As Chloe Moriondo and I muse on the egalitarian effects of the internet and pop-punk as a vehicle for feminism during a recent conversation, I quickly forget that the singer-songwriter is barely 19. Moriondo (who uses she/they pronouns) carries herself with a wisdom and charisma well beyond her years, and has more accolades to her name than most middle-aged adults — a viral YouTube channel, a self-released album, a record deal with a major label. But in all of their maturity, Moriondo, who will play the Fillmore on Thursday, is a Gen Zer through and through. From her expert knowledge on memes and astrology to her newly buzzed hair to her bristling pop-punk album Blood Bunny, Moriondo fits seamlessly into the current musical zeitgeist of artists who were raised on the internet.
Like many Gen Zers fueling the pop-punk revival, Moriondo grew up listening to artists like Avril Lavigne and Paramore. “It was a crazy thing for me to learn that, like, people with feminine voices can make cool pop and rock music,” Moriondo says. “Hearing Hayley Williams was a groundbreaking thing for me.” Armed with only a ukulele, they cut their teeth playing covers of these artists and posting them on their YouTube channel. “People suddenly were watching my videos. They had thousands of views. And then it was tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands. I was like whoa, OK, this is moving very fast,” Moriondo says. By their sophomore year of high school, with an arsenal of fans behind them, Moriondo began to post original material that would eventually become their debut LP, Rabbit Hearted. Entirely self-produced, the album’s witty lyrics and Moriondo’s enchanting vocals quickly captivated industry bigwigs.
The singer eventually signed to Fueled by Ramen, a subsidiary of Elektra that’s as synonymous with pop-punk as the chugging rhythm guitar. “I remember growing up and watching all of the music videos on the Fueled by Ramen YouTube channel,” Moriondo says. “Being on the same label as people I was obsessed with — it’s surreal.”
Though laudable in its own right, Rabbit Hearted. was merely an appetizer for Blood Bunny, Moriondo’s spiky sophomore album released earlier this year. “Blood Bunny is, I feel like a complete 180 from Rabbit Hearted.,” Moriondo says. “It's a lot bigger sonically and it's just so much bigger in terms of the content. I'm just really proud of it and I'm really excited to be touring it.”
The album is a crash course on how Gen Z is redefining pop-punk for 2021, and it’s also a master class on young love, packing lust, anger, love, and confusion into 44 emotion-wrought minutes. There are only glimmers of a singer who just graduated high school, like when Moriondo exalts the newfound freedom that comes with a driver’s license on “Rly Don’t Care.” But those moments dissipate faster than they come, because in the same breath, Moriondo unleashes a diatribe against the haters at 160 bpm. “Take Your Time” brings the tempo down a notch but still harkens back to the halcyon days of pop rock, featuring vocal gymnastics and dramatic choruses a la Panic! At the Disco, another one of Moriondo’s labelmates.
“I think a lot of young people around me in my generation started wanting to express ourselves more and wanted to lean more in the pop-punk direction because it's so fun and expressive,” Moriondo says. “I was definitely connecting back to my roots with Avril Lavigne and Hayley Williams and old Paramore when I was making the majority of Blood Bunny.”
But it would be reductive to label Blood Bunny a pop-punk album. Moriondo draws from a bevy of influences, from her Demi Lovato-esque belting on “Vapor” to the stadium indie climax that rivals Phoebe Bridgers on “What If It Doesn’t End Well.” On the other hand, “Strawberry Blonde” is a synth-and-guitar-laden love song that falls among the girls in red and soccer mommys of indie pop.
Listening to Moriondo’s earnest lyrics feels like having a heart-to-heart with your cool younger cousin. Moriondo’s girlfriend, smoking weed, heartbreak, and self-confidence are all on the docket, and though you might enter the conversation thinking you’ll be the one to impart advice, Moriondo leaves you wondering how in the hell a teenager can be so wise. From demanding transparency from a love interest on “I Want To Be With You” to summing up cold feet on “What If It Doesn’t End Well,” Moriondo demonstrates an uncanny ability to articulate complex emotions.
Moriondo’s sagacity comes as no surprise, as they’ve already had a lifetime’s-worth of experiences in their 19 years. But far more significant than the record deals and sold-out shows is Moriondo’s steadfast commitment to being herself and enjoying her youth. When they were still in high school, Moriondo spaced out their gigs so they could continue to attend their public high school in suburban Detroit. And despite achieving fame before she could legally drive a car, Moriondo keeps herself grounded by being a normal teenager. “I think the best thing, I've found, is just spending time at home with my friends and my family and playing the video games that I like. That makes me feel more like myself and more like a normal kid. Because at the end of the day, that's still what I am,” Moriondo says.
Though she’s a normal kid in some regards, Moriondo has already set herself apart in an industry known to squash dreams. “I don't know why or how I got here,” Moriondo says, “but I thank every star and everything in the universe every day because of it.” A dash of luck surely helped — every success story has its moment of serendipity — but Moriondo’s wont to sell herself short. Then again, humility and authenticity complete the Moriondo package.
Chloe Moriondo performs in support of Ashnikko on Thursday, Nov. 4 at the Fillmore; 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5451; thefillmoredetroit.com. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $27.50.
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