Chloe Moriondo is already a bit of a sensation, but with new album ‘Suckerpunch’ and its hyperactive new sound, what comes next could be something else entirely.
Words: Martyn Young. Photos: Kenneth Cappello.
A ‘proper’ pop star defines each new project as an era, reinventing themselves on the move in a way that has defined legends young and old for generations. For Chloe Moriondo, their third album ‘Suckerpunch’ represents a seismic shift that smashes all pre-conceptions, firmly establishing them as a star bursting with ambition, unafraid to shake things up. Chloe Moriondo’s main pop era has begun, whether we’re ready for it or not.
We always knew that Chloe was super talented, going right back to their earliest homespun lo-fi recordings through to 2021’s acclaimed album ‘Blood Bunny’, but this time everything is different. Each sound, lyric, pop hook and intense emotion is ramped up to maximum. It’s a staggering breakthrough.
“It feels like everything has led up to this,” begins Chloe, dialling in from her hotel room while on tour in Amsterdam. “It’s a new era for me, and I’m very excited because a lot of work has gone into it. I’ve gotten to make a lot of really exciting experimental sounds and put the work in behind the scenes without people realising how different things are going to sound. I’m excited to slap people in the face with it.”
It’s hard to overstate just how exciting a statement ‘Suckerpunch’ is. It’s overwhelming, super energised and emotionally all-encompassing – all part of Chloe’s desire to try something new and shake things up. “I’ve grown a lot as a person,” they explain. “As ‘Blood Bunny’ came out, I felt like I was already growing and changing and turning into a different person. You can never quite catch up to where you were when you made your newest release. I feel like I’ve grown to love the experience of making new music so much more since being able to work with more people and make music in different styles, as well as with the same people I worked with on ‘Blood Bunny’. It really helped me explore my sound more, to feel more familiar in my own skin and do what I wanted to do, but also make new and crazy things.”
Those crazy things ended up being their most pop-focused record, but it’s pop in a mangled, distorted, crunchy way. Hyperpop adjacent but imbued with a strong spirit of anything goes invention, this is the sound of Chloe going all in – no half-measures and no turning back. “I don’t think I would have expected myself to make music like this when I was making ‘Blood Bunny’,” they admit. “That’s a great thing, and I’m really excited about it. Younger me would be really excited, and that’s what matters to me.”
The vision for the album was both a reaction against what had come before and a desire to firmly embrace the formative pop of Chloe’s youth. “As soon as I released ‘Blood Bunny’, I started itching to make some new stuff – something different,” they explain. “About a year ago, I flew out to LA and started making different stuff with the same producers. I wanted to make a pop album that sounded like the baby of all the fantastic radio pop stars I grew up listening to. I wanted an amalgamation of what I was raised on, 2010 Katy Perry and Black Eyed Peas.”
“It feels like everything has led up to this”Chloe Moriondo
The cyborg future-pop of Black Eyed Peas in this era was a catalyst to go all in on a no-fucks-given sound. “The radio was insane back then!” they exclaim. “Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Rock That Body’ era was nuts, and I referenced it all the time.”
Even more explicit on the album is Chloe’s hat tip to two of the era’s major pop stars, both groundbreaking in their own way and lyrically referenced in the album’s opening track and defining statement ‘Popstar’. “There’s something so nostalgic and intoxicating about the early-to-late 2000s pop, from 2005 to about 2013,” they reflect. “I listen to so many radio hits from that era of music. I’ve admired Britney and Kesha and these pop girls for so much of my life. I grew up listening to these people, especially people like Lady Gaga. Oh my god, I was obsessed with her back then. I don’t think I would be able to make anything else after ‘Blood Bunny’ that wasn’t inspired by the electronic pop that I grew up listening to. Between the ages of 5 and 9 were really crucial for listening to music for me. Being in the back of the car, listening to the pop station, and really loving it was a core moment for making this album.”
In many ways, ‘Suckerpunch’ is Chloe’s attempt to fit into this iconic pop lineage, but they’re also looking to do it in new creative and outlandish ways. Everything is exaggerated – sometimes to grotesque levels – but then the record hits with a soft, subtle and deeply beautiful side that tempers the chaos into blissful melancholic reflection. In short, nothing does what it’s expected to, and that’s entirely the point. “I really love doing different things, trying experimental sounds and being my full self even if that doesn’t necessarily meet what that means for other people,” says Chloe. Doing something so drastically different does bring its own distinct fears, though. “I have so many worries,” they admit. “I’m an anxious girl. I’ve been an anxious girl my whole life. I try to be as transparent as I can with my life and music. I feel like people can expect me to be worried. I am worried that some people who have been fans of my music for a very long time will not like the new direction I’m going in, but I’m trying to be ok with that. I don’t think I would be nearly as happy as I am right now if I was just releasing stuff for other people to like. I’m really proud of this new album, and I’m really excited to see people’s excited reactions, and honestly, I’m really excited to see people’s weirded-out reactions too. I want to see all of it.”
“I don’t think I fully know what being a pop star is in 2022”Chloe Moriondo
Making the album was a liberating process for Chloe as they established a new way of creating and telling stories. “I’ve never felt more free to make and write what I wanted,” they say excitedly. “I had all of the tools – and the people who had the tools to help me – in front of me. It was really exciting for me to make things that I wanted to listen to and things that I wanted to dance to. It was incredibly groundbreaking to realise that I could make pop music. It was a beautiful experience, and I want to keep making it for as long as I can.”
There was undoubtedly an element of risk to making an album so sonically striking, though, which Chloe acknowledges. “It’s definitely a bit of a plunge,” they laugh. “I could have definitely made something more in the groove of ‘Blood Bunny’ and still enjoyed it, but I don’t think I would have loved it or been as excited about it as I am about this record. That was what was most important to me. I tried my best to be brave about it because, at the end of the day, I don’t want to make anything that I’m not 100% on fire to show people.”
Despite the wildly different sounds used on the album, it tells a coherent and dynamic story of the conflicting emotions and character traits around the notion of stardom. “There are plenty of running themes, some subconscious and some very intentional,” says Chloe. “A lot of ‘Suckerpunch’ is about growing up into girlhood and being a girl in the public eye. I think a lot of ‘Suckerpunch’ is also about growing into the music industry as a young person. There’s a first half that’s very superficial and focused on being a star, wanting to be in the spotlight, being crazy, or an enigma or character that everyone is afraid of or excited about. Then there’s the downfall where it shows what’s behind the mask.”
The melodies and distorted hooks on the album are overtly pop, but for Chloe, it’s unclear exactly what that represents in the modern era. “I don’t think I fully know what being a pop star is in 2022,” they admit. “I’d love to be one, but I don’t consider myself one. I like to call myself a pop star in a sort of joking way, especially because I made the song the opening track on ‘Suckerpunch’, but I think I’m definitely using it in a facetious way because pop stardom is huge. It’s a phenomenon that not many people get to experience, and it’s something that so many people want to experience. It’s glamorous and extravagant and unreachable for basically everyone. That’s something that I really wanted to hone in on and try to take on as a word that you can use for yourself.”
Throughout ‘Suckerpunch’, there is a theatricality at work, revelling in the absurdity of some of the frequently surreal and often hilarious images Chloe conjures up. It’s an example of the added complexity in their songwriting developed over the past couple of years. “I started story writing a lot more with my music once I realised I could make different sounds and break through the genre barrier of whatever I was in with ‘Blood Bunny’,” they explain. “I started making more concept songs and coming up with lyrics that I thought were fun or silly or exciting or scary. It was new for me. I’m going to go through any door I can at this point. I love making music and experimenting with different sounds. The sounds that I’ve just been scraping with ‘Suckerpunch’, I’m already so excited to really dig into for future projects – new stuff and collaborations. I don’t think I’m ever going to want to stop experimenting and making new and exciting things.”
Maybe the most exciting thing they created this time around was the album’s lead single ‘Fruity’. Every new era needs a defining moment, and we get that with Chloe’s biggest song yet. “It was definitely an ah-ha moment,” they say excitedly. “We went into the studio and didn’t have a pre-written concept. I knew I wanted to make a baby of Katy Perry, Kesha and the Black Eyed Peas. David Pramik – who I work with all the time and I love – he laid down this ‘do do do do’ thing, and I was so obsessed. I started laying down all these fruit-related lyrics that were so funny and cheesy and super sugary, but it was everything I wanted for this song. I just wanted to make a beach party anthem about love, excitement, partying, and having a good time.” ‘Fruity’ could quite possibly be the song of this summer and, indeed, every summer for the rest of time. Stick it next to ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry, and you’re set for life.
Away from the bangers, though, there is a sad and reflective side to ‘Suckerpucnch’ that subtly links it to their previous much-loved album. “There are some songs off ‘Suckerpunch’ that tie back into ‘Blood Bunny’ really nicely. I feel very vulnerable in the way that ‘Blood Bunny’ was for me but in a very different way,” says Chloe. “A song like ‘Cry’ is super vulnerable and totally could have been on ‘Blood Bunny’ if it weren’t a completely different world. The entire last half of ‘Suckerpunch’ has ‘Blood Bunny’’s heart. ‘Diet Heartbreak’ and ‘Hearteyes’ are both very soft songs for me and remind me a lot of that older era of songwriting. They were both very natural to write and focused on me writing what I wanted to say mostly by myself, which reminded me a lot of ‘Blood Bunny’ because I was able to write a lot of the most sensitive parts of this album alone in my room.”
Another thematic call back to one of ‘Blood Bunny’’s most loved songs, ‘I Eat Boys’, can be found in album highlight ‘Plastic Purse’ – a typical Chloe tale created from a childhood memory. “The dynamics of it really encapsulate the energy of the record,” they say. “’Plastic Purse’ fell together so beautifully in exactly the way I needed it to. It was inspired by a kids’ book my mum used to read me called ‘Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse’. Not many people have heard of it, but sometimes I’ll see a little post about it, and it will really make my day. I wanted to make a song concept inspired by a plastic purse that I can carry around, shrink really mean and annoying but sometimes cute boys, and then put them in there.” From eating boys to zapping them into a tiny purse – the more things change, the more some things remain the same.
“I wanted to make a baby of Katy Perry, Kesha and the Black Eyed Peas”Chloe Moriondo
One important aspect of Chloe’s new era of reinvention is the album’s whole visual aesthetic, which is more direct and striking than ever before. “It’s been so fun creating the visuals and the outfits and what I want people to see when they hear this album,” enthuses Chloe. “Me and my girlfriend Samantha collaborated really heavily on the visuals. This time she was the creative director for the album cover. I’m really proud of her and the work we do together. We were really inspired by the Y2K retro-yet-future cyber era of fashion that’s kind of around right now. Retro electronics turned into future electronics, crazy visuals that we pinned together and made into something glittery and exciting. It was a really fun process to fully accept this new style that I’m into and show people what I see when I see the songs.”
There’s a real brashness and boldness that defines ‘Suckerpunch’. You can imagine a comic book being created from its overblown, otherworldly characters and ridiculous scenarios. It can be gaudy, ugly and overwhelming, but it can be heart-stoppingly beautiful too. It’s everything future-facing pop music should be. “It’s a dream,” says Chloe. “I always wanted to be able to write like this, sing like this and perform in the way that I can perform these new songs. So many pop stars and musicians I admired when I was younger did this exact same thing. Slapping people in the face with a new concept or attitude in a way that people might not necessarily like or consider as good as your older stuff, but it’s you. It’s what you love. I wanted to run with that as far as I could.” ■
Taken from the October 2022 edition of Dork. Chloe Moriondo’s album ‘Suckerpunch’ is out 7th October.