February 25, 2014
We caught up with Ryan Marshall of Walk Off The Earth on the phone a few weeks ago to talk about the band’s new album, the experience of touring, and how insanely excited we are to see them at The Regency Ballroom this Friday night, February 28th.
The Ontario-based quintet has been steadily gaining popularity since 2006, with four albums and a handful of delightful singles. They first caught major attention through a series of popular song covers. Putting their own unique and musically-layered spin on cult favorites such as Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know ” and Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble”, they also know how to revamp older classics like “From Me To You” by the Beatles and “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger. Their latest album, R.E.V.O., is full of songs that make you want to sing and dance, as well as a handful of surprises.
SFCS: Where did the name come from for Walk Off The Earth?
RM: We were just kinda sitting around once in 2006 and tried to think of ways that people listen to our music, [like] some sort of trance, [just] walk off the edge of the earth.
SFCS: What music are you into right now? Who’s on your playlist?
RM: I’m all over the place, I’m a big — I don’t know how to pronounce it — HAIM and J. Cole [fan]. They’re wicked. The new J. Cole album is great hip hop. I’m a really big singer-songwriter fan too, so I really like Bon Iver, Tallest Man on Earth, and Ben Howard. All that stuff.
SFCS: You play guitar, bass, trumpet, harmonica, piano, vocals, ukulele, and u-bass. How did that get started? Where did you learn all these instruments?
RM: I would say most people that can play guitar can play bass, ukulele, it’s just a matter of learning chords. I am not a master at any of them, you know [laughs]. I didn’t start playing guitar until university. For a long time I wanted to pick up an instrument, [learn] sounds that people will want to listen to. I started playing the trumpet and baritone when I was in grade six, and I played them all the way until the end of high school.
SFCS: What do you think is the most important part of a live show?
RM: You’ve got to connect with the fans. The second you walk on stage you have to get their attention. If you do, then they’re gonna be involved, and they’re gonna want to watch and see what happens. If you don’t, you lose them, and then you’re playing for a crowd that’s bored and they’re talking and they’re not watching. And you know, I think and that’s what we do. When we go on stage, that’s what we plan for and that’s typically what happens. We knock them off their seats.
SFCS: We’re excited for your show in San Francisco. What’s your pre-show routine?
RM: We’re all different. [Some of us] do weird sounding vocal warmups that sound like Satan’s preaching [laughs]. I don’t do yoga or anything like that, I chill out. I’m just really calm before shows. Sometimes I fall asleep. I just try to relax because I know when I get on stage that’s gonna change. I played a lot of competitive sports growing up. You learn how to get ready for the big game and you get amped up to go on stage in front of all these people.
SFCS: What is the most interesting venue the band has ever played?
RM: There’s this venue in Amsterdam called Paradiso. It’s floors and floors of this arena and people are just hanging over the guardrails, trying to jump down on you. It’s just the design of the Paradiso, 2,500 people and they’re all hanging on the guardrails and it’s incredible. It feels like they’re all on top of you while you’re playing.
SFCS: What is your favorite song to perform?
RM: I think right now it’s a toss up. One of them is “Red Hands”, just because it got so well known, especially in the states, and you have 2,000 people singing back to you a song that you wrote and screaming the words. It’s really empowering. It’s awesome. It’s just a really cool feeling. And there’s a song on R.E.V.O. called “Sometimes” and it almost has this hip hop feel. Sarah [Blackwood] and I wrote that song about five years ago and it just never fit. It’s cool that you can pull something out of the woodwork and play it in front of 2,000 people and have them go crazy for it.
SFCS: You guys have a very unique style. How did that come about - five people playing one guitar — where did that come from?
RM: It’s just a lot of different influences. I’m a singer-songwriter guy. Gianni [Luminati] listens to funk, reggae. Sarah believe it or not listens to showtunes. And Sarah like me, a singer-songwriter, she also listens to country stuff. Joel [Cassady] is into anything new, anything electronic, dubstep, and all that. When you put a bunch of influences together you get a different kind of sound. You get people that are willing to experiment in different genres. It’s really hard for people to put us in a genre. I think it help us to add an original sound and get something that’s genuine for people to listen to.
SFCS: So if you had to give yourself a genre then, what would you say you are?
RM: I can’t do it. God [laughs]. The style you know has its organic roots. Some of it’s rock and some of it just pops together.
SFCS: Alright thank you so much Marshall! Really looking forward to your show in a few weeks!
Check them out at The Regency Ballroom this Friday night February 28th. Tickets are available here:
Photo credit Erin Blackwood, 2013, from www.walkofftheearth.com