May 15, 2014

Living the Dream: SundayFundayz

Kelsey Klassen — Westender
SundayFundayz members Max Gatfield, Ryker Gamble, Alexey Lyakh, and Parker Heuser have turned a talent for making funny videos into a social media-based business.  — 
Giving free hugs in Peru.  — 
Playing polo in Argentina.  — 
Brightening up the sights in Italy.  — 
Filming a skit in Vietnam.  — 
Getting ready for a wedding in India.  — 

Sixty-three thousand YouTube subscribers, one million Instagram followers, 22,000 Facebook fans, a clothing line and a growing entertainment company might be a sign of success in the Internet age, but it’s not the secret to it. For that, you have to look to fun.

And the three friends behind High On Life SundayFundayz figured the fun out while still in grade school, on their way to making a living at it.

Ryker Gamble, Alexey Lyakh and Parker Heuser started shooting videos as students at McRoberts in Richmond.

Lyakh was the ring leader, showing a prodigious talent for filming and editing videos in the Jackass vein. Between school assignments and kicks, the pals produced nearly 40 videos, now filed safely away in a folder titled Too Awesome, before graduating and going on to university.

Gamble attended theatre at UVic before moving on to psychology, Lyakh studied marketing at SFU, and Heuser majored in business over at Kwantlen.

Reunited next as roommates in Vancouver, they would plan boisterous weekly hang outs they called Sunday Fundayz.

In June 2011, on a whim, Lyakh uploaded How To Dance When You’re High On Life — a three-minute-long Bollywood dance-off they had shot in their living room.

And for a while nothing happened; but then it exploded, making the front page of Reddit, getting picked up by other YouTube channels, and making the cut for one of YouTube star Ray William Johnson’s videos.

The High On Life dance now has close to 10 million views when you add it all up, and was the nudge they needed to start making videos again.

Joined by friend Max Gatfield in 2012, the four then realized a long-time goal of travelling, starting in India with a friend’s wedding (where they were asked to perform their High On Life dance in living colour).

India turned into South East Asia and, as their photos and footage got more epic, their social media presence grew.

Around this time, Contiki tours picked up the scent and offered the guys free travel experiences as long as they kept doing what they were doing. That deal took them on well-documented adventures through Europe before they ran out of their own money.

Back home and broke, the majority went back to work while Lyakh spent four months holed up in bed editing. He would emerge from his room with a 15-episode travel series, and High On Life SundayFundayz would graduate to the next level.  

Now, at 26 years old, theirs is a career that you could take to your guidance counsellor with a straight face.

But being popular online doesn't translate to AdSense riches the way one might think, and the guys quickly diversified with merchandise and brand partnerships to take some of the financial pressure off. Most recently, they teamed up with Blueprint, one of Vancouver’s premier event organizers, and the entertainment division of High On Life was born.

The team now hosts monthly, high-production parties at Celebrities and weeklies at Venue. And they still make videos; December’s Keeping People Company offers a surprisingly insightful look at lonely Vancouver.

Meanwhile, their next trip is to Nicaragua to film a school being built with the $10,000 they raised for Free The Children.

Which takes us back to the definition of success. Gamble says the hardest part of their business plan is devoting so much time to the idea without knowing what will come of it. They just make media and memories, but the company’s slogan is ‘If You Can, You Should’. And they should, because they’re good at it; and, well, the world could afford to be a little more High On Life.



SundayFundayz’ story is part of a five-part Living the Dream series and our month-long My Guide to the Good Life contest, sponsored by Vancouver Craft Beer Week. Making videos is the guys' idea of the Good Life; what’s yours? Show us and you could win a trip for two to Portland, a shopping spree and more. Enter at Apps.facebook.com/mygoodlife

 

kelsey@wevancouver.com

twitter.com/kelseyklassen


© 2015 Vancouver Westender

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