justLISTEN! The Airplane Boys

Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Cornelius Suen
Photography by Jenkin Au

Location: Toronto

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Please tell us about yourselves.

Bon Voyage: I am Jason Drake, a.k.a. Bon Voyage. We started back when we were ten years old and here we are today. We have gone through different phases, group names, members, and now it’s just us, standing the test of time and trying to take over.

Beck Motley: I am the other guy, Mannie Serranilla, a.k.a. Beck Motley.

Tell us a little more about your duo name.

Bon Voyage: The Airplane Boys name came from us and our brand director. We were throwing some names around. We used to be called “Raw Steady” but that name would be mistaken for “Rock Steady,” that dance crew. We had nothing to do with dance at the time so we wanted a name that would differentiate us and expand our horizons. Our manager suggested “The Airplane Boys.” It pays homage to both our fathers. Mannie’s father was an aircraft engineer and my father was a pilot back in the day. They aren’t living their dreams and they are working their day to day so we want to pay homage to them for allowing us to pursue our dreams.

Beck Motley: Plus, we are fly.

Rappers usually start with a solo career before joining a collective. On the other hand, you guys have joined up at this relatively early stage in your respective careers and have a successful partnership. Tell us about how you met.

Beck Motley: We stress friendship before the business and music. Not just between me and Bon Voyage but between our crew, the Beau Monde Collective: Warren Credo, Justin Create, and Kenny Sim. We all make sure that we are on the same wavelength and that we are comfortable with each other. The art and business will take care of itself and the world will take care of us. If you are meant to have a solo career, you will. It will be natural. However, we want that sense of brotherhood and we enjoy being in a collective and putting our thoughts into one pot for a delicious dish that people can indulge in.

You have spoken of a collective or an umbrella of people that you guys work with. Tell us more about this group.

Bon Voyage: The Beau Monde Collective is the governing body behind us. It’s Warren Credo, our brand director and the director behind our visuals. Justin Create takes care of the branding, like our stickers, the website, livebeaumonde.com, and all our photography. Kenny Sim is our in-house producer and worked on pretty much half of the mix-tape. We grew up with these guys and it’s our family.

Beck Motley: We want to put people into our world. It’s an artistic world. “Beau Monde” comes from the French for “Beautiful World.” We want to put people into the world of art, whether it is the world of fashion, film, or music. We want you to share with us, relate to us, communicate with us, and learn about our stories through our world.

Tell us about the artists that have influenced you.

Beck Motley: We love how Kanye West pushes barriers. We love Drake, being from Toronto and all, and we feel that he paved the way for a lot of the young artists in this city. We love The Weekend. We look up to Frank Ocean for his song writing skills. We also like Adele for her song writing. Some other groups we admire are The xx, Jamiroquai, and Outkast.

If you have a chance to work with one of the artists you just mentioned, who would it be, why, and how would their style work with the Airplane Boys?

Beck Motley: It’s too early to decide that because Bon Voyage and I are still searching for our sound. In order to work with the calibre of artist that we admire, we would have to know our own sound first. We are always going to be searching for our sound and niche but we are at that young, raw stage where we are just taking everything in.

What is your definition of being an artist?

Bon Voyage: Being an artist means being the whole package and being someone who can introduce new worlds and lifestyles to others. Being an artist is what you wear and how you feel. If we feel dark we will wear darker colors. If we are feeling bright we will wear lighter colors. Being an artist means capturing people’s minds with visuals, giving back to the community, and giving back to the energy of the world.

Beck Motley: Everyone wants to be an artist. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a way of doing that. Everyone is different in their own way. To be an artist you have to find a way to have your story be relevant. If you go into a club and see a hot girl, you want to know her story. Whether it is a physical attraction or emotional attraction or just getting caught up in that particular situation, you want to know her story. This same mentality is in the art that we are trying to create. Whether our fans are attracted to us as a brand, our visuals, or our music, we have to be relevant, and that is what it is to be an artist: to express relevance and to make people interested enough to want to discover more about us and our art.

Your debut project, the mix-tape “Where Have You Been” is arguably one of the most successful debut projects ever. It has garnered attention not only in Toronto but internationally as well. Tell us about the inspiration for the project and did you ever expect to reach this level of success?

Beck Motley: Expectations are normal but we try to block that out of our process as much as we can when we are making music because expectations can overwhelm you, underwhelm you, or both. When Bon Voyage and I were working with ILLANGELO and Kenny, it was raw. We wouldn’t go in there looking to make a high tempo song or a slow song. We would go in there for two hours, raw. Sleep was done in an hour. We had no money and operated on any kind of kindness from people who believed in the project. We just rode with what we had and we just wrote what life gave us.

What was one of the hardest challenges that you guys faced and overcame?

Bon Voyage: Financial problems, like finding funding for our videos. Everything was, and still is, done in house. Luckily, we met ILLANGELO at a studio we were recording at. He came in on a session and he liked what we were doing. He was already working on different projects and it was a blessing that he decided to help us out. Finding the money to fund our projects was a challenge but luckily we have been blessed with a lot. It is our turn to give back.

Everyone has one group or one person that put them up before anyone else, who believed in them and supported them before anyone else did. Who is that person or group for you guys?

Beck Motley: There are too many people to name just one person. We are in danger of leaving out someone. We don’t want to forget the horns or the ensemble or the violins. We would name the lead singers but that wouldn’t do the ensemble justice. There is a huge collective behind the Beau Monde, from musicians to managers to publicists to investors that believed in us based on who we were as people. All our close friends have supported us.

Moving onto the visual aspect of the Airplane Boys, I remember seeing “Born to Breathe.” It was an amazing music video. Not only did it have an original feel, you guys went to different places to shoot and that made for amazing scenery. Tell us a bit about the creative process behind the visuals.

Beck Motley: Warren Credo listens to the music, comes up with a preliminary vision for it, pitches us the concept, we go back and forth with the ideas, he has the final say as to the vision, we give him the green light, and then we move forward with it. Afterwards, we go location scouting and there are no funds, just passion, discipline and patience. We shoot on locations that we are not allowed to shoot on. We hop fences, run and hide when people come looking for us and then when the coast is clear, we shoot again. People thought we shot in Africa but we were just in the Scarborough bluffs and made it look like Africa. The jacket that Bon Voyage wears in the video, he made it himself. That denim jacket that I have, Justin Create made it for me. Our entire visual operation is mostly arts and crafts. There are no funds, no grants, and no investments in any of our videos.

Tell us more about your creation process as a duo.

Bon Voyage: It helps that Mannie and I are brothers, first and foremost. If I have an idea, he is open to it. If he has an idea, I am open to it. Even if we are not feeling an idea, we will try to come to a middle ground. It varies from project to project and song to song. He can have an idea, write it at home, and I may add on to it in the studio and vice versa. We have a natural chemistry and things come automatically. When we get into the vibe and we have our concept down pat, the songs kind of write themselves.

Beck Motley: What Bon Voyage touched on applies to all relationships in general, not just as a musical duo. It is applicable to marriage and basketball. That’s why the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat. It’s about accepting who you are and contributing your strengths. The stuff I am strong at helps Bon Voyage with what he is weak at and vice versa. We complement each other. Communicating is the most important thing. If you ignore stuff it will just build up an hurt you later on. When stuff builds up we knock it down right away.

What would you say are your respective strengths and weaknesses?

Beck Motley: We can’t divulge that. If we were to reveal that, people would know how to make our music. It’s who we are as people that makes our music work. The more you hang with us the more you will find out, but it’s hard to explain.

Your fashion is very unique, as we can see now and from your photo shoots and music videos. How was it inspired?

Bon Voyage: We watch a lot of movies and we are around artistic people. Warren and Justin introduce us to new things. We take bits and pieces from here and there. Michael Jackson and Prince inspire us as well. We look for retro influences but we also look for futuristic influences as well. We try to mesh it all together.

Beck Motley: We try to keep an open mind. People might call us hipsters or fashion heads but we are just trying to express ourselves. We are open to everything. Whatever fits the visual style we are trying to achieve we go with it.

You both wear the same whistle. Tell us about this whistle.

Beck Motley: It’s this thing called “Falling Whistles.” When you buy this whistle, the proceeds go to a fund for child soldiers in the Congo. These kids looked for the enemy and when

they found them they blew a whistle. They were used as bait.

Bon Voyage: The soldiers would send out kids to spot the enemy and when they blew the whistle they were the first ones to get hit. You can buy these at Holt Renfrew and the proceeds will add to the fund set up to fund programs and food for these children and their communities.

You said you had a four day Canadian tour with Snoop Dog. What was it like, touring with an international hip-hop star?

Beck Motley: It was amazing man. It was definitely a learning experience. It is gruelling being on the road. You have to keep yourself patient and disciplined. That’s half the battle. The other half is being on stage when you are tired, exhausted, and facing a crowd that is waiting for Snoop or that is digging you. You have to give it your all. Snoop gave us advice on staying relevant, finding longevity in the industry, and how to keep our minds afloat. You can’t get tired and you have to keep on playing the game. It was like life advice with Uncle Snoop.

What is next for you guys?

Bon Voyage: We are working on our next project. We are working on new videos. We are going on tour with Snoop in the UK. All in all, there will be more presence from us. We will be doing our thing.

Motley: Yeah, we are getting set to shoot our next video.

Is the next mix-tape going to be different or in the same vein as “Where Have You Been?”

Beck Motley: Where Have You Been was more about putting down a canvas so you guys understood our personalities. There was no direction in terms of tone. We started it dark and slow and then it went to pop, up tempo, and easy listening tracks. This next mix-tape will be more themed and topical as to what we are going through. We want these curtains to open and people to see us. We have been on a lot of road trips and we feel old like Benjamin Button. We want to see the stars align. We feel old but we are young at the same time. We are going to inject a lot of these emotions and feelings into the tape. We are going to have a lot of soundscapes for everyone to explore.

Your sound crosses genres and is very original and creative. Tell us if you are trying to conform to a certain genre or not.

Beck Motley: There is one genre and it’s called the Airplane Boys. Whichever genre people want to slot us into, be our guests.

What is HYPE?

Beck Motley: HYPE is inspirational and inspiring.

Bon Voyage: HYPE is energy and buzz.

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