If you have not heard “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye, you must live under a rock. It’s the only explanation, really, considering that track transcends genres, making it accessible to alternative rock, pop, and even hip-hop radio stations, which have all given it monstrous airtime. The Australian-based indie outfit has been one of the most talked about new bands this year. However, despite the fact that 2012 is shaping up to be the most successful year for Wouter De Backer (Gotye’s founder), the Belgian-Australian multi-instrumentalist is far from a “new” artist.
De Backer took up music at an early age, experimenting with drums and piano in his adolescence. During high school, the young musician formed a band called Downstares with three of his buddies, including Lucas Taranto, who still accompanies De Backer during Gotye’s live sets. Though the group was short-lived, disbanding when the members went separate ways after graduation, the seed was planted and music continued to act as a regular part of De Backer’s life.
In 2001, De Backer recorded his first solo tracks primarily using samples. He compiled a four track CD, printed a mere 50 copies, and set out to distribute them to every radio station and record industry contact he could possibly find. He decided to name his project Gotye, a spelling variation on “Gaultier,” the French translation of “Wouter” and pet name given to him by his mother. The DIY collection garnered a positive response, allowing the ambitious singer-songwriter to continue releasing self-made compilations. In 2003, Gotye released his first full-length, Boardface, which comprised his earlier recordings.
Success came for Gotye in 2006, with the release of his sophomore effort, Like Drawing Blood. The record reached Platinum in Australia and its singles, “Learnalilgivinanlovin,” and “Hearts a Mess,” landed on both the Aussie and European charts.
Five years later, De Backer released his third (and most successful) album, Making Mirrors, which shot him into International stardom. Not only did the record itself make the charts, but its second single “Somebody That I Used to Know,” hit 8x Platinum (560,000 units sold) in Australia, as well as charting in the top 20 in 10 different countries.
Although it was the singer’s determination that initially sparked his success, it is his unique brand of experimental yet accessible atmospheric indie rock that propelled it and his breathtaking live show (with a complete band) that will cause it to continue growing. I was lucky enough to attend Gotye’s American television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in February of this year and can say, without a doubt, his performance is a must see at Coachella.
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