carolesdaughter Spearheads the Next Generation of Alt-Pop Music

carolesdaughter Spearheads the Next Generation of Alt-Pop Music

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carolesdaughter Spearheads the Next Generation of Alt-Pop Music

The 18-year-old singer-songwriter discusses her rise to fame, finding refuge in music during rehab and living by her own rules.

The 18-year-old singer-songwriter discusses her rise to fame, finding refuge in music during rehab and living by her own rules.

Photography: Zoey Grossman

Styling: Anna Trevelyan

Text: Sam Tracy

Nobody epitomizes the indefinable vibe of Gen Z like Thea Taylor, better known as carolesdaughter. Her punk rock image paired with an angelic voice is a contradiction, best captured by her hit single “Violent” which popped off on TikTok for its sweet sound and edgy lyrics. Her music’s serious themes may come as a shock to some, but Taylor simply sings from personal experience. The rebellious songstress grew up the youngest of ten in a Mormon family and experienced multiple stints in rehab as a teenager. During treatment, she found refuge in music and plotted her post-rehab plan to “make music and blow up”. Check and check. Her moniker came as a suggestion by her roommate, Alice who noted Taylor’s severe homesickness and longing for her beloved mother. “We're so different but if I could be half as hardworking as her, half as kind as her, then I'm kinder than 90% of the population.” Now, after years of imposter syndrome and struggling to fit a picture-perfect image in her religious community, she has found her freedom to be unapologetically Thea. “The way that I've learned to celebrate life is just being as weird as possible and doing whatever I want. There are no rules.”

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V Magazine: Hey, Thea! Congratulations on the success of “Violent” and “Trailer Trash”, what an amazing year it’s been for you! You started out on Soundcloud and then really blew up this past year on social media. Can you take us back and tell us how you first got involved in music?

carolesdaughter: So I grew up Mormon, the youngest of 10 kids. I wasn't really allowed to listen to punk music or rock, any of that stuff. I have a really good memory for random things but I remember I saw a tattoo of the Black Flag logo and I didn’t know what it was. For some reason, that just stuck in my head — just those four squares. But then I went on Reddit when I got a school computer, which was like a big deal for me — finally getting a computer! And obviously, I didn't do any school on it. (laughs) I was homeschooled, so I just didn't do any school. All I did was go on Reddit and find music. So after figuring out it was Black Flag and seeing some of their music, I was really interested. At first, I didn't really understand it just because it's a little abrasive to your ears, you know? I didn't love it the first time I heard it to be honest. But after that, it unlocked the world of other punk bands. I really started to relate to a lot of it when I started going through like, just stuff — I've been to rehab nine times. Going through all of that and having that inner turmoil in my head made me realize I had something to say, I needed to get stuff out. 

V: What’s the story behind your stage name, “carolesdaughter”?

CD: I was in rehab and I was writing a ton of songs. Everybody around me was involved because we lived together — they would hear every new song I wrote. I constantly talked like, “When I go home, I'm gonna make music and I'm going to blow up”. I had a plan, I knew what I wanted. I had a really good friend there, her name was Alice. We were just talking late one night in our room and trying to figure out, “damn, what should my name be? I need an artist's name!”. Even though Thea Taylor is like the coolest name ever, to be honest. She was actually the one who said “Carole's daughter” because I talked about that in rehab. I literally talk about my mom all of the time and I would constantly just be like, “I miss my mom so much!”. I was constantly being sent away and it was really hard being away from her so often. I wanted to be home with my family, but I just kept on doing stupid shit that was going to kill me, so I couldn't. I've always identified myself with my mom. We're so different but if I could be half as hardworking as her, half as kind as her, then I'm kinder than 90% of the population, you know? She's just amazing. Even my friends, who have their own great parents, they're like, “Your mom is just like some next-level shit.” She's just the best. 

V: I know you’ve said that you're quite different, but what similarities do you share?

CD: I think from my mom, I got a lot of understanding and patience. I don't know if other people would say that. (laughs) She just helps so much. She has ten kids and a husband and my dad has been through a lot of stuff in his life. My mom has emotionally supported both me and my dad pretty much our whole lives. She always has it together. She's the peacemaker and takes care of everybody. I wouldn't say that I'm like that, but seeing my mom handle so many things with grace… We had a really strained relationship for a long time because I was doing drugs and [my parents] were really worried for me. I kept on getting worse and worse because of my mental health. It was a really hard time for me and they never really gave up on me. 

V: Do you feel that being the youngest of ten kids influenced your art and your creative endeavors in having to find your voice and make a name for yourself?

CD: Yeah, definitely. I also think what also influenced me was being brought up Mormon and not being able to express everything that I felt because I was afraid of being judged or that it was a sin. I felt so held in, like I couldn't talk about anything. I never ever fit in at church. Even when I looked like everybody else, I knew that I wasn't on the inside. I always felt like an imposter. I thought that if they really knew who I was and what type of things I thought about, they would not like me. They would think I was a bad person. There was a lot of self-hate that I had to unlearn. It’s like, you're not a bad person for masturbating. It's okay! (laughs)

V: After seeing how well a pop-inspired track like “Violent” performed, do you feel pressure to create more pop music? How do you strike a balance between satisfying what your fans want with creating what you yourself want to create?

CD: To be honest, I'm never making another “Violent”. I believe in the song and it was a real moment in time, but that's all it is. It was that moment. It's not right now, you know? I think people say “Give us another ‘Violent’! Make more music like ‘Violent’!”. But if I really did that, then everybody would be like, “This sounds exactly the same as your other songs! So lame!”. So I don't think people actually know what they want. I just have to feed it to them. 

V: I want to touch on your aesthetic and your style because it's super punk rock-inspired and Gothic. Who would you say are your fashion influences? 

CD: I don't really don't look to anybody else. I've always been drawn to the more extremes and it started with big eyeliner and wearing black. Even as a kid, I just always wanted to stand out. That was the biggest thing for me coming from a family of 10 kids. You want to stand out, you want to be noticed, you know? We thrifted all of our clothes or they were hand-me-downs. But even in middle school, I had this little phase where I would go to the thrift store and I would just try to find literally the ugliest thing there - like the ugliest thing. Like an ugly grandma sweater, just some ugly, weird thing. But it was always a little eccentric that I was like, “This is cool!”. Nobody else thought it was cool, but it was like an inside joke with myself. I didn't really have too many friends in school but I did try to fit in for a while. Then after rehab, I think I really was just like, “no”, after going through that much therapy and treatment. I learned how to become happy with myself and the way that I've learned to kind of celebrate life is just being as weird as possible and doing whatever I want. For some reason that just gives me a rush. It's literally what I live for. There are no rules, but I would say my style is definitely inspired. My style is a little bit 2000s, like Y2K, but also punk and goth and Harajuku elements all combined. 

V: I could definitely see that! And who are your musical influences?

CD: I would say the person that inspired me to make music was Lil Peep because I started on SoundCloud and I was really into that whole OG SoundCloud rap wave, like Bones and Lil Peep. That inspired me to make music just because I knew they were doing it. You could just find homies on the internet and they send you beats and you could just record something and make magic. It was really cool because my phone was this world in and of itself. I've met so many people just online who are so talented and I was just like, “I can do this!”. I can literally just make music on my phone and put it out. Nobody's stopping me. Why not? I think that’s probably how a lot of people start.

V: This past year shut down the music industry almost entirely. How do you feel that quarantine affected your creativity and your music?

CD: I have so many songs that are waiting to be released, so many songs that I've been sitting on for years. In my mind, they’re timeless. They're just great songs. Since being signed, I've been focusing on getting those records out and trying to tell my full cohesive story because all of those songs I wrote in rehab are really indicative of the time that I spent there and the things I was going through.

V: You’ve mentioned before how you are aware how music can emotionally influence people and that there are songs by Lil Peep, for example, that you can’t listen to anymore because of the subject material or a memory it triggers for you. Do you keep your influence in mind when you release music?

CD: That's a really good question actually. I still can't listen to certain songs, like “16 Lines” — any time it comes on, I ask someone to change it because I had a heart attack to that song. I look back and there were times where I was really depressed and I made music to cope. That is how I felt and I was talking about wanting to die and doing drugs but I didn't think anyone was going to hear it. Obviously, I was putting music out for people to hear, but I knew that it was a safe space. I could just say whatever I wanted. Now that “Violent” is so big, having that line of “powder in my nose” — I almost wish I never put that in there. The way I've always written is really honest and I get comments that are like, “Oh look, another depressed teen singing about drugs” and this and that. I don't know what else to say besides that was genuinely my experience and how I felt at the time.

V: Very true. And you are writing from personal experience.

CD: And I never want to romanticize that because I completely understand! I am a huge advocate for sobriety and recovery and I completely recognize that it literally ruins your life. But I also think if you have been through something like that and you listen to my music, you know that I'm not romanticizing it because I'm also talking about the bad parts. But now knowing that I have a lot of younger viewers, it definitely is on my mind. When I write new songs, I’m like, “Am I okay with people knowing this about me” or like, “Am I okay with putting this up?”. If people hate on it or my experience, they just don't get it. And it's okay. It's not for you, but who knows who else is going to really relate to it? Maybe it'll help them. For the people that it resonates with, it resonates deeply.

Credits:

Makeup Holly Silius (R3 Mgmt), Hair Dennis Gots (The Wall Grup), Manicure Yoko Sakakura (A-Frame Agency), Set design Danielle Von Braun (Art Department), Producer Jordan Metz (Art Department), On-set producer Abby Gelsomino, Digital technician Evan Strang, Photo assistants Gregory Brouillette, Kenny Castro, Stylist assistant Sam Knoll, Madison Martin, Makeup assistant Bailee Wolfson, Hair assistant Jessica Miller, Production assistant Kelly Wundsam, Retouching Dtouch Creative Location Milk Studio L.A.

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