They cut a single when they were still in grade school. They were touring by their middle school years. But the story of Chaos Chaos (fka Smoosh)—which are coming to Neumos on November 30—started in 2000 with two sisters in Seattle, and their father, who wanted a violin restrung at the Trading Musician on Roosevelt.
“I was 5 at the time,” laughs drummer Chloe Saavedra, “so [I] was definitely with my parents. And the violin definitely didn't get strung.”
That's because the Saavedras ran into Death Cab for Cutie beat-keeper Jason McGerr, who, Chloe recalls, “coerced my parents into leaving Trader Musician that day with a drum kit, by offering some free lessons at Seattle Drum School ... And that place was where it all started. He recorded our early demos there and was always so believing in us and whatever we wanted to do creatively with music. He really just gave us this great opportunity to be taken seriously as weirdo 11 and 13 year olds. I will never forget that.”
Chloe’s older sister Asy, not to be outdone, had already been writing songs. Asy recalls that she just “happened upon the family piano when I was about 3. I can’t remember what drew me to it, but I’m guessing it was just the immediacy and the fact that there were things you could press that made noise.
“I remember my mom would flip the pages of books while I played piano and I would make music for the stories. I think that established music as being this adventurous, uninhibited zone to explore for me, which has affected my approach as long as I can remember.”
Mom and Dad gave their blessings for a band—after all, they would have to chaperone. The sisters dubbed themselves Smoosh, derived from “smush,” derived from a corruption of “Smash Mouth.”
Chloe recalls their first gig: “A battle of the bands in Seattle. We were the only non-metal band, not to mention the fact we were 9 and 11 years old. Definitely didn't win. I remember Jason couldn't make it that night and my mom told me I should thank Jason on stage and the whole show I was so nervous to go near the mic but I was like... fuck, I have to thank Jason, I have to… and at the end of the set walked straight to the mic and in a super muffled voice said ‘Thank you Jason.’ That probably just added another layer of confusion to the metalhead battle of the bands crowd. Haha.”
They put out three albums between 2004 and 2010. They toured with the Eels in 2006. They played Lollapalooza in Chicago in 2007.
“It was legal to smoke in venues back then,” remembers Chloe, “so the venues were just filled with smoke that was probably very unhealthy for us. Another scary moment was, one time Asy and I were wrestling right before we went on stage, and Asy accidentally split part of my face near my eye, so I looked like I had been beat up or something.”
They moved to L.A. (by way of Sweden and NYC). They took time off for school. When MTV's notorious Jersey Shore cast appropriated the term “smoosh,” the sisters adopted a new moniker from the Chaos Chaos protozoan.
Their first full-length under the new moniker drops in spring, 2018. “Every project we do ends up being a collaborative effort,” explains Asy. “This keeps it exciting. Sometimes I’ll bring a song idea to Chloe and she will step in and add her ‘flavor’ to it. Sometimes we write by jamming together and somehow our sister telepathy allows us to write for hours without ever speaking. Some songs, the harder ones, require a lot of talk and troubleshooting.”
“I program a lot of stuff now,” muses Chole about her percussion parts, “and have become super attached to my Tempest drum machine. That's really changed how we record a lot. For the songs that aren't on the live kit, I'll just work on finding sounds to program, or sample my own sounds or Tempest MIDI… but nothing feels better and more natural to me than banging the shit out of my acoustic kit.”
“With the election brewing, there was this urgency,” adds Asy. “We set a deadline and forced ourselves. It required a month of eight-hour days where we are at the same restaurant, where the owners thought we were spinsters.”
What’s changed for women, and for culture, since they started? “Sadly, not too much,” Chloe says. “It’s mostly just the response and the lens with which things are viewed. Now we’re in a point where everything is exposed, which is good. It also makes you feel like the world is horrible, but I’m convinced that playing music, using your voice, being present in what you believe in, is all effective and necessary.”