Hailing from the dreamy Northern Beaches of Sydney, CXLOE is one of the newest faces of a lesser known subsection of pop music labelled as dark pop. The boundaries of pop are slowly being broken down and refined into something edgier and heavier by rising voices, creating a more nuanced idea around what pop really is. There’s a duality to CXLOE — she’s a Virgo who grew up in a family of pharmacists on the sunny Northern Beaches, but she also has a darker alter ego expressed through her music. These two sides merge together in her latest single Twelve Steps, an infectious pop track that is also a raw and deeply personal look into addiction.
Your first EP Heavy, Part One is releasing soon. What inspired the process behind it?
So Heavy, Part One is based conceptually around the inner workings of my mind. I’ve kind of been in reflection over the past few years, and have just been trying to understand myself and why I do the things I do and why I am the way I am. And a lot of the songs come back to that, that EP title- Heavy. Which is how I have felt over the past couple years. Just trying to understand why everything I feel is so deep. And boy, I feel a lot! I feel too much sometimes, and I wanted to explore that.
It almost sounds like it was a therapeutic experience to create.
It was! It’s been a couple of years of therapy sessions for myself. It’s been a lot, because making it felt like, ‘oh my god, it makes sense why I do that!’ So it has been like an internal therapy session. But it’s been good and I’m glad I’ve done it.
Has it always felt natural for you to be able to explore these darker themes when you release music into the world, or can it sometimes be more personal and closed off?
It definitely is inherent, it feels natural for me to write these songs. But there’s always an element of it that’s quite scary when you’re pouring your heart out like this. But I write music so that people can listen to it and connect and feel less alone or less alienated. I hope that they can hear my songs and think ‘okay, she does this too. So maybe other people do.’ So there is an element of being quite frightened about putting it out there but there’s always elements of fear in everything you do. I’m happy to push the boundary of that where I can.
What does pop music mean to you?
Pop music is just popular. Catchy melodies and concept. For me, it’s not all light and bubblegum. I think that pop has been a dirty word for a while, but it’s slowly pushing boundaries. It’s anything that you connect with.
Is it difficult to be taken seriously in pop music?
Yes. And to be taken seriously as a female. I think I look a lot younger than I actually am. And so I found it really hard to be taken seriously on that front. So that combined with pop music, and combined with being an Australian in LA has been quite tricky. But we just have to keep punching through and being heard. It’s been weird- this journey of pop, but I like where it’s headed, I think people are more open minded to the word.
Tell me about LA.
I have a love/hate relationship with LA. I love the opportunities and I really connect with a lot of the people there, a lot of my favorite writers and producers are in LA. LA has this weird feeling of not home. To me it’s sometimes where I feel a million miles away, and not just geographically but in my heart, it’s scary. I started going there straight after high school, which is a long time ago, and I still have some of those memories of fear from when I first started going, when I was quite young and I didn’t know how to tell someone that I felt uncomfortable in a session, or if I wasn’t vibing with that person. I didn’t have that in me, but I do now which is a journey everyone goes on. I definitely have a mixed relationship that I’m trying to work on, with LA.
How did you get started with music?
I was always doing singing, dancing and acting. Then in school, I thought- I think this is what I want to do for my job. When I finished high school I got a scholarship to Berklee (College of Music) in Boston. I wanted to pursue music, but I didn’t know how and Berklee kinda just felt like ‘this can give me some time where I can be told where to go.’ I thought about taking it for a long time and I just decided against it because I knew that I just had to kind of get into the nitty gritty and go to LA and just figure it all out. So that’s what I did. And then I just started writing with anyone who would come in a session with me.
How has it all evolved over time?
I think it’s changed because we’re all always growing and we’re always going through different parts of our lives- so it’s changed on that front. It’s definitely kept a through line of always being about the way I feel. I feel too much sometimes and I think that’s always been the way. Sonically it’s gone on a journey, I started dark and got a bit brighter but dipped back into this darker world, which is where I feel most me. It’s still pop music though, it’s just got a bit of a darker twist.
Who are your influences?
I grew up listening to Eva Cassidy and Joni Mitchell, so they’re lyrical influences. Sonically, Ali X, Banks, and Tove Lo. I love Tove Lo, Queen of the Clouds is one of my favourite albums and I still go back for inspiration to listen to that today.
Do you take on an alter ego with your music? Or is CXLOE how you feel more authentically you?
It’s always me and it’s always coming from a part of me, but I definitely have this duality of self in a lot of my music, which I like to touch on because I do feel like a very raw girl next door sometimes. And then in other instances, it’s like the darker alter ego, CXLOE that’s where she sits. And it’s fun for me to dip into both because I feel it a lot. Some days I’m in that heavy headspace and I want the darkness. And then there’s the dual side of it, where it’s very raw, and instinctual- no makeup, no costuming, no nothing. It’s just “Chloe”.
Tell me about your latest single Twelve Steps.
It is a very personal song and I wanted to write it for a long time. It was one of the song titles that was in my notes for a while, but I just wanted to write it with the right people. It means a lot to me, and it’s very close to my heart. And I wanted to be respectful to the people in my life. It’s pretty much just based on addiction. And I wanted to make it a universal concept so that everyone could relate to it somehow. And that’s where the toxic relationship thing came from. I feel like we’ve all been in a relationship that we needed a 12 step to get over them for or that we knew wasn’t good for us. And so that was the concept that I feel like everyone could relate to. Essentially, it did stem from addiction, whether it’s to food or shopping or alcohol or whatever it is.
What comes after Heavy, Part One?
Part Two is the other side of the Heavy concept. Part One is very internal and explains the way I am and then EP two is the way that it affects everyone in my life. My personality traits and how it affects the people around me. It feels really organic and natural. I don’t want it to feel like I’m putting it on.