Better known to the internet-world as Gunnarolla, Ontario-native Andrew Gunadie has been bringing his original, ecclectic mix of music, comedy and vlogs on YouTube for more than six years. In that time his channel has garnered over eleven-million views, fuelled by an avid fanbase that Andrew is constantly engaging and several ongoing video series like “We Are What You Tweet”, “New State Plates” and “Songs About People”.
Now Gunnarolla has launched his latest project, A-POP, a new series of songs inspired by Asian pop music and culture. I had a chance to ask Andrew a few questions both about his career to date and A-POP, so let’s see what he has to say:
YouTube started out as a hobby and I’ve been on quite the journey over the past few years.
I initially started posting videos in 2007 – I come from a media studies and television production background, so YouTube was a great way to share what I was working on in school. I wasn’t thinking at all about developing an audience or trying to be famous or make money.
It wasn’t until I was ‘discovered’ by a YouTuber by the name of Johneepixels7 (we’re still friends today) that my attitude changed. He welcomed me into the community of Asian YouTubers, and I soon developed an audience. I started producing with them in mind. I was vlogging more, and I even had a collaborative soap opera called “To My Internet Lover” that ran across various channels.
Everything changed again when “Canadian, Please” went viral. YouTube itself was undergoing a transition – the partner program was in place, and more and more people were using the platform as a replacement for their day jobs. But even with a hit video, becoming a “full-time YouTuber” was the furthest thing from my mind. I was teaching music and eventually went on to become the Senior Multimedia Producer for Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Things have changed over the past couple of years for me – I left my full-time job, my audience is still growing, the rules of the game are changing, and it isn’t possible to make the types of videos that I want to make, just “for fun”. YouTube (and associated activities) have definitely become a full-time focus for me.
I’m proud of everything that I’ve made – especially considering that most of my biggest videos were completed in a forty-eight hour marathon on my days off from “real” work. There are a few videos that stand out:
With such a wide body of work behind you now, what videos still stand out for you today?
“Canadian, Please” is obviously my crowning achievement – not only does it have the most views, but it’s had the biggest cultural impact. So many people have seen it – either a friend posted it on Facebook, or their grandma sent it to them in an email. All the racism that I encountered only fuelled my pride in being an Asian-Canadian. I got so many messages from people around the world, sharing their own experiences. I’m proud of the message behind the song, and also the fact that we completed the song and video in literally forty-eight hours, without any clue as to how big it would become.
“The Foreign Language Song” was one of my first ‘real’ music video productions. We worked with a small crew, overnight, with no plan. It was one of my first shoots with Aaron Van Domelen, who has become a frequent collaborator. I think it’s one of my best productions. And I love the fact that the lyrics were created entirely from viewer submissions.
“The Comic Sans Song” is probably the longest I’ve ever spent working on a video – we shot in Melbourne, Australia, and then in the studio in Toronto, Canada. It’s got everything, from a catchy song (Vincent Connare, the creator of Comic Sans has even said it was an earworm), choreographed dance sequences (created by viewers), and graphics just flying all over the place. I had a great time shooting with viewers, and I was amazed at how many of them came out to help. I loved that such a random topic could still find an audience on the Internet.
Most recently you started a music series project called A-POP. So what exactly is A-POP?
A-POP, or Asian-Pop, or Andrew-Pop, is an idea that I had when I first discovered k-pop a few years ago. I loved how these songs were incorporating catchy English phrases into songs that were predominately NOT in English. I thought, “how cool would be to do the reverse of that?” I love language, and I’d love to get in touch with my Asian roots. And so A-POP was born: a k-pop influenced collection of music, that will also incorporate influences from Asia, not just lyrics and sound, but style, too. I’m a pop producer at heart, so I’m really excited about this.
“Konkai (This Time)” is the first big single off of my A-POP collection. I only had a couple of hours on my last night in Tokyo to get everything done [for the video]. We had no plan and HetareBBoy (who shot most of it) had never used a DSLR before. But it came together beautifully. It’s not anything near the original concept that we had for the song (I wanted to blow up a piano when we got back to Toronto) but I think it perfectly captures the essence of the lyrics, and the loneliness of Shibuya, Tokyo.
As you said, on “Konkai” you teamed up with Japanese rapper HetareBBoy. Will we be seeing more international collaborations?
I actually wasn’t planning to shoot Konkai (then known as “This Time”) in Japan – it wasn’t even an English/Japanese song! I met HetareBBoy by chance on my third day in Japan, at the YouTube Studio Tokyo. I knew I wanted to collaborate with him on something, so I sent him the track and told him to get back to me in a few days, since I was heading to Korea the day after our meeting.
When he got back to me with a verse, suddenly this A-POP project made a lot of sense. I’d love for there to be more international collaborations, and I think there’s something really great about having this cross-cultural, truly authentic experience through the collaborations. I think that featuring and working with Asian artists and musicians will be an important part of this project.
So can we look forward to an A-POP album?
I’m hoping to produce a series of mini-albums for A-POP, with the first one done before the end of the year.
I’d love to do a full record, but I’ve learned some important lessons from my last album production (#22songs) – how to balance my time and standards against all of the other things that I’m involved with. I wish that I could shut the world out to finish this album, but unfortunately, I still have to freelance to make a living, so my time will always be divided.
A lot of k-pop artists actually release mini-albums, and I think it’s a much better way to consume this type of music. I want every track to be replayed and appreciated.
Are there any other big things you have coming up we can look forward to?
Outside of YouTube, I’m working on all the AV content for the upcoming David Cronenberg exhibition at TIFF. We’ve curated content for this massive multi-screen video installation. It’s going to be quite an immersive experience.
I’m back at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Saturday October 5th to do my twelve hour live variety show with Andrew Bravener for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. We’ve put together a programme of the best of the worst and the best of the best of YouTube. It’s twelve hours of screenings, performances, live commenting, and a sing-along. It’s such a wild night:
I’m also involved with Buffer Film Festival, which takes place in Toronto about a month after our show. Similar concept, but with a focus on individual creators. I believe I’ll be presenting a programme of my best work.
Of course, you can also expect some other YouTube videos in between all of my A-POP stuff. There’s just going to be a ton of Gunnarolla on screen and on stage over the next couple of months!
Also how adorable is his mom?