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Canada's Walk Off the Earth capitalizes on major YouTube breakthrough

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TORONTO - Canadian multi-instrumentalist Gianni Luminati worked diligently for years in the hopes that his sunny, classification-defying outfit Walk Off the Earth would break through. Then, as a direct result of one single bleary-eyed night of labour, it happened.

It was early January 2012 when Luminati and his bandmates stayed up stitching together a video of all five group members plucking Gotye's plaintive smash "Somebody That I Used to Know" on a single acoustic guitar. They were utilizing a brand-new camera they barely knew how to use, shoved up against a wall so every member of the quintet was squeezed into the frame.

Needless to say, they didn't have high expectations.

"We didn't even think it was our best video when we put it out," Luminati said. "We knew the song was strong. We thought it was a cool idea. But we had lots of videos out already and we thought it was just another video."

Simply put: it wasn't. It became a web sensation, reeling in 147 million views to become one of the most-watched clips of 2012 on YouTube (first place went to that irrepressible South Korean meme machine Psy).

Asked to recall his feelings, Luminati just shakes his head.

"I really don't know man," he replies. "It happened so fast."

Even since, pretty much everything has been moving quite quickly for the Burlington, Ont., band.

They appeared on Ellen DeGeneres's talk show. They got a record deal from Sony. And they watched the rest of their inventive online videos stack up clicks at a furious pace.

Now, they lay claim to a bevy of widely observed pieces, including covers of Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" (nearly 10 million views), LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" (10.6 million) and Adele's "Someone Like You" (16.1 million).

Perhaps more encouragingly, their original videos (most of which are culled from their debut full-length "R.E.V.O.," which hits stores Tuesday) have also gained considerable notice.

Four of their jaunty, easygoing compositions — "Summer Vibe," "Red Hands," "Gang of Rhythm" and "Money Tree" — have combined for more than 12 million clicks while allowing the band to prove they weren't a mere novelty act.

"(People) watched a lot of our backlog and they were like: 'Whoa, this band actually has a really cool thing going on,'" said the band's Sarah Blackwood.

"R.E.V.O." features a broad diversity both in terms of influences and instrumentation. They giddily draw from almost all pop genres — rock, reggae, rap, dance, metal — for their cheerful ditties.

And for a long time, they were told that eclecticism would prevent them from ever finding a niche in the industry.

"I remember being like 14 and having this vision of a band who didn't have any genre and played metal songs and acoustic songs," said Luminati, sipping a pint of beer.

"I remember bringing it up to the producers who I was working with and they're like: 'that's unprofitable. That's stupid. You can't do that.'"

Prior to the flurry of opportunities that have presented themselves in the past year, Luminati says he was on a "manic depressive rollercoaster" of supposedly big opportunities that quickly evaporated.

But optimism seems to be this blithe band's default setting, and there's now plenty of reason for it. Beyond the music, Blackwood and Luminati announced on YouTube that she's pregnant with their first child (even this garnered more than 600,000 views).

Enduring the promotional duties that accompany a first album release — not to mention a European tour — is a big ask for someone who's due in only a few months, but Blackwood has a characteristically positive outlook.

"It actually makes it less intense for me because now I have an excuse to be like: 'I can't make it that day, I'm not going,'" she said with a laugh. "I was a little concerned at first because you never really know what to expect ... (but) I think it's going to be pretty cool.

"Literally, every person becomes your own personal assistant," she adds. "They want to hold bags for you and open doors for you. It's great. I want to be pregnant for longer.

"I'll probably be cursing that when I'm sleeping on a bunk on a bus."

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