Activism and music often make for a perfect pair—as local three-piece Selexa knows well.
Oscar Escobar (guitar and vocals), Holden River Hartle (bass) and Isabella De Queiroz (drums) are as passionate about current issues as they are about rockin’. The band’s debut single, “Tidal IX,” combines grunge-punk elements with feminist lyrics, delivering a punch in the face with a message.
“Tidal IX”—we’ll get to the spelling in a minute—refers to an office at California State University, Channel Islands, where Escobar lived in the dorms as a freshman. The office, which handles sexual assault victim-advocacy issues at the school, is named for the groundbreaking 1972 civil rights law, which barred discrimination based on gender in education.
“I remember walking the halls, and people would always say, ‘My friend got caught in some Title IX,’” Escobar said during a recent chat with the band members over Zoom. “I never knew what that meant, so my friend explained to me that … ‘she got caught in Title IX’ means she was sexually assaulted. This is the vanilla version of saying it; people feel uncomfortable actually saying ‘sexual assault.’ ‘Title IX’ just became the term college kids used to talk about the many cases that happen.
“I would hear about it more and more, and I have a bunch of friends who have gone through it and have never got their justice. As a straight man, I just feel really helpless, because I can’t sympathize with what they’re going through. I never have to worry about walking at night alone—so I just get really angry about it. I showed up; River had that angry riff; Isabella was pounding her drums; and I just started going.
“The way I write lyrics, I just freestyle. We record ourselves playing, and I’ll just say stuff into the mic that I’m mad about. I was mad about Title IX that day.”
So … why is a song referencing Title IX spelled “Tidal IX”?
“At one rehearsal, our old drummer, Richie, wrote down ‘Tidal IX’ instead of Title IX, because he didn’t know about the clause, and just thought of tidal waves,” Escobar said. “The name stuck.”
Hartle said the band got its start thanks to a flyer.
“I was getting coffee, like I did every morning before school,” Hartle said. “I saw this flyer for a band called Bliss that was looking for a bass-player. I had never played bass with other people before, but after some encouragement from my friends, I went to an audition. Oscar and I gelled really well, and we’re still here a year and a half later. I was really more of a drummer and guitarist at the time. Bass was something that I’d never really practiced, but I figured, how hard could it be?
“Since being in the band, my role as a bassist has changed a lot. Now I have a pedal that allows me to play lead alongside Oscar. It’s been really cool to watch my skills develop.”
Selexa’s previous drummer was Oscar’s cousin.
“They asked me to come jam, and we talked back and forth about that for about a year,” Queiroz said. “Eventually we jammed, and the three of us clicked like that. Then we were like, ‘What are we gonna tell the other drummer?’”
Added Hartle: “We knew from the first rehearsal that this was our drummer. She immediately came in and was on top of it. We have a really great chemistry with her.”
Amid the lineup changes, the band has also experimented with different names.
“Bliss was our original name,” said Escobar. “I came up with Bliss, because our old drummer and I were really into WWE. My favorite wrestler always used the word Bliss, so when we were thinking of a name, we landed on Bliss. It wasn’t until we were about to release our demo when I looked up Bliss, and I saw there were a million people who use that in their artist name.
“We landed on Celexa, because that’s the medicine I used to take for my depression. I stopped taking it when I started playing music, because I got a lot happier. … We got a really good following on TikTok—then the pharmaceutical company that owns Celexa emailed me and told us not to use the name anymore. We went from a ‘C’ to an ‘S.’”
Added Hartle: “We’re just a local band, and this big company that has nothing better to do came along and told us to not use the name. We’re not even hurting anyone!”
The band had originally planned to release an album this year—but the pandemic helped the members realize they weren’t ready to do so.
“Without shows, we just have a lot of time to rehearse and write,” said Escobar. “We just wanted to hone in our skills and songs. It was always the plan to record in July. Once COVID hit, we realized that the songs weren’t at the stage we wanted them to be—so that’s when we got Isabella. It was exciting, but also a bit intimidating.”
Shortly after adding Queiroz, the band found itself at Sondy Studios.
“I was really nervous,” Hartle said. “I had never played bass before being in this band, and now I’m recording music that’s gonna be heard by a bunch of people. That’s a really scary thought. The first day in the studio, we were really stiff, and weren’t playing to our greatest strengths.”
Queiroz, too, was nervous.
“We had to record drums the first day, so it was just me there,” she said. “It was my first time playing on a recording, so I really didn’t want to fuck it up. It’s also with a producer who we didn’t know. We didn’t know this guy or the vibe.”
Added Hartle: “After a few days, we got comfortable with the studio and the engineer. We definitely found our spot.”
Selexa released “Tidal IX” on Nov. 19. In the month that followed, the song received more than 4,200 Spotify streams and a steady following on TikTok.
“The cool thing about ‘Tidal IX’ is that it didn’t take us a lot of takes,” Escobar said. “That’s my first vocal take, one of Isabella’s first, one guitar, and one or two bass tracks. It got released so quick because it really didn’t take a lot to get it done.
“We have four other songs that we recorded a while ago, and those will go alongside ‘Tidal IX’ on our upcoming EP that will be out soon. We really don’t have a date yet, because we’re still getting them mixed. We recorded with Jake Sonderman, but we weren’t entirely happy with the way the mixes came out. I sent it to Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden), who didn’t like them, either, and now we’re going through the mixing process all over again.”
The band plans to keep releasing music with a message.
“It’s really nice that, because of TikTok, we’ve been able to reach people all over the world,” said Escobar. “They see that we’re very up front and very vocal about what we believe in, and they can identify with it. We get messages from transgender males and females saying that it’s really nice to have a band that openly supports them, and that they feel really safe listening to us.”
Added Queiroz: “This band is very inclusive with everybody. We’re a safe band. … I’m proud to say that I’m in this band, and I trust these two men with my drink.”