These Melburnian pranksters may mine the depths of the teenage-boy psyche in the name of comedy, but they're making a stand against bullying while they're at it
Are you over 18? Then chances are you haven’t heard of YouTube sensations the Janoskians. (And if you’re the parents of boys, you’ll probably puzzle at why meandering footage of them talking shit in the lounge-room or falling about in bushes is considered top-notch entertainment.)
These five Melburnian teenagers – Beau Brooks, younger twin brothers Luke and Jai, James Yammouni and Daniel Sahyounie – could almost be Chris Lilley inventions. In fact, watching them grow up on YouTube over the past two years is like watching Chris Lilley in real time. Growing up together with a love of Jackass and other pranksters, they started posting their own videos to YouTube in 2010 and have now amassed 382,494 Twitter followers and released a top 20 single with Sony.
Having been on the receiving end of a fairly enthusiastic social media backlash whipped up by a couple of hard-working trolls, the Janoskians work with Bully Free Australia Foundation and will be appearing at the ‘Bully Free Cup’ match between Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers on February 16. Time Out talked to the eldest Janoskian, Beau Brooks (who turns 20 this year), ahead of the match.
What will your role be at the Bully Free Cup?
We’re just going there and promoting the anti-bullying campaign, turning up in front of the crowd and talking to people and helping out kids who have had problems with bullying before.
Will that be the biggest crowd you’ve appeared in front of?
It will definitely will be one of the biggest crowds we’ve stepped in front of so it will be nerve-racking.
So how do you cope with nerves?
Well, before we go on stage, or go in front of a large crowd, we just pretty much have a laugh and try and keep cool and just be ourselves; because at the end of the day, when we are on stage, we’re with each other and I guess it’s not as nerve-racking when you’re with your five close mates on stage.
The Janoskians have been on the receiving end of online hate since becoming famous. Was the idea to turn that experience into a positive?
Yeah definitely. And I guess that’s why our fans love us, because so many teenagers do get bullied and it gets to the point where they have to decide to carry on or just give up. We carried on. I guess we got really lucky by filming everything on camera; it’s pretty much our whole teenage experience on YouTube, letting our fans grow with us, including how we’ve taken care of the bullying. All the bullying was through social media and it’s all about how we act towards our haters, especially online.
What’s your tactic then, how do you act?
We usually say to fans, “Instead of replying to our hater, we’re gonna reply to 10 fans instead.”
Do you remember what the first video was that you put on YouTube?
Me and my brothers did heaps of videos growing up and we were always the Janoskians… but the first video we did to really kick off the Janoskian label was ‘Awkward Train Situations’ where we’re being a public nuisance on the train. People seem to love that.
Your mum is your merch manager… who else works for you?
At the moment we have got involved with US management which is still to be announced, it’s a bit of a secret. And our lawyer is taking care of the management within Australia. Our mum is our merchandise manager; she’s been taking great care of that and been doing really good work… we couldn’t ask for a better team behind us.
Are you going to go on tour anytime soon?
We’re going to the UK to discuss tour options with a big band over there but we can’t let you all know yet. But there are discussions, and hopefully in the next few months we’ll be on tour.
Do you have different roles in the band? Are you the one who does the most press?
We don’t really have different roles, we have different personalities. Daniel’s the dopey one, Jai’s the lovey-dovey one with Ariana Grande, James is the nice one, Luke is the sassy one…and I guess I’m the crazy one.
There’s plenty of fan fiction out there about the Janoskians. Does that creep you out or is that funny?
To be honest, me and my brothers just read those fan fictions pissing ourselves laughing. It’s just funny, the ideas that the girls come up with in their heads.
Is there any sketch that you’ve done where people have gone, “Woah! That’s way too much?”
A Current Affair pulled us up for a video that we did called ‘Baby Annabell’. That was when we were holding a plastic doll off a bridge to get people’s reactions.
It wasn’t the West Gate Bridge, was it?
No, it was the bridge off Flinders Street. We know our boundaries!
Would you tone down your work if you had an offer for a major TV series for Channel 7 or 9?
To be honest, no we wouldn’t. We probably wouldn’t accept the offer; our fans love us because of our work, so I don’t see us going very far if we tone down anything at all. But we would say yes to other options such as reality TV shows because a reality TV show is us being ourselves. There might be some news about us in reality TV shows later in the year, but nothing stamped out at the moment.
Have you made contact with any of your heroes or influences?
Definitely. Chris Lilley (Angry Boys, Summer Heights High) was a huge influence on me. I’ve grown up watching him and I’m very privileged to say that we always go out to pubs for like drinks and stuff- that’s pretty cool. Who else have we met? We’ve met Pauly D from Jersey Shore… I was really star-struck. He was really nice, he was really cool. And we’ve met Gaz from Geordie Shore – he actually took me and my friend skip out to dinner and back to his hotel room for a laugh and for a few drinks and we went out clubbing with him as well (laughs). And we’re about to meet Jay Sean in LA. It’s really wild, crazy actually… we’re very lucky to meet all these people.
What about any celebrity feuds, have you had any on Twitter?
The only person we’ve had a – I wouldn’t even say it was a fall-out, but a little conflict of interest with – was Reece Mastin because he leaked our numbers on stage but other than that, nah, not really.
Your meet and greets sound pretty insane – the Luna Park one last year got shut down by the police. Do you have any more of them lined up?
Well we just did one about two weeks ago on Monday at Fed Square and… we did not learn our lessons from Luna Park (laughs). I could not even count the amount of people that were there; we couldn’t see the back of Fed Square, there were so many people. That got shutdown in about 20 minutes with like half the federal police showing up. It seems like all they want to do is touch us. The closer they get to us, they were getting squashed up on the stage and girls were fainting and passing out and vomiting… it’s really intense, and just going from hardly even having any friends at school to girls literally passing out in front of you is just really overwhelming.
Do you reckon you’ll put another record out?
Yeah, definitely, we’ve got one lined up. We’ve recorded about eight different songs but we haven’t released any because the next single we really, really want to make sound like us and nothing else – and really show our fans what the music side of us is made of.
So is the last single not so much the music you’re into?
All of us boys are into all different types of music; we appreciate all different music. We still have to find our sound before we can go and show people another poppy song. We really wanna find ourselves before we release another one.
Are any of you still at school?
Me and Daniel both finished school. Luke, James and Jai all dropped out of school to be a Janoskian pretty much. I never experienced it but my brothers and James said that they were all treated very differently. Even the teachers were acting weird around them. It wasn’t the greatest thing. They said they got bullied and people whispered about them behind their backs and that sort of stuff. But they didn’t drop out because of that, they dropped out because they really wanted to focus on doing Janoskian stuff – so say if we had a trip to LA or wherever we could just get up and go we don’t have to worry about school or pretty much all in one day we could just get up and do that.
So you’re making money out of it then, you can support yourselves just by doing this?
Well yeah, that’s right. At the moment, the money side of it is pretty well.
So I guess next for you is going overseas?
Yeah, we’re going to LA in two weeks, we land on the 18th February and then we leave LA to go the UK and we land in the UK on 22nd February. We’re all Australia boys so we’ll all definitely want to live here but we like to travel so definitely like to travel to wherever we have to be. But we definitely want to live in Australia.