Drums in the Basement and Other Challenges

by Emily Zemler


Here’s a good marketing gimmick: Two blond, tween sisters are in a band. The older one sings and plays keyboards while the younger bangs on her drum set. Sounds adorable, right? Like something that belongs on the Mickey Mouse Club? Well, sisters Asya, 13, and Chloe, 11, may be cute, but their band—and their music—is anything but a gimmick. The Seattle-based duo, called Smoosh (pronounced sm-ooo-sh, not sm-u-sh), has been playing music since they were very small, attacting a record deal with indie label Pattern 25 and gigs with everyone from Rilo Kiley to Pearl Jam.

Now the girls have treked to Austin for the South By Southwest music festival where they have smooshed (pun intended) themselves into a single chair on the roof deck of Maggie Mae’s, where they will be playing a set later, for an interview with PopMatters. After hearing that I am concerned that the music blaring from the venue below may taint my interview tape, Chloe offers to hold the recorder, thus spending the entire interview waving it back and forth between her and her sister’s mouths, causing more giggles than actual answers.

PopMatters: How did you start playing music?

Asya: I always played piano because there was always a piano around so I would write little songs on the piano and when Chloe was six she got a drum set and she started to play along with my songs. I’ve played all my life, but I actually started writing songs when I was five.

PM: Did you take piano lessons?

Asya: I learned how to play piano by myself, but I really want to learn how to read notes so I took piano lessons for like a month at a time, but I quit after each one because they were too boring and stuff.

PM: When did the two of you decide you wanted to be an actual band? [There is laughter and hesitation as Chloe accidently rams Asya in the mouth with the tape recorder]

Asya: We did lessons with this guy named Jason McGerr—now he’s the drummer for Death Cab for Cutie—and he recorded our early stuff. We decided to record it so we could memorize stuff and then we got open mic shows. We did battle of the bands.

PM: Were you the youngest ones there?

Both: Yeah.

PM: How many years ago was that?

Asya: That was like two years ago.

PM: How old are you now? Your Web site says 11 and nine.

Asya: No!

Chloe: Asya’s 13 and I’m 11.

Asya: Our Web site says that?!

Chloe: Oh no! I don’t want people to think I’m nine!

PM: How did you pick the name Smoosh?

Asya: Well, we liked Smash Mouth, we liked the name, so we tried to pick something like that so we picked Smoosh (sm-u-sh). And then everyone pronounced it like “Sm-ooo-sh” and we just did that.

PM: How did you get on your record label (Pattern 25)?

Chloe: They found us. I had never heard of them before. They saw some of our shows and they thought we cool, I don’t know.

PM: Then you put your album last year?

Chloe: Yeah.

PM: Were you happy with the album?

Asya: I was.

PM: Who are some of the bands you have played with?

Asya: Pearl Jam, Jimmy Eat World, Presidents [of the United States of America], Death Cab for Cutie, Cat Power, Sleater-Kinney, Rilo Kiley.

PM: Wow. Are other bands usually surprised by how young you are?

Asya: I’m not sure.

Chloe: They’re really supportive. I think they are supportive of us ‘cause we’re kids and they let us play with them because we’re doing the same thing they were.

PM: Are most of your fans kids or adults?

Chloe: Kids and adults.

Asya: Usually when we have instores, then kids come.

Chloe: Yeah.

PM: How do you manage to play shows and go to school at the same time?

Asya: We just bring our school stuff with us to do. Our teachers think we have all the time in the world to do our stuff, but why would we go on tours if we were just going to do homework? We always have a ton of stuff to do on the last day.

PM: Do you miss a lot of school?

Asya: Yeah.

PM: Do you usually tour on the West Coast so that you are close to home?

Asya: Well that’s been the only tour we’ve done.

Chloe: It was our first tour and we happened to do West Coast.

PM: What do your friends think about you being in a band?

Asya: My school friends kind of think it’s old news since I’ve been friends with them for like four years and my soccer friends think it’s pretty cool.

Chloe: My friends are intersted in it and they come to my shows, but they’re not like crazy about it. They don’t really treat me like I’m too famous or anything. They just treat me like a normal kid.

PM: Do you want to be a musician forever or do you want to do something else when you get older?

Asya: I want to keep doing this—

Chloe: Yeah same!

Asya:—I want to keep doing this for my whole life I guess. Until I’m a grandma.

PM: Until you’re a grandma?

Asya: Yeah.

Chloe: Not until you’re a grandma!

Asya:Yeah, rockin’ grandmas. That’d be cool.

PM: Will you start working on another album soon?

Asya: Yeah, I don’t really know. We have like five new songs so we’ll probably plan a new one sometime after summer.

PM: Do you write your songs together?

Both: Yeah.

Asya: I start them by making them up on the piano and then Chloe makes up her drum beats.

PM: Who writes the words?

Asya: I do.

PM: What inspires you to write your songs?

Asya: I’m usually just jamming on the piano, finding things that sound catchy and then I make them into a song.

Chloe: The piano’s upstairs and the keyboards downstairs so she usually [goes back and forth]—I think’d play more if my drums were upstairs, I don’t like going downstairs to play the drums.

PM: So you practice in your house?

Chloe: Yeah. Our parents thought it was too loud so we had to go downstairs. We used to practice in the living room.

PM: Are your parents very supportive of your music?

Chloe: Yeah they are.

Asya: I think our parents are kind of different than normal parents. They like let us play at taverns and stuff.

PM: Are your parents musicians?

Asya: No!

PM: So this is just something you have picked up on your own?

Both: Yeah.

PM: Do you get along most of the time?

Chloe: Yeah, sometimes.

PM: Is it hard to have to work with your sister?

Chloe: Yeah, definitely. [To Asya] You get annoying.

Asya: No I don’t!

PM: Who are some of the bands you like?

Asya: I like the Presidents, Arcade Fire, Smashing Pumpkins ... the bands we’ve played with.

PM: What is one thing you would like people to know about Smoosh?

Asya: That we write all of our songs.

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