The Serious Adult Interview
Cover image by Ashley Fletcher
Illustrations by Greg Conroy
If you pay any attention at all to the DIY end of the London skate scene spectrum, you’ll probably have stumbled across Serious Adult at some point. Part clothing outlet for Greg Conroy’s astute, amusing artistic observations on skateboarding culture, part vehicle for the fruits of George Toland’s VX wielding labour as he scours the depths of South London for untouched spots in one of the most rinsed cities in the country; more than anything else, Serious Adult is an umbrella for a motley crew of unashamed skate rats, the kind who you can find at pubs or in the streets up and down the country arguing over the minutae of a Jovontae clip from an FTC friends section or the question of who can wrap the best impossibles.
We’ve been long term fans of both Greg and George’s sides of the Serious Adult coin for some time now, so decided it was high time to catch up with them – though not before an exploration of some of the crustiest gems that suburban South London can cough up – to talk VX worship, Thrasher Instagram reposts, the joys of Peterborough and more. Scroll down to read that, after watching George's latest GCS X Serious Adult video 'GCSA II'.
Let’s start from the beginning – how did Serious Adult come into being? Was it a collaborative idea in the first place or did one of you enter the picture later on?
Greg: Pretty much both of us were there from the beginning – I made a t-shirt and George was going to film an Instagram clip of someone skating in it, but we ended up filming bare so we made it into a full video…
George: It started February 2015 I think…
Greg: Because we were both working on the table for Long Live Southbank. It was a mistake really, we didn’t plan on filming a full length video. Then we ended up selling enough t-shirts that we had money to do a trip, so we just carried on filming. I was probably doing the drawings for about a year before, when I was working on the table, then when I decided on making the t-shirts I needed a name for it. We flipped enough t-shirts to do a trip to Sheffield, then made another run and flipped enough to go to Bristol. Then I got gassed and thought I’d make it into a t-shirt company, but it’s more of a video thing now. I got a bit gassed for a second… It’s either a bedroom company or a scene video, but it’s more of a scene video than a bedroom company. It’s a crew, a crew that I’m trying to milk for monetary gain [laughs]. So we made a few t-shirts and made about 200 quid, spent that on going to Sheffield and making a few more t-shirts, went to Bristol, then I got my camera – George already had his.
George: Well, I’ve gone through four or five – pretty much two a year.
What is the appeal of sticking with the VX, when HD cameras are so much less likely to break or have footage glitch?
George: I think the idea of using a VX is a lot longer than the reality. Once you get used to doing all that shit, it just seems like part of it – I get home, sit down and enjoy logging footage. I don’t mind it.
Greg: We talked about using HD before, but he won’t even use a VX2000.
George: Naa, nothing else [laughs]. I don’t see the point in using anything else.
Greg: HD technology is getting better now, but when those cameras first came out it looked fucking shit.
George: I feel like, in the last few years, people have started to realise how to use it properly. There’s a lot of wack HD videos…
Greg: When it started there was no uniformity to it… Some HD stuff is good, the Polar video was quite good at integrating both.
Do you also feel like there’s a nostalgia for a certain era of skateboarding involved in the camera’s use?
Greg: It’s interesting that, there kind of is…
George: I don’t know, when I started skating was just as Fully Flared came out, I guess it was still majority VX. I probably started as Hold Tight London was happening, so it would have been just before HD – I remember when Henry was just VX. I just think it looks…
Greg: It looks better man!
George: I’m not going to say it looks better because I’m not saying my videos look better than someone else’s. There’s just something to it. And the sound, the mic is so good – no other camera picks things up so well.
Greg: Do you watch HD videos? Do you sit there thinking ‘This would look better if it was VX’?
George: Of course. There are some people that have fuck off massive mics that pick up everything, but when you compare a VX to an SLR or something the mic blows it out the water. The mic on a VX is so sick, you don’t need to buy anything else…
Greg: While if you get an SLR you have to buy a hundred things, it’s awkward to use, you have to get a handle while with the VX it’s given to you. But I guess it kind of is of a time... Some people have segued well, the new Baker stuff is HD but it doesn’t change the aesthetic of what they are. But it’s hard with HD. HD fucked itself, because when everyone started filming HD they wanted it to look super slick with long autumnal shots, leaves falling. It was post-Habitat, post Lost and Found. Skateboarding was a bit boring at that point - Lost and Found had already done it really well, Mosaic had already done it really well, but a lot of videos that came after were sort of boring. Dan Magee and Joe Castrucci could make it look really good.
George: There was a formula. Everyone’s got their formulas I guess…
Greg: It was like a watered down version of something good, that era was already done and people were emulating it poorly.
Fucking MGMT on soundtrack…
Greg: Yeah, some dodgy shit! If HD had come at a different time, maybe things would have been different. George, would you ever use it?
George: I have no interest to…but I’m not hating on it. It’s alright, I just don’t want to do it [laughs].
As the name suggests, at lot of Serious Adult artwork deals with the balancing of skateboarding and youthful freedom with the point we all reach of having to take full time jobs, enter the rat race and not prioritising skateboarding as much as we’d perhaps like to. What have been both of your best and worst jobs when it comes to allowing time to actually get out and skate?
Greg: Decorating, that was the best because you might just not have a job for a month and be able to skate every day or draw every day. Now I work in an office I never draw and never skate, it’s a lot harder to make time for. I’ve become what I was making fun of…
George: I’ve never had a proper job, so I can’t complain too much. When I walk dogs it finishes at 3 so you’re never out too late, same with Deliveroo. Long Live Southbank is pretty flexible…I’ve never had a proper job [laughs]. I’ve never had a nine to five and felt like I was trapped.
Greg: Working flexible jobs is definitely better for skateboarding, but not for having a nice flat… I was a lot more productive when I was decorating, also when you’re doing it you have time to think. Doing a repetitive thing, you can get lost and start daydreaming, think up ideas. Now I’m constantly on the phone, answering an email at the same time…
George: But you’re always on Facebook!
Greg: I just go to the toilet a lot. I don’t go on Facebook much anymore anyway, it’s just a feed of shit. It’s a stream of viral videos, Facebook is basically a poor Instagram. People only use it for Messenger anyway now I think.
Talking of Instagram, around how many likes and shares did Thrasher’s uncredited repost of the ‘Skateboarding vs. Real Life’ comic get? Ever think about drawing a passive aggressive cartoon to post up and tag them in in retaliation?
Greg: Send for Phelper [laughs]. I got really gassed, it did the rounds for a day. Transworld, Thrasher, Steve Cab…
George: He thought he was Henry Jones for a minute [laughs].
Greg: Everyone else did! I’d get all these emails from people asking if I wanted to do work for them, there’d be these attachments on the email that were all Henry Jones pictures. I’d have to tell them I wasn’t that person. I got a bit gassed, I went on it the next day to check and it was a fair old amount of likes. I was like yeah, sick, I’ve gone viral [laughs]. I clicked on the comments which I shouldn’t have done and the first thing I saw said ‘The joke doesn’t work and it’s drawn like shit’ [laughs]. I closed the window and never checked it again.
George: One viral boyment!
Greg: I never cared they didn’t tag me – it would have been nice to get a shout out, but at the end of the day I’m stoked that so many people saw it. It’s kind of wack that that’s the thing we’re most known for, and it’s the worst drawn thing. You can’t put that picture on a t-shirt, it wouldn’t work. It’s a bit annoying.
George: He’s writing angry emails to Phelps every night – they're in his draft folder, he just hasn’t worked up the courage to send them yet.
Greg: I got into social media for a bit, then I realised I was doing drawings to almost try and go viral again. You draw ones that do well, I’ve done a few that have done the rounds with a load of pros reposting them and they end up on some terrible skateboard meme account. ‘Like for like’, what do you get out of that? It kind of put me off drawing for a bit actually, I was thinking ‘I’m a grown man, trying to do a viral drawing!’ I started off drawing them because I thought they were funny, not because of the reach. Then I ended up thinking ‘will people repost that’, which is a pathetic way to look at it, so I had to dead that for a bit. I haven’t been drawing for a bit, when I have I’ve been focusing on doing animations or drawing to put it in videos. For a while I got a bit lost and realised I was on the verge of being a…meme [laughs]. I fucking hate all that stuff, it’s people who want to be famous.
So where do you both stand on the changes that Instagram, and to a wider extent the internet as a whole, has wrought on the skate industry?
George: It hasn’t helped people’s egos…
Greg: But people have always had that. Instagram is sick for finding spots and meeting people. I met Aymeric (Nocus) through Instagram, I found the spots we skated earlier this week on Instagram; someone who lived there sent me a list of the spots. That’s sick! Some people I chat to loads, people from all over the world. It brings the community together, but I don’t like the element of people wanting to be famous through it. Aymeric uses it perfectly, shout out Aymeric!
George: Imagine doing something like Vladimir Film Festival ten years ago – it just wouldn’t work, not on the scale it does. It would be much harder work to do.
Greg: I think the positive outweighs the negative with social media. I don’t like it when people in skateboarding bash social media, it’s just living in the past.
George: Where do people bash social media? On social media! You can’t chat that much shit about it if you’re using it every day.
Greg: And also, it’s not the devil – it’s your fucking phone. If you make a scene video you’re stroking your own ego as much, it’s just a different platform. It’s also good if you’re a kid. When I was young, the only people to look up to were the older skaters at Southbank. Now, there’s options. If you don’t like someone, you think they’re a dickhead, you don’t have to rate them. You can talk to your favourite pro from Iceland or Sweden or whatever directly. You’re not confined…I think people are more diverse, the way they dress, the way they skate, because they’re drawing influence from all over the world. But then, you don’t want to use social media to go viral…it’s a bit sad, isn’t it, when you become a grown man and your boss doesn’t care that you’ve got 10,000 followers?
Your videos always revolve around lesser touched spots, even in the heavily rinsed suburbs of London – how do you both go about unearthing these gems? Do you ever find yourself watching edits from Hold Tight or Austin and thinking “Fuck, I didn’t think anyone else would stumble across that spot"?
George: Well I’ve had quite a lot of outside jobs – dog walking, couriering. I lived in Crystal Palace for a year, I did delivery round there and found loads of shit. Then had to persuade everyone to trek out to Crystal Palace and come and skate them.
Greg: You don’t want to see - unless it’s something mental being done - you don’t want to see the same old spots.
George: I think I just get bored easily. My favourite thing about watching skate videos is the spots, in a way. I mean it depends who’s skating them, but going somewhere new or finding something new is what gets me hyped.
Greg: It’s got to look interesting, hasn’t it? You could find a perfect marble ledge, but it’s still just a marble ledge.
George: I think it’s also being willing to skate anything.
Greg: And South East London’s kind of not that good for spots…
George: You learn to accept the nibbles, make something of the nibbles…but there is a lot of good shit.
Greg: And there’s some mad estates. Though West probably has the best…well, Westbourne Park at least, I don’t really go too far West. Also, you want to rep where you’re from don’t you? East India is sick but who the fuck lives there? When you see Louie Jones skate Woolwich in his Live From Antarctica section...before me, Henry and Faris saw that, we thought we were the only people that lived and skated in South East London.
George: I get hyped on seeing shit that no one’s touched before.
Greg: The adventure of hunting for spots is almost as fun as skating them.
George: So a combination of all that and then not being arsed to go too far, too often…partially laziness [laughs]. It’s not just laziness – the city’s too busy, it’s nicer in the suburbs.
Greg: Jak Pietryga footage is amazing because the majority of it is filmed in Walthamstow and Leytonstone. I prefer that - his skating represents him and his area, it looks good and it looks genuine.
It’s good seeing people be able to get creative with janky spots, rather than taking tricks straight from the skatepark to Barcelona…
Greg: When I first went to Barca, it was exactly how it looked in videos. So fucking good, but…
George: It’s hard to film there, unless you’re filming Tiago Lemos.
Greg: Say the Bobby Puleo thing, ‘as long as you skate something no-one has skated before, you can do what you want’ – when I was younger I was like no man, you’ve got to go for it. But as I’ve got older I do enjoy that element a bit more. That spot territorialism thing though…
George: Yeah, that’s wack. I’m not going to go telling everyone about shit, but at the same time I’m not going to kick off if someone else goes there! 90% of this new video, and the last one I guess, are filmed in South – Southwark, Lambeth, a bit of Croydon, Lewisham.
Greg: Say you watch a Manchester scene video, that looks good when it’s filmed in Manchester rather than Manchester, Sheffield, Wales – it’s more cohesive when you can tell someone is in their area and knows every street. We’ve always lived in South East London and almost all the people we skate with do too.
George: That’s the thing, realistically we’re not going to wake up and go to another corner of the city. Especially in the winter when you’ve only got a few hours of daylight. You want to be able to go home easily and have a cup of tea!
Greg: This area’s never had the tube, so it’s always felt a bit more isolated. It’s kind of become it’s own bubble, more of a sense of community than other parts of London. Maybe that’s why we film so much here?
George: It feels like a completely different place than filming in, say, Oxford Street. Not as many people about…
Greg: Basically, it’s easy [laughs]. If people ask I’ll tell them, but it’s nice thinking that no-one’s going to know where a spot in your video is. More people are down this way now though. You mentioned Henry and Austin, then there’s Dan Kreitem… Dan’s found so many spots! So many fucking times I think no-one knows where something is, then someone says they’ve been there with Dan.
Outside of London, where are some of your favourite towns or cities to go spot exploring in?
Greg: Sheffield was cool because that was our first trip.
George: Yeah, Sheffield was good. Bristol too. To be fair, I think those are the only two places we’ve been. Greg keeps trying to make me go to Peterborough…
Greg: Peterborough is sick! It’s got so many spots. It’s so good for cutty spots, it’s got crazy banks and it’s got a really good group of skaters. That’s the thing, you can go wherever and it’s the people that make it. Bristol’s great because they’ve got a sick community. Obviously it has the spots too, but you could go somewhere in the countryside with fuck all and still have fun if the right people there. But also, you do want good spots [laughs]. George went to Glasgow, but I couldn’t go for some reason. We went to Rotterdam and Croatia this year, which were both sick.
George. Rotterdam was sick. It’s a bit of a dead place, I wouldn’t go there other than for skating, but everyone’s super sound and the skaters… All of Holland seems to be pretty mad for spots, other than Amsterdam. Maybe it didn’t get bombed as much in the war? All of Rotterdam did, which is why the spots seem so new.
Greg: Bristol was probably the best, it’s the place I’d most like to return to. Everywhere we’ve been though, we’ve been welcomed by the locals. I want to go to Manchester.
Having both been raised in the confines of the Undercroft, how stoked were you when the space was saved from development?
George: Well I’m working for Long Live Southbank and yeah, we were stoked! It was sick…
Greg: It rejuvenated it as well, when it was going to go people were coming so much.
George: The hype was massive! It’s that threat of it going…that’s what’s been harder with this new campaign, it’s the idea of losing something that captures people’s imagination and they’re more willing to help. But yeah, it was a really good day when it was saved.
Greg: And doing it was fun, once we were safe. Working the table, skating every day. I was living just down the road from it then as well. That’s kind of what Serious Adult came from, filming the first edit.
George: That was filmed on HD! You couldn’t even see through the lens, it was bare shit.
Greg: That’s when Jasper and Lukas came in.
George: When we first started jamming with Jasper, Lukas and Jeremy, that was the inception. But yeah, LLSBdonate.com!
Greg: Serious Adult was born in Southbank, but then as things go on you kind of want to get less footage there… It’s funny, I fall in and out of love with it, go through phases. I skated there every day for years and I’ve seen it change so much. There’ll be times it dies, then comes back.
George: I think this winter will be good. Every year, November and December are good times in the evenings. Winter evenings and summer days are the best SB sessions.
Finally, with Greg about to have his hands full with a kid on the way, are there any upcoming trips, videos, skateboarding parenthood themed comics or more planned for Serious Adult?
Greg: Peterborough, 2019! [laughs]. Around the time this interview comes out we’ll have got some more t-shirts in, capitalising on those Christmas sales. Hopefully we’ll get enough to do another trip together, it’d be nice to do an overseas one. People are so much more productive, you’re on holiday but you’re skating every day.
George: Let’s go to Marseille! Even if people are injured, they’re still going for it. Not like being here…
Greg: Not like being in fucking cold, damp London. As much as we just said we love South East London…
George: Yeah fuck London, I hate it! [laughs].
Greg: You can only do Lewisham so many days of the year, it’s nice to get away and experience another culture’s skateboarding. We’re going to have an edit ready to accompany this video. Then Shakes [Tom Delion] and George went to Japan and there’s going to be an edit for that. This year there’s been a lot of overseas stuff, there’s been less time in South East London. No wait, there’s been two South East London videos. It’d be nice to do a big trip and get everyone on it. When we first started doing it, the first video we did two trips for and it was really exciting. If you’re trying to figure out who’s working, who’s not busy, it’s way harder.
George: Let’s go to Marseille…or Peterborough.
Greg: By the time this video drops, we’ll have all moved to Peterborough.
George: I don’t want to spend Christmas in Peterborough.