On July 16, Las Vegans Javier Esqueda and Elliott Garfias debuted as electro-pop duo Stella Novae—French for “new star”—with EP Side A. The pair demonstrate their celestial potential on the six-song project, which oscillates between house-driven electronic rhythms and indie-leaning synth-pop.
Garfias and Esqueda met years ago, when a mutual friend introduced the two musicians. “I needed a new singer, and [my friend] referred me to Javier,” Garfias says. After Garfias heard Esqueda’s cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” the two met up and things just “clicked,” Garfias says.
They played in a couple of bands together, then officially began making music as Stella Novae in January 2019. While they both maintain identities as solo performers (Esqueda as Javesque and Garfias under his own name), they worked throughout the pandemic shutdown to release their first batch of songs together.
“Sometimes we get annoyed with each other and won’t make music [together] for a little bit,” Garfias laughs, “but we always come back to making music.”
At the start of 2020, the duo released single “Pressure on Me,” which received airplay on radio show The Premium Blend out of Hailsham, England (thepremium
blendradioshow.co.uk). More recently, the duo played a livestreamed show for Vegas LGBTQ platform Therapy Zine (instagram.com/therapyzine).
Esqueda, who writes all the lyrics, says Side A encompasses the ups and downs of day-to-day life. “I just write about whatever I’m going through, whatever struggles I’m feeling,” Esqueda says. “A lot of the songs are a journey of past things that I’ve [experienced].”
On the music side, it’s Garfias in the saddle, crafting beats and melodies on his computer. The duo also enlisted the talents of bassist Victor Fuentes (bass), Michael Hoffman (drums) and Spencer King (keys) to give the tunes more “organic vibes,” Garfias says. Award-winning mastering engineer Brian Lucey (The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys) mastered the EP, and Las Vegan Hugo Cruz Castillo mixed it.
Though Stella Novae’s future remains cloudy given the current limitations on live performing, Esqueda says he hopes to travel with the duo’s music at some point. “I would love to play festivals,” Esqueda says. “Once this is over, I want to go on a stage. I want to go on a stage right now,” he says, adding that he’d also be interested in trying a drive-in concert.
In the meantime, the members of Stella Novae have news: There’s more new music in the works. “This next album is going to be [even] more organic,” Esqueda says. “It’s going to have more of a band feel.”