Chaos Choas are Asy and Chloe, two musically-inclined sisters from Seattle who grew up with the opposing strains of Nirvana and Louis Armstrong in their ears. At just 12 and 10 respectively, with little more than a smattering of piano lessons, a penchant for songwriting and drum pointers from Jason McGerr (Death Cab for Cutie), the girls formed a band called Smoosh and went on to release three records: She Like Electric (2002), Free To Stay (2004), and Withershins (2006). Drawing surprisingly sophisticated comparisons to PJ Harvey and Tori Amos, they toured with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Pearl Jam, Eels, Cat Power, Nada Surf, Bloc Party and Sufjan Stevens (to name a few), and even landed televised appearances on Yo Gabba Gabba and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Today, more mature and ready for change, the now Brooklyn-based siblings have retired Smoosh in favor of Choas Choas and are working on a collection of fresh songs for a brand new EP. Having recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to support their recording efforts, we thought we’d chat with Asy to learn a little more about their childhood spent playing rock stars, and what their plans are now that they’re (almost, nearly) all grown up.
So, who is Asy and who is Chloe?
Chloe drums on bridges and builds trash drum kits and Asy writes lyrics while looking at maps or makes vocals while listening to only blues.
May we be so bold as to ask how old you are now?
Chloe just turned 18 and I am 20.
We ask because you started so young — what made you want to get out there and play ?
Ever since I can remember I was always drawn to the piano. It was just something I always felt like doing for fun, and it was a way for me to create stories through songs. I remember hearing Tori Amos and Louis Armstrong playing on our stereo in our house and then being influenced by the way they sounded when I’d play piano. Chloe got a drum kit when she was five, and we started playing together.
Did you write your own stuff? What exactly inspires you when you’re a kid?
We wrote all our own stuff, but we would also try and learn other songs we liked (Sleater Kinney and 50 Cent songs). When you’re a kid you hear and think of music in such a different way. We’d be inspired by popular songs on the radio and also classical music from movies, but the feel of a song would be the only part that would get translated because we didn’t know what a verse or chorus was. We also didn’t know what was ‘cool’… so we thought we could try anything, like rapping or singing in really weird voices. We’re actually trying to still approach music in that way.
Who were your musical role models then?
For me: Tori Amos, Eric Satie, and a little later on, Sleater Kinney and other bands we played with. For Chloe: Tony Royster Junior, Jason McGerr and Pancho Sanchez, Jackson 5, Luscious Jackson. We ended up listening to what our parents listened to: Our Dad liked Offspring and Nirvana. Our Mom listened to Gypsy Kings and Andrea Boccelli.
So, then came Smoosh. What was that band all about?
We loved making songs together and were recording little demos at the Seattle Drum School with Jason McGerr, who Chloe took lessons with. Eventually we had enough to make a CD and we played at ‘Battles of the Bands’ around Seattle and gave them away for free. We couldn’t stop…so it just kind of formed into a band.
And how do Asy and Chloe now translate into Chaos Chaos?
When we moved to Stockholm Sweden in our teens, we went through a transformation. We took a pause from Smoosh, but after a while we couldn’t stand not playing music anymore. We decided if we were going to start up again, we would have to take it all the way. We were at a time in our lives where new things and new sounds were fascinating. We needed to do more than we had ever done before with song writing. And we did. We both had a blast writing the songs in Sweden and New York, and it was also the biggest musical challenge we’ve ever taken on. This new project is really about taking risks, seeing what you can do, and capturing the real emotion of a time in your life, and making each song have its own personality.
Would you call this a fresh start?
Yes! I think getting too comfortable is dangerous; it allows a person to be okay with not improving and challenging themselves with whatever they do. Fresh starts should happen a lot in life, and should always be positive and exciting.
How has your music matured as you’ve matured?
Hmm. Us growing up always paralleled our songwriting. We learned new things and grew musically. The two always went together. It has always made us want to get better and experiment with different styles and ways of playing music. I know I’ve learned a lot about lyric writing; when I was younger I always wrote in a more free form way and for this new EP, Chloe and I made sure that nothing fake or overly-complicated made its way into the lyrics. It was a big challenge because we forced each other to come face to face with things that were very uncomfortable to put in songs. Honesty was our biggest motto while writing lyrics.
If we contribute to your Kickstarter campaign so you can release your EP, what kind of music will we hear?
Every song on the EP has a different personality because we wanted to experiment with different styles and sounds. We tried to take advantage of what NYC had to offer musically, and all we really had to do was absorb the insane influx of culture band let it make it s way into our songs. These songs don’t really sound perfect at all — that’s not what we were going for — but I think they’ve got a lot of emotion and every single thing on the EP comes from some place a teensy bit scary and risky for us. The songs are more upbeat and poppy then our last album. Right now, we love cliff diving and dancing crazily, so we created a soundtrack for that.