that we're just doing what we've always done, we're just making things a little bit bigger.

    Yeah, I definitely wasn't trying to criticize the song, I really enjoy it. it just definitely has a different vibe, for sure.

    Oh yeah, totally. We wanted to go for it; we wanted it to be big. We want to reach more people; we want to keep all of our old fans and make a ton of new fans that do like that style of music that's a little more in that direction. That's what we're all about; we're about reaching a whole world. That was just another goal on our list.

    Related to that last question, can we expect more of this kind of danceable, bombastic pop sound on the new record Sing It All The Way.

    Yeah, we produced the record in the same studio that we produced R.E.V.O. Gianni...he co-produced the whole entire album so it's not like we weren't involved. It was all of us and that's what we wanted to go for; we wanted a bigger sound; we wanted more instruments for the album. We had more time for this one; we had a bigger budget to do the things we would've done on R.E.V.O. anyways. So, it's just...we had the opportunity to make this record bigger and that's what we kinda wanted to do.

    It's been three years now since your cover of "Somebody That I Used To Know" shot you to this massive widespread recognition and a major label record deal. What's the adjustment period been like from being a band that mostly performed covers on YouTube to headlining rock clubs across the country?

    It was actually pretty natural for us. I mean...I wasn't officially in the band then but I had a band that I had been touring with for six or seven years all over the world. So, it was actually really nice for me because I got to keep doing the touring but didn't have to do it in a van anymore. It was like a dream come true; it's what every musician wants. You want to be recognized; you want a mass audience to recognize the things that you work hard for, and you want people to support your music and you want to be able to do this for a living so it was just a dream come true. We hit the perfect storm and we said "Hey, we're not going to take advantage of this; we're going to work our asses off so that it doesn't go away."

    You guys are recording a lot more of your own music nowadays but you're still doing covers and one of your more recent ones was a really fantastic cover of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," which I can't believe I love as much as I do because I don't like the original version of the song very much; but what's your process been like lately for deciding which covers you want to tackle?

    We just like to do good songs. I heard that song on the radio in my car one day and was like, "Guys, we should cover this song, and we should use all shakers." It's just made for that kind of thing. When you really listen to music, especially pop music... I mean pop music goes back to the beginning of musical time; every single song that you've ever heard that was in that top 100 chart is a pop song. "Shake It Off" was just one of those songs; it's Taylor Swift obviously, and she basically wins at everything, and we really love her so we just decided to cover it. That's actually our son's favorite video; he's obsessed with it.

    Now that Walk Off The Earth is on a major label, have you guys ever had to deal with any pressure to lessen your DIY roots that are very much part and parcel the Walk Off The Earth success story?

    Not really. The contract that we signed -- the deal that we have with them -- is open-ended on our behalf. We have pretty much all control over everything that we do; we still run all of our social media sites; we do our YouTube; Gianni and I released a video on YouTube yesterday and we told them that. When we were deciding whether or not we wanted to sign a record deal, we were like, "We need somebody to help us with the aspects that we aren't able to reach which is radio or making enough money when we go on tour to actually go on tour and play good shows." Everything else we already knew how to do, and we will be able to do this hopefully for the rest of our lives.

    Everybody in Walk Off The Earth is a multi-instrumentalist to one degree or another. Finding five people who can play all the instruments that you guys utilize -- especially the more unique instruments like the glockenspiel, the mandolin, or the melodica -- that must have been such an arduous task. How does a band of so many talented and multifaceted musicians come together?

    We all are kinda from the same town and as I mentioned before, we were all kinda playing in different bands. Gianni and Marshall started Walk Off The Earth in 2006 and had kinda gone through different drummers, and finally found Joel, and I was playing in another band at the time; but we all really wanted the same thing. We wanted to not work our other jobs anymore... not drown just to tour across Canada, playing for five people a night. We wanted to find an audience and all of us were willing to have an open mind. Sometimes musicians...it's hard to find people that are willing to change or do things like switch instruments in a song or put every single creative piece of mind into their live show. A lot of people do what they think might be good enough for the time, and we like to think ahead of that. Every single day we work on this band and we think of different ways we can make it better and bigger and more crazy. You just need the right minds together and you can make some awesome shit happen.

    Who are your influences as musicians and songwriters for your original work?

    For me, it varies day to day, depending on what I'm listening to at the time. I mean, my big inspiration when I was younger was The Doors. I really loved The Doors; I loved Jim Morrison; I basically wanted to be him. I liked poetry; I liked writing lyrics, and that's really part of the songwriting that I really love...telling stories. So, I think listening to The Doors was a big one for me when I was younger. My dad had a lot of records, old records and stuff, but now whatever I hear that's really inspiring -- old songs or new songs -- it's all inspiring.

    Related to that last question, what are the bands that you guys have been listening to lately that aren't necessarily things that you would be covering?

    That would be a good question for Gianni. We have a two year old, so I actually spend a lot of time listening to children's music which is inspiring in its own right; I watch a lot of "Mother Goose Club" videos and these weird shows. But when I play music for my son or when we're playing around I like a lot of folk music or I like Lumineers records...records that you can listen to from beginning to end without wanting to skip any of the songs cause they're all so good. I don't know; there's so many good songs out there that we would cover too, but we just don't have the time right now because we've been working on our live show. The cover that we recently did was "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher; we just put that up today. We've been meaning to cover a lot more songs like that...older songs because there's just something so special about them.

    Yeah, I really liked your guys' Eleanor Rigby cover.

    Thank you.

    You're about to embark on another nationwide headlining tour, including a stop here in New York City at the Bowery Ballroom. Do you guys have any last message to your fans about the new record or this new tour?

    Be prepared to see me super pregnant on stage. We're having another baby, and we just announced it today as a band so that's going to be exciting. Yeah...just to get pumped for the new show cause we don't like to do the same thing every time we come around. We've changed up a lot of things; we've added new songs to the set; we've added way too many new things to the actual physical set and it's going to be really fun. Just get ready to sing with us cause it's going to be a good time for sure.

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