USC music industry students compete for success in electronic dance music world – Annenberg Media
Electronic dance music tends to conjure up images of ecstatic faces dressed in neon and seasoned with glitter waiting for the next bass, not surfing with your best friend and then relaxing with an herbal tea.
But for Marius Bell, 20, and Garrett Murphy, 21, the latter was precisely how they took their first steps in realizing their musical ambitions.
Bell and Murphy are two music industry majors at USC with big ambitions for their band, Styling With Ease. Styling With Ease released their first song, âYour Intuition,â last November; now the focus has shifted to their next single and more gigs.
âWe’re just trying to express ourselves through the music and put it in a tangible form that people can enjoy,â Bell said.
The first time the two Styling With Ease members collaborated on a song was in class. It wasn’t an instant classic.
âIt was horrible, but we had a great time,â Murphy said.
So while the music took a while to appear, the connection between the two was almost immediate.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Murphy drove six hours from Amelia Island, Florida, where he was staying with his family, to Bell’s hometown of Miami. They devoted the following weekend to music only – with a few herbal teas here and there.
âInstead of expression through lyrics or chords, it’s more like expression through sounds and sound design,â Bell said of electronic dance music.
Electronic dance music, commonly referred to as EDM, is characterized by a high tempo with heavy bass and synthesizer sounds, among other characteristics. It is widely associated with raves or festivals.
However, Bell and Murphy’s musical backgrounds did not feature EDM.
Bell’s earliest memories of music are hearing tracks from Aerosmith on a tour of Walt Disney World and his father listening to U2. He ended up playing in a myriad of bands throughout high school, namely one named The Transparent Tones alongside a childhood friend.
Murphy usually didn’t follow the music until he attended an EDM concert at Vanderbilt University and understood “the different energy in the crowd.”
Both learned the piano early in their lives. Now, they enjoy the freedom offered by EDM.
âThere are no rules,â Garrett said. âNo borders,â Bell quickly added.
At the same time, Styling With Ease is aware that she must find a balance between the creative freedom of EDM and her own aspirations for success. This difficult task is further complicated for Bell and Murphy simply because they have to be on a college campus as they try to establish themselves.
Styling With Ease often plays USC hatchbacks where students, Murphy said, will be clamoring for popular songs like âHeads Will Rollâ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs rather than original content.
âElectronic music can be stressful because everyone has their own perception of the music they love,â Bell agreed. âSo when you control that some people just don’t vibrate and it can weigh you down mentally. Like, am I playing the right song for this setting? “
This is a question that Styling With Ease will have to face more often as their success grows and they prioritize their brand. This includes a new single “Kerosene” with Jack August coming out around the start of the holiday season, as well as their first merchandise items.
Bell and Murphy know this is just the start, but they’re committed to making Styling With Ease a household name.
âIt’s like we’re launching a niche project that hopefully can become something that we gain traction and follow to the point where we can branch out and create a label or attract new artists or work on. production for other people, âsays Murphy.