When Seattle-based neo-soul duo Fly Moon Royalty set out to write new material, they’re inspired by a number of things: an individual keyboard riff, a particular electronic beat, a specific vocal line they can hang the rest of the song on. But what they’re really trying to capture in their music is something more intangible – a feeling.
“There’s a way you feel when you listen to it,” vocalist Adra Boo said of the group’s sound. “When I grew up, my uncles were in bands; they played bass and guitar, and there was a lot of Parliament, a lot of Prince, people who made music with the intention of it being a good time. … Some of those tracks were, like, 18 minutes long, and people would dance for 18 minutes. There was just a feeling in the music, and these are things we like about the songs we like.”
Boo and producer and MC Mike “Action J” Illvester met shortly after Illvester moved to the Northwest from Michigan, and Boo recalls they began trading their favorite music with one another almost immediately. They started collaborating as Fly Moon Royalty in late 2009, and their self-titled debut LP was released in 2011.
“We have our own things we individually like, but there are common threads between them,” Illvester said. “Maybe we don’t always like the same things, but what we like about it is the same. … Our ears are drawn to something fresh, something original. A lot of music we like has energy to it. It’s potent, and even if it’s a slow, chill song, there’s an intensity to it.”
The duo blends hip-hop, R&B, electronica and funk: You can hear a hint of Stevie Wonder here, a little Parliament Funkadelic there, some Janelle Monae, Jill Scott and Sharon Jones sprinkled throughout, maybe a hint of Daft Punk at their smoothest. Their most recent release, the 5-song EP “Unfinished Business,” is a good primer for how Fly Moon Royalty can shift among dreamy, sultry and brazen on the same track.
“We can definitely hear where we’ve grown,” Boo said. “The way I write, the way Mike plays, the way we deliver our parts of each song – we can definitely see the growth. But we never necessarily think about, ‘This is the song we want to make, this is the mood.’ Every song has its own birthplace; we’re writing from experiences or how we’re feeling a certain day of the week.”
And now they’re hitting the road on a short U.S. tour, which brings them to Spokane tonight (they played here for the first time last month as a part of the MarmotFest lineup). Although they’ve been active in the Seattle scene for nearly five years, Illvester says this marks the first time he’s felt like making music is actually hard work.
“I love writing new music; that’s hardly the work,” he said. “We’re going to play some small shows, we’re going to scoop up some new fans, and we’re going to be driving and living out of a car for about seven weeks. Maybe it’s the Midwest in me, but I feel like there needs to be some hard work involved in this process.”
“Ultimately, all these things lead to world domination,” Boo added with a laugh. “No, I’m just playing. I always tell people that, kind of jokingly, but it’s kind of not. We’re going to hit that whole phase where we’re, like, 70 but we’re still kicking, Tina Turner style.”