By Sofia Alvarez and Johnny Keeling

Audrey & The Sound Gallery, a San Diego band, and Estelle Allen, singer/songwriter and producer from Ocean Beach, share their experiences in the local music scene. As up and coming artists, putting their music out into the scene is crucial to being heard.

Ruben Ramirez takes an intimate moment with the audience. Ebin Pudvah shreds the electric guitar behind him. Photo courtesy of Audrey & the Sound Gallery.

WHO IS AUDREY & THE SOUND GALLERY?

The San Diego local powerhouse Audrey & the Sound Gallery debuted in 2020 with “Vanity”, a unique blend of funky bedroom pop and R&B distinguished by its psychedelic vibe.

The demo album was the product of singer/songwriter and instrumentalist Ruben Ramirez, who, after the end of his old band The Galactics, started writing and recording under the name by himself in 2019.

Ramirez credits his family with his love and passion for music.

“My dad plays guitar and my brother is like a really good drummer. And my sister plays piano and sings really well. We’ve just always been musical,” Ramirez said.

He started creating music after high school, as well as going to local shows alone to meet people and get himself into the scene.

“I didn’t know anybody, I just started going to shows and the music scene and started meeting people and there were some really cool people who wanted to jam,” Ramirez said.

In December 2020, the band officially introduced local rapper NeKoda to the mix. With his debut on “Backyard Disco,” he brings a fresh blend of hip-hop to their already genre-bending sound. Over the past four years since their debut, Audrey & the Sound Gallery has evolved into a full 8-piece band, bringing in even more musical and stylistic diversity.

The band credits its unique sound to its unusually large lineup of musicians.

“Having 8 people in the band really sets us apart,” Josh Hughes, rhythm guitarist said.

A 2019 study conducted at the Federal University of Minas Gerais by Mariana O. Silva showed evidence that diversity among bands and artists leads to more successful and enriching musical careers. According to the study, “those who prefer to pursue a non-collaborative musical career may be missing an opportunity to enhance and expand their potential.”

Audrey & the Sound Gallery certainly won’t be caught missing any of those opportunities. “We’re like a musical chameleon sometimes,” said drummer Trevor Johnston.

What is the process of making music together?

The songwriting process starts with Ramirez’s lyrics and general chord structure. Then everyone creates their own lines and melodies within the song, which leads to the creation of collaborative projects.

“Ruben’s definitely like our leader, but everyone bounces off each other the whole way through, it’s great,” said Johnston.

“When we made Jethead, which was really our first album all together as a band, it was a cool process,” Ramirez said. “Because when I first started, I made all the demos and stuff by myself before we had everybody. But now it’s so much better because everybody brings their own layers to it and their personality comes out in their instruments and it’s kinda nice how our personalities mesh together.”

NeKoda commands the stage and audience, keeping the crowd moving. Photo courtest of Audrey & the Sound Gallery.

What is Audrey & the Sound Gallery’s message?

Audrey and the Sound Gallery’s message within the lyrical work deals with relationships and the vices that come with living in the modern world. The band consistently emphasizes tones of living life to the fullest, and even though we might all be dust at the end, this life is worth living

“You’re powerful and you can do anything and nobody should be able to tell you otherwise,” said Ramirez.

Nekoda and Ramirez’ lyrical message reflects on the modern struggle of the digital age, as the “Jethead” album incorporates messages of living life the way you want to.

The album’s final track, “Longview”, is a triumphant favorite of both fans and the band alike. The track’s lyrics, “It’s time to breathe and pretend that I’m living the way I want to; with the longview,” explore themes of staying true to yourself in a way that really connects with audiences.

“[Longview] definitely makes me feel the most connected to all you guys. When we play that I feel like we’re all one,” Johnston said.

What keeps you going?

As a musician, you’re not always going to see the streams and engagement you want, and sometimes that can be extremely discouraging.

“Wanting to quit is a normal feeling after a bad show or something, but you just have to shake it off. There are definitely times where I feel bummed out but it kinda motivates me. If I feel like I could do better, then I just try to be better,” Ramirez said.

The band recalled a time when their music had a very unique impact on a fan. “I remember we got a DM one time from a veteran and he said he has PTSD and some of our songs helped him and soothed his soul and it was really cool to hear that,” Ramirez said.

However, he explained that you have to make music because you love it and not because you want something out of it.

“We just create because we feel that need to. There is just something in us we need to get out,” he said. “I’ve always said playing on stage is better than heroin, and I’ve never done heroin, but like it’s better than any drug you can have.”

“The love we all have for each other and the love for music keeps us going,” said Koda.

Estelle Allen, 27, a singer, songwriter and producer performed at the Che Cafe, a local San Diego venue, March 17, 2024. At the show, she shared more about what being a small music artist is like in the music scene.

Estelle Allen performing at the Che Cafe on March 17. Estelle Allen is a hyper-pop artist from Ocean beach. She returns to the Che Cafe after some time while she was on tour. UCSD students and other locals came and enjoyed her music. Photo by Kate Denny

WHO IS ESTELLE ALLEN?

Estelle Allen performed her first, and most popular song, “dui.” A high beat and funky song that has accumulated over 1 million streams on Spotify, and over 1 million views and 300,000 likes on TikTok. She gets the crowd moving with that as her opening song.

What is the song that you usually open up with at your concerts?

“I like to open with [dui]. I found that being sober is a really good way to connect with people. Everyone has different relationships with addiction and substance abuse or even generally habits they’re trying to break…” Allen said.

Estelle Allen’s music is filled with her experiences, like her transgender journey. She is always trying to share a message through her creations. Like any other artist, she started playing locally and established herself in the scene with her old band, Fashion Jackson.

After they broke up in 2022, she took her music in a new direction and rebranded herself as a hyperpop artist.

What was it like performing at the Che Cafe?

“I love it. It’s so much gayer than when I was here [Che Cafe] before…Or maybe I’m gayer and I’m just noticing it…I definitely was not coming to the show before and seeing furries in the pit…that makes me so happy… using shows as an avenue to embrace that…it made me proud of where I came from,” Allen says.

How do you think you connect with your audience?

“I know for me, it wasn’t till adulthood where I found artists whose work allowed me to kind of embrace myself more so I would like to think that if my stuff was a small slice of what helps people…that would be amazing,” Allen said.

As an up-and-coming artist, there’s always going to be ups and downs when starting out projects. Everyone’s journey is unique and motivating.

What was your musical journey like?

“It can be hard to figure out how to do certain things like how to record or how to start a band. But I think in the early stages in my experience…just figuring it out and being down to make mistakes and fuck up in front of people is really valuable,” Allen said.

She was on tour from March 7 in Vancouver all through the end of March in the states.

What is the physical aspect like for you?

“So much of how we interact with each other and so much of how we navigate our lives is on our phones or on our computers and shit. When you put out a song and people listen to it…it can be really hard to translate that to real life…I think that the best musical relationships…happen in live shows,” Allen said.

With the treacherous journey artists experience in the music industry, it’s not surprising if artists have self-doubts or straight-up think about quitting.

Estelle Allen playing guitar for one of her songs at the Che Cafe. Photo by Kate Denny

Do you ever doubt yourself?

“That’s half of doing this…I think about quitting all the time, but then I remember I love making music and if I wasn’t doing this, I wouldn’t know what the fuck I’d be doing…It can be so easy to get in your head about whether or not someone is going to like something or whether or if it’s going to connect with people…If I make something and it gives me that feeling, then I know I need to keep doing that thing no matter what, even if my brain tells me not to do that thing,” Allen said.

With one of her newest songs, “girlfriend,” she captures more intimate aspects of her trans journey and being able to find love and acceptance from her partner.

How does your music reflect your trans experience?

“There’s kind of this stereotype about transfemme musicians…we only make music that sounds like Transformers dying… I’m literally going through girl puberty as an adult born as a guy, so there’s some freaky body horror feelings that come with that. Sometimes really loud and nasty sounding music is a way to get that across,” Allen said.

From her viral songs, going on tours, cementing her voice throughout different communities, and building a community that can find an outlet that they can relate to and identify with, she is creating a space that is new and different.

Her passion being pushed out into her songs is what makes her favorable to her audience. She’s well aware that her aspirations come with bumps, but her acceptance of that makes her an artist who understands that journey.

“You have to be down to metaphorically accidentally show your ass to people because you will be embarrassed in front of people a lot. I have embarrassed myself to people more than I have not,” Allen said.