Student artist messyroom* delivers an EP ‘juxtaposing the cute with the bombastic’

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Student singer-songwriter Juno Raphael (senior) plays guitar in her home in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 10, 2022. Kawena Jacobs/The Occidental

The first lyrics of Juno Raphael (senior) a.k.a messyroom*’s new EP “a_start*” are declared over ambient synth plucks and a gentle piano melody, setting the tone for a project that Raphael said tackles growing up and the disillusionment that comes with it.

“It’s about imperfection and just trying things,” Raphael said. “And so that was very much the process of putting the songs together, too. I’m just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.”

Raphael began as a guitarist for Bay Area indie punk band UNPOP and said that a large part of her journey in making music has been experimenting with genres and finding her own sound.

“I coined this tongue-in-cheek term ‘emotronica,’” Raphael said. “Because it’s these emo songs gussied up with some electronic elements. My biggest genre inspirations are hyperpop, emo and DIY.”

Raphael is represented by Occidental’s student-run record label Orange Crush Records, and she is the first artist to sign and release music under them. According to the label’s president, Cleo McKenzie, who is also a close friend of Raphael, she stood out for her innovative musical style and impressive lyricism.

“When we were sitting down to decide what kind of music we wanted to release under Orange Crush, we wanted it to be different,” McKenzie said. “[Raphael’s] music is really unique; I’ve never heard anything like that.”

Nov. 5, Orange Crush put together a special release event for Raphael called Lip Gloss Party that featured a line-up of both DJs and other performers like TAMAGOTCHI MASSACRE and Digifae. The event was hosted by Catch One, a night club and music venue in LA. Raphael said that while she has performed many times with UNPOP, she was excited to showcase her own songs to a new audience.

“It was definitely the first time I ever felt like I was performing at a ‘real’ venue with songs that I felt like really reflected me,” Raphael said. “Also, I don’t think I’d ever played with a lineup of people I admired as much – crazy lineup.”

Although Raphael explores topics like her personal growth and experience as a transgender woman, she said she is not nervous to perform and share the songs with others, especially as she gets to represent voices that are not heard as frequently in mainstream music.

“I think it’s fun to lean into the melodramatic sometimes,” Raphael said. “But I also incorporate some elements to distance myself from the performance, like using effects on my voice. That’s one tool that I’ve picked up from hyperpop, the ability to conceal or reveal based on what you are comfortable with.”

Dani Cooke, a close friend of Raphael, first met her at an LA Engage program during their first year, and found that Raphael’s music resonates with her as a senior who will be graduating next semester.

“[There’s] this kind of moment you’re starting to see a future for yourself, and it’s unsteady, and uncertain,” Cooke said. “But it’s a start, right? It’s progress. There’s all this joy in that. That’s something I see in the album and certainly relate to.”

Raphael will also be graduating in the spring as a music major with a production concentration. As she has studied music, she said she has struggled with feeling underrepresented in the content, something she hopes to change as an artist.

“I feel like so much of music education is very focused on the old, the already established,” Raphael said. “In my experience, what I’ve seen in academia, there’s not a lot of excitement about more groundbreaking music. I used to feel really hopeless about that, and now I’m like ‘it’s [my] job to make that connection, to make a place for people like [me].’”

With that goal in mind, Raphael said she hopes to be making music as much as possible, as well as performing and releasing new material.

“If I can make a living off of it and not feel completely burned out all the time, then obviously that’s something I’m interested in,” Raphael said. “But I feel very fortunate right now to be able to just be making music that excites me and expresses what I’m experiencing.”

Raphael said she has also enjoyed the business aspect of music, promoting herself and spreading the word of her music with the help of Orange Crush. Both Raphael and McKenzie said they will be selling CDs of the EP on the Academic Quad soon.

You can listen to “a_start*” on most major streaming platforms and can keep up with both Orange Crush Records and messyroom* on Instagram at @orangecrushrecords and @messyroomstar.

Contact Kawena Jacobs at jacobsk@oxy.edu