Interview: Quinn XCII
A few hours before Quinn XCII blew the roof off the heads of a sold out crowd at U Street Music Hall, I got to sit down with him and chat. He sat across from me on his tour bus and it felt like I was meeting up with an old college friend rather than an artist on the fast track to stardom. The past couple of years have been a whirlwind for Quinn XCII, whose real name is Mike Temrowski. His debut album “The Story of Us” was released on September 15th and the reception has been outstanding. Every single show of his National tour was completely sold out and he’s been steadily generating buzz abroad as well.
We begin our chat with a discussion of his stage name, he knows it’s not the easiest one for fans to figure out. “I was going by ‘Mike T’ and it was kind of a nickname, it really didn’t stick with me. I was kind of bothered by it so I needed to get something a little more unique sounding,” Quinn said. “I stumbled upon an acronym and it stands for “Quit Unless your Instincts are Never Neglected,” pretty much what that means is that if there is nothing inside of you telling you to stop doing what you love, because there’s nothing holding you back, you should just pursue what you want to do in life.” This “Q.U.I.N.N” mantra is what guided him when he decided to pull the trigger and dive headfirst into a career in music. Because of trademark issues with another artist named “Quinn” he decided to add the number 92 (the year he was born) in roman numerals.
As an advertising student from Michigan State University, Quinn originally didn’t have strong aspirations of becoming a musician. “Music was something I always just wanted to do on the side,” Quinn said, “I never had intentions of taking music as a full-time career.” However, during his junior year in college his music began to take off and a fanbase emerged. After graduating, he took a year to figure out his next move, ultimately deciding to roll the dice and take a leap and pursue a career in music.
Quinn’s longtime friend and collaborator “Ayokay” has been a crucial player in Quinn’s road to success. The two met in middle school and began making music together in high school. Ayokay produced two tracks on “The Story of Us” and still has a hand on most of Quinn’s work. “I still get his opinion on everything because I want to make sure that he still kind of has the same ear and that we are not getting too far away from what we started doing together” Quinn Said. “I think is so easy to go to LA and get persuaded by what people think is the most popular thing to do and not stay true to what got you there in the first place so I live with him and it definitely helps to walk down the hall and get his opinion, and not have to call him or email him, it’s super collaborative.”
When Quinn wrote the “Story Of Us”, he sought to make an inclusive, relatable piece of music. “The goal was to make 11 songs that no matter how old you are, nor your gender or your race you could connect with it somehow.” Most of the lyrics come from personal experiences. “A lot of them are related to stuff that I’ve dealt with, songs like “Straightjacket for example or Worst.”
It’s hard because in a weird way, music was the only way for me to talk about shit I didn’t want to talk about” Quinn said.” “With Music I found myself writing things that subconsciously came out of me, that I almost didn’t want to talk about at first but music helped me become more vulnerable and shit. So when the album was done, I looked at every song and listened to it and I was like, a lot of this is about me. I almost didn’t want to admit that it was, because I was a little too afraid to act like I am super sensitive, but I would say 80% to 90% is about past experiences that I have either encountered or have actually have happened to me directly.”
As for inspirations for the new album, everything from traveling to other artist’s music to movies. The album’s artwork was inspired by Wes Anderson’s aesthetic and his mind is triggered to think creatively by anything from colors to mundane events like someone rushing to get to work. The album blurs the lines between Reggae, Soul, Hip-Hop and Electronic music and even though Quinn XCII doesn't consider himself a rapper, he uses rap as a tool in many of his songs. “I will say I’m a singer for sure but with rap inflections mixed in.” He said. “As a vocal musician is easier to have an album sound more cohesive when you have the same voice over every track, so that’s how things -in my view- become really cohesive and so I think that is how we pulled it off.”
Despite his rapid success, Quinn emphasized he sees himself as a normal kid from Michigan. “This is how I feel, I don’t feel that I am any different from my fans, I kind of turned a hobby into a career and that was the goal in all of this,” Quinn said. “I don’t look at myself as having something unobtainable, anybody can do what they want and just work hard and achieve it, and I know is a cliché but I think is still a really important message and that was the idea with the album, it was to present that but also present songs that are really relatable.”