Artist Spotlight: Smoosh/Chaos Chaos

Chaos Chaos consists of sisters Asya and Chloe Saavedra. Lead vocalist and keyboardist Asya was born in 1992 while drummer and background vocalist Chloe was born in 1994. I mention their birth years only because they released their first album in 2004. Yep. The Seattle duo had been little darlings of the indie scene for over half their lives. Their indie place was there from the start in 2000, when a chance meeting at a music store with the drummer from Death Cab for Cutie convinced them (and their parents) that they could make music too.

Asy and Chloe (they would not publicly reveal their last name until 2010) named their act Smoosh, which was a mangling of the band name Smash Mouth; at least, that is what I heard. After a couple of minor recordings in 2000 and 2002, they released She Like Electric in 2004. Some of the tracks come across of them just goofing off and jamming out for two or three minutes. At the same time, there was some good musicianship and composition. Just…uh…stay away from the rap tracks.

About the Picture – 3:09

This is a fairly typical song for Smoosh in terms of style. Chloe’s drumming is intricate without being virtuosic while Asy’s keyboard style alternates between playing single notes with each hand and playing repeating chords. The songwriting is a little more repetitive than normal, with Asy singing a phrase over and over with minor changes for the first three-quarters of the song. It can be annoying…or it can be hypnotic. Take your pick.

Make It Through – 3:13

While many songs have Asy using the regular piano sound on the keyboards, sometimes she pretends that they are distorted guitars or an organ. In this case, they are guitars…with…some kind of spacey sounds in the background. This is also one of the few early songs with reverb and sustain pedals, giving it a moody atmosphere and making one of my favorite of their older works.

Whatever the motivations were for releasing She Like Electric, within the next year, they probably realized that this was a real thing and they were a real band. So, they focused on getting a little tighter with their compositions and goofing off a little less. Some songs were slower and Asy even played the guitar in one of them. And there was no rapping. In 2006, they released Free to Stay.

Find a Way – 3:11

This song kicked off the second album. The distorted sound kind of makes it seem like a rocker…even though there is a song called “Rock Song” later in the album. Some things to note is how the duo can take or leave the verse-chorus-verse chorus structure. Here, they adhere to it only sort of, with there being two different choruses and the two verses basically having the same lines. The verses are also in a different key; unnecessary, but a nice touch. You may have noticed a bit of a through-line in regards to the lyrics. Some songs are different, but the ones that I have displayed so far traffic in some of Asy’s go-to phrases. The song ends a bit abruptly, with the second “chorus” stopping where the first chorus had kept going. I am not sure how I feel about that, but sometimes Smoosh ended songs unexpectedly.

She’s Right – 3:48

While the previous tracks may have toyed with the standard verse-chorus structure, this song dispenses with it completely, transitioning between different musical ideas with a sense of urgency before settling on one a little over halfway through. It is a tricky thing to do without coming across awkwardly, but I think that they pull it off here.

The release of Free to Stay got Smoosh a lot of attention, at least within the indie scene. Some of it may have been from the sheer novelty of a new Hanson, but some of it was due to them being solid. Personally, I saw them open for the eels when they came to Somerville back in 2006. After touring, they took a break to go to…high school…and Sweden…and New York. In 2010, they finally released their third album called Withershins.

Withershins was the first album by Smoosh as almost adults, so the novelty was pretty much gone. And, for the most part, they pull it off. While it still retained some of their signature markers (particularly with “Great Skies”), the songs were mostly longer and more atmospheric. Asya started using the sustain pedal a bit more. There were also session musicians this time, including younger sister Maia on the bass guitar. The first song, starting with a sustained keyboard shriek in the wind, established this album as something different. And while, some of the experimentation did not quite work this time around (particularly the third-to-last and second-to-last ones), Smoosh proved themselves ready for grown up music.

We Are Our Own Lies – 5:00

This song is another one of those that eschews the verse-chorus-verse chorus structure in exchange for a section that transitions into another one before transitioning back at the end. It starts out with about thirty seconds of keyboard organ-like ambience before the Smoosh keyboard chords come in for another thirty seconds. When Asya finally starts singing a minute in, the ambience returns, accompanied with a string section, and eventually the drums. In the climax of the song, it may be difficult to hear the keyboards underneath all of the strings. Even without the string accompaniment, though, it is easy to hear that this is a step up from their earlier works.

In the Fall – 3:37

A bit more of a relaxed number here, with minimal lyrics, but without calling attention to it. The song starts out seeming a bit repetitive and with a chorus that is basically just oooooooohs. Then a bit over the halfway point, the keyboard stops playing the pattern and gives way to a trumpet.

A couple of months after the release of Withershins, the show South Park had an episode parodying the cast of The Jersey Shore where one of the characters used the term “smoosh smoosh” as a term for sex. Asya and Chloe used this as an opportunity to finally get around to changing the name of their band. And pretty much change the band altogether. They settled on the name Chaos Chaos. I am not sure why they chose that name other than it was an odd mixture of some of the letters of their names, but whatever.

In 2012, they released a five-song EP called S. I am guessing that that is a reference to their last name, but don’t quote me on that. It is not entirely easy to get a read on what they were trying to do here, but there was a bit of a break. The first and last songs (especially the last) were sort of Smoosh-esque, but the second and fourth were more dance-poppy. I believe that they had been listening to a bit of Timbaland at the time. In any case have chosen the middle song to feature.

Antibiotics – 3:41

It kind of maybe sounds like the few Madchester songs that I have heard before, so I guess that I would call it that. Perhaps it is mostly the production on the percussion and the use of the keyboard as a rock instrument. I am not that familiar with Madchester, so I may be completely wrong. This is sort of like the later moody songs that they tried to do in Withershins but the poppy punch made it actually work this time around. Also, while Chloe is still primarily a supporting vocalist, she has more to do here than she had before. I also like the slightly odd effects done on the vocals.

After a couple of random releases here and there, Chaos Chaos released a six-song EP called Committed to the Crime in 2014. While S was a bit of a grab-bag, this EP had a clear style, which was retro-80s synth-pop, most likely by way of Tegan and Sara, though maybe also through a few more mainstream acts like Lorde. Whatever it was, it was a much clearer break from even later Smoosh than the previous EP was. Some of you might be familiar with one of this EP’s songs from an episode of Rick and Morty. The following is not that song, but you can probably hear the similarities.

Breaker – 4:12

That is totally radio-friendly, no?

While looking up little things for this write-up, I learned that Chaos Chaos is going to be releasing new music later this year. Will it be more 80s-esque synth pop? Will it be something else completely? I have no idea, but I guess that I will find out. Maybe you can find out with me.