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Interview: Quinn XCII on the origin of his name, Mutual Friends, and his favorite snack foods

Stepping out of the elevator dipped head-to-toe in FILA, which he officially has a brand deal with now, Quinn XCII has the demeanor of a cool older brother. We take some photos and then sit down for a quick talk before he gets ready to perform at Capitol Hill Block Party.

You go by Quinn XCII (92), but your real name is…
Mikael, pronounced Michael. My family is Polish and I think they just wanted something a little more unique. I have a twin brother, Mathew, and that’s only with one t instead of the two.

You were born in ’92, but where did Quinn come from?
Quinn is an acronym that I came up with in college – “quit unless your instincts are never neglected”. I was a student who was pursuing music on the side. I knew I wanted to do music as a full-time career, but I was really nervous to tell my friends and family. They were instantly supportive once they found out. If you have a dream you want to chase, but you’re a little too nervous about it… I try to urge fans to set aside that fear as much as possible and go for what you love to do. It’s more than just a name.

That’s really cool! When did you start getting in to music?
I started when I was a sophomore in high school. I would rap over beats on YouTube. It was really bad, but it was just for fun! It got more serious in college and I saw people actually liking the music. I decided to just go for it around my junior year in college.

 And you graduated?
Yeah! I went to Michigan State and got a degree in advertising. So nothing to do with music. They don’t have a music program there so I had to choose something that was closely related. Even while doing that, I always knew that music was my number one priority.

You started out doing music by yourself, but then you became part of a crew called Mutual Friends with Jeremy Zucker, Chelsea Cutler, Ay Okay, and yourself. How did you all connect?
Alex (Ay Okay) and I have known each other since 3rd grade. We didn’t start making music together until senior year in high school; he was a producer. We linked and out of that came my first two EPs. That catapulted my following on Soundcloud and really got my name out there. He had a song called “Kings of Summer” that I was featured on that ended up getting us signed to Columbia Records. We met Chelsea Cutler via Soundcloud DMs. It was really natural. She ended up getting managed by my manager, and joined the team. Same thing with Jeremy happened. It was an organic way we all came together and we’re all friends. We each have our own niche, space, and sound but we’re still able to work together.

You all recently got signed with Team Visionary. How did that come about?
My manager, Jesse, is really good friends with Chris and Harry (the heads of Visionary). They were aware of our music. I think, eventually, they saw the trajectory of our careers as artists going in the right direction and wanted to connect. They’re such great guys! It’s very family oriented and everybody is so talented. It’s nice being part of something bigger than myself.

Your debut album, The Story of Us, is an entire story from start to finish. What sparked inspiration for that?
Honestly, the whole thing is inspired by personal experiences that I’ve gone through. I wanted to put out something that truly represented me as an artist, especially for my debut album. I tried to give everything I am. It’s about that transition period from college to being on your own, and the pressures of getting a “real job”. I thought it was really important to share that with fans and people who have never heard of me.

That’s an important message, especially for people in the creative field! What made you decide that this was what you were going to do with your life no matter what?
As I got older I realized what was important to me; my mental stability and being happy is so vital. Why wouldn’t I go for something I love to do? Plus I saw people connecting to it! I would rather do that and make zero dollars than work a 9-5 that I can’t stand. I worked at places my first year out of college and that reinstated my decision. Life is too short to not pursue what you love.

What’s your favorite song off the album?
I think it’s “Always Been You”. From a performance standpoint, it’s really interactive with the crowd, but also sonically it’s a nice, laid-back vibe – which is what I try to embody as an artist. It’s really hard to answer that because I like all of my music. They’re like my kids!

You just got a new tattoo?
Yeah! Speaking of Mutual Friends, I have it here on my wrist now. Some of my tattoos are reminders of what I’ve been able to accomplish. It’s a cool way to document things. I’m getting way too in to tattoos.

Favorite snack food on tour?
Those peanut butter filled pretzels. Do you know those? They’re cube shaped. We try to eat Clif bars and boring stuff like that.

Okay, last question. Say you’re going on a road trip and you’re making a playlist. What’s the first and last song you play?
Wow, that’s really good! First song I’d play would probably be… I love the song “Brazil” by Declan McKenna. It’s one of my favorite songs. He’s a super young guy. To end with I’d going with “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. Another one of my favorites. My interest in music goes everywhere.

You can keep up with Quinn XCII on Instagram here. Keep up to date with all his performance stops here.

Nicolita Bradley
Nicolita is a caffeine-addicted photographer based in Seattle. You can follow her work on Instagram at instagram.com/okaynicolita or check out her website at okaynicolita.com.

Interview: Quinn XCII on the origin of his name, Mutual Friends, and his favorite snack foods

Stepping out of the elevator dipped head-to-toe in FILA, which he officially has a brand deal with now, Quinn XCII has the demeanor of a cool older brother. We take some photos and then sit down for a quick talk before he gets ready to perform at Capitol Hill Block Party.

You go by Quinn XCII (92), but your real name is…
Mikael, pronounced Michael. My family is Polish and I think they just wanted something a little more unique. I have a twin brother, Mathew, and that’s only with one t instead of the two.

You were born in ’92, but where did Quinn come from?
Quinn is an acronym that I came up with in college – “quit unless your instincts are never neglected”. I was a student who was pursuing music on the side. I knew I wanted to do music as a full-time career, but I was really nervous to tell my friends and family. They were instantly supportive once they found out. If you have a dream you want to chase, but you’re a little too nervous about it… I try to urge fans to set aside that fear as much as possible and go for what you love to do. It’s more than just a name.

That’s really cool! When did you start getting in to music?
I started when I was a sophomore in high school. I would rap over beats on YouTube. It was really bad, but it was just for fun! It got more serious in college and I saw people actually liking the music. I decided to just go for it around my junior year in college.

 And you graduated?
Yeah! I went to Michigan State and got a degree in advertising. So nothing to do with music. They don’t have a music program there so I had to choose something that was closely related. Even while doing that, I always knew that music was my number one priority.

You started out doing music by yourself, but then you became part of a crew called Mutual Friends with Jeremy Zucker, Chelsea Cutler, Ay Okay, and yourself. How did you all connect?
Alex (Ay Okay) and I have known each other since 3rd grade. We didn’t start making music together until senior year in high school; he was a producer. We linked and out of that came my first two EPs. That catapulted my following on Soundcloud and really got my name out there. He had a song called “Kings of Summer” that I was featured on that ended up getting us signed to Columbia Records. We met Chelsea Cutler via Soundcloud DMs. It was really natural. She ended up getting managed by my manager, and joined the team. Same thing with Jeremy happened. It was an organic way we all came together and we’re all friends. We each have our own niche, space, and sound but we’re still able to work together.

You all recently got signed with Team Visionary. How did that come about?
My manager, Jesse, is really good friends with Chris and Harry (the heads of Visionary). They were aware of our music. I think, eventually, they saw the trajectory of our careers as artists going in the right direction and wanted to connect. They’re such great guys! It’s very family oriented and everybody is so talented. It’s nice being part of something bigger than myself.

Your debut album, The Story of Us, is an entire story from start to finish. What sparked inspiration for that?
Honestly, the whole thing is inspired by personal experiences that I’ve gone through. I wanted to put out something that truly represented me as an artist, especially for my debut album. I tried to give everything I am. It’s about that transition period from college to being on your own, and the pressures of getting a “real job”. I thought it was really important to share that with fans and people who have never heard of me.

That’s an important message, especially for people in the creative field! What made you decide that this was what you were going to do with your life no matter what?
As I got older I realized what was important to me; my mental stability and being happy is so vital. Why wouldn’t I go for something I love to do? Plus I saw people connecting to it! I would rather do that and make zero dollars than work a 9-5 that I can’t stand. I worked at places my first year out of college and that reinstated my decision. Life is too short to not pursue what you love.

What’s your favorite song off the album?
I think it’s “Always Been You”. From a performance standpoint, it’s really interactive with the crowd, but also sonically it’s a nice, laid-back vibe – which is what I try to embody as an artist. It’s really hard to answer that because I like all of my music. They’re like my kids!

You just got a new tattoo?
Yeah! Speaking of Mutual Friends, I have it here on my wrist now. Some of my tattoos are reminders of what I’ve been able to accomplish. It’s a cool way to document things. I’m getting way too in to tattoos.

Favorite snack food on tour?
Those peanut butter filled pretzels. Do you know those? They’re cube shaped. We try to eat Clif bars and boring stuff like that.

Okay, last question. Say you’re going on a road trip and you’re making a playlist. What’s the first and last song you play?
Wow, that’s really good! First song I’d play would probably be… I love the song “Brazil” by Declan McKenna. It’s one of my favorite songs. He’s a super young guy. To end with I’d going with “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. Another one of my favorites. My interest in music goes everywhere.

You can keep up with Quinn XCII on Instagram here. Keep up to date with all his performance stops here.

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