Boyce Avenue interview: Here's what you need to know about the YouTube stars

Published March 28th, 2016 - 02:07 GMT
Boyce Avenue brothers Daniel, Alejandro and Fabian Manzano. (Billboard)
Boyce Avenue brothers Daniel, Alejandro and Fabian Manzano. (Billboard)

Boyce Avenue arrived in Dubai at 2am on March 24 where they were set to perform in less than 24 hours at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai.

"We have like 37 pieces of equipment and luggage in the airport  so we had to wait for a while but we feel pretty good," says guitarist and backup vocalist Daniel Manzano with a smile when we meet him and his brothers at the Dusti Thani hotel.

Boyce Avenue is a band of brothers made up of lead singer Alejandro Manzano, guitarist Fabian Manzano and on base Daniel Manzano. They are one of the few bands in the world that have gained fame and built a career by taking advantage of the digital wave in the early 2000's. Since then they have broken boundaries in the music world by choosing to take a non-traditional and independent path with their music career.

Boyce Avenue first came together as a band in 2004 where they wrote music and performed locally in Sarasota, Florida. They then decided to post videos on YouTube of their own original songs and some of their acoustic covers such as Coldplay's Viva la Vida and Rihanna's Umbrella garnering a massive amount of views.

Signed with Universal Republic in 2010, one would assume that they were all set for the music game especially with the release of their debut album, All We Have Left, released with the record label in the same year. However, in 2011 the brothers decided to leave Universal Republic and start their own independent record label called 3 Peace Records. They released original music as well as covers of contemporary and classic songs on YouTube.

"I feel like the music industry has shifted a lot, going from a predominantly physical world to a digital world," says lead singer Alejandro. "I think some of the shift has honestly happened in our heads and internally. We had to learn to adapt to shift and to ride the wave of the digital market."

And that they have. Boyce Avenue have over 2.1 billion views on YouTube and over 7 million subscribers to their channels, making theirs one of the most frequented channels worldwide on YouTube.

Though they were exhausted after their flight to Dubai, the brothers were switched on and got straight into talking about the digital wave in the music industry, their influences growing up and advice for young musicians.
Can you tell us about your latest album?

Alejandro: Our latest album is called Road Less Traveled it comes out, world wide, April 15. It's a very personal album for us, even down to the title. We titled it that because a lot of our approach in the music industry has been very unorthodox. And just overall sonically and lyrically it's probably our most dynamic album to date. From a couple of acoustic songs all the way up to some of our up-tempo heavier songs. It's a very well rounded album. I feel like if you're a fan of ours and you like different sounds of ours, there will be a song or two on there for you.
What would you say are the upsides and downsides of being brothers that work and perform together?

Alejandro: I think there are actually very few downsides. The upsides being that we are very like-minded but at the same time unique enough where the solution to problems that arise are never 100 per cent identical. The sense of humour, the flow, the love it's always there. A big part of any relationship, whether it's in the workplace or not, is trust. Having trust that this person is going to be there for you and that this person is going to understand your passion. That has just been built into us since we were little kids.

Fabian: It's cool for me too cause obviously he's (Alejandro) the lead singer and as a brother I can say I love his voice. I think he has an amazing voice. It helps even when we are singing background vocals or harmonies that we can kind of blend a little bit more not only emotionally but actually when it comes down to the musicality. I think being brothers and sounding similar and looking alike, it all kind of helps feel like more of a cohesive unit than just a bunch of random mixed people.
What is the process when you are creating an album? Who does what?

Fabian: Well Alejandro, does most of the writing. He's like the musical leader of the band. But what's interesting about our band is because we do covers on YouTube, I feel like we are very much taped into what's happening in the music industry with songs that are popular. Whereas some other bands might live in their own kind of bubble. So I feel like we are definitely influenced and take a lot of . . . our original music is even dictated by what's popular on the radio. But anyway the process is Alejandro writes most of the songs . . . we usually write separately but occasionally we collaborate and most of the song writing starts with acoustic guitar. 
Do you have any rituals before performing?

Fabian: It's all a bit different. Daniel likes to get a good work out in. He's very health conscious whether it's a jog or going to a boxing gym, that helps him stay fresh.

Alejandro: I just watch movies. Usually before a show we all just kind of meet together and relax. It's actually kind of quiet. We are all just getting into that mental space for the show. We do like to be kind of be together for a little bit right before we get on stage even if we are into each others space. Like it's a community sense, like we are all getting ready for the show even if we are doing it in our own way. And right before we hit the stage we like to wish each other luck, give each other a hug and just do it.
Music is one of those things that inspires a lot of people in different phases of their lives. Is there an album that really influenced or inspired you?

Alejandro: I think music inspires everyone at different times. But there are certain times that maybe it's other people who make more of an impact. I feel in particular from age 12 - 19 it's such an important time in people's lives. I think for me in particular, the album Dizzy Up the Girl (Goo Goo Dolls) hit right when I was age 12 or 13 and I started singing and going through a lot of those changes with dating girls or whatever and that album was kind of like a soundtrack of the big change in my life.

Fabian: I think when we were younger we did a lot of family road trips together. My parents would be in the front and the three of us would be cranked up in the back but we would  singing at the top of our lungs...

Alejandro: To The Bodyguard soundtrack? (Laughs)

Fabian: The two that I can remember are James Taylor's greatest hits and Journey's greatest hits. Those were early on and for me right when I started to play guitar the Goo Goo Dolls and probably Coldplay's first album and a couple of Oasis albums like Master Plan and Morning Glory.
What advice do you have for young singers and songwriters in Dubai? Should they be trying to get a record deal or should they follow an independent path?

Alejandro: I think it depends on who you are as an artist. I won't just say blindly 'use the internet', although I think it's a huge thing. I justthink that happened to work for us personally because we have a built in team. It can be very daunting to just put your stuff online, because without a record label, without a team, you're going to have to wear a lot of hats and do a lot of things on your own, which if you're capable of doing, then, go for it. But if you find that overwhelming, there is no shame or nothing negative about going down the traditional route. So if you have a team, if you have friends that can do some of the stuff we do, that can help you to do it independently, I think that's an awesome route to take.

Fabian: I think there are so many musicians out there, which is a good thing. The music industry is kind of oversaturated, there are so many talented singers and musicians and artists but then there's not that much of a demand for music. It seems like the radio is only playing a handful of songs and they repeat them over and over again. So I feel like the name of the game is to try and put out as much content as you can - photos, videos, music, quality content, but put out as much as you possibly can. Work hard and try and figure out clever ways to hustle and do it for an affordable price because, obviously, I'm assuming any up and coming musician won't have a huge budget. But we love working independently.

What are your thoughts on the range of musical talent online:

Alejandro: The market is so saturated there's so much "talent" out there. But I think at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what any individual defines as talent. If there is an audience for something, even if I don't necessarily like it but if thousands of people can like it and it can find success and longevity in that medium, then more power to them and more power to the people that love that music that maybe I don't view as traditional talent. I feel if anything it's more positive and more liberating and I feel like the Internet has overall liberated a lot of forms of life and ways of life beyond the music industry. I feel like everyone is more open-minded and feels free to do what makes them feel unique. I feel it's a positive thing.

Best Tour Memory

Alejandro: There was a night where we played a show in Prague and it was funny cause we all went out to eat after the show and sometime the venue we play at will transform into a nightclub. So we went out to eat and we were clocked out for the night and as we were walking out of the dressing room, the Friends theme song came on in the club . . . I won't get into detail but it set the trajectory of the night to a completely different direction (laughs). But its one of my most found tour memories because of that song.

Artists Boyce Avenue would love to collaborate with in the future

Alejandro: Lately we've been getting into Kacey Musgrave. She's a talented  young song writer and she has amazing lyrics.

Fabian: We like Katy Perry. Chris Martin from Coldplay. A big inspiration for us and one of the greatest lyricists of all time is John Mayer. So it would be great to do something with him as well.

Favourite covers Boyce Avenue have performed:

Alejandro: One of my favourites, its more so to play live, because the way we covered it . . . I'm proud of the way we covered Fast Car by Tracy Chapman.

Fabian: I like the unique twist that Alejandro put on the We Are Young song by Fun. It was so different. It had a really nice kind of pace to it, a very acoustic folk vibe, which is so different than the original track.

By Maán Jalal

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