The Brooklyn Headsets project is a series of live performances filmed on a deck with a view in Greenpoint, Brooklyn recorded using headphones. You can expect to see many more of these videos through this spring, summer, and fall, as I am the interviewer for each session.
We are very happy to unveil the second Brooklyn Headsets video session & interview. This session features singer-songwriter Chaos Chaos, a band of sisters Asy and Chloe Saaverda and cellist Bryan West. Asy and Chloe started the band Smoosh at a young age, gaining prominence in indie circles before recently shifting focus to this new project. They are working on their first full length and touring. An EP is available here. You can like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
Above is a teaser video of the session & interview, which included performances of "Winner," "In This Place," and "Across the Map." Visit the Brooklyn Headsets website for the full videos, many more photos, and the complete details of everyone and everything that makes this great project possible and how to be on it if you're a musician.
Chaos Chaos put on an incredible performance and we had a good chat after the session. Here are some of the highlights.
S: You just did your Brooklyn HeadSets session. How did it go?
Chloe Saaverda: It was awesome. I’m excited to see what other people are going to come through here. I wish that I would have a view of the skyline as I was playing, but I guess I’ll see that later on.
Bryan West: It’s a lovely brick wall, though.
Asy Saaverda: It could be a giant mirror, that would be great. It was cool, though. It was fun to do these songs in a really different way than we’ve been doing on tour. We have been so used to playing with our normal set-up, it's fun to experiment.
S: What was your percussion setup?
A: It was the first time it was used, right?
C: Yeah, there was a cajón drum, which I’m using as a kick drum, a floor tom, and a sheet of aluminum. And a little cotali cymbal.
S: You two are sisters. Bryan, how did you get involved in this project?
B: I met them through Twitter, actually. A college roommate had found Asy’s project that she did with Stuart Murdoch, from Belle & Sebastian, God Help The Girl. He liked Asy’s voice and found out they were in Brooklyn and knew I was living here. He messaged me and said, “Hey, you should check them out.” I assumed they were friends of his. I just messaged them right away and said, “Hi, I’m a cellist in New York, I’m freelancing. Your music’s really cool. I’d love to play with you if you're interested.”
C: I don’t even know why we responded to that – no offense.
B: [laughs] I was surprised. You guys even replied right away, and then the next week we played a show.
C: We had never played with a cellist before but we love cello. We didn’t even have an idea to play with cello. When we got that Tweet we were like, “hmm, interesting.”
A: We felt like trying something new.
C: We were playing with Tegan and Sara and we really wanted to make a different kind of performance than we usually did. So, we were really happy to have Brian in that. We’ve been playing with him since.
S: I saw that interview you did last fall with Interview Magazine. You talked a little bit about your father being a scientist and how you sometimes think about science for your music. Could you get into a more specific example of that?
C: We like to draw parallels with science and music. And a specific parallel that we’ve drawn is with evolution. We like to think of our songs and the way that a song evolves the same as a species evolves. And it sounds so nerdy, but it's interesting. It makes us look at music differently and it's fun.
S: Thinking about that evolution aspect, one thing I like about what you guys do with videos and media is a lot of different versions of your songs. I thought that “kitchen session” that you guys did for “In This Place” was really cool [watch]. Very stripped down, just percussion from kitchen utensils and…was that coffee beans?
A: Yeah. That was really fun. That has to do with the evolution process. At that time, we hadn’t recorded the song for real, so as we did a lot of different versions. I guess natural selection took place; some things ended up not becoming part of the song. I never realized before we did the kitchen session that we would want to use these instruments that weren’t really instruments, like sheet metal and some other random things. We ended up experimenting a lot with the instruments, as inspired by the “kitchen sessions.” So, it helps with song writing to try out different versions of songs.
C: We really like the idea of just using your limitations to your advantage. People are a lot more creative than when they are limited. We’ve been writing songs on this Garage Band app recently, just doing everything on our voice.
S: Your name made me think about chaos and order. Would you say that you identify more with chaos or order as people, individually?
A: I like that question. I feel like we should evaluate each other.
C: Well, I’d say, definitely chaos [points at Asy]
A: That’s – no –
C: Order? [points at Bryan]
A: And you’re in perfect balance?
C: [laughs] The perfect balance right here.
B: I would say that you edge towards the chaotic, though.
C: But that’s because you are orderly.
B: I’m classically trained. I have to be orderly. It comes from my musical upbringing.
C: Well, okay, fine. I’m a little bit more chaotic.
S: We can just talk musically…
C: [laughs] Asy’s definitely chaotic with the music. She comes to me with a song and she’s going crazy rocking out one part – [sings] – and then all of a sudden [sings] – and I’m like, “Asy, no, that’s too much. That’s too crazy.” I don't think people can appreciate that amount of craziness.
A: I don’t know, I feel like when you're starting a song there's going to be some more chaos. Then as you hone down on the parts and the structure, you will have to bring some order into the whole thing. But I think that the creative idea that the song starts with, it has to be chaotic. I don’t know why, actually, but it just has to be. There has to be some element of chaos.
S: “Winner” and “In My Hands,” which you didn’t play, those two have to me almost a hip-hop percussion production to them. I was wondering what do you like to draw on and what do you like to listen to?
A: Around the time that we were writing those two songs, we definitely listened to some hip-hop. I didn’t know that anyone would be able to tell that we were influenced by that.
C: I didn’t think so, either.
A: I know you love that, with the percussion.
C: We listen to a lot of mainstream hip-hop. We also listen to like MF Doom, Mad Villain, and Quasimodo. With mainstream hip-hop we try to avoid listening to the lyrics, but the drums, the percussion is awesome. We try to draw from the fact that it's so simple but it really makes you get into it. “Less is more.” Just a driving kick. They have this thing where it's always like, a fake 808 hi-hat going, and then it's sixteenth notes in the chorus. And somehow that little thing makes you get so into it when it goes into the chorus. Just studying their little tricks. Also, I really love Questlove. He’s one of my idols.
S: From a very young age you were playing music as Smoosh and doing pretty big shows. What was that like? Did you just treat it as normal? Or were you constantly star struck?
A: It was never that all of a sudden we were picked up by a major label and on Disney. We were never completely bombarded with being super famous or anything. We were just another indie band that took a long time.
C: I was in elementary school when we were going on tours and stuff. And kids in elementary school, all they knew was Britney Spears and the mainstream. They did not know about this indie music scene that we were involved in. And I couldn’t explain it to them. So they were getting annoyingly jealous thinking that I was doing all of this mainstream Britney Spears music stuff. They thought that we were big and famous, but it's like, “No, you don’t understand, we’re not, it's indie music.”
A: It was normal for us to go to the first day of school and then leave for three months for a tour, and then come back, and the other kids were like, “Well, that’s not fair. What’s up with you guys? Why do you get to do that?” But for us we were pretty used to it. We loved it, but it was pretty hard to juggle school and homework.
C: The girl in the attendance office hated us, though.
S: I like getting people’s recommendations or things that they are really into. You have a Warhol inspired shirt on. Do you guys have favorite artists?
C: I like Warhol but he’s actually not one of my favorite artists. I love Paul Cézanne. And we love Magritte.
A: I don’t know if you're trying to connect everything to music but we do like to look at artwork when we write lyrics and stuff, because it's fun and it makes it a cool experience.
C: In the studio –
A: – we projected this huge Paul Gauguin, some of his art when we were recording, and just stared at it when we sang. I think we kind of creeped out the producer.
C: Yeah, to create an atmosphere. That was really fun. We need to do that again.
A: I used to like watching documentaries on Frida Kahlo.
C: I love Kahlo.
S: What can we expect to happen for Chaos Chaos in the near future?
C: In the near future we are going to leave for tour May 13th. We’re touring with San Cisco again in Australia.
A: Until then we will be writing for the full length here in New York.