Climate emergencies, a human rights movement, car crash politics and a global pandemic for good measure, the world is in violent flux right now. Meanwhile, a generation are fighting to take control of their own future. It's not the present seventeen-year-old Chloe Moriondo probably dreamt of, but it's one she'll make the best of. "Now is the time for everyone to experiment. Now is the time to grow as a person, as an artist and as whatever the hell you want to be," she starts from her home in Michigan.
A musician who found her voice on YouTube and has never been afraid of using it since, she's "always been writing little tunes" and has always been in love with music. When she was a little kid, Chloe was asked what she wanted to do when she was older. "I really loved my mom, and I really loved music. Those were the two things I really liked in my life, so I would say I want to be a singer and a mommy. I don't think I ever pictured doing anything else. Nothing else interested me that much." Armed with an iPod Nano, she listened to everything her parents were into and everything that was on the radio. At age 12, she started opening the Notes App, writing stuff down and storing it in a special folder. It's still where a majority of her ideas live. "I'm not the most organised person," she admits. "I'm a bit scatterbrained."
She, like a lot of kids, would record covers but eventually discovered singer-songwriter Dodie's channel and watched as she shared how she wrote original songs. With no barriers and no mystery, Chloe realised she could do it as well. "She did stuff with just her ukulele and her voice. It was really beautiful. I got really inspired by that so started writing my own songs on piano and ukulele, turning my little humming-on-a-bike-ride into something more solid."
It's those songs that make up her 2018 'Rabbit Hearted' album. A lush self-released, self-produced DIY bedroom pop record, its dreamy escape and conversational lyrics struck a chord with teenagers across the world. The gorgeous Cavetown-produced 'Spirit Orb' EP followed in 2020 and provided a comforting getaway-soundtrack while throwing an even bigger spotlight Chloe's way.
"It sounds kinda depressing saying I've always been an escapist person, but it definitely doesn't have to always be in a 'I hate my life, get me out of here' kinda thing." Chloe loved getting lost in fantasy books when she was younger, drawn to the endless potential they offered, and that's never gone away. "There's something really fascinating and awesome to me about writing songs that can take you somewhere else, where you can be whatever the hell you want." Sometimes that's for adventure, "Sometimes there are problems you do want to get away from though and that exists for everyone. It definitely existed for me."
High school and middle school weren't easy for Chloe. "I was going through some shit," she starts. "They don't tell you that it's the worst time ever when you're at school because they don't want to make you feel bad, but it definitely is. I wrote basically all my songs in that time period. A lot of that is me dreaming about where else I could be, where I'm going to be in the future and what I would want to be." Written while "stewing in the crap that I was dealing with in my own room, it's very Teenage Angst stuff, and I'm so glad there are people who like it, and can relate to it still. There's a lot of it I still relate to, just in different ways now."
Now she's graduated the suffocatingly intense boiling pot of High School, Chloe's realised, "there's a whole world out there." As someone who has spent the past few years dreaming of what's waiting for her, she can't wait to dive in. "I'm excited to keep writing more songs in the same vein as what's come before, but also do some more crazy shit. I can do whatever I want.
"I always imagined myself doing more than just singing with a ukulele. There are people who do just sit alone with one instrument and do incredible, fantastic things, but that's not the height of what I pictured for myself."
'Spirit Orb' was "a very transitionary EP" for her. Working with Cavetown ("my first real friend in music, he's so fucking cool") on her first professional project, she saw him take her ideas and transform them into something even bigger. "I did 'Rabbit Hearted' all alone in my room. Now I was in London, watching Robin do all these sick things and hearing the songs a lot more fleshed out, it was super inspiring."
Despite always wanting to write music with more dimensions to it, "I didn't think I could just do it. There was some sort of glass wall in my mind." 'Spirit Orb' changed all that. "I went from 'oh, I'm just writing these little songs on my ukulele, and I might sing them in my room on this illegal version of Logic that I did not pay for" - she has a paid-for, legal version now, Logic Lawyers - "to realising I could really do this. I heard my songs get made into these sick, band-orientated songs that I could play with other people, and I knew that it could be a lot bigger than just me alone on stage."
It was a real 'oh shit' moment. "I realised I could make any sort of sound I want. I love all types of music, and I've always been super obsessed with having a really cool, varied sound. That record really did open up my eyes to what else I could do with my stuff."
As soon as she got home from London, she wrote the dreamy indie-pop banger of 'Manta Rays'. Released a few months after 'Spirit Orb', it's a coming-of-age track that trembles with new beginnings and isn't afraid to get noisy. The first song she ever wrote on guitar, "it's really a very cathartic song for me. I wrote it on my bedroom floor when I was still so tired after that really long trip, I knew it was going to get somewhere but only if I took it there." With 'Rabbit Hearted' and sometimes on 'Spirit Orb', "I was singing very quietly. You could fall asleep to that music, which isn't a bad thing, but I didn't always want that for my stuff. It was a very new experience to be playing guitar and singing in whatever style I wanted. It felt very cool."
It's not a one-off either. She's spent lockdown doing writing sessions that "were weird to start with, as a 17-year-old who's never really done music with anyone else before this year but I've found my own groove. I've been able to do a lot of cool stuff that I'm really excited about, that I wouldn't have been able to if I wasn't open to the idea of working with others. It's definitely expanded my horizons." That can be heard across brand newie 'I Want To Be With You', a grunge-infused burst of power-pop that is as loud as it is brilliant. Full of "High School lesbian angst, it's trying to come out of that bubble where you're not exactly sure what to say to someone," she explains. "You don't know how to express yourself, and you're nervous as hell. It's another very cathartic song for me. I've been writing lots of songs where I can scream, sing and play some guitar."
There's a renewed direction across 'Manta Rays' and 'I Want To Be With You' as Chloe breaks new ground. She's not done exploring yet, either. "I'm definitely in a sandbox period of where exactly I'm going. I'm trying to make my own amalgamate noise of all these early-2000 girl pop songs and 90s emo guitar music. I'm trying to make some new wave, old Avril [Lavigne] so bad recently." Inspired by the explosion of 00s pop-punk that dominated the charts back then (when all these pages were trees), "It's been really fun making some familiar-sounding stuff to me. I listened to that music so much growing up. I always wanted to do this, and now I get to, that's crazy."
Shaking off the girl-with-the-ukulele image that seems to haunt a lot of people who came up a similar way, Chloe knows "there are some people who came for a different version of me than I am now. There are people who want the 15-year-old version of me, which is a little odd. Actually, it's very odd when I think of it that way, and I think about it a lot, to be honest. I'm not going to play dumb, there's a lot of layers to that."
But rather than worrying about what the faceless internet might say, she's inspired by the generational energy around her. "There are a lot of talented people, growing just like me, who are learning about different styles or things they like. There are some really awesome, supportive people on every platform who I think are still going to be there. I don't think there's any point sitting here and worrying about whether this version of me that makes me feel happier and more myself, makes other people feel less good. There are definitely some YouTube comments that are always going to be there, but I'm cool with it."
Despite her music being used as an escape for Chloe and her audience, she uses her platform to talk about real-world things. She's collaborated with The Ally Coalition for a Zoom discussion with the Ruth Ellis Center and Lambda Legal to talk about how they're helping to create a supportive community alongside young LGBTQ+ people. She released an acoustic track, 'Living Virtually', as part of the National Independent Venue Association's #SAVEOURSTAGES campaign. She's been a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter ("I know this is really scary, but please care more for the lives of black people than you do for staying neutral or staying quiet"), and has been encouraging people to register to vote and educate themselves ahead of the US Elections.
"It's definitely difficult to exactly say in words what's happening and what exactly we should be doing, especially because the situation isn't focused on people like me right now. People like me are the ones who should be listening and supporting, so I'm just learning, growing, doing stuff with people that I know could help me and trying my best to stay open to things," she starts.
Artists speaking up for the things they believe in always leads to Flag Twitter piping up with tired criticism. If Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello is going to get told 'stick to the music, pal', Chloe was always going to get furious, insecure blokes asking 'you're only seventeen, what do you know?'.
"It's definitely a thing I've been nervous about for a while. Growing up, I was fully on the internet. I was born in 2002, so my whole generation is very Internet Kid. Being exposed to everything that I know has happened, and I know is still happening, it's changed what I believe in. I'm trying to do what's right, and I'm trying to encourage the kids that I know are really cool and follow me for whatever reason, to do the same."
It's not always easy speaking to your mates. "I try not to tell people exactly what to do, or act like I know exactly what is best. Right now is a crucial time for me to learn, to keep my mind open and to correct others if I know they need to be. I want to encourage people to be active in what they believe in, especially when it comes to human rights, the rights of their friends, their family, themselves and people they don't know who deserves to be treated just the same as everyone else. There are a lot of core things that I believe in, that a lot of people that are supporting me also believe in. I've been trying to really connect with that, speak out alongside them and try to encourage more people to act, without being too timid."
Being fearless, being brave, being loud are all things Chloe is embracing as she moves through 2020. Rather than the back-and-forth conversational lyrics that fuelled her earlier work, 'Manta Rays' and 'I Want to Be With You' are to-the-point and capture a person who knows exactly what she wants. It's the same energy with her standing up and speaking out about the state of the world. ,"I've always been a little weird with my lyrics but now, especially, I've been saying whatever the hell I want 'cos I think I can. Now is the time. Honesty is important in the art you're trying to give other people. Sure, there are some people who like to be more reserved, and I get it, but personally, the most important part of my music is that I'm super honest about the stuff I talk about and do."
Her future is uncertain, there's no blueprint for where bedroom pop goes next, but Chloe is fine with that. "I have no idea where I'm going to be a year from now, and that excites the hell out of me. I definitely feel confident in where I want to go and where I'm aiming. But also, most of that confidence comes from the fact that I really don't know. I'm just excited to keep doing this shit and to keep making more stuff that I didn't think I could make before." Which includes the outside possibility of a Cavetown, mxmtoon and Chloe Moriondo supergroup. "That'd be super sick. I want to. I'm open to it. We're all friends, I don't see why they wouldn't be up for it."
Change is coming for everyone. "That's what's keeping me from being terrified of it. Everyone goes through change, whether you're working out if you want to go to college, start a career or whatever. I'm going to try my best to ride through it."
"I'm trying to prove to myself and everyone else, I can do whatever the hell I want," Chloe starts with a grin. She's not that 15-year-old kid with a ukulele anymore. "The older I get, the more I realise I'm just the same as all these other people that I idolise. I spent so long thinking 'I want to be like X, but I never could'. Now though, there's really not that much of a reason why I couldn't. I have a lot of resources at my hands that I'm very grateful to have."
Resources, and plenty of ambition. "I've just been a lot more confident in general just because I know that things could go really well if I continue to just keep grounded in what I want and stay open to other voices and opinions. I'm 17 now, and I feel like I could do a lot more than I realised when all this stuff started happening."
Actively pushing for change, Chloe Moriondo isn't scared of whatever comes next. "I'm trying to step outside of my comfort zone. I'm definitely still nervous about stuff, everything makes me nervous all the time, but I'm more excited than anything. That overpowers everything else."
Bring it on.
Taken from the September issue of Dork.
Featuring Chloe Moriondo, Cavetown, mxmtoon and loads more.