Mar 24, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Jonah George
Detroit-bred singer/songwriter Quinn XCII is fresh off of the release of his latest album Change of Scenery II, coming less than a year after his 2020 album A Letter To My Younger Self and almost six years after its 2015 predecessor. For the sequel Quinn XCII once again connected with childhood friend and collaborator ayeokay, working together for the first time since the 2015 debut EP. Feeling uninspired during quarantine, he and ayeokay left L.A. and decamped to ayeokay’s family home in Newport, Rhode Island. The pair set up a makeshift studio and the new record began to take shape. Quinn XCII has shared his newest video for one of the upbeat highlights from Change of Scenery II, “Monday Morning.”
Though Mondays are usually far from energetic, as always, Quinn XCII is anything but downbeat on “Monday Morning.” Quinn XCII leans into his strength for unrelentingly upbeat pop, soaking the song in sunshine and catchy melodies. Even as Quinn XCII dives into jealousy and relationship woes he dampens the track’s laid-back core. When the hook kicks in, it offers a pure hit pop euphoria each time. That same feel equally extends to the video, another colorful and easygoing affair, filmed in the seaside setting of Newport. Check out the song and video below. Under the Radar also caught up with Quinn XCII over email to ask about “Monday Morning and Change of Scenery II. Read our exclusive Q&A below.
(Under the Radar) The turnaround from your 2020 album A Letter To My Younger Self to Change of Scenery II was pretty quick. Was that planned or did it just arise from the pandemic?
I’ve wanted to release a new album soon after a previous one for a while now, but timing just never really seemed to work out between touring and everything that goes into working each album. Since A Letter To My Younger Self was released early in the pandemic and we weren’t on the road and tied up with usual life after it came out, I had a lot of downtime to focus on writing music. This gave me and Alex (ayokay) the opportunity to hunker down and create another record together, which is also something we’ve been discussing for years. It’s definitely the silver lining of this last year.
What do you feel is the difference musically between A Letter To My Younger Self and Change of Scenery II?
A Letter To My Younger Self had a very intentional, nostalgic, high-school-themed concept and was built around different elements like live drums that were consistent throughout the project. On the other hand, Change of Scenery II is less conceptual and a bit more narrative-based – it’s more about going back to our roots as musicians and making music simply as a creative, experimental process. We wrote the album in his parents’ house just like we used to growing up and turned the living room into a studio. We worked with a small crew of friends who have been there from the beginning. We just tried having as much fun as we could in our two weeks of writing the album and drew inspiration from a lot of the things that initially inspired us to make music in the first place years ago. It was sort of like throwing paint at a canvas and seeing what stood out the most.
Were you planning from the beginning to record with ayokay again? What was it like reconnecting creatively?
Yes. Our plan was always to do another Change of Scenery EP, we just weren’t sure when that was going to be. Once we found this window of time to work on music the plan was still to do an EP, but we started making music so much faster and better than we’d even expected that we decided to make it a full-length album, and I think that’s just because of how long it had been since we last reconnected creatively. We had a great crew with us too, including our friend Hazey Eyes who was a huge part in the production as well. It was like turning on a faucet, the ideas didn’t stop flowing and we were doing a few songs a day, which was new for us.
Do you think recording in Rhode Island gave the record a different feel? Was that the titular Change of Scenery?
I truly believe Newport gave us a lot of the inspiration for the album unexpectedly. It helped being so far from LA where we’ve gotten so used to making music and disconnecting from a lot of the “industry”. We didn’t arrive there with any idea what the album was going to be like, but there’s something about the environment there that is oddly conducive for creating a feel-good album. Whether it was the city’s nautical nature or just how insanely delicious the food was, we never really felt short of creative fuel.
One thing I enjoy about the record is how largely upbeat and uplifting it is. Was it difficult to write that kind of album with the world feeling so chaotic?
I feel like making positive-sounding music with Alex comes by nature so it wasn’t that it was difficult to make something uplifting and rather it was almost inevitable. That being said, I felt more of a responsibility as an artist than ever to really build a project that would change people’s mindsets considering the times we’re currently in. It was less of a challenge and more of a motivator.
You also just finished the sold-out drive-in show for the record. How did that go? Was it a very different experience compared to a more traditional show?
The drive-in shows have been very different but at the same time so much fun. The crowd is more spaced and distanced from the stage so the show inevitably doesn’t feel as “hype” as my normal shows, but it still has the same fun, feel-good vibe – people dancing and having a good time. It has been so humbling to see people in person again enjoying live music. I missed that feeling so much and I know my fans have too, so it’s been a privilege to be able to bring that experience back to people during such difficult times where those moments and memories have been so rare.
Can you also tell us a bit about the video for “Monday Morning”? Was it recorded in Rhode Island as well?
Yes, it was filmed right around the corner from where we were living. There’s quite literally no premise to the video at all – we treated it as more of a raw, DIY video that we would have made back in high school when we started making music. We just went out around town one day in the freezing cold and had fun with the camera – it’s just playful which is what I like so much about it. All of our visuals for this project which were shot by our close friend Jonah George really represent the fun we had in Newport and the laid-back nature of making the album.
What are you hoping to do now that the record is out?
I’m hoping to tour the album as soon as humanly possible. Until then, I’m actually eager to start making the next project. I really had the most amazing experience creating Change of Scenery II and it’s reminded me how much fun I have making music with the people I care most about, so the plan is to continue doing it that way for future projects as well.