By: Casey Elogio
Juno award winner, Walk Off The Earth, the indie-pop band known for their chart topping originals and unique covers of current hits, have released a new holiday album, Subscribe To The Holidays. We sat down with band member, Gianni Luminati to discuss the new album, their current tour and what it meant to perform for their hometown of Burlington at the recent Rogers Hometown Hockey weekend.
q: You recently performed in Burlington for Hometown Hockey. What was it like to perform in front of your hometown?
a: It’s something that’s just surreal. Growing up in that town, you see bands that you looked up to performing on stage at City Hall and it’s something you’ve always dreamed about and then being able to do it, with all your family and friends around who are so proud of what you’ve accomplished. It was a really cool moment and as soon as we got the opportunity to do that, we jumped on it.
q: Your mom was a music teacher, which catapulted you into a world of music. What role did the town of Burlington play in your development as a musician?
a: I think the town of Burlington contributed a lot because I know a lot of people from different towns and I think there’s something about Burlington that has a huge music culture surrounding the adults and kids. I’m not really sure if it’s the Long and McQuade music store or all the different places like Music Gym, where we could go as kids and have jam sessions, but there is something about the town that’s ingrained in the culture to encourage kids to start a band and learn guitar or drums, more so than other cities in Ontario. I think it has a lot to do with the way it morphs a lot of us into wanting to do this career. I think we’re blessed to grow up in the city where there’s a lot of opportunity and places to play shows and I think that all contributed to our career.
q: You have a new EP coming out soon called “Subscribe to The Holidays.” what can you tell us about it? What was the motivation behind releasing a holiday album?
a: It’s six songs and we’re really proud of it. It’s probably one of the strongest productions and mixes that we’ve ever done. It will definitely be our strongest holiday music we’ve ever released. We have some really cool collaborations on the album, like with singer/songwriter Scot Helman and we’re really excited about it. We’re even going to be performing one of the songs on Good Morning America in a few weeks. We’re really proud of the production and the songs and we think people are really going to like it and get into the spirit. If anyone knows us, we’re obsessed with the holidays and the whole Christmas vibe. We always have been; we’ve put out a Christmas movie and pretty much every year, we release at least one or two holiday YouTube videos. This year we really wanted to make it right, so a couple months ago we just put a lot of time into it, to create a really good Holiday album and it’s just something that we love.
q: What was your favourite Christmas song growing up?
a: The Charlie Brown theme song. I’m kind of more into music than lyrics. I’ve always been drawn to instrumentals and something about that piano riff always resonated with me as a kid when I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. I heard it and I’ve loved it ever since.
q: I love your latest single, “Fifth Avenue.” Can you tell us a little bit about that song?
a: Fifth Avenue is a song we started writing a year and a half ago. I was in New York producing some beats for Walk Off The Earth singles. One of the producers I was working with and I made that beat and I sent it around to the rest of the band and they loved it. A lot of the band members actually spent a lot of time in New York City. In around 2012, my nephew Miles was on Broadway as the lead role in the Billy Elliot Broadway production. At the time, my sister worked for herself, so she moved there with him, but she had a lot of stuff going on back and forth between New York City and Canada, so every once in a while, one of us from the band would go to help parent him for about a week or two and take him to the shows and stuff. We all spent a bunch of time down there during that year, right on Fifth Avenue. We all got inspired by the city, all the things that go on there and all the motivation that people have there to create art. Once we had that beat and we knew that we made the beat in New York City, we always wanted to write a song about our experience there, so the lyrics literally just poured out in a couple of hours, on top of that beat we had written in New York. It was kind of a New York centric song from start to finish and then we released it!
q: Back in 2012, your live cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” gathered over 175 million views on YouTube in 4 months. How much fun was it to see your video go viral? How did that success alter your plans for the future?
a: That was definitely a pivotal moment in our career. We had been working really hard for many years on our music career, we did the local scene, we toured around on Warped Tour and we went around the states. As a musician, when you’re trying to break-out, it’s a very bipolar experience, for lack of a better word, because at one moment you’ll think this may actually work and a bunch of people are coming out to see your show and then you think “finally this is it,” and then you play the show and the record label never gets back to you. Then you’re back to square one and thinking, “is this ever going to work” or “am I going to have to figure out another job?” Once that video happened, we knew that the years of preparation and working on this had actually come to fruition. You can’t really explain that moment, it just happens and there are no words to describe it and you’re just very grateful. For us, we didn’t want to mess it up, so ever since it happened, we’ve worked really hard to keep making cool stuff and not let this opportunity fizzle out. We had worked for 15 years to try and make it happen and we’re definitely not going to throw it away, so we’ve been going hard ever since. We’re very grateful for everything that has happened.
q: You’ve collaborated with some amazing artists up to this point. I ’m going to throw out three artists that you could work with and you tell me which one you’d choose and why: Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga or Kanye West?
a: Those are three very good ones, I’d love to collaborate with all three of them. I mean, I look up to Paul McCartney as a song writer more than anyone. I love catchy songs and I love songs that you fall in love with right away when you hear them and Paul McCartney is the master of that, so I would love to get in a room with him. He’s definitely one of my idols as a song writer, so I’d have to say Paul McCartney for sure.
q: I ’m sure touring around the world keeps you extremely busy. Where do you find the time and inspiration to create new songs?
a: We work on Walk Off The Earth 365 days a year. For a band our size, we actually tour slightly less than other bands, because we’re in the studio every second that we’re not on the road. We tour about 100 days a year and the rest of the days of the year, we’re in the studio writing new songs and working on videos. It is hard to find time to focus on song writing, but we’re always creating different pieces of content, like we’re working on a cartoon right now. We do a bunch of cover albums and original albums, so it is hard to find time in general to specifically work on original music, but like I said, we don’t ever stop working so we’re in the studio every single day and we’re working on new stuff all the time and we love it.
q: You’re currently touring around the United States and Canada. What can the fans expect from this tour?
a: Walk Off The Earth is always trying to change our shows. If you’ve seen us before, expect to see some new songs and stage tricks. We have a very engaging show with the fans from start to finish, we have a lot of songs that you will know if you’re not a fan of Walk Off The Earth because we do about 50% remakes and covers during our set. If you are a Walk Off The Earth fan, we’ll be playing all the classic hits that we’ve had over the years, along with a bunch of covers and sometimes we have guests come out and it’s non-stop from start to finish. We’re currently on tour in the states right now, with a bunch of American dates and then we’re going to be playing Toronto, Montreal, Truro and then a bunch of other dates through Canada next summer and we are loving it.
q: What’s your favourite thing about being on tour?
a: Literally playing the shows themselves. I’m a homebody, so I love sleeping in my own bed and being back in the Hamilton area or Dundas Area, but I’d have to say being on stage and playing the show is the best part in touring. Sometimes you get to see some cool cities, but a lot of the time we’re pretty busy so you don’t get to fully experience the cities. So overall, my favourite is shows and being able to experience the cities and my least favourite is the actual travel, not sleeping, having early plane rides and all that stuff. That may be the bad side, but it’s still 100% worth it and I’m definitely not complaining.
q: You have a large following on YouTube and always put out really unique videos. How do you come up with ideas for them?
a: We just don’t overthink it. We just come up with stupid ideas and throw them out there and we just try to open our minds and find new instruments and new goofy things to do that you wouldn’t think would be a thing that you can do. It’s usually a sign that it’s the right move. It comes down to stupid ideas because usually the stupider the better, the funnier and the more engaging and entertaining it is. We’ve just put that into our brains over the years, to just throw out random ideas for different instruments and ideas and then we just write it down on our list and when we get time to implement some of them, we practice for a few weeks, try to figure it out, and then try to perform it live on tour.
q: To date, what’s your favourite cover song that you’ve performed and why?
a: Usually as an artist, it’s always the last project you’ve done is your favourite, but there was a cover of “Shake it off” by Taylor Swift that we did in the Bahamas that I really love watching. I don’t know if it was my favourite one to make but going through the list with my kids and that one pops up, I think that it’s really fun and colourful, so that’s one of my favourite ones to watch for sure.
q: Things have come a long way since you formed in the early 2000’s. Throughout it all, what would you say is the glue that has helped WOTE continue to not only be creative but stay together?
a: I would have to definitely say it’s the fans. Obviously like any band we have turmoil, it’s similar to a relationship. We’ll get on each other’s nerves and we’ll want to have fights, but we have to think at the end of the day, there’s all these people that love our music and we’re bigger than the fight that we’re having. We have to put that aside and just do this thing that we wanted to do our whole lives. We won’t break up the band over some stupid fight. We just keep working to make cooler stuff and create interesting art.