You may recognized Boyce Avenue for their cover songs on Youtube, but don’t be fooled – there is much more to this band than their knack for making other songs their own. asapmusicblog.ca was fortunate enough to chat with the guys just before their show here in Vancouver about their original music, touring, being independent, and what they’re currently listening to!
asapmusicblog.ca: So you guys are kicking off the tour, your North American tour here in Vancouver. How do you guys feel about going into touring mode again?
Daniel Manzano: It’s good, I mean we love touring. It’s tough to be away from family, but this is honestly one of the best aspects of what we do, is getting out to see everybody and to play live is just so much fun. We all get along really well, we’ve actually been using a lot of the same crew, and a friend of ours, Jason, has drummed with us for a few tours now, so it’s just kind of like a brotherhood. I don’t know, we all just get along, and everybody is always excited to see each other once a tour starts again.
A: This is the second time you guys have kicked off a tour in Vancouver. Do you guys have any special connection with the city at all?
Alejandro Manzano: Last time we didn’t get to stay much, and this time I’m not sure if we even get to. I would like to build more of a rapport with Vancouver, like hopefully just come here like straight here or something next time. It seems like a cool city, from the little that we’ve seen. Unfortunately, sometimes you just don’t get to spend that much time in the city – you just kind of go right through it to play the show, but the people were nice.
Daniel: Yeah, the thing that’s cool about starting the tour here, and we’re hoping that it stays true tonight as well, is that the crowd was really, really good last time. A lot of energy, just very receptive – a vocal crowd. If that holds true tonight, I look forward to this being a tradition!
A: You guys are inarguably an extremely talented group, but social media has also had an impact in your fan-base, notably most viewed on Youtube. How did you guys decide that using Youtube was a route that you wanted to take?
Alejandro: Well I think we’ve always been a very visual band, like Fabian does a lot of art stuff. Obviously the huge passion is the music, but we’ve always loved music videos, movies, a lot of visual stuff, and live shows like Daniel was talking about, is probably one of the best aspects of what we do. So we always kind of knew that to take it to Youtube would just make sense, instead of on MySpace where it was just the audio, even though MySpace is dead now. It just kind of made sense to be able to make some videos to show live performance kind of stuff. People just seem to be sharing it and watching it, now that people are spreading it with Facebook and Twitter.
A: Yeah you guys get millions of hits on your radio, it’s really good! And I think you guys are the most-viewed band on Youtube, is that correct?
Daniel: Something like that, yeah.
A: Who posts up the videos?
Alejandro: We started off Fabian just kind of filming just me, because it was tough to get all three together because we were trying to take care of so many different things, almost like our own label, but like in a garage where he would just film me. At this point, we try to film more, like you kind of see if you look at the first video, the evolution of it, the better cameras, always upgrading – we have an editor now who edits our videos and colours them.
Fabian Manzano: We still actually film and direct most of our videos.
A: Speaking of Youtube, your tourmates Megan & Liz, and Tiffany Alvord are also Youtubers. How did the connection come about with you guys touring together?
Daniel: It’s funny, actually we had been noticing a lot of other great Youtube artists that were really making waves and getting their name out there on Youtube, and you know we’ve been touring for a while now. It’s really one of the hardest things to do, like people don’t realize it, but it’s almost easier to get a record deal, or to get a manager or a business manager or an attorney, than it is sometimes to get a booking agent in this industry. They’re very selective about who they’ll work with, and without a booking agent, it’s very hard to book your own tours.
Alejandro: You can put on a couple shows maybe, like I remember before we had a booking agent, Daniel would just contact certain venues, and I think we did like a three-city tour in Texas around like a college that had offered us to come play there, but to really route this kind of tour that we’re doing now is very difficult.
Daniel: Yeah it’s very difficult. And so when we were on our last U.S tour last summer, we saw it as an opportunity for us to say hi to some of these people, so we invited a lot of people out to come see our shows just to say hi and get to know them. So Megan & Liz in particular – Tiffany couldn’t at that time because she was on vacation, but Megan & Liz had come out and they met us in Chicago with their mom, and you know we said hi, and got to know them and we kept in touch on Twitter and Facebook ever since.
So once we got off the label deal, once we started running our record label independently again, and we were ready to come back out in the U.S, and Canada right now – we decided that it would be awesome to start trying to help out other Youtubers to come on tour with us, because we knew how hard it was for us to get tours or to get on tours because nobody necessarily believes that the ‘Youtube thing’ is going to translate into successful shows and stuff like that.
It’s just kind of cool to ‘keep it within the family’ so to speak, and since we knew they were all nice people, it was just cool to reach out to them and see if they wanted to do the tour.
Fabian: It makes sense for like our fans too because they’re all kind of living in this – well not all, but for the most part, there’s this Youtube community where they know them, they know us, so hopefully they’ll get a kick out of seeing like a bunch of people they’re used to watching on the computer, live.
A: On that note, you guys have been very hands-on from the beginning on your musical career. Like you mentioned, you do have your own label: Three Piece Records, even though you guys are signed to Universal Republic now. How important is it for you guys to keep things hands-on, even just being active on Twitter and Facebook?
Alejandro: I personally think it’s everything, I think it’s what is hopefully going to set us apart, or what already has set us apart from a lot of other acts out there that are doing it. That’s kind of our feelings on it, we like to stay as much hands-on as we can. Like Daniel actually booked a lot of this tour
Daniel: That’s probably why I speak as to how difficult it is to book tours. The last match didn’t work out as well as we wanted. Actually just so you know, we’re actually not on the label anymore. We’re in a transition period where we’re back to being independent.
Alejandro: That’s proof of how much we believe that we have to do this thing on our own you know?
Daniel: That’s partly why, a large reason, why we’re back to being on our own. We felt that we could do it better for us and for our fans. Subjectively, we felt we could do a better job of getting the music and communicating with our fans, giving them what they want on our own than with a label. So that’s been a big thing about this tour is that it’s kind of a big statement for us. We tried to book a lot of it ourselves, we’re not managed by anybody, we’re managing ourselves, we’re on our own label, this is the Boyce Avenue tour. So for it to be a success, and it’s shaping up to be a huge success, was really important to us.
A: Here’s a fun question for you guys, you guys are all brothers, and you mentioned that you have a really good dynamic. How are you guys with each other? Do you guys play pranks on each other?
Daniel: This is a good question for Fabian, he’s busy eating that cheese.
Fabian: We don’t really prank each other a lot, I don’t know why. There’s just too much respect. We’re not good prankers, but it’s mostly just good vibes. We don’t really fight that much, we were saying earlier how we’re normally not this lucky, but the hotel had like a gym, so we got to work out together and they had a pool so we did some laps and stuff. This tour we just started to learn how to skateboard, so we were just skateboarding around. [Alejandro]’s really good at knowing a lot of different movies, so we’ll watch movies on his laptops in the van.
Alejandro: Like I had seen The Social Network, so I just gave him the Social Network and he watched that.
Fabian: So we just hang out and have a good time together, but we don’t really prank and we don’t really fight, so it’s not really sexy.
A: Any pet peeves?
Alejandro: This is a dangerous question.
[They all laugh]
Fabian: Certain one of uses are more on time than others, or more late than others.
Alejandro: Yeah… I’m pretty bad, about being on time and stuff.
Fabian: Not really, I mean if there were more pet peeves, we would probably fight more.
Daniel: I mean we all have, everybody has something that causes a little bit of friction, you know, certain personality differences, but it’s astonishing to me how rarely they surface when we’re on tour. I think there’s just this implicit sense of being really respectful and treating each other how we want to be treated because otherwise we’re going to be killing each other by the end of this situation. So I don’t know, it’s really pretty chill.
A: That’s great, it works for you guys.
Alejandro: We can see how it wouldn’t work for a lot of other people, we’re very fortunate it does.
Daniel: You go through people, and you learn who you’re more compatible with. You just find this rhythm, where everybody knows what to say, what not to say, when to be where. I would say on tour, hands down, the biggest thing that causes tension is probably tardiness, collectively just all of us. I mean like he said, some of us are worse than others. We’ve had tour managers whose job it is, is to make sure we’re on time, but we’re not that band that’s going to break stuff or overdose. But we will drive you nuts as far as not being on time. For example, this interview I believe was scheduled for an hour ago.
A: Just half an hour ago, so not that bad!
Daniel: So we’re doing well!
Alejandro: That’s early!
A: There’s a focus on the cover songs that you guys do, but obviously you do have original material. Is that something that is conscious when you’re uploading your videos? Do you guys want to transition into more of your own music over the covers?
Alejandro: It’s a tough thing…
Daniel: It’s a trick question!
Alejandro: It’s a tough thing. We love them both, I mean obviously we’re more about the original music, but it’s not that easy to crank out the quality of which we want to write, and record, and produce – we can’t really crank them out once a week because you have to create that song. It’s much easier to do a cover of another song that your fans clearly are loving, and you put your own spin on it. There’s a lot of creativity, as I’m sure you’ve heard, that goes into our cover songs. We try to make them as original covers as we can. We try to make the original music a little bit more of an event because it’s so much more intense emotionally – you have to live to write about certain stuff. Because of that, it seems like it’s a bit more skewed for originals, but it would be too tough to crank out original stuff. We’re too invested in our sound and in our songs to just be spitting out these original songs.
Daniel: We do the covers because we like to. When we first started learning music as a band, and as brothers, we were learning from other people. We would study other songs, we’d learn them because we wanted to sing them. That evolved, obviously, into having the ability and the tools to write our own music and communicate our own message. I feel like in every cover song we do, we’re communicating a little bit about ourselves. We didn’t necessarily write the song, but we’re putting our fingerprint on it, we’re putting our stamp on it, we’re saying this is how we think music sounds or comes out of us. When you do an original, you’re not only doing that, but because of the lyrics and the message, you’re also sharing even more of yourself with the world. I do think obviously we like the original music more, it’s closer, more personal… it comes from a deeper place than everything else.
Alejandro: We’ve actually found with a lot of our fans, it’s almost like they’re on the same page as us. They love the covers, “Oh, when are you going to do this song?”, “Hope you do that song!” But it’s not until we release a certain original song that they really send the real message, like “Oh my gosh, I went through this and that”, “This helped me through this”, or “A friend of mine just passed away, your song helped me through it” – I’ve never seen that with a cover song, it’s just more for the fun or entertainment of it, but there’s not as much soul in it as in an original song.
Daniel: So they’re both a part of us, it’s hugely important for us that our fans understand that the original music is so important to us, and to embrace it because it really is the future for us. It’s what we care the most about. For now, we’re happy to do both, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.