'Basic Versus Baller': The Ayling Vagabrothers on discovering vlogging, sharing a passion for travel and juggling roles on their Tastemade show
The first long-form original show from Tastemade follows the Ayling brothers, Marko and Alex around the globe as they vlog about everything from food, culture and the experience
Imagine your brother living like a prince, while you have to make do with the life of a pauper! Well, for the Ayling brothers, it doesn't seem to matter enough to be a big issue. In fact, for them, this seemed like a perfect idea to be documented and vlogged about. The first long-form original show from Tastemade, 'Basic Versus Baller: Travel at Any Cost' which is set to launch exclusively on TastemadeTV, the company’s new 24-hour linear channel on YouTubeTV, follows the Ayling brothers, Marko and Alex — known online as the Vagabrothers — around the globe across 10 episodes, with episode one shot in Hong Kong, China.
Having premiered on October 26, 2018, the show airs weekly on Thursdays through early January 2019 and will be supported by over 100 social assets to be distributed on Tastemade’s global social channels. The show is set to follow the YouTube sensations around the globe as they take their chances at experiencing different cities in either lavish luxury or on a backpacker’s budget.
The brothers will put their trivia skills to the test to determine who experiences 24 hours in a new city on a shoestring budget, and who gets to live it up like a baller. From Switzerland to Hong Kong, as the viewers get to witness how the brothers fare, we got a chance to find out the Vagabrothers' inspiration behind it all. Here are some excerpts of their conversation with MEAWW.
What was the inspiration behind your ongoing show 'Basic versus Baller'? How did you guys come to decide on the name?
When you’re traveling, most people tend to skew to either one of two extremes. They're either being really frugal or spending money lavishly. They’re either being basic or being a baller. Hence the name 'Basic Vs. Baller'.
Despite going about doing what you guys are so passionate about, has the schedule seemed grueling at times? How do you balance it all?
We started the process of making the show in early May. We wrapped production (i.e., filming) at the end of September. The main stretch of shooting took place in a 45-day nonstop adventure taking us to multiple countries across Europe, Asia, and North America. We also filmed at the height of summer and each destination we visited was experiencing record-breaking heat waves. There were a few particular moments that tested our ability to withstand discomfort, but we all handled it with a large dose of humor which can carry you through anything. Traveling, as beautiful and fulfilling as it can be, can be tough at times. That being said, we remember to do our best to always have some relaxation at the end of the day. Lots of cheap foot massages in Asia. Focusing on doing your best to stay healthy, exercise often and eat clean whenever possible helped a lot.
What's a day in the life of a Vagabrother like? If there's one thing you could alter about it, what would it be and why?
Alex: It really depends if we are on the road or at home. For me personally, they are two polar opposites, yin, and yang. When we are traveling and filming it’s always pretty fast-paced and I focus a lot of trying to squeeze as much into a day as I can. It’s quite high energy. When I come home I try to balance that with as much relaxation as I can, while doing post-production on the content we just captured and working on organizing future projects. Working in the past and the future can be pretty exhausting. That’s why I focus as much as I can on living in the present moment at home. Yoga classes, surfing, hiking and spending relaxation time with my girlfriend Carrie. If I could change one thing about my current life, I’d get a computer that could render 4K footage instantly. I spend a lot of time waiting for finished videos to render and export.
Marko: When we’re not on camera, we spend a lot of time living a pretty normal life in LA. We both wake up and hit the gym... separately, of course. I do yoga, rock climbing, and krav maga. I live such a hypermobile life that when I’m in Venice I try to bike or walk everywhere. I spend a good amount of time at the beach or on the boardwalk. I really keep to the square mile of Venice Beach, which allows my life to settle down after so much movement. In my free time, I volunteer at the Beyond Baroque Literary Art Center in Venice, where I’m helping out with programming events. We’ve hosted Moth-style storytelling nights, poetry events, concerts and more. It’s a great creative outlet and I feel honored to help preserve the artistic legacy of Venice in a time when the neighborhood is changing fast and losing many of the things that make it unique.
What particular cities are on your schedule for the ongoing run of 'Basic versus Baller'?
We still have a TON of great destinations left. Some that stick out are Genoa, Italy, and Vientiane in Laos. We shot most episodes in only two days. That’s a really short period of time to try and pull off shooting a TV episode in a foreign country. That was hard at times.
What inspired the two of you into the field of vlogging? When did you guys start?
Alex: I always wanted to be a TV host. My best friend in high school brought his video camera everywhere and I always ended up hosting, or vlogging what we were getting up to (mostly mischief). I studied history and cultural anthropology at the University of California Santa Barbara and I distinctly remember a friend asking me jokingly what I’d do with my degree. He said 'A Librarian'. I moved to Spain to teach English and somehow found my way onto a documentary on an expedition looking for lost Inca gold in the Ecuadorian Andes. That inspired my journey even more, and I realized if I wanted to be a host I needed to make my own videos, and learn to film and edit. That’s when Marko and I joined forces, bringing his writing skills and extensive travel experience to the table. We joined forces and Vagabrothers was born.
Marko: Neither of us expected to be vloggers. In fact, the job didn’t even exist when we started. When I graduated college (2008), YouTube was in its infancy, full of cat videos but not quality content. TV was still king but the entire media industry was in flux. I wanted to be a novelist or a journalist, but newspapers and publishers were collapsing and laying off thousands of employees. It was not the time to get a job in traditional media. So I took jobs that could afford me free time to write — working in economic development in India, teaching English in Spain, and eventually freelance travel writing and guidebook authoring.
When Alex graduated college, he was gung-ho about becoming a TV presenter and somehow found his way on these insane documentary expeditions — first to the Andes in search of lost Incan gold, then to Namibia in search of some of the last hunter-gatherers.
He also moved to Spain to teach English, bought a first generation Go Pro and created what we think was the first selfie stick! He duct taped the Go Pro to a cheap metal broomstick and started walking around filming himself and cranking out these great short films.
In 2012, we teamed up and started making our first films together, pitching our ideas to TV production companies. All the companies were excited but when they saw us on camera they told us they thought we weren’t even brothers! So we doubled down and practiced more. We taught English during the week, made videos around Spain’s Basque region on the weekends, and edited the videos at night. We learned a lot and got better until finally, we entered a contest we discovered on Twitter. The prize was a six month trip around the world and $50k — all we had to do was make a three-minute video to enter. We made a video about San Sebastian, won the contest, and the rest is history.
With such vast experiences being fit into a limited time, how do you take the calls regarding what goes into the episode and what gets edited out?
Alex: Our collaboration can be boiled down to the roles of Marko as writer/producer and me as director/editor. Editing is about finding the emotional moments and building a feeling. Assembling clips is about trying to help visually supplement the story that you’re to convey with words. There is a timing to it and an art to editing that’s hard to describe. If a viewer makes it to the end of a video and feels something, then we’re winning.
Marko: We try to get on the same page before we start shooting, but generally we have learned to trust each other’s judgment. I don’t write anything into an episode that I think Alex would cut, and he doesn’t cut anything he thinks I would want included. We’ve found a formula that works and we try to stick to it.
How did your collaboration with Tastemade happen?
We have worked with Tastemade for years now. Back in the day, they were our MCN, when those were a thing. They no longer represent us but our collaboration has continued through the years and we love Tastemade. We are all about travel, culture, and food. Tastemade shares many similar values. It’s a pretty natural collaboration.
As exciting and thrilling as your new venture seems, we cannot help but ask — why traveling? What made the two of you decide to focus your vlogs on the topic?
Our mom is a career flight attendant and our dad is from New Zealand. We grew up between time zones and cultures. Travel is in our blood and the airline benefits allowed us to visit our family in New Zealand as young children. That really opened our eyes to the world and the curiosity of new cultures, destinations, and cuisines. The travel bug bit early and it’s still going strong.
As you guys travel the world and explore such unique cultures - how significant a role do you think food plays in terms of you feeling connected to the cultures you come across?
Food really is the ultimate universal. Every culture eats, and when people eat they come together, sit, chat and share stories. Food is the ultimate form of connection between people and cultures. Fusion food is case in point. People love sharing their culture through their cuisines and we love experiencing it through our taste buds. It’s a win-win situation.
Other than 'Basic versus Baller', are there any other projects you're about to indulge in and are thrilled about?
We just finished an amazing trip through the island nation of Sri Lanka and are currently editing the vlog series. It’s going to be a great one. Other than that we have a few upcoming projects this month and in the beginning of 2019 we are stoked about, but it’s too early to speak publicly about yet. You’re just going to have to follow us to find out.