It’s not often that you hear something as sonically imaginative as The Airplane Boys. One second you’re gliding through planes of modern electro synths, and the next you’ve entered a realm of jazzy pop meets lyrical rap/hip-hop. But that’s precisely what Jason Drakes (Bon Voyage) and Mannie Serranilla (Beck Motley) were aiming for when creating their mixtape, Where’ve You Been. For them, it was all about captivating listeners and taking them to places they had never been before, and that’s ultimately what lead to them garnering the amount of internet attention they have over the past few months.
Evolutionary in sound and avant-garde in style, Toronto’s genre-mashing twosome has been breaking musical barriers since grade school and is finally embarking on a journey to share their music with the world. With Drizzy Drake now firmly on the map and emo R&B prince The Weeknd closely following his footsteps, it seems as if Toronto is the next to blow, and The Airplane Boys are set to be part of the explosion.
VIBE.com caught up with the dynamic duo to discuss their latest project (executive produced by Weeknd music master Illangelo), as well as their rise as artists in the blossoming Toronto scene and even touring with living West Coast legend Snoop Dogg. With clear-cut ambition and an aim to be remembered in pop culture, The Airplane Boys are prepping to fly high.
Buckle your seatbelts. You’re about to take wing with Toronto’s next in line. —Stephanie Long (@Miss_Long)
Previously ? V Premiere: The Airplane Boys ‘Gold Ribbons’
VIBE: To start off, can you guys kind of introduce yourselves to our readers who may not be familiar with you yet? Where’d your names come from, how did you guys meet, etc.?
BON VOYAGE: My parents split when I was 10 years old and I moved to a neighborhood in Toronto called Scarborough. That’s where I met Mannie. One day [in school] I was writing on my desk and he came over like ‘Do you rap?’ and I was like ‘Yeah,’ and we then started this little group for a talent show that was coming up and just kind of went from there doing stuff under the name Rock Steady. [To Beck Motley] Actually, what was the first name? Rap Pack?
BECK MOTLEY: [Laughs] Yeah.
BON VOYAGE: Yeah. And we just kept growing, and over time we changed our name. We had different groups with more people and Mannie and I just really stuck together and built a friendship and here we are today.
My name is Bon Voyage, and that name comes from us two years ago thinking like ‘Yo, we really need to just go forward and make things happen and get names that represent us in the best way.’ I was talking to Mannie and he was like ‘Yo, man, there’s a lot going on and I wanna leave things behind, I’m stressed out, I’m going through problems’ and we wanted something that represented that, and Mannie just [came up with] Bon Voyage for me and I was like ‘That’s perfect.’ I’m going through a possible baby on the way and the family needed a change and it was perfect because we wanted to say bye to everything that was holding us back, and now, finally, we’re here on track.
BECK MOTLEY: Amen, amen. And my name is Beck Motley because [Beck] is my nickname. Jay and all the guys used to call me that. And Motley was this word I didn’t even know – I didn’t even know about Motley Crue, to be honest [laughs]. I was in college and I was taking this improvisation course and I needed to get credits to catch up and I did this whole scene and the professor was like, ‘That was very Motley of you.’ And I was like, ‘What does that mean?’ And she’s like, ‘It’s very colorful. There’s a lot of dimensions to it and a lot of angles that you were bringing to it.’ And I looked up the word and I just liked the whole concept of different dimensions and colors because some days I wanna be dark and some days I wanna be uppity-up [laughs], so the name was Beck Motley.
The name The Airplane Boys came from Jay and I sitting in a room with our band director and making jokes and Jay was like ‘We need something that represents life and we gotta get away from this name Rock Steady,’ ‘cause we were like a jazz band playing jazz festivals and touring down the jazz circuit and I came up with a joke called ‘The Airplane Boys’ and me and Jay looked at each other like ‘Yo, that’s it, that’s what it is.’ And every time we went around and would be like ‘The Airplane Boys,’ people would laugh or be like ‘That’s cool,’ but either way we got a reaction. Negative or positive, it stuck with you, and people would come back and be like ‘Hey, you guys are The Airplane Boys, right?’ It also represented leaving things behind as well, just that whole theme of moving forward and seeing things fly under us. When we were younger, Jason’s dad was a pilot in Guyana and my dad was an aircraft engineer. I remember when I was a kid my dad would bring home airplane figurines and that would keep me in my youth – that would keep us in our youth. So the name represents us moving forward and hanging on to that youth and forwarding our fathers’ dream, you know?
Right, right. I really get that feeling from Where’ve You Been. You put it on and you kind of just escape from reality for a little bit. Was that really the whole concept behind the tape?
BECK MOTLEY: Yeah, Where’ve You Been generated when me and Jay would take walks to write. I watched this movie called ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ [laughs] and there’s a piece where Jack Sparrow was like ‘Imagine finding a place that you never discovered, never found.’ So Jay and I were like ‘Yo, imagine walking in the forest or whatever and finding a place where you knew no one had walked in that spot.’ We were like ‘What if we did that with our music?’ From our stories and our experience, we wanted people to feel like ‘Where’ve you been?’ like a place that they discovered. We wanted them to hold that music and be like ‘Where’ve you been all my life?’ Not so much like a question, but like a word of assurance. That’s why there’s no question mark in ‘Where’ve You Been.’ It’s just a statement for them to ask themselves that, not just about the music, but to ask yourself, ‘Where have I been.’ You’re never gonna be younger than you are today. So that’s just the whole vibe of what we’re trying to do and what we’re going to do.
That’s dope. Tell me about coming up as artists in Toronto alongside artists like The Weeknd and Drake. Is there a really active music scene?