Chloe and Asy were out running through the sprinklers. You can hardly blame them. It's hot out.
The house where Smoosh lives is small, and packed with energetic blond kids. Aside from the young ladies in the band, there are two younger sisters, Maya and Scout (who is still in diapers), and two very mellow, progressive parents, Mike and Maria. There are two pianos in the living room--a small console and a beautiful baby grand (on loan from an aunt). Chloe's drums and Asy's Roland synthesizer are set up in the playroom, which also doubles as the master bedroom, right in front of a huge Playmobil house and a white bureau covered in animal stickers. There's a copy of Island of the Blue Dolphins on the table and a big Hilary Duff pillow on Asy's bed. Outside, there's a trampoline and a wading pool, as well as a big friendly black lab named Loni, and a white cat named Yoshen. All the doors are open, everyone's barefoot, and the hot, late-afternoon sun floods the windows.
In short, the Smoosh house feels like the perfect summertime HQ for preteen kids--suburban enough that you don't have to worry when neighbors drop by unannounced, but close enough to the city that you can see bits of skyline poking through the trees. It's the kind of environment that encourages kids to find creative ways to fill their endless hours--the two eldest in this house responded to the stimulation of their surroundings by forming a rock band.
Smoosh got started about two years ago, when Chloe's drum teacher, Jason McGerr--now the drummer of Death Cab for Cutie, then full-time at the Seattle Drum School--suggested that she start playing along with someone else, the better to understand the role of the instrument in a rock band. As it turned out, Asy had been "messing around" on her keyboard (having quit piano lessons), making up "little songs" in her spare time. Much to everyone's surprise, Asy's little songs were turning out to be fairly impressive pop compositions.
It wasn't long before the Smoosh demo and website (smoosh.com) began attracting the attention of the Seattle music community and the band started getting show offers. After a relatively short while, the offers got a lot better, and Chloe and Asy found themselves performing live on KEXP and opening for the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie, Cat Power, Nada Surf, and other indie rock big wheels, often in front of huge crowds, on their way to becoming staples of the all-ages music scene around town. It was only a matter of time before some label wised up and offered Smoosh a deal. Enter Pattern 25 Records, a local concern that has released excellent CDs by the likes of Sushirobo, Robert Roth, and Jon Auer, among others. They recently sent Asy and Chloe into Egg Studios with producer Johnny Sangster to record their debut full-length. The result, She Like Electric, will be released September 21.
"It was really fun," Asy says of their time in the studio. "Outside, there's this big tree, and when we were waiting for Johnny to do the mixes and stuff, we went and climbed up it and stuff. It was really fun to be there."
How did they get hooked up with Pattern 25?
Asy begins. "Well they saw some of our shows, like at the Sunset Tavern and stuff--"
Chloe interjects. "Well, Asy, you don't know..."
Asy retorts. "Well, he e-mailed us. Remember, he e-mailed us? And we thought about it and we waited a little bit, and we thought that since we were being so picky and stuff they would, like, drop us. But they didn't...."
I'd been wondering about the dynamic between the sisters. Asy does most of the talking, but she's not domineering, nor is she full of herself. And when Chloe interrupts, she never seems argumentative; she just wants to get it right. Like all siblings who grow up in close proximity of age and space, they're able to finish each other's thoughts, but seem eager to maintain some individuality. Sometimes they talk so quickly and quietly that I can't understand a word they say. But they always understand each other perfectly.
"We only have two people in our band," Chloe says, "and sometimes it doesn't sound as full as other bands. Before the show, sometimes the people who work there say, 'Okay, the band can come in,' and we're like, 'This is the band.'" She giggles.
One interesting aspect of She Like Electric is the minimal presence of overdubs; the songs aren't stacked with studio tricks. Aside from the odd doubled vocal, some harmony singing, the occasional keyboard lead, it's pretty close to the Smoosh live show. Though minimal, the added parts fill the songs out nicely, and showcase Asy's impressive melodic knack. I wonder if she's concerned that they won't be able to play the new parts live.
"[The LP arrangements] don't sound much different," she says, "'cause we didn't do tons of new stuff. But it'd be cool if we could do it live. We think Chloe will be able to do some of the backing vocals soon. She's working on it."
I ask Chloe if she's looking forward to singing more harmony parts.
"Mm-hmm," she replies, then adds quickly, "I can't believe that I used to get mixed up between Eddie Murphy and Eddie Vedder."
It's fun to hang out with Smoosh, but asking them questions about their "process" soon begins to feel ridiculous. Not because they don't have one, but because the less conscious they are of it, the better. Fascinated as I am by Asy, Chloe, and their family, it verges on the perverse to try and cram these girls into the standard rock band interview brackets. Smoosh's best quality isn't their youth. Nor is it their music, though their music is excellent. Their best quality, and the thing that has fans and fellow rock stars responding so intensely, is their fearlessness. Asy and Chloe aren't waiting for permission from anyone--except maybe their mom and dad, both of whom are happy to see Smoosh thrive. ("As long as their perspective is good," Mike explains, "and I think they're doing it for the right reasons--which usually, for them, means it's because it sounds fun--I'll generally just support what they decide.")
Like Asy's best song, "Rad," says: "I can go anywhere I want, yo." On a day like this, it's pretty clear that the best place Smoosh could possibly go is back outside, so that instead of sitting around talking about their band, they can take another run through the sprinklers.
Smoosh perform at the Capitol Hill Block Party on Saturday, July 24, on the Vera Stage at 1 pm.