Walk Off The Earth viral video racks up hits — and debate

Members of Burlington band Walk Off The Earth appear in this undated photo from their Facebook page.

From CTV.ca

For most unknown bands, the chance of reaching millions of people with music is the ultimate goal.

So when Walk Off The Earth, a group from Burlington, Ont., seemingly came out of nowhere and went viral this month on YouTube, many people thought of it as an overnight success.

Indeed, pretty much no one had ever heard of the band a month ago.

Now, as their cover version of the song “Somebody That I Used To Know” clicked past its 30 millionth view on YouTube, the band was preparing for an appearance on the U.S. talk show Ellen on Monday and dealing with a barrage of emails from fans and media.

In only a few short weeks, the band is up to 170,000 “likes” on their official Facebook page and their other YouTube videos had been viewed more than 55 million times. They were also gaining thousands of Twitter followers and getting thousands of comments and downloads on iTunes.

So how did it all happen?

The band — led by music veterans Sarah Blackwood (the blonde woman in the video) and Gianni Luminati (the long haired singer in the middle) — have been making quirky YouTube videos for a while.

But they finally struck gold when they posted their version of “Somebody That I Used To Know,” originally performed by Australian singer Goyte, on Jan. 5.

According to music industry expert Eric Alper, the band’s version makes an immediate impact on the viewer.

“From a marketing angle, Walk Off The Earth did something every band should do — be authentic,” he said.

“There’s nothing big-budget about their video. There’s no quick edits, no dancing women on top of a bar, no fast cars or speedboats, no piano-playing animals — just a group performing with instruments.”

Alper says that the emotional tone of the song and the way it’s performed also helped break the band into the public consciousness.

According to an interview the band did with musicradar.com, the video took 26 takes and 14 hours to get right.

But one question remains: Does the video’s audio track — including vocals — capture a live performance? Some have assumed that’s the case, but the band hasn’t said either way.

Audio experts consulted by CTVNews.ca were split on whether the music was live, and many commenters on YouTube and elsewhere are wondering the same thing.

YouTube User FedbergRoland commented: “lip sync? Seems like most of their recordings (are) recorded at a different time and location than the movie we’re watching/listening to.”

According to musician Matt Layzell, who plays in Vancouver indie band Matinee, the band’s incredible performance may be a little too perfect.

“I feel it’s lip-synched because the three vocals in the video are so clear and sound as though they are sung in close proximity to a mic,” he said in an interview.

“I agree that it’s an amazing song, and an amazing cover version, but real … well … I guess only the band really knows.”

Emails to the band and their management about the recording process were not returned.

Alper, for one, says the band’s performance is captivating because it’s creative.

“It’s the way they’re performing the song that grabs you, and that’s real,” he said.

Doubts about the band’s ability to pull off the performance should be put to rest when they perform live on Ellen on Jan. 23.