MOXY AND THE INFLUENCE – From Classical Training to Classic Rock

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Sydney Ellen

Sydney Ellen

Though the ages of the members of Southern California band Moxy And The Influence start at just 16 years old, they have more experience in music than many people twice their age. The members consist of Moxy Anne on lead vocals, Sydney Ellen on guitar and background vocals, Ignacio Barrientos on drums, and Shea Hamilton on bass. All have had some sort of formal training and their music is certainly not child’s play. They play a powerful brand of hard edged rock n’ roll with catchy and melodic vocal hooks along with a solid rhythm section and shredding guitars. They describe their music as a modern mix of all that was great in the 80’s hard rock scene, and all that continues to move audiences today. Discussing their influences in more detail Sydney Ellen says how they “…have a wide range of influences. Overall, we are influenced by classic rock greats such as AC/DC, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, The Runaways, Motley Crue, Journey, etc.  Moxy and I love to play acoustic Zeppelin covers, we’re currently working on Ramble On. As far as other genres go, we love Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, Robben Ford, Victor Wooten, Nirvana, Jack White, Wolfmother, The Foo Fighters, and Lamb of God.” Moxy Anne added, “I think we’re influenced by a whole lot of different artists because there’s good music everywhere.  Funk, classical, jazz, metal, straight-up rock – we love it all.  And Led Zeppelin is definitely a favorite in there.”

Coming onto the scene in 2013 the band is about to release their first full EP on iTunes and other digital music sites. It will also be available on their website and will feature the new song Breathe.Scream.Survive. They will also be leaving for a tour on June 5th doing 17 shows in 16 days covering 8 states and two countries, and over 5,000 miles. Sydney Ellen described how the band is “…super stoked to meet everyone.  I know I’ve talked to a lot of fans in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and other places who can’t wait for our shows on this tour.  The Breathe Scream Survive tour is gonna be so incredible.”

Moxy Anne

Moxy Anne

The band has been turning heads and getting a lot of recognition since they started. In December 2013 the band won a $100,000 fully-produced music video from the website from BigAndFamous.com. They made a video for the song ME4ME. When asked what the experience was like Sydney Ellen said, “It was a crazy experience! The whole thing was unreal. We feel honored to have worked with such an amazing cast and crew; everyone was so nice to us when we flew out to Florida. The Spanish monastery was a beautiful set as well. We worked really hard on that set. I think our longest day of shooting was about 18 hours. I remember being so tired because we had been head banging so much!” Moxy Anne interjected, “Dude–that was one of the worst head banging hangovers we ever had.  I like to call it that because it leaves your neck sore for days, ha ha, and you wake up feeling horrible!  It was an honor to work with director Helmut Montoya and the cast and crew on that music video and experience it all.  That was our first music video and we love the way it turned out.” Another accolade they received was in 2014 when Music Connection Magazine named them on their annual “Hot 100 Live Unsigned Artists” list. Despite the honor, Moxy Anne describes how the band is not exactly seeking out a record deal at the moment, she states, “We’ll be staying unsigned for a while, unless something changes.  Right now it’s nice to have the freedom of being unsigned but… if the right label came around and wanted us, I’m not so sure we’d turn them down.  It would have to be perfect now, though.”

Though this will be the band’s first self- released EP, Moxy Anne is not new to the world of music she started a solo music career in 2011 at age 14 releasing a single called Stand Up; a song with a metal feel that was co-written by her friend Jeremy Valentyne, although Moxy Anne says she has moved on from that now and she started to write in a different style not long after that. Hamilton is also a classically trained musician and Sydney Ellen was trained in songwriting by Gina Schock of The Go Go’s. When asked how these different backgrounds influence their music, Barrientos explained, “We’ve really all had some kind of training at some point.  I was trained for a few years back by a drum teacher who taught me basically how to learn those techniques and styles and such.  It’s really helpful, honestly, and we all consider ourselves lucky, we know a lot of people who haven’t been able to have that training, that time to spend on it.”  Sydney Ellen added, “I think it’s great that we can infuse different musical elements into our music. It’s great to bring the classical aspect considering that music has survived so many years and it is still proven to be genius. The goal for us, I think is to keep those aspects of music alive in our writing. I feel we begin with a standard power rock song and ask ourselves how we can incorporate some hints of other genres. I know I’m always asking myself if I can fit a few jazz chords in our originals and if it will enhance the song.”  Hamilton also explained that their training has “…been helpful because when we’re struggling and something seems like it’s not as easy as it could be we can always go back to that training and remember what they taught us and it really gets us through it faster. We love making our songs musically awesome, especially if that means putting in something other bands don’t typically do.  The other styles that we’ve learned have helped us to think outside the box with what we write and brainstorm new things.  It’s really fun.”

moxy cropThe band also discussed the role their parents played in their musical upbringing. Moxy Anne explained, “My parents would not have pushed me into anything, I bugged them to do musical stuff until they found me opportunities.  The voice lessons were their idea, but I didn’t mind it – and I’m glad they saw potential and wanted to help.  I’m lucky they got me singing so young and didn’t consider it a useless ambition.” Sydney Ellen also explained that the band’s parents played a big part in their early musical tastes: “Probably our loving parents were the ones who influenced us the most [musically]. I believe I got hooked because my mom would always be on the classic rock station in the car. I also remember loving Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty when I was around 4 years old.” Moxy Anne adds, “Same here. My parents got me into a lot of older pop music when I was younger, I listened to a lot of ABBA and Michael Jackson and even Journey in the kitchen when I was a tiny little kid.  Milli Vanilli had a song that I loved too,” she laughs. “But they also played a lot of older rock like Aerosmith and AC/DC and Zeppelin and even Metallica.  I think we just started loving good music when we heard it as kids, it wasn’t anything specific like ‘oh I only like 80’s music because I like that era’ it was more just ‘this is good music and I like it.’  I mean, Journey is Shea’s favorite band to this day.  As a kid, because of the music they played, I grew up knowing what kind of music I liked.  And we love recreating that style of music now because it really does work.”

Shea Hamilton

Shea Hamilton

Nearly all of the members are continuing to study music in college. Moxy Anne will be starting at Azusa Pacific University in the fall studying Commercial Music with a Vocal Emphasis. Sydney Ellen is currently working on her Bachelor of Music degree through Berklee College of Music’s online program. Barrientos is studying at Orange Coast College right now, though he is doing graphic design rather than music. Although this is still certainly a field that is important in the music industry, he explains that he’s hoping it will help him in the music world since designing art work is a major element of it. Hamilton is currently in high school and since joining the band has replaced Moxy Anne as the youngest member of the group, a title she is happy to “pass the torch” so to speak. As the youngest member of the band, Hamilton finds herself juggling both schoolwork with band work.  “I try to keep my grades up as high as I can, and I’ve managed to keep them all A’s.  It’s not easy with this band though,” she giggles.  “I literally just want to spend all my time on music and it’s impossible!” Along these same lines, one might wonder how Moxy Anne dealt with a solo music career while dealing with the typical drama of being a high school freshman back when she was 14 years old.  “I did have issues at the time.  Just, they were a little bit different from normal problems.  I pretty much have tried to stay away from drama in my youth.  It’s hard because sometimes you get sucked up into it but I was able to avoid a lot of it.  I started forming the solo career because I needed something to define myself; I needed to start being different.  We made a few efforts on our own (wrote several songs) but most of the headway was made under a development company that took me on for artist development at age 14.”

Ignacio Barrientos

Ignacio Barrientos

With all of this discussion on the band’s musical background, one begins to wonder how they make music these days.  Hearing the vocals and lead guitar on a song like Vampire Valentine the classical training is evident, but it’s not distracting or too showy, it really adds to the music. Moxy Anne explains that she tries very hard to sing with the technique her teacher taught her, a jazz teacher named is Gina Saputo. Moxy Anne explains, “With what she taught me, I can use that technique to literally sing for hours without damaging my voice.  I’ve really gotten a lot into technique and knowing my ‘instrument’ even though technically it’s not really an instrument. It’s very important to know what you’re doing so you don’t hurt yourself.  In this business, it’s way too easy to do.” With all four members having educational obligations in addition to their musical ones, when and how do they write new music?  “I think it all depends on the situation. Sometimes Iggi and I jam on our off days, come up with the song form, and then present it to the rest of the band. Other days Moxy and I are up at 3 am bouncing off lyrics. We tend to all work alone on our ideas and then come together, see how it fits, and go from there.” Moxy Anne also asserted, “The song ALIVE actually started with me ranting to someone about a person from my past and that person saying ‘Well, write a song about it!’  I wrote the chorus sitting upstairs on my bed, singing into the little voice memo recorder on my phone.  From there, I sent the song to the band and we started working on it.  It depends on the song, but almost all of our songs are a group effort eventually.  That’s how we like it!”

The band also enjoys jamming out on the occasional cover song during their live shows. Sydney Ellen describes, “We love to jam AC/DC! We’ve done some Pat Benatar covers in the past, Joan Jett, and Twisted Sister. I think our favorite song to cover is Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crue. It’s such a rockin’ song we all have fun with it.” Moxy Anne also added, “When I first met Sydney, we were in an all-girl band called The Raveyns.  It was our baby band. We were so dang young.” Apparently Sydney Ellen was 16 or 17, about the same age that Moxy Anne is now. Moxy Anne continued, “When we were in that band, we played a bunch of covers.  No Doubt and AC/DC were two of our favorites.  We also played Back In Black by AC/DC, unlike TNT, oh my gosh I hated singing that song.  It’s so high! It used to kill my voice. Ha ha, But as we grew as artists together, we hung onto that cover of TNT and kept doing it.  I’m so glad we did.  People now, when I tell them that we do a cover of AC/DC they’re like, ‘Wait, YOU do THAT song?  You tiny little short cute girl?  No you don’t.’  It’s really fun to prove them wrong.  And I realized something because of that song, I realized that anything is possible,” she laughs.  “Yes that sounds horribly cliché but it’s seriously true.  We don’t ever stop ourselves from a cover we want to do now because it’s something that sounds like a guy should sing, or anything like that.  We just go for it.  It’s really freeing.  And it’s the same with Kickstart actually, people are shocked to hear we play that song.  I think it’s really good for us.”

Moxy and the Influence’s tour starts on June 5th  at Whiskey Richards in Santa Barbara, CA and ends on Jul 31 at the Orange County Fair Hangar Stage in Costa Mesa, CA. Their music video for ALIVE directed by C.G. Ryche is currently available on You Tube. One thing is certain, you will be hearing much more from these guys in the future. Keep an eye out!

Find them on-line at:

http://www.moxyandtheinfluence.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MoxyAndTheInfluence

https://www.reverbnation.com/MoxyAndTheInfluence

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZgFEm7d5JQg9xqCBeyF9UQ

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