Making Extraordinary Music with Elena Charbila

LLL 3 | Making Extraordinary Music

LLL 3 | Making Extraordinary Music

 

What triggers the mind of a brilliant artist to make music that is eerie, celestial and exquisite? For today’s episode, we interview the fabulously talented Elena Charbila, aka Kid Moxie. Elena is a musician and actress based in Los Angeles and Greece. She talks about making extraordinary music, her own kind of music, that encompasses cinematic experiences and the different cultures and personas that influenced her art. She also takes us back to the story behind her character in the famous photograph “Kiss.” Discover how love affects her songs, what the future holds for her career, and her advice to young people aspiring to follow in her footsteps.

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Making Extraordinary Music with Elena Charbila

From the sparkling romantic shores of Greece to the sunny glitzy shores of Los Angeles, I am so excited to welcome on the show the fantastic and fabulously talented, Elena Charbila a.k.a. Kid Moxie.

It’s so good to be on this show with you. It’s so exciting.

How are you? Tell me where you are exactly.

I’m on the south side of Athens by the beach. It’s a little beach town about 30 minutes away from the center of Athens and it’s right on the beach. It’s like the equivalent of being in Venice Beach or something like that in LA.

How is the music scene over there?

Most people in Greece probably listen to a lot of folk music. When I say folk, I mean Greek folk music and there’s a younger audience that appreciates electronic music and the more international vibe that know who Billie Eilish and all those people. There’s definitely a big interest mostly in electronic rather than rock music.

I’ve been looking at everything you’ve been up to over the years and you’ve got a very impressive resume working with the David Lynch Foundation, critically acclaimed numerous albums, rave reviews in the likes of Entertainment Weekly and Stereogum, who describe your music as eerie, celestial, ode and exquisite. I love your music. Tell me how you create this extraordinary sound that is so Kid Moxie and I want to know why you’re called Kid Moxie but let’s talk about the sound first.

I didn’t set out to do a specific thing sound-wise. I just started knitting together sonic fabrics that I like to listen to. The atmosphere is key. I am not Bob Dylan. I don’t have something that important to say to the world. Atmosphere, music, composition comes before lyrics as far as I’m concerned. That’s probably why you have this dreamy element more than me preaching about something or having something super important to say. I just talk about experiences I’d like to have or I’ve had, but mostly dreams are something and the world. You talked about David Lynch. I was super lucky to meet him and collaborate with him and his composer, Angelo Badalamenti. Even before that, when I was a teenager in Greece, I wanted to be part of that world when I started watching their films because I feel like Angelo Badalamenti ‘s music and David Lynch’s films created a world that is so dense with the atmosphere that I felt that I wanted something to do with it. I wanted a piece of it, whether to be in it or make something that would remind me of the way I felt when I watched and listened to those films because it was an all-encompassing experience.

When I look at your videos that are extraordinary, unlike any other music videos I’ve ever seen. It’s brilliant and creative. Did you come up with the concepts for the videos themselves or do you work with a team of people?

I’m a bit of a control freak, so most of the times I either co-develop the concept or I oversee it. It’s very hard for me to have written a piece of music and have somebody completely do their thing with it, although I probably should let them because they have also to interpret it their way. There’s just one video called Museum Motel where I hand it over to this director in New Zealand and he completely ran with it and did something incredible that I would have never come up with. There is certain magic in letting people come up with what the music reminds them and then they create a visual world around it, but usually, I like to develop the concept with them.

How do you see your music developing over the next period of time?

It’s hard to say how it’s going to sound like in a few years. I know that I’m currently in the middle of finishing my latest album. That is not a far departure from where I have been because it’s who I am. I’m never going to start making thrash metal. I’m never going to start making folk music. I’m still going to be always within the realm of this cinematic pop scenes music. I don’t think I can fully depart from where I’ve already sailed my ship to, which is more of that cinematic pop, dreamy synth-pop that I feel best describes the identity of what I do. It’s not going to be a far departure from that. I’m more interested in making music for film and television and implementing more cinematic stuff. What you might experience is maybe fewer words at times because I’m exploring just music by itself without always having something to say on top of it. I’m a big fan of the British scene of Manchester early ‘80s, the darkwave and your sonic heritage. I have such immense respect for the British electronic scene. I’ve been very much influenced by that and even more so lately.

Which bands are you referring to in particular from the ‘80s?

Joy Division, Yazoo, Depeche Mode and anything Vince Clarke has ever laid his hands upon, who is the guy behind both and also Erasure.

Magic happens when you let people create a visual world around what a piece of music reminds them. Click To Tweet

I love Alison Moyet. I think she’s unbelievable.

New Order, Sisters of Mercy, it’s that whole scene of the early ‘80s in England. I don’t think it could have happened anywhere else. You had so much rain and post ‘70s depression that only this sound could have come out and it’s magical.

Where did Kid Moxie come from? What’s the story behind that interesting name of yours?

I’ve been probably using that name as my alias for many years. When I first was trying to come up with a name, I wanted to find something that could sound genderless, something that wouldn’t be too female or too male, something ambiguous, but with a punch. I found out during the process that Moxie was a Yiddish slang for somebody that had courage. I liked that word and also Kid jives with my personality because I like to experiment. I’m always up for exploring. It felt like Kid and Moxie and having something genderless jive together. I still stand by that choice.

I love that you seem very passionate about that. Talking of passion, this show is called For Love of Music. I think I’ve told you why it’s called For Love of Music because those are the two reasons that I moved to LA. Love is a huge reason why people write music. Love features in so many different songs. Is there a particular trigger song that you have that resonates a lot of love with you that makes you happy, that makes you sad? When you are writing, does love play an influence? How does love work for you with what you do?

It used to be that love would be explored through my songwriting on a fantasy realm. I would always write about things that I would imagine these scenes in my head that would be early stages of love. It’s always early stages. That’s the most poetic stage of love. It’s not the death of love. It’s not the reality of it, but it’s the beginning that’s almost like a drug. It’s almost like being under the influence. It would always be about starting something new and imagining that person, imagining all these scenes with them and that would feed a lot of the stuff I would write.

As I keep growing and having been in love, fallen out of love, having been hurt, having caused somebody to hurt and having all these experiences. I’ve been writing more and more about stuff that I have gone through, but always with a little bit of maybe sci-fi element to it. I always inject it with something that is not fully reality-based. There’s always a surreal element if I start thinking about it that plays a part in there. It could be the feeling that I’ve had for a real person, but instead of the real person, I might have a sexy alien in mind.

I have to say that your music is very sexy.

I cannot personally think like that because it comes out of me. I cannot think of me or my music as sexy, but I’m very happy to hear that somebody else considers it sexy. Sex is a massive force. It’s a powerful force. That means it exudes something powerful. That’s great to know.

It’s 100% sexy, emotive and passionate. It’s almost beyond love sometimes. It takes you to a place that perhaps you wouldn’t normally go to. I can’t even quite put into words where that place is, but you go on a journey, that is for sure.

I tend to think of it like that too. I think that’s pretty accurate. That’s how I perceived that as well.

You were telling me about your new collaboration with Lakeshore, which is super exciting. Tell us a little bit more about that.

I’m about to release my first soundtrack for a movie called Unpleasant. It’s an indie film that was filmed in Greece. I have a part in it as well. I’m acting in it, but more exciting than that, I composed the score for it, which is the first full score that I have composed. Lakeshore, which is the label behind some of my favorite soundtracks like Drive, Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Moonlight and all those amazing things is going to be releasing that score. It’s unbelievable and brilliant at the same time that they liked it enough that they’re going to do that.

Congratulations. That’s so exciting.

LLL 3 | Making Extraordinary Music
Making Extraordinary Music: The early stage of love is the most poetic. It is always about starting something new.

 

It’s definitely a dream come true.

I met you not necessarily through music. I met you through a mutual friend, the late photographer, Tanya Chalkin who took that amazing image The Kiss. You are one of the two girls in that image. It’s an iconic poster. I wondered if you could share a little bit about that experience. I’m doing this show out of the US where this image was literally on every student’s wall in their room whilst they were in university. It’s wildly known here and also around the world and you are one of the two girls in it. Tell me about that. Did you have music playing in the background? Do you remember? How can we bring it into the show?

We did have music playing. I was a teenager. I was studying in London. I was good friends with Tanya, the photographer. She had hired another model and she said, “Would you like to do this campaign? You’re going to be probably kissing with another girl and it’s going to be on a massive billboard in London on Tottenham Court Road. It was going to be for this company that was then called Queer Company and it was about gay lifestyles. I was like, “Sure, I’ll do it.” I thought it was going to be like a bleep. It was going to be this cool thing. You’ll be up in London for a little bit and then everybody would forget about it. I couldn’t be further from the truth. It was on the backs of all the buses and it was on the tube everywhere. I was young and it was a little overwhelming to see my half-naked body kissing this other girl everywhere I would go. It started causing a stir because it was the first image back then in early 2000 of two women kissing that was so widespread.

It got a massive backlash from both the straight community feeling like this is too much and the gay community because, believe it or not, the gay community was saying, “This is not real. These girls are too skinny and feminine. This is not portraying us in the right light.” Nobody was giving us the time of day. During the day of the photo-shoot, we did have music playing. We were both nervous, me and Tabitha, which is the other girl. I remember it was somewhere in east London at the studio. We started drinking a little bit of vodka and it was only maybe noon and then we completely went wild with each other. It was fun and we couldn’t stop making out for hours. It was a good day and it’s great energy. It was beautifully done. I’m very proud of it. I still keep seeing it on people’s profiles and on poster shops on Venice Beach. I feel pretty fortunate to have been part of this cool picture.

I’m grateful for that image because through that image I consequently met you. Elena is a very dear friend of mine. That makes it even more exciting for me to have her as one of my special guests. If you were stuck on a deserted island, do you have a top ten that you would listen to? Do you have a few favorite songs that you would take with you for eternity?

I would definitely take some Vangelis with me, not because I’m Greek and I have to bless my heritage. The Blade Runner soundtrack, for example, that would be somewhere on my top ten. I’m tempted to say Joy Division, but if I was on an island and I would listen to Joy Division, it’s already depressing enough to be on a deserted island for way too long. I would probably take a lot of soundtracks with me because I feel like you could elevate the experience a little bit more. I will have Vangelis and I would take Zbigniew Preisner who is this Polish massively well-known composer. He did one of my favorite movies, which is called Blue with Juliette Binoche. I would take that with me and I would definitely take all of the Michael Jackson discographies with me. For me, he is number one, always has since I was a kid and always will be. There’s nothing like Michael Jackson. Michael would be the number one thing I would take with me.

It’s an interesting question to ask because people have different answers from one another. Going back to love, has love ever guided you to make an unexpected decision in your career?

I don’t know if it has made me consciously make an unexpected decision for my career, but it has guided me through everything I’ve done in my life as far as how I spend my time and as far as what songs I write. I get very affected by relationships and emotions. I get enveloped and enraptured. All that good stuff and not good stuff at the same time, because I don’t think falling in love is necessarily a blessing. I was talking about this with a friend of mine. I think it’s also a curse because you tend to lose part of yourself when you fall in love with somebody. I tend to and I’m not super happy about that. I’m not always looking forward to falling in love.

Is there a song that makes you think of a particularly loving or passionate moment in your life?

There are tons of songs I can think about first love or since we’ve talked about Joy Division, I could think about Love Will Tear Us Apart. I’m pretty grim. That’s one thing that, unfortunately, most love affairs come to an end. Sometimes the reason they come to an end is love itself and how that makes people act and react to each other. I could think of some deeply depressing songs and that could be one of them, about love gone wrong. I can think about sweet songs by The Cars because it’s pretty pertinent to now. The song Drive by The Cars reminds me of my first love and being up all night driving around Athens and being wistful and No Ordinary Love by Sade. All these songs remind me of falling in love or falling out of love.

I’ve said this on my introductory podcast, but for me, The Sea by Morcheeba. That song was playing when I had my first kiss. That meant anything and that album will stay with me forever and ever. There were other kisses before that kiss, but this was the kiss that meant anything. Do you know what I mean?

Yeah, completely.

What can we expect next from Kid Moxie? What can we hear next? What can we see next? Fill us in.

There will be that soundtrack coming out for Unpleasant. I will have my next full-length album come out as well, which will be not a full-on departure from what you’ve heard from me in the past, but it will take it a step further. It has some more elements of darkwave. I’m also a part of a couple of projects that I’m not allowed to speak about like a video game that’s going to be super exciting. It’s that crappy thing that you cannot fully disclose what it is. I did my first video game where I was part of an ensemble that did this awesome video game that the gaming community and other people as well are going to be pretty stoked.

Find what makes you unique and follow that. Don't try to look and sound like somebody else. Click To Tweet

I’m going to be a bit morbid here. Elena Charbila, Kid Moxie, how would you like to be remembered? You have an amazing career and you’re going to continue having one creating all of this extraordinary music. What would you like your legacy to be?

I’m not sure if I can put it in one sentence, but it definitely is something that preoccupies me. I would be lying if I said that what I leave behind doesn’t preoccupy me just because we go through this world. If it’s a wall, I don’t want to leave it white. I want to write my own personal graffiti on it. If it’s through the music that I’ve made or films that I’ve been a part of. I don’t know how many people it will reach in the end, but however many people have felt something that meant something to them, that they can hold on to, that speaks to or they can relate to. Because art is about relating to whatever the subject is. If people can relate to what I’m describing or what I’m communicating through sound, through words and through images. If they’re connecting to that, that’s enough.

It’s all about connection. I’m going to make this cosmic, but we all came from one big bang. I feel like we keep expanding away from each other. Everything keeps expanding away from one another. In the era that we’re currently in with social media, we keep expanding even further away from each other as atoms, as energies. If what I’ve done has connected me more to my tribe or two tribes of people that want to connect with what I’m making, then that’s my legacy. It’s about connecting throughout years to come to some people.

Do you feel that being a woman in the music industry has been an obstacle or a benefit? How did you feel about being a female in this business?

I don’t know if it has been an obstacle. If it has been an obstacle, it’s been behind my back. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on things because I’m a woman. In this day and age, it’s an advantage. There’s a massive spotlight on female composers and on female artists and that’s a blessing. I hate that word because it’s so LA to say it’s a blessing, but I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s a blessing to be a woman in the music industry now. If you weren’t before, you are definitely given the opportunity now to shine even more.

You split your time between Greece and Los Angeles. How do you find the difference in two for your work?

When you make music, you don’t have to be necessarily in one place. You can do it from anywhere. Greece gives me a different type of inspiration. LA gives me a different type of inspiration. I love both places. One is a chosen home, which is LA. One is where I come from, which is Athens. They both infiltrate knowingly and unknowingly into what I do just because I think in Greek mostly. I don’t think in English that much. I think that definitely has to play a role in what I do, but then I have the mentality of California, which is much more liberal, much more forward-thinking than what I feel Greece is about. It’s all-encompassing like I don’t know where one starts and one ends. I’m split. That’s a great thing and it’s an unsettling thing at the same time because there’s no one home.

If you think in Greek but you sing in English, how does that work?

I can translate my thoughts, but I don’t feel like singing in Greek if that’s what you mean. I don’t feel like that’s the language that I prefer to sing. It’s definitely a more complicated language. It’s a gorgeous language and it’s very juicy as far as meanings and all that stuff, but it’s not my chosen language of expressing with songs at least.

Tell us what instruments you play because I know you’re incredibly musical.

I’m not a great instrument player in any of the instruments I’m going to mention, but I do play them. I’m not a good piano player, but I play the piano. I’m not a good bass player, but I do play bass and I’m not a good drummer, but I drum. The reason why I’m saying that is because nobody would hire me to be their piano person. I am not a session player. Nobody would hire me to be their drummer. Nobody would hire me to be their bass player necessarily, although I did play bass for Michael Bublé for a while. That was mostly for show. We did videos and commercials together, but no one would hire me for my skills. I say that not self-deprecatingly but more with the awareness that I’m not a good instrumentalist, but I know enough to compose using those instruments for my own music.

Finally, if you had any tips of advice for youngsters wanting to get into the business and follow in your footsteps, what would those words of wisdom be?

Find what makes you unique and follow that. Don’t try to look and sound like somebody else. People can feel that. It’s like a smell of desperation when you try to emulate other people’s patterns other than your own. Try to find what makes you unique and special and be that because nobody else is going to beat you on your own game.

Thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure and so interesting to hear what you have to say.

LLL 3 | Making Extraordinary Music
Making Extraordinary Music: You can do music from anywhere. Each place will give you a different inspiration and a way of thinking.

 

It’s been fun. It felt like in run by super-fast.

We have to do it again. When your new material is coming out, we’ll jump back on again and anything you want to promote, I’m always here.

I would love it.

Lots of love.

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About Elena Charbila

LLL 3 | Making Extraordinary MusicKid Moxie is the musical moniker of Greek born Elena Charbila, bass playing singer and actress based in Los Angeles.Kid Moxie was founded in East Los Angeles in 2009. During that year Kid Moxie per-formed at local venues around the L.A area while writing her first album “Selector” which was released in 2009 by Undo Records/EMI Greece.

From 2009-2012, Kid Moxie was also involved with the David Lynch Foundation, where some of her music was featured. This is a non-profit label featuring exclusive tracks by leading artists like Moby, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop and Maroon 5 among others. Kid Moxie’s second full length album, titled “1888”, (released 2014 by Undo Records/ EMI Greece) featured collaborations with artists such L.A producer and DJ sensation The Gaslamp Killer and Twin Peaks legendary composer Angelo Badalamenti with whom she worked on a new version of ‘Mysteries Of Love’ which he co-wrote with David Lynch and had been originally recorded with Julee Cruise. “She’s a great talent that brings her own voice and artistry which I appreciate very much” said Badalamenti. They recorded a new version of “Mysteries of Love,” which premiered in Vogue (http://bit.ly/2PMUkeR). The video premiered by Vice (https://bit.ly/2Uo246h) and later featured at the Ace Hotel in LA at David Lynch’s annual soiree. “1888” re-ceived substantial international press coverage by some of the world’s top outlets like Vogue, Noisey, Stereogum and many more. Entertainment Weekly called the al-bum “John Carpenter-esque synthesizers as the foundation for icy pop songs with a hint of new wave,” while Stereogum described her sound as “eerie, celestial, odd and exquisite.”

Her latest full length release titled “Perfect Shadow” ( released 2016 by West One Music Group), also features collaborations with The Gaslamp Killer and remixes by Astronautica (Alpha Pup Records) and European electropop sensation Marsheaux (undo/EMI) amongst others. Her last music video “Dirty Air” premiered on Noisey (http://bit.ly/2PQIhgq), who called the track “very cinematic, very Drive,” and the album premiered as a full album stream on Nylon (http://bit.ly/2Pnna66), who found it “refreshing to be treated to an album as conceptually whole from the sweep-ing, dreamlike intro to the eerily whistled finale.” “Perfect Shadow” also received some great attention from the press by the likes of Nylon, Vice, Noisey, Earmilk and many more.

In addition, her music has been used by multiple TV commercials including Victoria’s Secret ad campaign, video games and several TV shows and numerous indie films. Lakeshore Records will be releasing her most recent soundtrack composition— for the upcoming feature film “Unpleasant” (in which she also acts).

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