by Anna Mroczkowski
Fly Moon Royalty is Action Jackson (Mike Sylvester) and Adra Boo (Adriene Green). These two started collaborating musically from the very first day they met three years ago at a work meeting. It’s kind of a funny story if you like white Seattle rapper jokes. I sure do. Anyway, since that we-don’t-play-around introduction, their momentum has only expanded. Have you ever had chemistry like that with someone? Whether it be professional or personal, it’s pretty incredible. It feels like the kind of universal gift that makes it hard not to believe in fate.
Sitting down with these two you instantly feel a sense of family. Part of the time they are finishing each other’s sentences, then talking over each other in that way that family do when they tell shared stories, and the other times sitting back and letting the other one shine.
When I walked into Bernard’s, they were knee deep in a discussion about tablets and the importance of taking it slow in relationships which can be difficult when you’re as open and warm as Adra. I want her in my family. “My family is.. we’re very outgoing loving people. Once you’re in your kinda in.” That’s how it was with Mike. “Literally my Mom met Mike and he was her son from another Mother.” Mike nods.
All this started at Mel’s (which is my new favorite lunch spot due in large part to their herbed-up honey mustard and french fries). They were both in other bands at the time. Mike produced tracks for Adra’s band and Adra sang on tracks for Mike’s band.
Adra: I’d try to get there before my band mate got there and I’d sing stuff for him and he’d low key tape me on a little iPod. I was wearing a green wig and he posts it on facebook! (She says laughing.)
Mike: Oh yeah, singing the hook for push. I remember that. So yeah, there were moments like that.
After trading beats and vocals back and forth it took Adra running away with Android Love recorded by herself on Garage Band to blow his hair back and officially come together to work on what would become Fly Moon Royalty. Later, Android Love would make it on their first self-titled album. Neither one of them had bad experiences in their previous bands, it was just the natural progression things take sometimes and the way things fit or don’t fit with your life.
Adra: My band mate, she’s great you know. She’s an awesome DJ too. I really just had only so much mind space. My other band was party music and I wasn’t clubbing but I was living and (Mike) makes music that has a deeper feeling to it.
Also worthy of mentioning, is one of those songs recorded back then (for Mike’s band) made it on to the EP Dimensions they just released this Tuesday available here for a free download.
They both work full time, on the same schedule and have the kind of support from their employer that provides a very real opportunity for these two artists to continue doing what they love.
Mike: They come to shows, they post on facebook. They’re super supportive. Our boss is the chef, and he probably knows more lyrics than most people. At work, we’re hashing ideas and coming up with concepts.
Anna: It sounds like your boss has your back.
Mike: He does, he does, they’re all really supportive of the music, they’re supportive of being flexible with us so we can maintain our job and work while we’re at work so we can be successful outside of work.
Adra: We are the Mel’s band. We sing jams. Literally, peanut butter and jam.
Mike: I’ve thought about it, and it’s as ideal a position that an artist could have. I mean I have friends who have a lot more money than me but they hate their jobs and can never get time off.
Mike moved out here with his best friend Ryan from Grand Rapids, Michigan 3 years ago.
Mike: I don’t know it was an upgrade from the city where I was at. If I’m going to do this then I need to do this for real. And I couldn’t do it for real where I was at period. Probably one of the better decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life and obviously paid off better than I ever thought.
Anna: Do you play any other instruments?
Mike: I was a recording tech major, and you had to have an instrument and I was like DRUMS! But the piano always made sense to me. The more that I play and produce the more original material that I write. I love sampling. I think sampling is a dying art and is a disrespected art.
If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend asking Mike a question about something he’s passionate about. He can’t sit still and his sentences don’t sit still either but he’s creatively articulate with his words and always finds just the right way he wants to describe what he’s going for.
Anna: You think it’s a dying art?
Mike: I think it is and it’s disrespected by people who do it poorly and by people who don’t understand anything about it and criticize it. Because yes, sometimes you’re taking snapshots but there is a texture and flavor in certain things. Like in Back To You , (in) the sample, there is something in the way those horns were originally recorded like sometimes a guitar is run through an amp in a particular way in the 70s that they don’t do now, stuff recorded now can be too clean, too high def.
Anna: I don’t want to see your pores!
Mike: Yeah! Sometimes I don’t want to see stuff like that. Add some character to your recording so it’s not all Instagram and sepia tones and samples sometimes have those little accidents that you would never write in there. There are no rules. You like what you like, in the moment. It’s an emotional thing, not math. One of my favorite beats of all time is a loop! I like jazz music and classical music because its way beyond me and it’s like I’m a little kid looking at a wild animal.
Adra: Luckily another thing that we parallel on is we both have had in our different experiences growing up; we both have had access to OLD music.
Mike: I remember my parents got me a James Brown collection way before I was ever a producer. I had a cassette and a little boom box and I would just bump it as a teenager. I was born in Windsor Canada and you could literally spit on Detroit from Windsor.
His parents may have bought him James Brown and even with that proximity to Detroit, he was pretty much on his own for musical discovery in his house growing up. He relied on his musical encyclopedia friends and his own hunger to build his collection and connection.
Mike: I can remember my dad saying later “There’s nothing like old Motown” and me thinking why is this news to me!?
Whereas Adra was born and bred in it.
Adra: I grew up in a house with a bunch of men and my mom. I have a ton of uncles. I’m the only girl, my mom was the only girl and they came up in the, you know that pimpin’ time of life. They were in bands, my uncle played the bass. (One uncle) taught me and my brother how to play the drums, my mom sang, and my uncles all sang. Two houses down from us was Gerald and Thaddeus turner, who I literally grew up calling my uncles. I grew up with old funk, The DeBarges, Parliament, Prince.
Anna: Did you always sing?
Adra: A little, I wouldn’t sing at home. I did not sing at home until high school and even then it was rare. My mom would hear me singing to myself like in my room. We all lived in my Grandma’s house. It was a big house and everyone lived there. So my uncle, with his loads of women, when he would be out with women I would go in his room (she’s getting ready to tell me something good I can feel it) and my Uncle Kevin would have these big wall posters of Prince. (she’s really smiling now) He’s great because he’s sooo into what’s going on with music. Like Prince with a leather jacket and a thong on the wall. (laughs) And over his bed he had this wall size poster of Vanity 6. There is a song called What’s Your Name by the DeBarges. I would only go for the cool looking stuff because we were also a nice looking family. I JUST found it on iTunes. I played that song every single day till we moved. I knew all the harmonies. Every part. I wouldn’t sing at home though. On the bus, at school…
Anna: Is it because your mother was a singer that you didn’t sing at home?
Adra: Yes. Ironically. It’s weird you know when everyone can sing. There is pressure. Then everyone’s looking at you. I didn’t play drums around everyone either. At school though, I would go in there and jam on the drums and wild out in the little choir room so people at school knew that I sing. I would do talent shows. That’s when my mom actually started seeing me. I started doing Community Theater so I had an outlet for performing. I had no idea I would be here. This is the time now where I’m becoming more of a writer. I’m really putting my foot into writing now. Because of the music we listen to, there is a way I want to hear my own music.
Mike: When something stands out it catches our eye. Luckily our ears are in tune with one consistent true. If something has its own unique sound flavor or texture, we are very hyper sensitive to that, so that’s our own Adra and Mike thing, different and new.
Adra: Different and new yes. I feel like for us, one of the things that sets us apart is we aren’t making music for people to look at. It isn’t for looks. If Drake was an ugly dude, no one would care.
Mike: That right there is the unfortunate truth. I would rather be Wes Anderson than Michael Bay.
Anna: When things get real people want real.
Mike: Right. We love convenience but ultimately inherently as human beings we want something real. Hip hop is changing too. I was at Neumos watching a show and the performer was from New York and the guy I was with wasn’t really into it. It clicked with me that it was old Mike complaining to new Mike. I told him to sever that little idea of what hip hop is to him and just watch the show. It’s a little better huh? We are not hip hop but my production is strongly rooted in it. Growing up, I liked all music but nothing more than hip hop. We are pulling from all different things. And something new that is just a question mark. (saying to himself) That’s weird I don’t know where to place that so I like it!
They are sitting on a lot of stuff right now. It’s still at the hush hush phase but it’s coming. A lot of the new material has been in performance rotation for a while now to great responses. So it makes sense why it’s clearly visible how happy they are talking about the future. I’m not allowed to tell you the title of the album coming, but take my word for it, that it’s a fitting choice for them. Collaborating with Galen Disston of Pickwick has definitely been a highlight creatively for Adra.
Adra: We are always listening to how people sound. And Galen has an amazing voice. He looks like he should be playing video games but the dude’s voice is so buttery. I write to those voices. I could hear Galen’s voice and I wrote this song and Galen totally agreed to do it. I love harmonies. Period. I love that stuff. I love rich textures. Mike makes music that has really interesting textures and I like to see how I can float with it. And this new stuff has really amazing textures. This guy is constantly sending me new stuff and you just want to move on it when it’s hot.
Mike: It’s like the beginning of a relationship when everything is all butterflies. It’s like that. It’s a drug. I’m full on addicted to that energy in that moment when something comes together and you know that‘s it! I’ve pinpointed exactly the parts that I like the most about being in a band (he did admit earlier to being a total Gemini); whether its people putting you in a blog, high publicity, songs on the radio, whatever, my favorite thing is releasing good music. Someone reviewing your music, and honestly blowing it out there. Fans taking your music in and adding it to those songs you love, because those are valuable, I feel wealthy when I have a huge stockpile of music, so to be included in that? (he drifts for a second) Hearing about someone in France liking our music (he drifts off again) Cool, some beats that I made in my underwear are blasting in a part of the world that I’ve never been. That connection is a powerful feeling.
Adra: We just want to make music that we like. Sometimes I feel like Roxy is our best example of that because it’s the one song where like I really got to explore the textures of a song. It changes. The pulsing sound. It was fun to really challenge myself to write to that. Drop off the beat and follow the synth.
Mike: We’re composing (music) together, it’s not like she writes over the composition she writes through it. Flips it on its ear.
One of their favorite shows was playing KEXP’s first Little Big Show with Pickwick at The Neptune. Then there’s the beloved Doe Bay Music festival and were also captured in the fantastic documentary Welcome to Doe Bay which plays at SIFF June 3rd and 5th. Staying consistent with their own approachable accessible style, they favor venues like The Comet and The Crocodile where you can easily connect and other artists like Allen Stone who interacts a lot with the audience in a very authentic and unpretentious way. It’s about connection and it’s about discovery.
This Sunday Fly Moon Royalty hits Sasquatch! Music Festival’s Maine Stage for the first time and they are both very excited in a very laid back way.
Mike (rubbing his belly): We just ate a ton of sushi though. I kinda got the itis right now. I’m totally going to pass out after this.
Adra: We have 5 backup dancers. They are putting together some really great stuff. Let’s do this up right.
I wish I could share her giggle somehow in this article. It has the lightness and sincere joy of a girl, with the awareness of a woman who’s lived some life. It’s infectious. Adra is in the class of sultry vocalists that you love because they aren’t afraid to be vulnerable and they aren’t afraid to own their sensuality. Mike has that old Hollywood kind of leading man quality that knows how to flawlessly compliment Adra’s spotlight magnetism. Confidence without arrogance. Mike is Adra’s biggest fan and creatively pushes her to grow. Adra trusts him and protects him like kin. Some bands operate as families. This is one of them, and they’re still just getting started. Neither one of them care much if you like them, or not. Their advice to youth is “don’t be afraid to like what you like!” If you are feeling them though, you better come ready to get down. Makes me truly excited to see what’s in store for this dynamic duo. If you’re headed out to Sasquatch this weekend, make sure you catch these two!
For Fly Moon Royalty management & booking inquiries contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes From our Shoot:
We had a great time playing around at Mel’s and the library. It was a family affair with my daughter as one of the assistants and my son underneath one of the tables playing video games.
Dawndra Budd is one of my favorite local photographers. I’m a big fan of weird and Dawndra has her own unique love of the weird and twisted and I enthusiastically appreciate her for it. You can check out more photos by her and find information on how to work with her on her website.
It’s hard to ignore the unique sensuality of these two whether it is in their music or in person.
When Dawndra asked about their music as it played through the stereo system. Mike paraphrasing said, “someone said our music was all sex and…. something…. basically sex” with a sly grin.
Dawndra says, “Well this song is sexy as hell”.
As she’s snapping pictures at one point she exclaimed “BOOYA!” then catches herself and laughing a little says, “I can’t believe I just said that..”
Mike laughs and Adra deadpans, “We tend to do that to people”.
Yes they do.