There’s been no shortage of Asian Americans rocking out in indie bands, and Ariel Loh of Stone Cold Fox can be added to the list of musicians heating up the independent music blogosphere. “Art, music, video, performance and design, are all the same things expressed in different mediums,” says the 22-year old. The busy up-and-comer is exploring sound engineering and producing for a variety of musical projects.
Ariel was born in New York in 1990 to Taiwanese American parents, but later moved to Chicago. He's pursued music since he was young, and started playing piano at eight years old. Ariel is also grounded in a number of interests, and experimented with graphic design, shooting and video editing, and beat-making before eventually ending up in recording. He also came out as gay at 17 years old and explains that “[his sexuality] has always been a driving and inspiring force for what I do.” The ingénue is also inspired by architecture, cinema, art and design, and New York City.
Stone Cold Fox plays as five-piece outfit, but the creative force behind the project remains Ariel Loh, who plays keyboard on live shows, and Kevin Olken Henthorn (vocals). The two met during their freshman year at SUNY Purchase, where Ariel received his Bachelor’s of Music in Studio Production. Originally, Kevin headed a lo-fi, acoustic project with three other members. It wasn’t until Kevin presented half-written songs to demo out of Ariel’s bedroom studio that the younger sound engineer became attached. The duo later decided to re-name the band, and officially founded Stone Cold Fox in 2011.
Kevin and Ariel are the major songwriting force behind Stone Cold Fox, with Kevin responsible for writing the lyrics and both collaborating on melodies and instrumentals. The band has released an EP titled, The Young. Ariel's sweeping melodies contrast Kevin’s orchestral vocals, making it a must-listen for fans of Arcade Fire and Andrew Bird. The EP’s standout track “American” begins with jangly guitar-strumming and peaks with Kevin proclaiming, They won’t tell me what I am/ To be an American.
The lyrics are indicative of the tone and concepts explored on the EP, such as nostalgia, growing up, and the meaning of home. On “Give Up The Kids,” Ariel and Kevin carefully layer heavy, irreverent songwriting under catchy, indie pop tunes with opening lines like, I never thought that God was there/ And if he was/ I didn’t care. Ariel Loh elegantly levels his keyboard and synth playing to compliment Kevin’s stripped-down vocals on the thematic “Father Spirit.” Carrying a theme of being young in America, the EP successfully captures the social and political disenchantment of this generation.
Ariel describes the band’s sound as being a mixture of indie rock with elements of pop and folk. Ariel names Radiohead as being a huge musical influence and adds, “[d]uring the creation of The Young EP, I was heavily influenced by Foster the People’s album, specifically its production techniques in layering of programmed drums and percussion.” As a producer, Ariel is careful to balance synth and the rest of the band’s instruments in a way that compliments, but never overshadows, the traditional side of Stone Cold Fox’s sound.
Ariel and Kevin are currently working on writing new songs for a late-autumn album release. In the meantime, the well-crafted The Young EP is available for streaming on the band’s soundcloud page.
July 5-8 at CBGB Festival, New York
July 30 at Bowery Electric, New York
August 11 at KahBang Festival, Bangor, Maine
Amber Kong is an undergraduate at UCLA and a DJ for UCLAradio.com
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!