USC music industry students vie for success in the electronic dance music world

Styling With Ease is balancing building a brand while establishing themselves on campus

A photo of Marius Bell, 20, and Garrett Murphy, 21, sitting on the edge of a wall side by side.

Electronic dance music tends to evoke images of ecstatic faces dressed in neon and seasoned with glitter waiting for the next bass to drop, not of surfing with your best friend and then relaxing with some herbal tea.

But for Marius Bell, 20, and Garrett Murphy, 21, the latter was precisely how they took their first steps in achieving their musical ambitions.

Bell and Murphy are two music industry majors at USC with lofty ambitions for their group, Styling With Ease. Styling With Ease released their first song, “Your Intuition,” last November; now, focus has shifted to their next single and to playing more live shows.

“We’re just trying to express ourselves through music and put it in a tangible form that people can enjoy,” Bell said.

The first time that Styling With Ease’s two members collaborated on a song was in the classroom. It was not an instant classic.

“It was horrible, but we had a great time,” Murphy said.

So while the music took some time to come around, the bond between the two was almost immediate.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Murphy drove six hours from Amelia Island, Florida, where he was staying with family, to Bell’s hometown of Miami. They dedicated the following weekend solely to music — with some herbal teas here and there.

“Instead of expression through lyrics or chords, it’s more like expression through sounds and sound design,” Bell said about electronic dance music.

Electronic dance music, typically referred to as EDM, is characterized by a high tempo with heavy basses and synthesizer sounds among other features. It is widely associated with raves or festivals.

However, Bell and Murphy’s musical backgrounds did not feature EDM.

Bell’s first memories of music are of hearing Aerosmith tracks on a ride at Walt Disney World and his dad listening to U2. He ended up playing in a myriad bands throughout high school, namely one named The Transparent Tones alongside a childhood friend.

Murphy generally did not follow music until he attended an EDM concert at Vanderbilt University and understood the “different energy in the crowd.”

Both of them were taught piano early in their lives. Now, they enjoy the freedom that comes with EDM.

“There are no rules,” Garrett said. “No boundaries,” Bell quickly added.

At the same time, Styling With Ease are aware that they must strike a balance between EDM’s creative liberty and their own aspirations of success. That tough task is further complicated for Bell and Murphy simply by having to be on a college campus as they try to establish themselves.

Styling With Ease often plays at USC tailgates where students, Murphy said, will clamor for popular songs such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll” rather than original content.

“Electronic music can be stressful because everyone has their own perception of what music they like,” Bell agreed. “So when you’re the one controlling that, some people are just not vibing and it can weigh on you mentally. Like, am I playing the right song for this setting?”

That is a question Styling With Ease will have to contend with more often as their success grows and they prioritize their brand. That includes a new single “Kerosene” with Jack August coming out around the start of the holiday season, as well as their first items of merchandise.

Bell and Murphy know that this is just the beginning, but they are committed to making Styling With Ease a household name.

“It’s like we’re starting a niche project that hopefully can develop into something we’re gaining traction and a following to the point where we can branch off and create a label or get new artists in or work on producing for other people,” Murphy said.