Interview – Elana Justin of Motive Black

Interview – Elana Justin of Motive Black

Sometimes we need to stumble before we can walk, and in many cases, experience offers the the best education. A native New Yorker, Elana Justin was surrounded by music from a young age, and in exchange, went onto form her own bands years later. Pursuing her dreams, she would hone her skills on the Rock scene, dabbled a little in acting, before being reborn with her new project Motive Black. A turning point in Justin’s career, Motive Black is an exciting new act with raw, powerful vocals, razor sharp heavy guitars, and lyrical content that is emotionally driven.

Releasing the album Auburn February 10th, the debut from Motive Black also features an all-star cast of guests including Marcos Curiel of P.O.D., Ray Luzier of Korn, and Carla Harvey of Butcher Babies. Standing out in 2023 among other Hard Rock releases, the album is powerful, real, and certainly one you are going to want to check out. Feeling like all the pieces are coming together in her life, Elana Justin recently took the time to talk about her journey in music, the formation of Motive Black, the story behind the songs, plus more. 

Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music for some time now. You have worked with other bands and now have Motive Black. Briefly tell us a little about the story behind your artistic inspiration and what has led us to this point in your career?

Elana Justin – I’ve always been very connected to music. Early on it was much easier to express myself through music than speaking. As a kid, my dad had a club in Manhattan and there was always a lot of really cool music happening there. On Thursdays there was a singer-songwriter night which I was sometimes allowed to attend. I think seeing all the amazing songwriters, who were predominantly women, make music really left an impression on me. I had a band in New York which I loved, but I’m a big fan of change and when I got the opportunity to work on my own project I jumped at it.

Cryptic Rock – So, your love for music is very deep rooted. As you allude to, Motive Black seems to be more of a solo project than a band. Is that a fair assessment? How did Motive Black, the concept, and the music come about for you?

Elana Justin – I initially came out to Los Angeles to do a couple Warped Tour shows. I had been working on some new music and wanted to test it out. I met Nick Rowe, my producer, and we started writing together. I didn’t really have anything to go back to in New York so I moved permanently and bothered everyone until they agreed to work with me.

It is more of a solo project for sure, but I am open to writing with my band on future records. I miss writing with a band, I think it’ll be fun to mix it up on the next album. I was going through a lot of change and I think that really inspired what I wrote about. I was kind of working my life out as the album was being created. I was definitely cathartic. The project kept growing as Nick and I kept collaborating, it was a really fun organic process.

Motive Black – Lift Me Up / AFM Records

Motive Black – Caged / AFM Records

Cryptic Rock – And the result is very good. The album, Auburn, just came out recently on February 10th. To be honest, this album sticks out from others on the current Hard Rock scene. The songs are well written, the passion feels real, and the production is top notch. What was the writing and recording process like?

Elana Justin – We recorded most of Auburn in Nick’s converted garage studio. We didn’t really know what the end result would be, nor did I have a timeline so we got to really play around. My sister lost her battle with addiction the year prior to my starting Motive Black, so the album is really influenced by the impact that had on my life. I would come in with something I had written, or he would have a cool riff and we would go from there. It was really laid back and collaborative, each song came to be in its own unique way. I was basically baring my soul to the back of Nick’s head while recording.

Cryptic Rock – Wow, hearing some of the backstory, you can certainly feel the emotion in these songs. You have some really solid people behind the scenes with this record. You work with everyone from Nick Rowe, Marcos Curiel of P.O.D., to Ray Luzier of Korn, and Carla Harvey of Butcher Babies. How did you assemble this team? And what was it like working with everyone?

Elana Justin – Honestly, I think I got really lucky. I did one song with Nick and loved the process so I kind of just kept bothering him until he had time to work with me. Josh Wilbur, who mixed the album, had been working with Korn and played the tracks for Ray. He was into it and we recorded over two days at NRG. Carla was at a dinner with my manager, he played her “Lift Me Up” and she was down to feature. I think I just caught everyone at a good time. Everyone was really great to work with. They were up for anything and really added something special to the

Cryptic Rock – Yes, it really adds to the album. These are much more than skin deep. Your vocals sorrow high, but have a rawest that is endearing. Was it important for you to keep that rawest in the vocals when recording?

Elana Justin – It was really important to me to keep the rawness in my vocals. I lose myself in my emotions when I’m performing. I think being vulnerable and raw is so much more interesting than just vocal beauty. I want whoever is listening to go on each little messy journey with me.

Motive Black – Auburn / AFM Records (2023)

Cryptic Rock – Yes, and that makes for great music. Seeing you have experience with other projects, what would you say you have learned from everything that helps you with Motive Black?   

Elana Justin – Motive Black is very different from any other projects I have worked on. It’s been a crazy learning experience so far. I’ve made numerous mistakes, but I’m slowly figuring things out.

Cryptic Rock – We all make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them. It seems like everything is going in a positive direction with Motive Black for you. Beyond your music, you have also done some acting. Is that something you would like to pursue more?

Elana Justin – I’m not sure about acting. It’s not my focus right now, but never say never. I’m excited to make more music videos in the future where I can stretch that muscle again.

Cryptic Rock – Ok, cool, and as you said, you never know what will happen. So, you mentioned how you grew up around live music. You seem like someone who derives influence from older Rock and Metal. What are some of your influences?    

Elana Justin – I grew up listening to Joan Jett a lot. I am super inspired by her. I also was really into Chris Cornell and Alanis Morrissette vocally. I have pretty eclectic tastes. I love Jethro Tull,
System of a Down, Stevie Nicks, Marilyn Manson, Alice in Chains, Guns n’ Roses, Lamb of God… I’m all over the place.

Cryptic Rock – It sounds like you have a very diverse pallet. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi movies, what are some of your favorites and why? 

Elana Justin – I love Horror films. I think my favorite is A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) because it was the first movie that horrified me. It also feels so nostalgic and brings me back to being a kid. I was terrified to sleep for weeks…it was great.

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