Text by Lee Wang
Photograph by Zen Sekizawa
“We’re getting older, so yes, we sound different,” says keyboardist and singer Asya of indie pop sensation Smoosh about their new record. But while other bands say their sound has matured, it’s hard to doubt Smoosh. After all, they’re barely teenagers.
Asya, 14, and her sister Chloe, 12, have been rocking as Smoosh and astonishing listeners with their songs about soccer and pygmy marmosets afraid of success. Their talent is attested by a savvy fan-base: Smoosh’s first fan (not counting mom and dad) is Chloe’s drum teacher Jason McGerr, who is also Death Cab for Cutie’s drummer.
Far from being a prima donna that such talent normally spawns, Asya cops to some doubt. “I guess the guys in Death Cab probably like our music, or else they wouldn’t be so nice to us. Maybe they like it, I don’t know.” But when a luminary like Chan “Cat Power” Marshall has been known to lip-sync to Smoosh tracks onstage, Asya probably shouldn’t worry too much.
In fact, Smoosh records showcase Asya and Chloe’s songwriting chops. They open 2004’s She Like Electric with the angular “Massive Cure” (Chloe and Asya’s favorite Smoosh song), then glide on to the jaunty anti-ambivalence chant “Rad” (the aforementioned favorite of Marshall’s). Now with Free to Stay, Smoosh broaden their arrangements to earn that maturity label; for instance, Asya shows off her year-old guitar skills with the acoustic intro on “Waiting for Something.”
Although Asya and Chloe are preternaturally gifted, Smoosh remain grounded in pre-teen life. “If it wasn’t for school,” Asya says with a hint of gripe, “I’d definitely be spending a lot more time on music and touring more. It kind of gets in the way sometimes.” Still, she’s drawn to the humanities, which indicates burgeoning artiness. Chloe, on the other hand, is poised for rock rebellion: her favorite subjects are PE and lunch.
Missing school is one cool thing about touring – they get to rub elbows with Sleater-Kinney, Sufjan Stevens and now the Eels. But something even cooler than opening for such indie stalwarts happened on the U.K.-leg of their tour with the Go! Team and the Grates. “For my birthday,” Chloe recalls excitedly, “the Go! Team called me and Asya up onstage and stuff, so we danced at the end of their set. And also, us and the Grates, threw balloons on the stage, and at the end of the tour, the last show, we all came up onstage and hit each other with balloons, and that was a lot of fun too.”