Axis All Areas: Australian comedy sensations bring new series to YouTubeWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The members of the Axis of Awesome have plenty of experience with online videos. Back in 2008, the Australian musical comedy band played a medley referred to as “4 Chords” at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival — a compilation of popular songs that all had the same basic musical structure. The next thing the trio knew, their performance went viral in a big way — as of this writing, various versions of “4 Chords” have garnered over 50 million hits on YouTube.
“[It's] a bit weird, and still a bit weird that people sing it to us at gigs, email us saying they performed it onstage themselves, or send us videos of them doing it,” Lee Naimo, the group’s guitar player, said in an email interview with Toledo Free Press. “The internet is a strange and lovely thing, but it’s been very good to us – as has YouTube.”
Now, the Axis of Awesome are hoping to extend their success on the world’s most popular video sharing site. The group recently launched a new comedy series entitled “Axis All Areas” on their official channel. The show — starring bandmates Naimo, Jordan Raskopoulos (he’s the lead singer who looks like Jack Black) and Benny Davis (he’s the short one on keyboard) — is a monthly series centered around a music video of one of the group’s songs, but with numerous additional clips and hidden Easter eggs for those with a judicious clicker-finger to find.
“It’s a little bit Spinal Tap in tone, but in terms of the hidden links and interactivity, the old Homestar Runner animated series online had hidden links,” Naimo said. “While there’s a lot of content being made for YouTube, the formats aren’t changing that fast, so it was nice to custom-make something just for YouTube that utilizes the tropes.”
The show is the result of a grant put forward by both YouTube and Screen Australia, a governmental body focused on providing funding in an effort to encourage the growth of the country’s entertainment industry. Naimo and his bandmates had already begun experimenting with sketches and other filmed bits, so expanding their onstage personae into this new project was fairly straightforward, he said.
“…we’ve been playing those characters for years on stage now, but through doing this and another web series we created for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation earlier in the year, we’ve made those characters more rounded and with a lot more depth.”
Keeping so many different variables in check per episode brought its own challenges during the writing process for “All Areas.” Each member of the group contributed ideas — Naimo and Raskopoulos typically worked on the sketches, Davis on music — though Naimo readily acknowledged how valuable the help of their additional collaborators has been.
“We all collaborate, and on this project we worked strongly with the director Bryan Moses on the structure and narrative elements,” Naimo said. “We also had some great guest cast members like Steen Raskopoulos (Jordan’s younger brother), Susie Youssef and Jon Williams who contributed to their characters a little bit, which was great.”
The filming process for the first three episodes of the series was split between work in Los Angeles at the YouTube Space, and back home in Sydney. Despite the funding, the budget was relatively meager compared to broadcast shows of comparable length, so planning and structure were crucial. It helped that Naimo and his partners had plenty of experience in front of the camera.
“We’ve done heaps of music videos, and have lots of difference experience acting for camera so it’s not too big a challenge,” Naimo said. “We help each other out and if any of us think someone else’s performance isn’t hitting the mark, we’ll say so and offer some direction. Also it helps working with a great director like Bryan, who will let you do what you want but also offer his own guidance and direction.”
The first episode of the finished series debuted last month, incidentally while the group was in the middle of a European tour. And much like all the bits in “Axis All Areas,” the band strives to make sure its stage material finds its mark no matter where they play.
“We work very hard doing what we do, and try and make sure our material speaks to a lot of people about things they can identify with,” Naimo said. “Plus we figure if it makes us laugh, it’ll make other people laugh too.”
Naimo noted how he hoped the new series makes the group’s fans laugh — enough to give them the chance to make more episodes. “It’s a good format and I think we learned a lot doing it, so it’d be good to put those lessons into practice in a second series. We’re focusing a lot more on online content at the moment so it’s nice to be able to do more of that.”