The last time PHILTHY MAG (which was, at the time, Philthy Blog) chatted with Brooklyn indie pop duo Chaos Chaos, in November of 2012, was more or less at the band’s inception. Less than six months previous sisters Chloe and Asy Saavedra had announced the end of their “childhood” band based out of Seattle, Smoosh (which the two girls began in 2000, when they were each in their single digits, and went on to record three LPs and tour alongside the likes of The Eels, Tokyo Police Club, and The Dresden Dolls), and just begun their existence as Chaos Chaos. Chaos Chaos released their 5-song debut EP, S, in October of 2012. The release intriguingly and delectably entwined genres as disparate as ethereal wave, ‘90s alternative, and classis Rock’N’Roll (I once said, “It’s a sort of postmodern, minimalist disco, a bit like Luscious Jackson, but far more whimsical. “) Since then, they’ve played Philly a handful of times and this October they released their sophomore EP, Committed to the Crime. Their sound this time around is both a bit sassier and a bit poppier… It’s essentially soulful, hip-hop-inspired electro-pop, courtesy of two equally lovely and badass NYC women.
I recently got a chance to chat with Chaos Chaos drummer/vocalist Chloe Saavedra about how everything’s been since the birth of the band. She seems quite happy with the group, but tells me that it’s been something quite different from how the two sisters operated as Smoosh: “The launching of Chaos Chaos was a pretty different thing for us because we were doing everything on our own and, for us, the biggest thing has been putting a lot more thought into the content we make.” And of her own, personal, highlights of the past two years, Chloe tells me that she’s really enjoyed learning to become a touring musician… something that she wasn’t necessarily counting on taking to so easily: “For me, a highlight would be going to Australia, which we did with San Cisco, who are great friends and just such goofballs. And now I can say I actually really like flying, which they’re totally used to as a touring band, but I wasn’t and I got the least amount of sleep I’ve ever gotten and I’m one of those people where I really rely on my sleep and I need my eight hours and they totally helped get me through that and it was such a high.”
Chloe also tells me that their latest EP has been very inspiring for her. The EP had the sisters working for Milagres’ Fraser McCulloch as producer (although Troupe Gammage of Speak produced the song “Better.”)
“Recording the new EP was a really big highlight of the band. We were recording at a place in Bushwick with Fraser McCulloch from Milagres, who was so great. We were both on the same page musically and with our sense of humor and he was really hard on us and I appreciate that. In the past, with Smoosh, it was really all up to us. This time I would do a take and I thought it was good and he would be like, ‘No!’ It took a minute for my ego to adjust, but it was really helpful. And I think with Asy and I being sisters, we already have an understanding of each other and how each other work, so it was relatively easy for us to adjust to this.”
Once we begin chatting about the influences behind Chaos Chaos’ sound, Chloe proves to be as mindful of the lineage of her output as all musicians should be, and also has as much to say about their inspirations as a music journalist could ever hope of their subject.
“Asy and I always have sort of different influences, but we manage to combine those two sets of influences in what we do for the band. On our first EP Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins were big influences. And then you have something like ‘Across the Map,’ which is pretty blues-influenced. We’d been listening to Muddy Waters, Leadbelly, and John Lee Hooker. And then also some Swedish pop, like Little Dragon, was a pretty big influence. For the new EP we’d been listening to a lot of mainstream pop, like Lil Wayne and the new Beyonce album. We did definitely listen to the Lorde album quite a bit. We also listened to a lot of early ‘50s pop to really figure out the roots of where a really simple pop song comes from. There’s a special essence there that isn’t in contemporary pop and I think [laughs] I think that with black artists from the ‘50s, compared to white artists, there’s so much soul, so we try to appropriate that and channel that. I mean, we could never be that good, but it’s something to strive for. We were also revisiting the R&B from our childhood, that we grew up on in the early 2000s, like Destiny’s Child and R. Kelly, and remembering when we would get dressed up and go to school dances. On the other hand, I’m very inspired by and very into late ‘60s minimalist composers, like John Cage, and figuring out how to do the least possible and get the most out of our songs.”
Chaos Chaos’ fashion seems to match their sonic aesthetic… both being quite impressive. They embody a Godard-ian/Karina-ian Technicolor take on the femme fatale, both with an acute (and sometimes critical) understanding of the popular, while being more than willing to elegantly explore alternatives. When I ask Chloe about her take on fashion she explains that, while she doesn’t feel as though it is something that is an inherent component of being a musician, she does really enjoy it.
“I’m definitely really into fashion and I don’t think it has to be part of your thing as an artist at all, but I love to make it another dimension of it. I’m really influenced by Bjork. She maintains this totally un-superficial realness, but adopts a new aesthetic for every tour. Personally, I’m really into strong colors and a mixture of psychedelic patterns. I like to reach out to smaller fashion designers, who are young like us and looking for new, innovative ways to get their stuff out there.”
Right now Chloe and Asy don’t have any officially confirmed dates on the books, but when I ask Chloe about what she’s excited for in 2015, she tells me that they are excited for SXSW, which they are going to be partaking in and that there’s a good chance they’ll be back in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection sometime in the near future… I’m pressed to ask her her thoughts on her Philly experiences so far and she tells me that she likes it, but also has an amusing anecdote about her experience at Johnny Brenda’s a year and a half ago.
“I really like the city. I remember playing the Church and I remember really liking that area of the city [your humble narrator’s neighborhood of Rittenhouse] and having fun going to Buffalo Exchange and that show just had such great energy. I also remember when we played with San Cisco at Johnny Brenda’s, which was a bit weird because we were all so young in both bands, but it was a 21+ show. I remember there were people who showed up drunk at the merch table telling us how much they loved the set and there were people who, somehow, snuck backstage to stalk us and meet us and it was like, ‘What are you doing? We’re not that famous.’”