Interview: Struthless Chats ‘Your Head Is A Houseboat’ & Balancing His Many Hustles
Words by Amar Gera November 26, 2021

YouTuber, illustrator and now author Struthless continues to add achievements to his repertoire, the latest being a best selling book in Australia…

If you’re a frequenter of Instagram or YouTube like many others in this screen-obsessed era, odds are you’ve come across Struthless. Whether it be his tongue in cheek illustrations or one of his many videos on personal development, the man is essentially everywhere, so much so that he’s amassed over 250,000 followers online.

But his latest venture is without a doubt his biggest, the self-proclaimed fuckwit making his debut as an author with the Aussie best seller Your Head Is A Houseboat. Boasting over 300 pages of confession regarding mental health, along with signature Struthless illustrations and tongue in cheek humour, the book is one of the few to pierce through the veil of social media in modern day Australia, and judging by how hard it is to get a copy of, it seems to be resonating mad hard.

We caught up with Struth over Zoom to talk the new book, his design studio and his ever-growing YouTube channel. Check it below.

Congratulations on the new book! It’s really taken on a life of its own since its release, what has it been like seeing the response to it?

It already exceeded my expectations before it even came out. I think we’d moved 30,000 copies or so before it had even launched. In my head, it was going to sell five and maybe one of them would be my mum [laughs]. It was just hard for me to see anything coming out of it. And then once the pre-order numbers had come through, I was like to myself “Okay, so you can sell a book, but can you actually write a book?” 

But then people started reading it and they were sending me messages all the time about what they got from the book or what they liked about it. A lot of people who weren’t even readers were sending me things like “I’ve read one book in ten years and it’s yours. I love it.”

So it was super lovely to reach that type of audience. And now, as of pretty much yesterday, it’s out worldwide, which is crazy. And i just got the news that it’s being printed in Mandarin as well and will be released in China. The reception’s just been wild man. 

I remember seeing you tease it repeatedly in videos throughout the years. Did you ever think you wouldn’t finish it? Does it feel surreal that its actually out there?

So much so! Man, that’s a brilliant question. I think anyone who’s tried to tackle something ambitious would know the feeling. I remember being in the middle of the project and just being like “you could call it quits right now. It’ll be fun, you can do it.” And then the more determined part of my brain would be like “But there’ll be a day when it’s done and you’re holding it in your hand. That day will come. It’s inevitable, you can do this.” 

And so, I was kind of wrestling with those two voices. And thankfully I had a brilliant editor who was really good at getting me to the finish line and would say things like  “All right, Cam. You can only edit chapter eight today. So I’m just going to pretend that chapters all but eight have been sent to the printer, all you can do is edit chapter eight.” 

And then after the drawings were done, I think the last thing was writing the acknowledgements. And I remember just getting to the end of that and there was that final full stop and I was like “Whoa.” It was bonkers dude. 

Did you feel a sense of mourning after writing that final page? 

I expected it when the book ended but I didn’t get it strangely. Instead I had more so relief and I was just really happy. But I still get anxious for people to read it. I got really bad after it was released in Australia.

And when it got on the best seller list and so on, I pretty much collapsed for four weeks after that and just didn’t look at my phone or reply to anyone. It was during that little post-release period where I was like ‘Fuck man.” I didnt realise how much pent up angst I had, but it was crazy for sure. 

It seems impossible to get a copy of at the moment. How does it feel to have a book about mental health be so widely adored by the Aussie public? Especially when you’re challenging that stereotypical ‘harden up’ mentality.

100%. I think there is a sort of undercurrent of a challenge to the old Aussie attitude toward mental health at the moment. And I think it comes from a deep yearning to actually be connected to ourselves and not in a “She’ll be right mate,” kind of way. It’s been nice to see that, and I also think that because of COVID and all the lockdowns, people have had their entire world view questioned. 

And when that happens, I think there’s a run on effect where you’re like “Well, what else should I question?” And one of those things might be your culture’s blasé attitudes toward mental health. It’s been nice to pierce through it, but it definitely is a bigger movement. I’m not alone in doing that, but it’s nice to have those airs under my magic carpet [laughs].

I can imagine after the amount of videos you’ve done on mental health it would’ve been hard to find a way to differentiate the book. How did you decide on the course of attack?

I think the medium itself almost did that for me. The fact that it was written and I could take my time a bit more. With YouTube, you sort of only give the syrup, whereas in a book you can give the syrup in a wider meal and people enjoy it. And they know they’re in for a longer journey. Being able to explore length was really cool. I also enjoyed having illustrations in it.

On YouTube, I do a lot of stick figures because you’ve usually got two days to edit the video before it goes up, which is the nature of the beast. But with the book, from initial ideas to the finish line, it was a bit under 18 months. So I got to really explore a lot of length and specificity, and edit with my execution.

You integrate your illustrating into it really well which is obviously another talent of yours. What role do those drawings play in enhancing the message? 

The reason I did it was twofold. It was just because I love illustration, which is the really obvious one. Then the second one was that I wanted it to be in that mindset of a kids book. And as the reader is reading it, it sort of makes them feel like they’re flicking through a picture book and hopefully that state of mind would make them open to the ideas within the pages.

And with that I’m kind of happy about is that the pictures and the pages are quite easy to get through. I think it’s appealing to people who don’t read too many books or people with ADHD who may find it hard to concentrate on just a wall of text. It’s been a nice point of difference and obviously it leans into something I’m in love with, which is illustration in general. 

Obviously your animation studio is popping off , especially with that Dallas Mavericks gig you recently picked up. As you’ve gotten further into this YouTuber/author world, have you noticed it affect the way you draw and design?

Good question. It’s definitely made me more interested in video, as a format as opposed to art on a wall. I think because of the depth of engagement. You can just communicate so much, it’s just a more dynamic medium. Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that, but I would say that’s definitely linked.

Just aside from the mental health content and the illustrating, you’re still a bit of a loose unit on Instagram. Whats it’s like balancing all those parts of your persona online?

It definitely comes with its own set of challenges. Those are probably the Jekyll & Hyde parts of my persona, which is like “loose cunt” and “dude who cares.”

I would say I feel like I have a little bit more responsibility now. Especially with the way that the Youtube following has grown and the message that it’s putting out there. I don’t want to undermine any of that by being too gnarly or too much of a dickhead.

But I really enjoy pointed, mean social commentary sometimes. But I think I’m moving away from it because I’m like “Ah, I’m done hurting people’s feelings just to get a fun laugh.” As much as it’s a very fun laugh, I think as some point I’m like “I don’t know.” I feel a mild responsibility to be slightly nicer on the internet. 

Is there a sense of responsibility or anxiety that goes along with all that influence?

Definitely. It’s so ironic. Like I got this role model tattoo when I was still a fuckwit, and then it’s kind of started to play on my mind. I see people in the comment section commenting things like “Him having ironic role models tattooed on him to actually being my role model.” And then I’m be like “No, I am the fuckwit, don’t do that” [laughs].

But it’s been confronting and I’m not trying to blow my horn or anything here, because this is dangerous territory and it’s like me believing my own bullshit. But to answer your question, yes. There’s a lot of anxiety aroud it, but at the end of the day, I’m just another morally flawed human trying my best, which most people can understand. 

You seem to be balancing so much right now. I know you’ve alluded to it in your videos, but what’s your secret? 

This may sound corny, but sobriety helped a lot. Like it’s all good to work on yourself, but at the end of the day, good exercise, sleep and not getting fucked up all the time is a massive and often overlooked life hack. There’s that and the other stuff, which people would probably prefer to hear. 

I think it’s just about practicing clarity as much as humanly possible, to get so aware of how your head processes information. And I’m a huge work in progress, I’m so far from done, but just knowing how things come in and knowing what you want, why you want it and how to get there, is also super underrated. 

I also wanna touch on that ‘7 Things I Wish I Knew At 20’ video which definitely resonated with a lot of young people, especially during COVID and all the lockdowns. Did COVID itself play a part in it’s inception?

Bang on the money man. I’m 30, but I’d hear people like ten years younger than me be jealous of people my age, who got to experience their twenties and going out, and just being a 20-year-old idiot instead of being stuck inside and developing screen addiction, just feeling like the world fucking said no to them,

But when I think about my twenties, when I had freedom, they weren’t even that good [laughs], like it gets way better. That was my aim, to just be like “Man it’s cool, you got this.” It’s lovely to hear that that came across. Thank you man.

When did you know you were finished with the book? I can imagine with something so important it’d be hard to ever consider it done. 

It was in late April of this year. The moment happened not with a bang, but with a whimper. I got to a point where I was like “Now I’m in the end zone, at any point now I could finish.” And that was a really weird thing. I was like “If I sent this off to the publisher, I would be happy. So any edit on this is just me being happier.” 

So I got to that point and then I obsessively edited for another month, much to the displeasure of my publisher [laughs]. But at that point it was mostly my editor just being like “Okay, I’m pretty sure you’re done. I’m just going to take it away from you. No, no, we’re taking it away.”

And I think if i didn’t have other forces in the mix, I’d still be editing right now. But she kind of saw I’d gotten it as good as I could, and any more edits would probably kill it. It was a point of diminishing returns, for sure.

Lastly, what’s the plan going forward? Do you see yourself sticking in this YouTube/author/illustrator space?

Everything man. Right now we’re working on a series called Shit Dads. It’s an animated series which is pretty fun. And I’ve also been offered a contract for the second book, so that’ll definitely happen. I feel like it won’t be as hectic the second time around though, because I’ll be like “Okay, i know what i’m signing up for.”

And then pumping YouTube. And obviously we have the studio here as well. Turning this into an actual machine has been really brilliant, and so much of it is definitely because of this guy right here [Struthless pans the camera to his business partner]. Having the greatest business partner of all time has definitely made my life easier. Just trying to make it man!

Struthless’ new book ‘Your Head Is a Houseboat’ is out now. You can buy it here. Be sure to keep up with him on Instagram to stay up to date on all of his latest antics.

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