As the winter might be hitting most of us in the Northern Hemisphere in full force, let’s turn up the heat here on The Headbanging Moose by paying a humble tribute to an up-and-coming lady who definitely knows how to rock, living and breathing old school and modern-day Hard Rock, and always showcasing a deep passion for music and arts in general. Owner of a beautiful voice that matches perfectly with the riffs from her own band Motive Black, our metal lady of the month of February will kick your ass mercilessly and hypnotize you with her looks and music. I’m talking about Elana Justin, a New Yorker who’s making a name for herself in the competitive American market, in special in her current city Los Angeles, California, in the United States. Having said that, are you ready for a Rock N’ Roll ride together with Elana and her Motive Black?
Elana has always been into music, growing up doing musical theatre and singing Hard Rock and Heavy Metal simultaneously. As mentioned by Elana herself, her father had a nightclub while she was growing up, and on Thursdays they would have a singer-songwriter night. “I think watching and listening to everyone during that time really inspired me to want to be a singer/performer,” commented Elana about her beginnings. Graduating from the bar band circuit in New York, Elana seized the opportunity to move to Los Angeles in 2018 to work on new music, suddenly finding herself immersed in the local scene and performing on open mic nights at the iconic Viper Room. That immersion and connections made with members of the local scene eventually led to a collaboration with Grammy-winning guitarist and producer Nick Rowe (Bloodsimple, Vampire Weekend), with the duo reworking a song from Elana’s former New York band, taking the music in a heavier direction. That’s how Motive Black was born.
Regarding the name Motive Black, Elana mentioned in one of her interviews that they had a lot of trouble coming up with a name for the band. “David Buckner from Papa Roach actually came up with the name, and it fit perfectly. It really paired well with the music and vibe,” commented Elana, who also had a few words to say about the musical direction of Motive Black, venturing through the realms of Alternative Rock and Metal with Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll nuances. “I think the music both developed naturally and was pushed a little in a certain direction. I’ve always listened to and been a fan of this genre, and when the opportunity arose to create my own new project, I was definitely excited to really delve deep into the music I love.” Furthermore, Elana’s plan is to turn Motive Black into a full-bodied band, both in the interest of touring and future work on new music as they move forward.
Motive black are just about to release their debut opus, entitled Auburn (available on all platforms HERE), with Elena’s electrifying vocals bristling with a dynamic punch and scorching tones infusing all songs with raw, ferocious timbres and searing emotions. Regarding the album title, Elana explained that the album “is named for my sister’s beautiful auburn-colored hair. Losing her forced me to reexamine my life and make significant changes. I went through a huge transitional period which included both ugly and beautiful experiences. The album is a wild ride through that journey of anger, mania, deep love, and self discovery,” complementing by saying that “I lost my sister to her battle with addiction. She was one of the smartest women I will ever know. She was a straight-A student who aspired to be a doctor. Addiction does not discriminate. I am angry that she will never realize her dreams. This song is about loss, struggle, rage, but mostly it’s about missing my sister and all of her potential. I will never laugh with anyone like I did with Mia. We need to end the stigma associated with addiction. People are meant to be loved, not judged. I miss Mia every day, and I will for my whole life.” You can already enjoy songs from Auburn on YouTube, those being Broken, Fight Alone, and the title-track Auburn, as well as stream those songs on Spotify. Elana is extremely excited about not only the launch of Auburn, but also about the upcoming months as she plans to take the music by Motive Black to the stage, and therefore to feel the energy of the crowd reacting to her music.
Inspired by books, poetry, short stories, films and plays, Elana’s musical influences aren’t directly associated with the Motive Black sound, but they provided a solid foundation for the music to flourish. She cites Joan Jett, Alanis Morissette, and Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell as her main vocal inspirations, with bands like Halestorm pushing Motive Black’s music in the direction it has taken. “I’m a huge Halestorm fan; Lzzy Hale is a huge inspiration. I’m also really into Bring Me The Horizon lately. I really love their creativity. Rival Sons was the last live show I saw before Covid. They were incredible. The vocals and musicianship left a huge impression on me,” commented Elana about some of the bands she enjoys the most. In addition, when asked which musician or celebrity she would date, her answer exhaled pure Rock N’ Roll. “I would have to say, Joan Jett. She oozes sex and power. She so inspires me, and just being around her would expand my consciousness.”
One of the songs from Motive Black’s debut album, the thrilling Lift Me Up, featuring the red hot synergy of Elana performing together with Butcher Babies’ one and only Carla Harvey in a street fighting sequence fans will want to view on repeat. “I wanted the video to focus on female strength. The director and I worked together to come up with an idea that spoke to that. It was also fun to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I’ve never done anything combat related so it seemed like it would be a fun avenue to explore. The director, Dale Resteghini, also directed the video for Broken. I’m a Butcher Babies fan, so when the song was played for Carla and she agreed to perform on it I was super excited. Carla is a great example of a badass woman killing it in the music industry. I think her vibe fits the song perfectly. She really added something special to Lift Me Up. Working together really brought the song up to a new level,” commented Elana, complementing by saying that “I think it’s really important for people to see women working together to create music and art. We keep seeing it more and more and it’s so exciting. It’s essential for women in this industry to stick together and support each other. There is so much more female visibility in this kind of music than there was even just a few years ago.”
When questioned about the differences between the rock and metal scene in New York on the lower east side compared to the music scene on the legendary Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, Elana said that she has felt really embraced by the scene in Los Angeles since moving there, jamming at the Viper Room and meeting tons of talented musicians, as there’s always a lot going on in the city. When asked about how her hometown has influenced her sound, she said that she thinks there is a rawness that runs through every song that may not be present had she been from somewhere else. “Who knows? I’m pretty laid back in general, I think and love living here in LA now. I save all my angst for the music!”
Elana strongly believes that drawing from experience gives the lyrics legs to stand on. “When something comes from a real place it almost writes itself. People want to connect – so I think songs from experience really resonate with listeners,” commented our diva, also saying that “everything that I write is emotion or experience driven, but sometimes a cool riff inspires lyrics that come out of nowhere and you work backwards to find the truth in them. It doesn’t always work – but there isn’t just one recipe I use. Other times I have something very specific that I want to say or reference and then I work with that to express what I am trying to get across.” She also believes that to be a successful musician or artist, especially in the very competitive landscape of the current music and arts industry, one should never give up, and be willing to persevere when times are tough or when there are too many obstacles that get in one’s way. Elana is indeed a fighter ready for any battle that comes her way, as not only she’s now beginning her path with Motive Black, but she’s also an actress (as you can see in her IMDB profile), having already featured in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) and The Jim Gaffigan Show (2015).
Although our amazing singer has never been big into social media, she said she’s been adjusting to that as that’s going to play a big part in the way Motive Black connect to their fans and share their music for the foreseeable future. “I believe the more we can connect directly with our fans, the better chance we have not only to survive – but to thrive, long term. Having loyal fans who are really into what we do – and are directly connected to us – the better chance we have to remain viable long term, no matter what the industry circumstances are,” said Elana, who also said that she wants people to hear her songs and reinterpret them into something that is meaningful to them. She wants us all to “be bold, be brave and always keep moving forward,” exactly like what she’s doing in her promising career in rock and metal music, and I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more from her in a not-so-distant future.
“I want people to hear my songs and reinterpret them into something that is meaningful to them. I want them to empower, and be an outlet for whoever is listening.” – Elana Justin