David Hunter recently caught up with two gentleman who have taken Australia – and the world – by storm. From their YouTube sensation Bondi Hipsters to their ABC series Soul Mates returning for a second run, they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
David talks to Christiaan Van Vuuren and Nicholas Boshier about the creation of Soul Mates and the feedback they get locally on the popular Hipsters. They discuss Connor Van Vuuren’s hard work at making them look so damn good (he’s Christiaan’s brother), their inspirations and favourite TV shows. They even go philosophical about people’s perceptions, death defying Kiwis, Stranger Things and scaring children out of shoe stores.
Congratulations on the success so far. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the first two episodes of Soul Mates Series 2 and it was amazing! You guys really upped the ante for series 2, that’s for sure.
Nicholas: Thank you so much, that’s great news.
Christiaan: We feel we know the format a little better than the last time and we are more confident in our roles and we have been given a little bit more money to mess around with, so we feel the same way about it really.
You have both been doing it for quite some time now, do you have a favourite character you like to portray. One that you love getting back into costume for?
Nicholas: Me personally, I really enjoy the Kiwi Assassins, I think we like playing all the different characters for different reasons, because it is all quite enjoyable, but the Kiwi Assassins is such a moreish headspace to be in. *laughs* Murdering people for really basic, sometimes dairy based reasons.
Yes, also going from killing squirrels to people was a very big leap.
Christiaan: Indeed! My brother and director Connor (Van Vuuren) does such a good job of writing and directing these characters and nailing that action comedy voice.
I really want a chance to mention Connor and his creative contribution to the show as a writer and director on Soul Mates. He just gets left off so much of our media and PR. We know how much hard work he’s done, and how much he adds to Soul Mates. Nick and I get so much credit for the show, since we are the dudes on screen, but he’s part of our collaborative group and deserves the same amount!
In saying all that, the Kiwis world is so much fun due to the art direction and the style and doing that kind of late 80’s early 90’s action comedy setting. Lots of genre stuff to play with. I’m with Nick as well. I love playing Kiwi Roger, kind of for an odd reason, he is just so vulnerable and childish…
Christiaan: As soon as I put on that wig and the handlebar moustache, I get into like a real soft heart on sleeves zone.
As Nick said too, I love playing all the characters for different reasons. The Hipster characters, because we have been doing them for so long, we have a certain level of comfort and safety in playing those characters. It’s really nice as a performer to enjoy. I really enjoy the cavemen because of the whimsy and silliness. To me, Rocky, my caveman character, I get to be myself at my most stupid, primal and non-emotional. I get to play dumb.
Coming from series 1, Rocky seems to have gained a few more brain cells, having to keep up with all the new interactions that are going on?
Christiaan: Yeah, I think Rocky is kind of dragged along by everyone else and he manages to keep up, but I wouldn’t say he’s paving the way.
We talked about how far the boys have come and my personal favourite sketch being that of The Bondi Hipsters, how I also work in Retail and absolutely love their portrayal in showing us the very best and worst of Retail 101.
Is there a background in which you work from here? Have you both been in customer service roles before?
Christiaan: I did a string of jobs working at General Pants, Nike, In Sport & a bunch of Cafes. There is definitely stuff that’s been drawn from there. I also worked at Toys R Us.
I got fired from different ones for different reasons. I was fired from Nike for making faces at the babies when their parents weren’t looking. Parents would have their kids come in for fittings and I would just go like “Hsssssss”. Someone complained and I got let go for that one.
I was fired from Toys R Us for opening up a Darth Vader helmet, a lightsabre and going up against a young kid in store that came in wearing a Jedi costume.
General Pants had this three ‘No’ Rule. So when you go into General Pants, at least back when I was there, you would have to approach and ask a customer a question three times, not give up until you got three ‘No’ responses. It worked on some levels because in other retailers you would get the sales rep behind the counter reading a magazine and you felt that you couldn’t try harder to get some help. It’s the same approach we took with the Bondi Hipsters, in particular with the retail, that they didn’t give a fuck and couldn’t care less.
Nicholas: I worked at the checkout for Woolies for a while and all I wanted to maintain was the highest amount of Panachery (New word Oxford) that I possibly could. Like, I would un-button my top shirt, I would try to wear heaps of jewellery and put rings on each hand before I go to the checkout and at Christmas, when we were forced to wear hats, I would poke my Santa hat straight up. I basically got fired for five consecutive ball aches (Being Annoying).
Christiaan: It’s funny, in retail there is a consistent attempt among everyone to show that you’re a cool person outside of the subservient role that you’re playing.
Nicholas: YES! Maybe that’s the observation? That your trying to maintain your identity when your serving someone else’s purpose? Both your bosses and your customers? I remember though, almost enjoying it most days. You would get such an interesting cross-section of humans. I would get into such amazing deep and meaningful conversations with strangers and even the angry and rude customers, I would learn to appreciate that in some weird way as well.
Christiaan: A lot of what we use is also about how we have been treated when going into certain stores as well. Such as one time, my girlfriend and I walked into a shop to buy a shirt and the guy behind the counter was like “So, are you guys going to ‘Splendour’ [Music Festival] this weekend? Going on a bender? Going to pop a few pingers?” and I just said, whatever your imposing on me it’s not the person I actually am.
Nicholas: That’s definitely not who we are.
Christiaan: I work hard all week and kind of sleep and watch Netflix and TV on the weekend, *laughing* I meant to say I watch ABC and IView all weekend.
I know I’m now definitely too scared to ask for a Flat White ever again, thanks to Christiaan’s character Dom. Also going around work asking for peoples ‘Deets’ and ‘Narms’ (Details and Names) that is your fault Nick.
Nicholas & Christiaan: *Both laughing* Sorry about that
So, who created the Soul Mates theme song ‘Love That Never Ends’?
Christiaan: We have a composer named Lance who helped create that song which, the theme, was originally intended to be used for our YouTube Bondi Hipsters intro. In fact, it is what we used when we made our teaser for that show. I got really attached to what Lance did and then my brother and i used the theme and added a lyrical melody to go over the top of that.
Nicholas: I can tell you with absolute certainty, that I did not contribute a thing to that opening.
Nicholas, you’re a hard man to find much background for. All I ever seem to come across is Nicholas ‘Trent from Punchy’ Boshier. You keep off the grid?
Christiaan: Yeah he is a bit of an enigma
Nicholas: Most important things I do, are already put on the grid.
Watching Soul Mates 2, I came across a new favourite song ‘The Closed Café’. It embodies everything you describe about the hipster culture. Do you ever receive any feedback off the Bondi locals or even the Hipsters themselves?
Nicholas: Generally speaking, mostly positive. I believe that most people realise that Dom and Adrian are both the source and the target of the scorn. The only negative feedback I have received would have been after we released the ‘Life Organic’ song. A local organic store berated me for attacking organic foods. They wanted me to release a video apologising for it. I just said, ‘Nah, not going to happen”.
Christiaan: At the time he was actually one of the biggest supporters of that store, bringing me all the way out from home to try their goods.
Nicholas: It’s now changed to a kind of Stockholm syndrome with them now too. Needing to go back to them for advice and approval at every turn. Funny how that works.
Christiaan: I look nothing like Dom in real life, so I don’t receive a lot of personal feedback when I go around. Not with my hair falling out.
So you’re not displaying Dom’s Lumbersexual beard in the outside world then?
Nicholas: No he is not. He’s a very mildly, furry, peachy otter.
Christiaan: I do get Dom clones around Bondi. Looking at me, like, your fucking up our look! But I love them, they just look like beautiful salty sea dogs.
Nicholas: More like Jared Leto, starry eyed types that do three healthy poo’s a day and drink lots of water.
With the new Egyptian setting on the show, it looks like so much fun. Did you guys have much to do with the costumes and set pieces?
Christiaan: My brother Connor and I are the ones that do most of the writing and the set ups. When we came to the Egypt setting, our crew just looked at us and asked, how on earth are we going to do this? We decided to take the campy 60’s Cleopatra vibe with a HBO, Game of Thrones, Vikings and Rome dramatic style.
You definitely started down the setting with a Game of Thrones style, quite literally with a certain Cleopatra scene.
Nicholas: Yeah, *laughs* gets right into it.
Christiaan: As for the sets and head departments, we wanted to aim high and see where we landed. Everyone over delivered. It was so exciting to walk into each of the departments in the lead up to the shoot and see the wardrobe people hanging out with the art department, all collaborating. Every single piece of Egyptian imagery you see on the walls and floors inside the palace is hand drawn, each one, hand drawn and painted from all our artists.
Nicholas: My cloak was phenomenal, wearing it was beautiful. The make-up team, all amazing.
Christiaan: The giant bird head was made from scratch; the moving eyes were added in later with visual effects. The cross collaboration was just really special.
Christiaan and Nicholas explained that for series 2 of Soul Mates, the ABC gave them a lot of trust and the opportunity to bring in some of the people that had amazing skills but less experience on shows like this. People that had so much passion and a lot more to gain from the experience. Making them a department that worked harder because of it and you can really see the change from series one to series two.
Working with the Iris, I review a lot of TV shows and movies. I love asking everyone I speak to what their favourite shows are at the moment? What they’re really into?
Nicholas: For me, Peaky Blinders is ruining my life. Because I watch it really late and the last thing you can do after watching Peaky Blinders is comfortably go to sleep. It is intense and visceral and brilliant, so I am watching the dickens out of that, oh, and Stranger Things.
Christiaan: Stranger Things for sure, I felt like that show, was made specifically for me and twenty years of things in my consciousness. I then felt a little bit depressed after watching it and then reading everyone else say the same thing. Because I thought I was unique and that I had a fixed individual interest, but I am just part of the collective consciousness like everybody else.
The things its tapped into, such as the references and the shows and the early Spielberg, Stephen King, Goonies themes. The Thing, all those old school horrors. The science, the exploration of inter-dimensional travel. The CIA and Government conspiracy theories.
My favourite comedy at the moment is I I am inhaling that show. Those girls, are a level to inspire to with their comedic talent. I love Silicon Valley, Game of Thrones and South Park.
South Park! Now that just keeps me invested. Nicholas is nodding his head and agreeing with me. The ability that Matt Stone and Trey Parker can take a stupidly silly low brow subject and tie it to a really important satirical point about society and nail the right message on the right topic is spot on. We always make sure we justify the edginess in an intelligent idea and South Park has set the norm in high concept comedy. It is what we always come back to and take inspiration from.
We are always asked who we would love to work with and it would be a fucking dream to collaborate a project with Trey and Matt. We would love for Dom & Adrian to meet with the Broad City girls also.
Nicholas: Or to meet up with the Ab Fab ladies. Can you imagine that?
Christiaan: We also love the character creators such as Chris Lilly, Sacha Baron-Coen, Key & Peele and Rhys Darby. Oh my, yes. Rhys Darby.
We have had a character worked out for him for a long time, we tried to get him on Soul Mates, we tried to get him on 7 Days Later (another project)… I love him more than I should.
I spoke with David Farrier yesterday, Director of the new Documentary Tickled and he is best mates with Rhys Darby. Worked with him on a show called Small Poppies.
Christaan & Nicholas: That is so cool!
Nicholas: Rhys Darby can act. I have been lucky enough to grow a friendship with him over the last five years and seeing his discipline and development and kindness has made me feel that you can reach the top and still be a good egg.
All 6 Episodes of Soul Mates Series 2 are out now on ABC iView. Soul Mates Series 1 is now available on DVD & streaming via Netflix