odwalla88: new-gen riot grrrls
Photography Jessica Butler
Odwalla88 is a two-girl band from Baltimore, Maryland, composed of best friends Chloe Maratta and Flannery Silva. When I first met Chloe and Flannery outside a DIY space in Los Angeles, they seemed like the Brontë sisters incarnate: verbal and unmarried, with matching middle parts. When they played, the drum machine felt like it was looping indefinitely, until the sound was knitted into something solid and severe. Their lyrics are cute and scary, like the animal graveyard that I discovered when I was seven in my next door neighbor's backyard, with round flat stones marking dead road kill: Bunny, Princess, Angel. Odwalla88 has attracted a devoted and growing following across the country, because they remind you of all the things you forgot you knew: calling your best friend when you're crying, but you can't calm down enough to actually speak; a plastic basket full of butterfly barrettes; patchwork quilts, patchwork jeans, patchwork as a method of survival; stepping on snails with bare feet. Odwalla88 is a journey without a destination, a community of sisters, a revolutionary manifesto that says, "Live, Laugh, Love." I interviewed Chloe and Flannery as they prepare for the release of their new album, 'Earth Flirt', this fall.
How did odwalla88 begin?
Flannery: Today my best friend saved my life.
What was your relationship like before you were band-mates?
Chloe: Flan has been my angel since I met her when we both moved to Baltimore for school in 2009. We have explored and discovered a lot of things together. Once I was describing her to a friend and he said, "You mean that girl who looks just like you and is at everything with you?" Now that we are Oddywally together, it just means we argue about the GPS directions more.
Who are some people that inspired odwalla88 to exist?
Flannery: In terms of performing, I've always gotten butterflies from Su Tissue of Suburban Lawns. Her look, her delivery, her attitude, her mystery -- there's minimal information about her & only a dozen or so photos of her on the internet.
Chloe: We have a lot of special people in our lives now because of Wally, but I would say pre-Odywall inspirations, Poly Styrene definitely.
A lot of girls I've talked to have expressed a desire to make music or start a band, but feel intimidated or excluded by male dominated genres. I've definitely felt that fear. How did you overcome that?
Chloe: The exclusion and intimidation is very real and I don't care what anyone says otherwise. That being said, Me and Flan on this journey have been blessed to have a supportive community who ask us to play shows.
One special earlier show about 2 years ago we were playing at our friends house called Trouble House. The microphone was feeding back so loudly. I had long acrylic nails at that point in time and I couldn't turn down the tiny knob for the internal mic on my sampler. I had to have a boy in the audience do it. He is my friend and it was OK but I was so mortified, to have someone else do it. Right then and there I said to myself, I'm never having long nails again! The next day I went out and got a mixer so we could do our own levels from then on. Learning to do our sound was hugely empowering for me. Teaching myself how to drum in my own way was hugely empowering for me.
You use a lot of electronic loops, but you also sing or speak in loops. Most of your songs also center around girlhood. How do you think repetition and girlhood relate or intersect?
Flannery: Sampling our own voices and repeating the word or mantra helps to reinforce the message, but also helps to convolute it. It's hypnotic. Maybe by repeating that, "I'm the Mary," you'll start to believe that I'm the Mary. Or by repeating that, "I Care," you'll think I don't care anymore. Girls have to spend a lot of time repeating themselves.
Chloe: I think the repetition thing is grounded in pop song structure, like the chorus. To quote an old Sissa line, "I say it over and over till it means something."
One of my favorites of your lyrics is, "Today my best friend saved my life," because I know exactly what it means. Do you imagine yourself speaking to other girls in your songs?
Flannery: Girls usually "get it" the most. There's a shared experienced there for sure, and that's comforting. I'm talking to everybody though. I think the boys are listening, too.
How does fashion function for you in your work?
Flannery: Music is life, fashion is life.
Chloe: When I like my outfit, no one can fuck with me. Thrift shopping is an alternative form of meditation and medication.
A lot of your aesthetic incorporates nostalgic items, notably early 2000s references. Can you talk about adolescent nostalgia and what it means for you to resuscitate some of these visuals?
Flannery: I don't like to use nostalgia as a crutch, but there are definitely still symbols and characters that I adore and feel connected to from that period. It's very patchwork - bits from the past and present. When we recontextualize some of those elements they can become darker in their sentiment. There's fetishization at play. I like the idea of two strong women screaming into microphones with a little Badtz-Maru stuffed animal peeking up from their gear table.
What does the feminist revolution look like for you?
Flannery: This contemporary modern dance performance I saw the other day. All the dancers looked really androgynous. Men were lifting women and women were lifting men.
Chloe: Girls growing up not hating their bodies.
Text Audrey Wollen
Photography Jessica Butler