After one look at Bev and Bob Holwager’s YouTube karaoke channel, you’ll be hooked. Their takes on popular songs all seem to have traveled from some other dimension and brought back something extra—something special—with them.
From AC/DC and Alice Cooper to Taylor Swift and the Who, they’ve built an impressive archive of their ethereal and quirky karaoke covers, complete with green screen effects and a small cast of guest contributors. Their channel’s 300-plus videos are a staggering testament to time and dedication, and I can’t think of anybody else on the planet who has a hobby that’s even close to that of the Holwagers’.
Luckily, I was able to contact Bob via Facebook, and we sat down for a lengthy chat about their channel and what the videos mean to them on a personal level. (Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Do you guys run karaoke nights at any locations around New Castle [Indiana]? If not, how do you think you’ve gotten your name out there so much over time? Your view counts are amazing.
We have never even participated in any karaoke nights at all. I think that a lot of our traffic comes from the people that don’t understand just what we are doing. We have been all over Reddit and other similar sites. Although they are posted there to be negative, there are a lot of people that see us and love us.
After you guys starting the posting the videos for fun, when did it first occur to you that you had a fan base and that they were starting to request stuff from you? Do you remember the first song somebody requested?
When we first started we had a couple of people that were doing the same thing, making green screen karaoke videos. They were very helpful and their opinions mattered a lot because they understood. Just short of a year [into the project], somebody asked us each for a video. Bev did “Bohemian Rhapsody” and I did “Purple Rain.” It has snowballed from there; now over half of the comments we get are requests.
I watched “Purple Rain,” and, oddly enough, I’ve heard that song a thousand times, but there were lyrics that hit me for the first time in that version.
We hear that a lot about the lyrics. It’s funny how almost all music these days you can’t understand the words and really don’t know the song at all. I have been amazed, since I started doing karaoke, that I didn’t really know anything about my favorite songs.
Do you ever have problems with having to report comments, or are they just generally really nice by this point? Is there a huge community of people with channels who do these videos and are super supportive of each other?
We get tons of negative comments, most of them about their ears bleeding or giving them cancer, there are lots of foreign comments also but we can’t read them.
Community wise, when we started we only found a couple of people doing green screen karaoke videos. There are a lot of people doing covers with the original song playing in the background. We are the only couple that we have found doing this together and that is what I believe is the attraction to our music.
How do you guys feel when you do get those negative comments? You’re pretty clear in your channel description to that you’re having fun and don’t care for drama, so do you pretty much just shrug them off?
I see that most all of the negative comments is a reflection of the way YouTube has changed since we started. The positive comes from the people who get the whole point of what we are doing. The negative comes from the people that have no ambition or talent and take it out on everyone else. We used to take them very personal, but if you read through the comments on the most famous music artists, you will find the same hateful comments.
I read that you started making the videos around the time you first met. Do you kind of see the channel as a unique sort of photo album? Is the fact that you’re doing these videos together a huge part of what’s kept them going over the years?
There are very few actual photos of us together, so yes, this is very much our photo album as a couple. The fact that we are still going is that there is always someone new that has never heard of us before, like yourself for instance. By the way, we looked up the article on Gawker that you saw—it has been a major boost over the weekend!
You guys said you don’t make money off the videos. Have you considered using the advertising function on YouTube, or do you think that’d hurt the general spirit of the channel?
This has been a hobby that has far exceeded our wildest expectations. I don’t think that advertising would give a proper return, personally. I saw that you shared the new article about the Mad Max movie and the special effects. If you haven’t seen it yet you really need to watch “Blurred Lines”— it has been my biggest project to date. Nothing was together at any time in this video, the room was created from a simple picture.
How many elements did you have to combine to create it? Or how did you digitally build it? Also, how’d you get the dancers involved?
Just room itself was about 20 layers deep, then the final video was another 20. I used a bar stool with a green screen over it. The dancers, that’s a cool story: Bev found the green screen videos on YouTube. I did not plan any fades—that was their video clips.
How much time from start to finish did that one take? I imagine the video rendering time alone must have taken ages.
I use Sony Vegas to do my editing. I spent nearly two weeks on the editing, in between my night job for money. I rendered the raw background then added it into the final video, that helped a lot on the time. I have been averaging around three to four hours for final rendering. I build my own computers, and the one I was using for editing has been replaced with [something] bigger and better now.
Do you mind if I ask what you and Bev do for work, outside of the videos? And to go along with that: What would you consider to be your dream job?
Bev is a housewife and handles most all of our public relations and social media. I am an industrial maintenance technician in a bakery, maybe not a perfect dream job but it works pretty good for me. I did write a song about my work. I would like to move into more video production—I just don’t see myself making the same money.
What songs do you guys have lined up for the future?
In the near future, we are working on some Korn, maybe some Disturbed, and some Gucci Mane. Who knows beyond that.
Which video do you think represented your marriage the most?
Picking out a favorite is tough, really can’t nail it down—we have done so many. “Silly Love Song” would have to be the one video that sums us up the best.
I also can’t, in good conscience, end the interview without making a request: “Do You Realize” by the Flaming Lips?
I’ll have to let you know about the request. We will look into it.