The Kid’s Gotta Lotta Moxie: Elena Charbila’s journey to becoming Kid Moxie, an L.A.-based cinematic electro-pop artist extraordinaire, is one that is long and storied. Originally from Athens, Greece, Charbilla was a child actor who was familiar with TV work from an early age.
When she started dabbling in music, she played bass in goth and rock bands, and eventually landed bigger gigs backing the likes of Canadian jazz singer Michael Bublé. Having left Greece and starting to establish herself, Charbila made the decision to do her own thing and Kid Moxie was born.
“I just figured, about 10 years ago or so, that I wanted to take control and play my own music,” she says. “My own notes. Write my own scripts, and perform them the way I wanted to. That’s when I started doing my solo stuff.”
Naturally, her sound has evolved. She admits that she cringes when looking back on some of her “homemade, riot grrrl pop.”
“It doesn’t feel right for what I want to be now,” she says. “So I would say now, I do retro-futuristic pop, or cinematic pop. Every song is based on a scene that’s playing in my head. I love soundtracks – that’s what I’m into and what I also do, apart from my pop stuff. But even my pop music is very cinematic. Even if it has words.”
Kid Moxie never lived in Athens as an adult, though she’s aware of strong synthwave and goth scenes in Greece and across Europe. She first moved to San Francisco for school, before settling in Los Angeles.
“I’m so, so in love with the city,” she says. “My new album is about love, sex and L.A. That’s what I like to say, because those are three things that have really shaped me in many ways. I fell in love with L.A. – it was like instant. I love the feeling, even if it’s an illusion, that anything can come true. I live in that space way better than any sort of harsh realism that ‘you cannot do this,’ ‘there’s a limit to this.’” No. This city is like, ‘You can be whoever you want. ‘I feel like everybody comes here to become something different than what they were before, and that’s why I came here – to become closer to myself, actually.”
It wasn’t long after she moved to Los Angeles that Elena Charbila became Kid Moxie.
“When I first moved to L.A., I noticed a bottle of Moxie Cola in the garbage, and the logo was so interesting to me,” she says. “I loved the ‘X’ especially. I was looking for a band name at the time, and I was like, ‘I need to do something that has Moxie in it because it just sounds powerful and badass, and genderless.’ I wanted a name that was genderless, feeling like I was experimenting a lot. I was like, ‘Kid – Kid Moxie,’ it all came together. I didn’t mind people thinking I’m a dude from the name.”
So the foundation was in place, and Kid Moxie was up and running. Still, as much as she loves L.A., she doesn’t yet feel connected with the scene here.
“I don’t really feel part of any music scene, to be honest,” she says. “I feel like I’m in my own little bubble, especially the last few years. I never really felt like I belonged in a collective as much. It was always feeling very individual. It was me, my laptop and the city. But that’s where I felt more like myself, more productive and creative.”
The new album that she mentioned is Better Than Electric, and it was mostly written and recorded in L.A., during the pandemic.
“I did travel to Europe and finished it in Germany with the producer Faderhead – a dark, hardcore electro dude,” she says. “My stuff is very dreamy, and he brought in the bass, the grime and the dirt that sometimes creeps up on the album. Also, the producer Maps on Mute Records from England was attached, produced and helped me with it. But it was mostly done here at my home studio in Downtown LA, looking at the skyline and feeling very Bladerunner-y, especially during the pandemic. That was the vibe.”
The pandemic, she says, affected the timing of the album’s rollout but ended up aiding the creative process somewhat.
“I felt that things were still, and when you’re still, you can go deeper in many ways,” she says. “The stillness helped me personally, with many things, and one of them being exploring the sounds more. Digging further in. What is better than electric? And what does this mean? I still don’t know, by the way. It struck me as a title. I don’t know what this means, but it feels powerful and I’m all about surrealism. Not knowing what things are but knowing how they make you feel. I just held on to that feeling.”
As she says, the themes that tie the album together are love, sex and L.A. A great example of that is new single “On a Sunday Night.”
“Sunday is a little more lonesome than Saturday,” she says. “On a Saturday night, it’s more clubby. On a Sunday night it’s like, who goes out on a Sunday night and what do they do? I’m always obsessed with the notion of a Sunday night for people that don’t have normal 9-5 jobs. It’s the most romantic night in my head, for some reason. And the darkest, in a way. The video is basically part of a trilogy. ‘Better Than Electric’ was love. ‘Shine’ was sex. ‘On a Sunday Night’ is dreams and Los Angeles. I’m playing a chauffeur, picking up passengers in West Hollywood in this old ‘70s Cadillac and giving them the experience they need. It’s a fantasy Uber in Hollywood.”
With the album and singles out, Kid Moxie already has plenty planned for the rest of the year.
“I’m writing the soundtrack for a show called Milky Way, directed by a Greek director who won the Palme D’Or in Canne last year, Vasilis Kekatos,” she says. “I just finished an EP, a synthwave EP of live songs between two girls. Me and NINA, a German synthwave artist. She’s like my German doppelganger. We recorded it in Berlin a few months back and it’s coming out at the end of the year. It’s all about ‘80s, synthwave, retro futuristic goodness, sang by two women, to each other.”
The fun, apparently, never ends.
The Kid’s Gotta Lotta Moxie: Kid Moxie’s Better Than Electric album is out now.