Indie-pop duo Smoosh has rocked sold-out concert halls in New York, London, and Paris in recent weeks. The two musicians have signed countless autographs and spent hours doing press interviews for their new album, "Free to Stay." But for Chloe and Asya, the sisters who make up Smoosh, album sales, airplay figures, and writing new songs are of minor concern – right now their primary worry is finishing up school homework on time.
The drummer and keyboardist, ages 12 and 14, respectively, have already released two albums, garnered rave press from the likes of Billboard magazine and NPR's "All Things Considered," and have been nominated for Spin Magazine's 2005 "Band of the Year." Combine those feats with support act slots for the likes of Pearl Jam, Rilo Kiley, Sleater-Kinney, and their current tour with The Eels, and it's quickly apparent why the girls have little time for slumber parties and summer camp.
And yet the Seattle duo (whose parents won't release their last name for privacy concerns) are remarkably unfazed by their success. Drummer Chloe, talking on the phone from London, says she's "pretty happy" but "not going crazy over it." Those intent on writing the duo off as sheer gimmick, however, are sure to draw her ire. She insists that listeners take them seriously. "I don't really like it when people say, 'Oh, look at those guys, they're so adorable!' I want them to focus on our music."
The young drummer, who has been refining her skill under the tutelage of drummer-mentor Jason McGerr of the rock band Death Cab for Cutie, started playing six years ago after becoming fascinated with a red drum kit during a family trip to a music store. McGerr, who was selling drums and conducting instructional classes at the Seattle Drum School at the time, agreed to teach Chloe for free if the family purchased the drums.
What began as simple drum lessons for both sisters, later morphed into the girls' current roles after Asya stumbled upon a piano and began quietly singing to herself.
Since then, the duo has developed a near-telepathic communication on stage. It's palpable in the fierce flick of Chloe's wrist as she pounds her drums into submission, in the rapid movement of Asya's fingers across the keyboard – the bond is so seamlessly invisible that even they seem unaware of it.
"You could see them telegraphing things to each other with glances," says Krysta Chauncey, a psychology student at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and an Eels fan, who witnessed Smoosh playing to a packed house in Boston's Somerville Theatre last month. "That's pretty advanced; not really something you expect teenagers to be doing."
Ms. Chauncey, who admits that mentioning Smoosh leads to the inevitable comments about their young age, says that while the girls are a little "genre restricted," they seem to be on the cusp of figuring out a unique sound.
One listen to Smoosh's recently released sophomore album, "Free To Stay," is a testament to just how far the girls have evolved from their positively received debut, 2004's "She Like Electric." Chloe was excited about that album at the time, but in hindsight she confesses that the duo "sound so much younger and my drumbeats are not as good."
"Free to Stay" is an album brimming with the synergy of Asya's true-to-life lyrics and Chloe's intense relationship with her drums, one that has the ability to combine youthful romp and universal relevance.
One song, "Find A Way," states: "You gotta figure yourself out" and "give yourself time now," directives the girls clearly took to heart as they bounced playfully around the Boston stage, blonde hair aflutter, reveling in their youth.
For now, though, the sisters are still consumed with the everyday ins-and-outs of teenage life. Asya, for instance, modestly considers herself to be something of a fashionista, and is always conscious of her stage look.
"I wouldn't want to dress in really bad clothes, because everyone would be seeing me on stage. I like to be fashionable," she says. But it isn't just about looking good; Asya also wants to express herself. "I don't want to say I'm unique, but I'm my own person."
• To find out more or for upcoming tour dates, go to www.smoosh.com