Mike and Alex, two longtime friends from the Detroit suburbs, have been creating music together since high school. They went to two of the strongest rival schools in the nation, yet came together to create incredibly unique music. Mike and Alex became Quinn XCII and Ayokay, and now they are off to the races after signing a deal with the prolific Columbia Records.
This past weekend, to celebrate their alma maters, Quinn and Ayokay performed at UM and MSU throughout rivalry week. We had a chance to hang with the guys for their Friday night performance at the University of Michigan after they threw the craziest, outdoor college party we’ve ever witnessed. Keep in mind this was during Halloweek, so no one was dressed for warmth in the 35 degree Michigan night.
Take a listen to Quinn’s newest EP and read up about their college nostalgia, working hard and finding their own sound.
Tell me when you decided to transition from [rap] to what you do now?
Quinn: “I think it was during the point when Alex figured out he was a dope at producing music. Let’s just stop ripping beats off of youtube let’s work on this together. And then from there I gradually started singing. As he progressed, I did simultaneously. It was funny, we both discovered a new sound together and we kind of just went with it. When that happened it was probably Junior or Senior year of College.”
Ayokay: “You know what’s funny is [Mike’s] first big song was ‘They Know’. He’d done a bunch of rap stuff before. I think ‘They Know’ is the first time you really rapped.”
Quinn: “That was Senior Year of high school”
Ayokay: “He was really young. I recorded it for him, didn’t produce it. But I encouraged him to sing and he sang and we were both like, fuck, this is dope. So I think my taste always preferred him singing and then he became really good at it. I think that’s how when we started doing it together he really grew into it and became really great at singing.”
How did you guys work together through school?
Quinn: “I went to Michigan State, so I would come to Ann Arbor for 3-4 days a week and just fucking grind for 5 hours at a time. [Alex] was actually in the school of music and he got access to the studios on North Campus. We definitely lucked out. I would come here and that was our process for about 3 years.”
So you guys are at different schools, still spending 3-4 days a week together.
Quinn: “I have this weird love for Ann Arbor. I spent so much time making my career here. I got used to the area a lot. Although I went to State, it’s cool coming back here.”
For everyone reading from Ann Arbor and East Lansing. Hit us with your favorite bars, restaurants, all of the above.
Quinn: “Definitely for me, Conrads. Have you guys ever had that at State? It’s like this Pita wrap place. It’s amazing, I don’t care what [Alex] says about how he hates East Lansing.”
Ayokay: “Ok, I’ll admit. That place is amazing. But it’s the only good thing about East Lansing.”
Quinn: “I’ve got love for Ann Arbor. And Alex has no love.”
Ayokay: “So we had a show at the Loft which is a venue in East Lansing. It was the first show on this past tour and we sold out there. And afterward, we smashed Conrad’s and it’s the best thing. It’s like fried chicken in a Pita.”
So, it’s Mena’s.
(tons of argument and disbelief about how Alex, who went to UM, had no idea what Mena’s Joint was, yet it was the first version of Conrad’s before they opened up shop in East Lansing).
Quinn: “For bars the go to was always Ricks. It’s not nice, but it’s the place to go.”
Ayokay: “I love M.A.S.H. It was my favorite bar when I was a student here. I liked all the Main Street bars. I lived right off of Main Street my fifth year here and that was my favorite year here. I saw all of Main Street and it’s so nice. My favorite restaurant is probably Jolly Pumpkin.”
How was it working with Illenium?
Quinn: “Super super nice guy. He hit us up about that song we did together awhile ago. He had a show in Chicago and I went out to perform it with him. His following is insane, it’s so culty. He’s from Denver and super nice, really easy to work with. It hit number 1 on HypeM.”
Ayokay: “He is probably blowing up faster than anyone else in the underground electronic music world. I mean he just sold Red Rocks. He did 3 or 4 LA shows with 3,000 cap. He’s killing it.”
Quinn: “Like I said, you don’t really hear that sound out in the Midwest. It’s really more of a Colorado, future sound. But it works out here. Super cool dude.”
Tell us what it’s like being on a major label so early in your career.
Ayokay: “I was in New York last week and I was with my A&R. They had us sign the artist wall and stuff. It was a crazy day, they threw a party for us. They knew I love Patron so they got us all Patron. Their office is basically a space ship, it’s just going to take off one day and no one is going to see it ever again.”
And finally, what’s your favorite food?
Quinn: “Jet’s Pizza is one of our favorites. They don’t have it out in California so we miss it even more.”
Ayokay: “It’s Detroit style deep dish. It’s not thin crust, but it’s not deep dish.”
If you go to UM or MSU, take part in a contest to win a free concert from Quinn and Ayokay! All you have to do is post photos/videos of your school spirit with #KingsofUMcontest or #KingsofMSUcontest. Let the best school win. Track it all here!