Interview: Gianni Luminati’s Fairytale in New York with Sarah Blackwood

December 22, 2011
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Gianna Luminati in the studio

Gianni Luminati, the music impresario best known for fronting reggae/ska band Walk Off The Earth recently caught up with Music Vice for a chat about the year so far. We spoke about his creative collaborations; and the “online game” that is such a vital piece of the music industry these days. Gianni has had a busy year recording with his band, maintaining a strong online and festival presence, and has also been working on a new project with Sarah Blackwood of The Creepshow fame.

The duO have racked up hundreds of thousands of views on their Youtube videos, including an Adele cover with over 300,000 views,  and are set to release their first full record in the new year entitled Gianni and Sarah. Multitasking so many projects would be overwhelming for some, but we’re not talking about your average reggae stoner musician here: this guy may lay around in hammocks but you can bet he’s working on some kind of crazy, elaborate composition rather than taking some shut eye as he does it! It is not hard to see why Gianni and his friends are so popular and well liked – characteristically oozing enthusiasm, creativity, and charisma from his pores, Gianni presents his intricate arrangements with the ease of a seasoned entertainer, and a great sense of humour. Gianni has featured in a steady and well received stream of ‘trending’ Youtube videos that you can check out on the popular video website, from the links below. But first of all I’ll let you in on our conversation…

Christmas Interview with Gianni Luminati (Walk Off The Earth):

Ngawara Madison, MusicVice.com: Hi Gianni! Thanks so much for taking the time to catch up with us here at Music Vice. I’ve been enjoying checking out your Youtube channel… you have quite an online presence it seems! A lot of the videos are very tongue in cheek, colourful and fun. I especially like your videos that youve made with Sarah Blackwood. You two recently recorded a cover of the Pogues classic ‘Christmas in New York’. Was the video actually shot in New York?

Gianni: Yes The Pogues song we did was actually shot in New York City. My nephew Myles scored the lead roll in the Broadway Musical Billy Elliot. Sarah and I decided to go and visit him. We both really love that song, so we thought it would be fitting to perform it sitting on a roof top in Times Square…

Wow that’s awesome about your nephew, you must be really proud of him! I actually think i saw a video you shot with him. You were singing a cover of “Blackbird”.  But back to Sarah and you; where are you usually based? And could you just briefly explain, how this duo came together?  Because I know you’re quite busy already with your band [Walk Off The Earth]…

Gianni:  We are based out of Burlington, Ontario.  So I guess we are very much a Canadian duo, although we have plans to make videos in random city’s around the world. Sarah and I first started working together about 3 years ago although we did know each other a bit longer than that.  I recorded and co-produced her second solo album with her at BTown Sound Recording Studio. During that time,  Marshall [from WOTE] and I were writing this song called “Joan and Bobby” and we were looking for a female singer to fit the part. I knew Sarah was perfect for it.  I’ve never meet someone who is just as obsessed with making music as I am. So when she was free from touring with The Creepshow and I wasn’t busy with Walk Off The Earth stuff, we would always find ourselves working on songs together.  Since then we have slightly incorporated her in our live WOTE show and she has incorporated us in her solo project live show… it works out quite well!

Sarah and I have also written a bunch of cool original songs for our side project entitled “Gianni and Sarah”.
We will be releasing an EP sometime in mid 2012.

I didn’t realise this had been going for such a long time. But it makes sense upon hearing how comfortably you niche together. Would you say that the music with Sarah is kind of taking over from the band [WOTE] or are you just a great multi-tasker?

Gianni: Not taking over from the band, but going hand in hand i guess. Sarah has actually been helping me out with some of the many tasks that arise in the Walk Off The Earth project. She has sort of taken on a manager/booking agent roll for us.  So I would not say working with her has taken any time away from the band at all, no… in fact it has done the opposite.  Also, Marshall has been quite busy the last year with the birth of his baby.  So other than writing and recording the new WOTE album there hasn’t been much time for me to work on videos with him. This leaves me time to work on stuff with Sarah in the Walk Off The Earth downtime.

I know I said earlier that I was quite new to your stuff with Sarah; but I have certainly seen you perform with “Walk Off The Earth” a number of times.. at Warped, and I think at a Johnstones concert also. You and your band seem to be quite the social butterflies. You’ve toured and played shows with a stack of different bands over the past few years and then there are a load of people within the music scene that speak highly of you. Is it true that youre friends with Ryan Long and Jarek and the Johnstones boys? I saw you did a collaboration with Ryan Guay from Street Pharmacy too who are from a similar touring circuit… any other bands you’re good friends with?

Gianni: Yes,  those boys are all stand up dudes and we love playing shows and drinking beers with them!  We are also very good friends with Saint Alvia, The Organ Thieves and probably a few other outfits that have slipped my mind right now.

There seems to be a great comradery between Ontario ska bands I’ve noticed…

Gianni: Well you know, there are thousands of bands out there to compete against; so I’ve never understood why bands try to compete with bands that they know and play with.  It’s much better to stick together and share your fans and help
promote each other as much as possible, especially when you actually like their music.

For sure, I totally agree with that. The more the merrier, I guess as long as youre comfortable and confident in the originality of your sound then other bands are not competition anyway. Talking of other bands and appreciating other bands’ music… you do a lot of videos where you take a song we’re familiar with and do your own personal take or cover of it. What are your influences? Because some of your versions are really quite different to the original song you’re covering..

Gianni: Well I guess my influence would be my brain!! [laughs] Sometimes when I hear a song, I just hear it performed in a different way in my head.  I’m a strong believer that if you are going to cover a song, you must change it enough from the original so that it has a new feel. I don’t understand why people cover songs exactly the same as the original. As for  influences… I am not strongly influenced by any particular band or artist. I like keep to my music listening to a broad spectrum so I don’t get bogged down into a particular sound.

That’s probably why its hard to place some of your bands music into a particular niche or genre boundary. So here’s a question.. if someone had never heard any of your music before, which song or video would be the one you would like them to see first? Which tune do you think gives the best and most reliable first impression of what you’re about?

Gianni: As for our music, I would want them to listen to any of the new songs off our new album due for release early 2012. We’ve been working super super hard on these songs over the past year and I think they are our best stuff to date.

As for the cover videos, some of our fan favourites are: “Roll Up”, “Someone Like You” or “Karma Police”. Our original song “Corner of Queen” is also a good video that would represent Walk Off The Earth to a new fan.

Brilliant I’ll be sure to have a perusal of those ones then! Just one more question before we tie it up. You have an impressive number of videos online and seem to be collaborating left, right and centre! What are your main goals and projects as we venture towards the New Year?

Gianni: New Years Resolutions? Okay well our main goal for 2012 is to keep working our asses off on music and to increase our YouTube followers from 30,000 subscribers to at least 100,000 subscribers.  We’re also going to release our third album and have plans to tour the hell out of it.  We really want to get over to Europe and mainly UK due to the fact that a HUGE part of our online followers are from there and we have a lot of people asking us to come there as of late. We are also hoping to get on another leg of Warped Tour this summer so we can get back to the US.  Other than that, you can expect to see us doing some one-offs around the Greater Toronto Area.

 © Ngawara Madison, Music Vice

Walk Off The Earth are playing alongside Disband favourites Street Pharmacy for Boxing Day in Niagara.

Internet links: You can stay up to date with The WOTE project on their Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/walkofftheearth and check out their videos at www.youtube.com/walkofftheearth.

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5 Responses to Interview: Gianni Luminati’s Fairytale in New York with Sarah Blackwood

  1. Stefan Scholl on January 8, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Wow, 300,000 views. ;-)

    And 2 weeks later they have a video with over 3,000,000 views online! Crazy times.

  2. pim on January 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    And one week later they’ve passed the 10 million mark… Great going guys!

  3. Jeroen van Essen on April 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Been subbed to them from one of their first videos. Just checked out how many subscribers they have… OVER EFFING 450.000!! And that within 4 months!

    :D

  4. Tony James on May 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Most genuine interview on the web for WOTE.
    Funny that mainstream UK not really on board about YouTube impact but at least fans are not so slow.

  5. Jacqueline on March 5, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    pity they don’t come to Australia and tour, I am addicted!! There are fans here in ozz land too! I think Walk off the earth have a shit load of talent, and I was blown away by there talent upon seeing them the first time, keep the music cumin people, LOVE IT!! Would LOVE to see you down under sometime!!!!!!!!!! :P

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