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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2014 6 years ago

Let's hear it for the Boyce

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by: Mallory Gnaegy A&E Editor

In April, Boyce Avenue returned from headlining a 25-show European tour with nearly one-third of the dates sold-out. At the end of the tour, the band members did a press junket in New York City with People magazine, Seventeen magazine and a performance on “Good Morning America.”

The Manzano brothers are no strangers to the limelight. They make up the third most-watched band on YouTube with more subscribers than Lady Gaga and Beyonce.

With stats like that, you’d think they’d have some well-deserved air of arrogance or entitlement, like other celebrities. But Alejandro Manzano, Fabian Manzano and Daniel Manzano are humble and recognize where they came from — Sarasota.

They sit around a table at These Quiet Sounds in Gulf Gate. It’s their side-project apparel-and-design company and the most likely place to spot at least one of the members when they aren’t on tour.

Since April, they’ve been falling back into a routine. The eldest brother, Daniel, 33, likes to cook locally sourced food for his wife and three little boys (he hopes they’ll be the second generation of Boyce Avenue). Fabian, 29, and his wife operate These Quiet Sounds, but he also likes boxing. And, the youngest, Alejandro, 27, is into movies — particularly film scores. Music has always been his thing.

Alejandro first learned to play guitar for a variety show at Pine View School. He signed his brothers up to accompany him. In three months, they were able to play “Now & Forever” by Richard Marx.

The guys didn’t start playing as Boyce Avenue until 2005. Fabian and Alejandro were attending University of Florida at the time. Daniel had graduated from Harvard and was at the University of Florida in a post-graduate program. They started playing shows at bars.

“We got $50 a person and we were like, ‘yes!’” Daniel says.

All three laugh at the memory of how they got their start. Playing in college bars to drunken audiences until 2 a.m. is exactly the dues-paying non-YouTube sensation bands must go through.

The brothers gained some fans in this traditional sense for two years. But in September 2007, they tried a modern approach. They hoped to go viral by releasing a cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” the day before her Video Music Awards performance. They knew that song would have high search trends.

By early 2008, Boyce Avenue had more than 100,000 views on the video and had garnered a following for their covers. Boyce Avenue had gone viral. The numbers have gradually grown to more than a billion views on their YouTube channel today. It was as much intentional strategy as it was luck.

“In a way, we did skip some steps, but we still had to claw our way up,” Fabian says.

The raw talent was always there, even in those early, shoddy, self-filmed videos with Alejandro sitting in front of a sheet backdrop in his parents’ garage. Now, Boyce Avenue uses a professional production team to film its covers of everything from Bruno Mars to “The Office” theme song.

Yet, they have still had to fight with music industry leaders to prove their worth. Not many concert promoters and venue owners want to give live shows to YouTube sensations.

“Not every (YouTube sensation) pans out in the same way,” Daniel says. “Not everyone with a million subscribers can sell X number of tickets.”

And to get people interested in their original songs, they must intersperse covers of popular music. No one will search for a song they haven’t heard of, so it keeps them building a fan base.

The group already has lots of fans. In 2009, Boyce Avenue booked a show in the Philippines. The brothers were taken aback to walk into what they describe as a Beatles-esque moment full of screaming girls. It turns out their Filipino fans love YouTube, acoustic music and Spanish influence in music. (The Manzanos are Puerto Rican.)

The three brothers kept proving people wrong. In 2009, the Mercury Lounge, a New York City venue, gave them a Monday night slot and wouldn’t pre-sell tickets.

“They basically set us up to fail because (they thought) no one knew us,” Alejandro says.

Yet even in the freezing winter weather fans lined up around the corner. The group would go on to sell out the Hammersmith Apollo in London in 2012 on the same stage where the artists they frequently cover typically play, such as John Mayer, Kings of Leon and Coldplay.

“We grew up in this quiet, sleepy town, and we’re all introverted, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t passionate or that we don’t create loud, impactful art that makes a big statement,” Fabian says.

The brothers are content living in Sarasota. It’s where they want to raise their families. Their apparel store is here, as well as their studio and their parents, Roberto and Ileana Manzano.

They stay true to their roots. It’s not only in the name Boyce Avenue — a tribute to the street on which they lived as children. The guys brought their parents on their recent European tour.

“I think that (humility) is intrinsically in us,” Alejandro says. “It doesn’t matter how big we get. We could get as big as Coldplay and we will still be the same people.”

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