Jesse Jo Stark’s debut EP, Down Your Drain, was released on September 3rd, but it’s far from the California native’s introduction to the creative world. By the age of 13, the daughter of Chrome Hearts founders Richard and Laurie Lynn Stark was already being photographed for Elle. Later, she began designing for her parent’s jewelry brand, and while everyone else her age was cramming for midterms, Stark, who was also a muse for party photographer The Cobrasnake, was working on a collaboration for Vans sneakers, solidifying herself as an LA fashion staple. But with Down Your Drain, a bold record that has her cool voice singing about lust over a psychedelic surfer sound, Stark is making a run at serious musical cred. We chatted with the precocious 23-year-old about her Frankenstein obsession, nostalgia for the fifties, and transitioning from fashion to music.
Your new music video for “Baby Love” seems to reference the movies Crybaby and Grease. What made you decide on these themes?
It’s a song about a boy and going to a hop, and my references and words in it are kind of fifties-ish. I love the movie Crybaby, so we just wanted to do an old school version of a day in the life of me and my friends. Those are all my friends in the video, it’s really family-oriented.
Have you always been drawn to the 1950s era?
I really like how innocent it was, and the innocence of love back then. They were more quaint about it. I love fifties horror too, and Steve, the guy that produced my record, is also into the fifties so we reference that a lot.
What was inspiring to you as you wrote the songs for Down Your Drain?
That was like a weird accident in the studio. We kind of just all wrote it on the spot. It’s about love and being consumed and it kind of just happened.
How was it working with Steve Jones?
It was really cool. He’s just really brutally honest and he makes me work, and he either likes something or he doesn’t. Steve pulled out some really good stuff for me and I loved what we got out of it.
You recently played at a Johnny Ramone tribute show. What was that experience like?
Yea, I did one song, “Rockaway Beach.” It was really frightening, because I love Rob Zombie’s [whose band performed] films and his wife Sheri is just a total badass, and then nobody knew but Billy Idol was playing at the end. It was all these people that really fucking kick ass, and I’m about to be on the same stage as them. My boyfriend was making fun of me because I was being so dramatic backstage. I was like, “My throat! My throat!” By the time I went onstage, it was so much fun and it flew by. I was stoked to be a part of that and it was really cool to be around those people, but I was definitely nervous.
Lots of fashion magazines and bloggers have praised your style since you were a teen. How would you describe your personal style?
I don’t know, it’s kind of mellow. Lately I’ve just been in jean shorts and my bomber jacket, and I have these pointy old creepers that I wear. I’m usually in either Converse or Vans. I kind of change it a lot.
You do lots of fashion design for your parents’ company, Chrome Hearts, and Vans. How do you balance music and fashion?
Right now, I’m focused on my music. I’m in the studio a lot so I haven’t been at Chrome Hearts as much, but that’s a part of me and it’ll always be my life. When I have down time and I’m not in the studio, I go to work and I’m there 9-5. They inspire each other and kind of balance each other out. But definitely now I’ve been more committed to music because without that I get a little lost. I’ve been writing a lot and focusing more on that.
What’s next for you in the music world?
I’m trying to get together some shows right now, I want to play more. We’re back in the studio so we’re trying to finish up this record too. I also want to make more music videos.
Who influences you and why?
Poison Ivy from The Cramps really influences me. My dad and my mom and just having my friends around me, they act as my muse. My songs are kind of about that.
Why do you think you’re so obsessed with Frankenstein and Dracula?
You know, I ask myself that all the time. I kind of just relate to them and have this overwhelming love for them. I actually asked my mom, because my parents are not into that stuff at all, and she told me that Elvira actually lived next door to us and I sort of knew her when I was younger. We went to a lot of her shows and I could barely remember that until the other day, and I realized maybe that’s where I get my spooky obsession from–weirdly being around Elvira. I have no idea but maybe that’s why.
What are you currently listening to?
I just downloaded Lolawolf, Zoe Kravitz’s band. I think they’re really rad. I’m into Fleetwood Mac right now, and I’m always listening to The Cramps. Mazzy Star, Merle Haggard, and Motley Crue. That’s this week’s playlist.
Who would you choose: 2005 Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera?
Oh my God. I’d say Britney Spears. My dad actually would kill me because he’s like a full Christina Aguilera fan, surprisingly, but I’d go with Britney Spears.
Baby Love video, directed by Olivia Malone: