Heels & Picks: LIV & Chloexox
Those who read this blog often — and thank you, if you are one of those people — would likely know that in addition to writing and performing with my band, I’m a vocal coach for a few students. They range in age from 3 to 65 years old, but most are kids who are getting into writing and performing their own songs and performing with bands.
As I go along, I’m getting into working primarily with young adults who are very talented; I work with them on songwriting, stage presence, microphone control and, of course, vocals.
Sometimes when I work with the kids, it’s easy to forget how young they are. A lot of my students are really mature for their ages, particularly when it comes to their musical careers.
Case in point: Two artists that I work with and adore are Olivia Cargile and Chloe Aquino, better known on stage as LIV and Chloexox. These young women are 15 and 17 years old, respectively, and they seem to be doing a much better job of being a teenager than I ever did.
The last two times I’ve met up with them, we were all pretty much wearing the same thing. Which of course means that the outfit was amazing. When I was 15, I seem to recall pairing floral Doc Martin boots with pants and then a dress on top of that. But that’s another story, and no I won’t be providing photographic evidence.
Since I began working as a vocal coach, I’ve become much more familiar with the musical youth of Oahu, and more specifically, Kailua. There are many driven, talented, focused kids who have a lot of potential. LIV and Chloexox fall into this category and while I’m writing about both of them this week, their styles and strengths are very different.
I first met LIV about a year and a half ago when I started at Kailua Music School. She was a staple there, coming and going and teaching some young students of her own. She had been a part of Kailua Music School’s “kid band,” Random Weirdos, and had gone on to join another young teen band called The Bitten. Both of those bands are still functioning and thriving; I work with some of their current members.
But LIV is a songwriter and has a lot of vision for a young woman her age. I recall a conversation we had in class, talking about the possibility of her starting her own solo act/band. It was a stressful decision for her, but she felt strongly about it and went for it.
LIV’s first solo appearance was in October 2014 at The Republik, where she joined my band. This month she played her first opening gig for a national act at the same venue with her own band. What a difference a year can make.
Her first single, “Incomplete,” launched this summer with a party at Hawaiian Brian’s. She made a video for the song on her own — a patchwork affair that has a solidly indie vibe. For her upcoming tracks, she’s dabbling in the electronic side of indie. The more free-form side of alternative is LIV’s genre. It can be a difficult one to launch in Hawaii – trust me.
LIV grew up in Portland and her family moved to Hawaii three years ago. The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” was pivotal in LIV moving out of talent-show music and into bands. She had been playing the song over and over at home on guitar, and as it turned out, Random Weirdos was looking for a guitarist who could play that song.
Her voice is lilting and carries a distinct nuance. I’ve seen her range grow and she is getting stronger all of the time. She’s also a guitar player, and a pretty good one, though she is playing less electric and singing more with her new solo band.
“Songwriting is kind of publicizing all of your opinions and feelings and I think that’s important for women,” she said. “A girl could write the same song from so many different angles and people will have different reactions. It’s a powerful way to communicate.”
She’s right, and for young women that tool can be a great responsibility. It’s easy to oversell feelings in a song. LIV has this under control, as the themes of her songs are not overwrought nor are they cliché.
Generally these girls end up recording with musicians who are far older than they are. That’s another huge lesson: How to talk to people who are older than you about your vision.
“It feels a little weird telling people who are older than you how to play a song,” she said. “But you get better at it.”
Up next for LIV is a trip back to Portland to shoot a music video with a budding filmmaker who is only 15 years old. She is also planning to release an EP and has been working with a producer in London who is composing one of the tracks. The song is called “Chasing Dreams,” and LIV and I listened to it in a class/hang out session recently. She describes it as “an indie pop type of track, kind of like the XX”, which is fairly accurate.
Chloe Aquino was born in Kailua and her family moved to the Big Island when she was 7 years old. They lived there for five years before moving back to Oahu so her father, Darrell Aquino, could play bass for the band Kailua Bay Buddies. She’s one of eight siblings, and music has always been a way of life. Aquino’s first performance was at the Mai Tai Bar at Ala Moana Center, where she sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” from her dad’s lap as a 4-year-old.
These days, she goes by Chloexox and is gearing up to release her first full-length album. She wrote her first song, “Boy,” at 12 and had a song this past summer on the “Summer Dreams” compilation released by her family’s label, Daddy Leopard Records. Her style is ukulele-supported island reggae with a sweet style to back up her crooning voice. She started playing in ninth grade and fell in love with the instrument.
Chloexox was named recently named Miss Kailua and will compete in the Miss Hawaii Teen USA in November at the Hawai’i Convention Center. Unfortunately there is no talent portion to the competition (don’t get me started on that), so she won’t be able to show off her musical chops. But there will be challenges, like thinking fast on your feet to answer questions, which is yet another lesson that’s valuable to young women.
Chloexox is hoping to release her debut album in January or February. Connect with her on Instagram to stay in the loop.