EXCLUSIVE: Fly By Midnight Talk “The Boombox Series” and Early 2000’s Nostalgia

New York based retro pop duo Fly By Midnight’s most recent cover is giving us major nostalgia with a throwback to the early 2000’s. The duo’s rendition of Avril Lavigne’s hit song “Complicated” is the third installment in The Boombox Series, a mini compilation themed around early 2000’s female anthems. In 2017, the duo released covers and accompanying music videos for Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere”. As indicated by the name of the series, each music video features an old-school boombox. In the video for “Complicated”, the duo performs the song in a packed bar with the backdrop of an unbothered crowd and a drink precariously balanced on top of the boombox.

Formed in 2015, Fly By Midnight consists of Justin Bryte, a former star on MTV’s Dream Bigger, and Slavo, former producer for Emergence Music Group. Both are talented singer-songwriters that came together to form the group after a songwriting session in their New York studio.

The duo has gained traction on YouTube by posting frequent covers of popular songs ranging from “Havana” to “Hotline Bling”. In 2016, their cover of Charlie Puth’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore” with Nicolette Mare and Nicole Medoro has garnered over four million views on YouTube and over 1 million streams on Spotify. More recently, the duo has adopted a refreshing casual style for their cover music videos, several of which take place at fast food restaurants and feature fries and burgers.

The duo has come so far since our last interview in Spring 2017. In addition to frequent covers, they have also released six originals to date, including the infectious sounding “Vibe” and a sensual single called “XL”. Most recently, they released “Malibu” back in November, a lush single focusing on the excitement of young love. Currently, Fly By Midnight is gearing up for the release of a brand new single “Just Say It”, dropping on February 14th. Catch our full interview with Justin and Slavo below!

How did you come up with the concept of The Boombox Series and go about selecting each song?

J: We’re really excited to be closing out The Boombox Series with a track that was super iconic in our teenage angst years (laughs). The whole concept for the series started off with us just wanting to reinterpret songs that would make our fans get this nostalgic feel of hearing these songs that they know by heart in a way they never have before.

S: When we recorded the first release “Everywhere” (Michelle Branch) we realized how cool it would be to specifically take on female lead songs. It felt like we paid the proper homage to the original, but also brought it somewhere completely new and fresh.

J: Before we released the first track we had ideas in our minds for the next two songs, but weren’t initially locked on sticking to a specific time period of music. It just coincidentally ended up that the last two tracks “Umbrella” & “Complicated” were in the same era.

Would you ever consider taking on a similar project but focusing on another era of music?

S: We actually spoke about this last night. So far the reaction to the release has been too positive to not give something similar in the future. It would be fun to give a different spin on it…

J: Our wheels have definitely already started spinning. Tracks from the 90s maybe?

S: 80s?

J: Emo pop punk?

S: (laughs) Not the worst idea…

Your sound is often described as retro pop. Is there a certain era of music, or some artists, that most influence your sound?

J: There’s something so vague about the word retro that drew us to it initially. Our earlier tracks were heavily influenced by bands like Toto, Foreigner, Hall & Oates. As time has gone on we’ve tapped into all kinds of “retro” generations of music.

S: I think with the upcoming releases in 2018 you’ll hear bits and pieces of all different eras mixed with our modern spin. There’s definitely a progression in our sound that we’re excited about.

Can you tell us more about the creation of your most recent single, “Malibu”?

S: As soon as we finished writing “Malibu” we knew there was something special there. Some sessions are hard to lock in exactly what the story is or what you’re trying to say. “Malibu” was a song that came together so quickly & effortlessly that it kind of shocked us.

J: It helped that we drew from our personal experiences with girls as well. We really dove into the memories of how it feels to be in that dynamic where everything had a cinematic air about it. At the time when you’re with someone in high school… there’s that feeling of thinking the world is watching your experience together.

What is your dynamic like as a duo? Are you usually in sync when it comes to making decisions about projects, or is there always a back and forth?

J: From the beginning, we connected as musicians but also developed this brotherhood / best friend dynamic and I think that’s what helps people gravitate towards our project.

S: We’re with each other pretty much every day and surprisingly rarely argue. When we do it’s usually because we need coffee or food. (laughs)

J: I think it really helps that we respect each other’s craft as well. When Slavo disagrees with something, even if I don’t agree, I know he must have a good reason so I hear him out.

What role has connecting with fans on social media, especially YouTube, played in your careers?

J: It’s been everything. Some artists think it’s creating a disconnect, but we’ve been lucky enough to turn social media fans into live show fans… which honestly isn’t the easiest thing to do.

S: Platforms like YouTube have given us the opportunity to release as much music as want when we want and I think our subscribers respect the fact that we do everything ourselves.

Your covers always manage to put a unique twist on the song. Can you describe your process from choosing a song to recording it?

S: It always varies. We like choosing songs that we’re personally fans of.

J: It’s usually a really quick process too. We’re constantly listening to music because we’re fans as well so choosing is never really an issue.

S: Though sometimes by the end of covering a song we can’t listen to the original anymore because we’ve heard it so much!

The casual vibe of your cover videos is very refreshing! What have been some favourites to shoot?

J: Thanks! I think “Umbrella” was definitely one of our most ambitious. When I approached Slavo with the idea of making it rain indoors we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.. but we like the challenge I guess. (laughs)

S: Our more recent mashups have been really fun also. A “casual vibe” of just eating and singing some tunes is exactly what we’ve been going for so it’s awesome to see you point that out.

Speaking of videos, can we expect one for “Malibu” anytime soon? Can you give us any hints?

S: I think we want to give a visual for all of our songs. The next video for an original won’t be “Malibu” but is definitely something we’re discussing…

J: The next official video for a single is going to be really different for us.

What’s next for Fly By Midnight in 2018?

J: More music. A lot more! We’re really tapping into all the feels for the next releases as well. Very diverse sounds we haven’t given before.

S: We’re also playing Firefly Festival in the summer which we’re super stoked about. Hopefully will be announcing a tour coming up as well. Fingers crossed!

Thanks to Justin and Slavo from Fly By Midnight for answering our questions! Keep tabs on Fly By Midnight by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Catch more of their music videos and covers on their YouTube channel, or stream their songs on Spotify.

Are you a fan of Fly By Midnight’s “The Boombox Series”? Let us know on Twitter @CelebMix!

Written by Annemarie Cutruzzola

Canadian arts & culture writer and journalism student.