Madus, VOVE’s Artist of the Year, set to release EP in spring

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Madus performs live as winners of Artist of the Year 2020 at CSUN's Cypress Recital Hall, hosted by VOVE.

Ivan Salinas

The finalists for Artist of the Year contest, Madus, made their live performance debut at CSUN last December, previewing a much-expected EP set to release this spring.

Five of Five Entertainment, also known as VOVE, CSUN’s student-led record label, chose Madus — a four-man alternative rock band from the San Fernando Valley — out of 40 submissions from multiple musicians from the Los Angeles area who auditioned for the contest. The band is currently working on an EP under the VOVE record label. In this way, the band and the students partaking in the project get a hands-on experience in the world of the music industry.

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Madus members rehearsing before their debut performance at The Drop.

In such a competitive marketplace, LA is filled with artists looking to break into the stream of listeners, whether it is on curated Spotify playlists or on the radio. For musicians attending CSUN, this is another opportunity to expand their audience.

“The cool thing about this is that suddenly there’s now 36 other people invested into the band and want it to succeed,” said Dugan Cruz, lead singer and guitarist of Madus. He was referring to the 36 students taking the senior practicum, with adviser Jefferey Izzo, that make up the VOVE team for a school year. They are then in charge of managing the band during that time — some duties include finding resources like a recording studio or audio equipment. They also promote their content on social media, handle finances and plan a culminating gig at a venue.

The creativity and musical direction, however, remain with the band. Madus’ energy is released through distorted guitars accompanied by alternative rock beats that give off a sound audience may find familiar. Cruz’s vocals lure listeners with a sensual style, which you can hear in “Hey you!” and “SuperGroove,” both singles released in 2019. There is yet to be an acoustic or a slow song in their repertoire, as they prefer a full collaborative force with each song. However, their writing approach is more personal.

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Madus' energetic performance radiates with audiences. Dugan Cruz is the only member of the band who is currently a CSUN student, majoring in music industry studies.

Lyrics are written mainly by Cruz, who thinks of the writing process as, “Do I want somebody else to undress me while I striptease for you or do you want me to do it myself?” It’s a weird way of thinking about lyrics, but simply put it is a solitary endeavor that he then shares with the band. When the words are put to music, it creates a vibrance felt in their performances and a key component of their magick.

That magick started since Madus’ name origin, which surfaced from a perfectly random spelling: “Fun story, one day I was having alphabet soup and I saw the words madus magic, with a k, spelled on it and I said, that’s it. That’s the name of my band,” Cruz explained. Madus shared this with their fans on their Instagram bio, which reads “Magick Rock.”

With more than a thousand followers on Instagram, their fan base is still growing. Madus added that record companies make a safe bet by signing bands that already have a following. VOVE was no different, even though one of the contest’s finalists didn’t have music available on streaming platforms.

Zenfoo was the second finalist of the contest, who also debuted as the opening act for Madus last December. A mellow-sounding band influenced by late ’60s rock, Motown artists, and even blues singers. As locals of the San Fernando Valley, they’re hoping to play more shows in the area and record their music.

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Zenfoo band members (left to right): Erin McGuire (vocals), Diego Fernandez (bass), Andre Paz (guitar), Brandon Pasio (drums).
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Erin McGuire, Zenfoo lead-vocalist, performs on stage. The band's influences range from Tom Misch, Hiatus Kaiyote, Chon and Vulfpeck.
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Andre Paz, guitar player of Zenfoo, performing at The Drop in December 2019, hosted by VOVE.

Last year, Tokyo Gold won Artist of the Year for 2018-2019. The band was a mix between R&B and soul, completely different from the sound that Madus brings to the table. For the past 10 years, there has been a diverse catalog of musicians, which is a staple for the kind of talent that LA has to offer. Rafael Gomez, Director of A&R and Management at VOVE, experienced this firsthand.

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On the mic, Alexis Colson and Sarah Fitzpack, part of the VOVE production team, took the stage before presenting Madus, thanking all the students that have been a part of the program thus far.

“The decision to choose this band was a democratic process,” Gomez said. Every week, the class met and voted on which artists they wanted to revisit; through a process of elimination, they landed on the top three. “We interviewed them and we thought they were all really good, so it was a really hard decision to make.”

Whereas independent labels or self-managing bands are more prominent, working with a big record label is going in the opposite direction, but the trade-off is a valuable experience to know what to expect of the music industry. The members of Madus know what they’re getting themselves into when working with a record label and in the future, they may not have the same freedoms as they do now. But they are willing to try it out now, hoping to reach more listeners with their magick.