September 23, 2023

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“Southeast Asia has a passion for ballads, love songs and acoustic music”

They’re born and raised in Florida, but Boyce Avenue would probably count Southeast Asia as home to their largest fan base. And they’re right: Quezon City, Singapore and Jakarta currently rank among the trio’s top five streamed locations on Spotify. But with the pandemic putting paid to their regular tours to this region, they’ve had to engage fans by relying on what they’ve always done best: online videos.

An intimate livestreamed Q&A with the band of brothers, organised by music retailer Swee Lee and guitar brand Taylor Guitars, was held at the end of March for fans from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Before that, the Manzano siblings – Alejandro, Fabian and Daniel – sat down (virtually) with NME to talk about love songs, their reputation as a ‘covers band’, and why they won’t be ditching YouTube for TikTok anytime soon.

Boyce Avenue

You’re huge in Southeast Asia. Why do you think that fans here connect with Boyce Avenue so much?

Alejandro: “One thing we’ve noticed just from when we’ve toured there many times is that they have a strong passion for ballads, love songs, acoustic music and traditional instruments which is right in our wheelhouse. So, they seem to really like that kind of acoustic-driven instruments and the more romantic sentiments in the lyrics which is a lot of what we do – it seems like it just kind of worked.”

With global tours on ice, how has it been for the band?

Daniel: “Well fortunately for us, our model’s a little different than the traditional musicians because we run a YouTube channel. We’re able to constantly be posting new songs, ideas, content and videos to people all the time.

“So, once the pandemic hit, we kind of got really close-knit as brothers. We have parents and in-laws that have diabetes, so we decided to become closer as brothers and to just keep doing a lot of the YouTube stuff that we were doing. That’s been our creative outlet but we are excited to tour again once things get better. Hopefully, maybe at the top of next year.”

Alejandro Manzano of Boyce Avenue
Alejandro Manzano of Boyce Avenue. Credit: Swee Lee

Although you’ve made a name as ‘YouTube musicians’, have you evolved to use new social media platforms like TikTok?

Alejandro: “It was just as much about trying to stay current with where our fans were, as much as it was finding what platform that really resonated with us in the content we make. We feel that after about six or seven years, it was so clear that YouTube was really the platform. But we’ve always stayed open to try TikTok and we’re very present on Instagram and every social media platform. But, it’s pretty clear that YouTube is the main one.”

Why do you still continue to do covers while also working on original music?

Fabian: “We started doing covers because we thought YouTube is like Google ­– it’s a search engine. So, when people go to YouTube and they search for a specific artist that they love, they might hopefully see our version or rendition of that artist’s music. So, that’s kind of why we started doing it in the beginning, but now fortunately since YouTube favours quality content, we have the freedom to do whatever we want to do.”

Fabian Manzano of Boyce Avenue
Fabian Manzano of Boyce Avenue. Credit: Swee Lee

Do you approach covers and originals differently?

Alejandro: “For sure. We have a strong love for acoustic music, so the cover songs kind of fit that genre and category. When it comes to originals, we do have fun adding in more production in general, like maybe more of a string section or a drum set and more amplified guitars instead of strictly acoustic. We still do have a lot of ballads and acoustic-based originals as well.

“It’s funny, because we’ll do like a produced version of an original song – and then we’ll do like our own cover of our own original, or we’ll do like an acoustic version of it. We feel like there’s more liberty within an original to be able to truly do whatever we want [production-wise] whereas we’ve kind of found our lane on YouTube with the covers to keep it acoustic.”

Speaking of instruments and arrangements, how did the band strike up a partnership with Taylor Guitars?

Fabian: “What I love about our relationship with Taylor is kind of how organic it all kind of came about. Like in the beginning, I’ve kind of experimented with a bunch of different brands and models of electric guitars trying to find what I liked. But pretty much from day one, Alejandro just found a Taylor acoustic and fell in love with it.

“In the hundreds of videos we’ve posted, they’re all with Taylor guitars. Alejandro just couldn’t be convinced otherwise – he just loved Taylor! Our studio is full of just tons of Taylor guitars that we bought over the years and our recording studio looks like a Taylor museum.”

Boyce Avenue

Is a signature Boyce Avenue guitar with Taylor in the works?

Alejandro: “I would love that. I think that’s more up to them because I imagine there’s a business component that goes with manufacturing a certain kind of guitar. I definitely have a lot of ideas when it comes to acoustic guitars just from touring live. Whether it’s the battery system that I would love to improve upon, even just the knobs for the bass, mid and high end – I wish those could lock down.

“But we’ll see. I mean, maybe someday that would be great, even if it was just like the Baby Taylor or a mini guitar that we had on our original song, ‘Cinderella’. The sound of a Baby Taylor was the right guitar for that song because we wanted to have that kind of a youthful, childish sound to fit the lyrics. So, I’m hopeful that one day we could have a signature model.”

[Editor’s Note: NME is owned by BandLab Technologies, which also owns Swee Lee.]