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The eldest daughter of the Chrome Hearts family is carving her own path through music and clothing.


Jesse Jo Stark is the rare artist who has known what she wants to be since she wrote her first song. And although fresh into her career, she’s already developed a sound, vibe, atmosphere and mood that is recognizably her own. There’s a sense of slow burn, vintage rock ‘n’ roll to everything she touches, with achy, brooding guitars and a light smoky voice that imbues it all with an alluring sense of mystery. Straightforward peppy pop this is not and Stark is more than happy to be cruising in her own lane, unconcerned with the speed at which everyone else is moving.

Stark grew up in LA, the eldest daughter of the founders of Chrome Hearts, the cult-fashion brand beloved by rock stars and cool kids, including Kendall Jenner and Drake. She also designs clothes for Deadly Doll, filtering some of the same punk cues as Chrome Hearts through a Gen Z lens. Though her pedigree is privileged, she hasn’t taken that as an excuse to be flippant or casual about her career: She’s wanted to be a singer since childhood, and has spent the past few years paying her dues, opening shows for bona fide rock bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction and The Vaccines, while releasing singles and EPs and developing her trademark sound. 

Over Zoom one quiet afternoon from her house in Los Angeles, Stark talks her debut album, turning Instagram poetry into music lyrics and the generational importance of Lana Del Rey.

This feature originally appeared in GREATEST ISSUE 06. Discover the full magazine at select stockists.

Outerwear: DIDU Leather Biker Jacket; Ring: Chrome Hearts Diamond-studded Rolling Stones Ring; Sunglasses: Dior Bandage Sunglasses 'Red/Black'   

One thing that strikes me about your music is that it’s incredibly consistent. All the songs sound like you. Is that the aim? To always maintain a Jesse Jo-ness in everything you do?

Yeah, there's something powerful within that. I've always been on my own page. I've released at my own pace. I've never wanted to rush my art. I've wanted to always just be proud of what I put out. It can also be really exhausting—to be yourself in this world and not put anything out based on what you think is cool right now, or what is mainstream. 

With this new album, I took a bigger leap in terms of experimenting with 808s, working with different collaborators and being more open; still maintaining the retro sound but modernizing it a bit. It's still in my lane. I've never been comfortable reaching for something that does not feel like myself. That's all I have. I can't do something that doesn't feel like me.

Tell me about the new album.

It feels like my life's work. Some of the songs are four years old or six years old, or a lyric could be from 10 years ago and then it made sense for this time. We did live drums and strings at different studios over the course of the last four years, but most of it was actually made in Hollywood at my studio. It's not even built out. You can hear crickets and motorcycles and shit. 

The simplicity of that, the energy of being there, the sun coming in while making this grim, sexy, spooky album. The juxtaposition of that was so cool. I still always use my guitar player. We write together. I produced this with my engineer and another friend of mine. There are new collaborators, but it still feels like people that I developed relationships with over the last three years. There's not anyone random. I like to have that family feel because it bleeds into my music.

Outerwear: DIDU Leather Biker Jacket; Bottom: DIDU Leather Skirt   

Grim, sexy, spooky—is that the vibe? 

That’s how I've been explaining it. I used to call it “horrific hillbilly,” but I feel like I'm moving into grim, spooky, sexy.

That makes me think of someone who I'm a huge fan of, and I wondered if she was an influence on you: Lana Del Rey.

Everyone always references her with me and it's strange because she was never someone that inspired my music. Musically, I never put her on when I'm writing because I don't want to be compared. I always wanted to steer away from it. But yes, I'm a huge fan. She's so powerful, and her music is so inspiring, so of course, her as an artist, her as a woman, her voice, her aesthetic, the way she has carried herself in the industry, is really inspiring to me. 

She came out and I was like, “Holy fuck, that sounds like something I would want to say.” She's so fucking important to this generation. She's so powerful and I love her shit. She's the coolest. I always look to powerful women like that. I look at their careers and I'm like, “Whoa, you did it the right way.” 

Do you think of yourself as a “rock star?” Are you interested in that concept or character?

I am into that idea. I always thought it was a cheesy term, but I don't anymore. I think it's got something almost rebellious to it and it's about being yourself. I like what it represents. Rock star is just not giving a fuck. We don't have enough rock stars anymore. Saying what you want and taking risks and also being powerful. So yeah, I'm into the vibe.

With your fashion brand Deadly Doll, are you as invested in the creativity of designing as you are music? 

Beyond. I'm invested in every single thing I do. It's fucking exhausting. I'm a control freak. I do everything. When I create anything, it's my gut feeling. I don't have anything else. I don't think I'm like this brilliant Picasso of anything. With Deadly Doll, I'll look at something I make and ask, “Do I want to wear this? Does this feel right?” If it doesn't, I don't do it. I'll do something else. 

Your parents started Chrome Hearts. What did you learn about building a brand from them? 

[My parents] never rushed. They did everything at their own pace and they didn't try to fit in. They created a world around their idea and it worked, and they worked really hard at it and that's something I always try to do. I know that everything I do is on me. I have to work hard at what I want and not fake it. I lead with my gut just like they did. 

Your godmother, famously, is Cher, a friend of your parents. Has she heard your music?

She's heard my music. She's seen me play. Oh my god, the last time she saw me play was a Vans show when I was 19. I actually just got off the phone with her and was like, “You have to come to my next show because you identified me as an artist years ago, and I need you to come see me now because I'm badass.” 

She's been such an inspiration my whole life. The people that you get to experience, they make you. I was always around adults and always around really powerful beings who were just so inspiring to me. She gave me my first voice lesson with her vocal coach, who is still my vocal coach. It just starts small and things stick to you that you're meant to do.

Top: Elizabeth and James Belt Top; Bottom: Chrome Hearts Plaid Skirt; Bracelets: Chrome Hearts Cross-link Bracelet, Chrome Hearts Diamond-studded Dagger Bracelet; Earrings: Chrome Hearts Chain Spike Star Earring; Rings: Chrome Hearts Diamond-studded Rolling Stones Ring, Chrome Hearts Brass Knuckles Double Ring   

You have a curious lyric on “Die Young”—the older I get, the more I want to die young—that stuck out to me. What’s that about?

“Die Young” is not about death. Nothing I do is glorifying death. The world is so harsh I never want to promote something negative. We have so many fantasies and there's a purity to us when we're young, and it just gets harsher as you get older. You come into your own and life is sick, but it's almost like you know too much. There's hurt. Things stick to you as the days go by. That song's supposed to feel hopeful. And I think it's just about, “Fuck, the more I know, the less I want to.”

You almost miss your youthful naivete. 

Yeah, that's been a recurring thing with this album too. I've been watching old home videos of myself as a little girl and trying to remember her because we're so hard on ourselves, and there's so many expectations of what we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to say. The [world] is fucked up and I'm just checking in with the little girl in me.

Outerwear: Jean Paul Gaultier Vintage Harness Corset; Top: Elizabeth and James Knit Turtleneck; Earrings: Chrome Hearts Chain Spike Star Earring    

You were friends with Virgil Abloh. What was he like as a person? What do you remember of him?

I was fortunate enough to know him just like everyone else was. He was fearless, and he wanted to have an imprint on this world, and he worked and loved so hard. He walked into a room and had no other mission but to love and inspire and include everyone.

You posted a note on Instagram the other day that said: “I'm so sick of all of this trash spread across the internet. You give punk a bad name, exploit God's name. I'm unimpressed. There's nothing left. Just a bad fuckin’ mood.” Is that something you wrote? Are they song lyrics?

No, but they're going to be now. That's how a lot of my songs happen. I write a little poem and then they end up going into my songs. I was just bummed and pissed. Sometimes people should fucking get pissed. People should be allowed to be upset, no matter where you come from, no matter what your life is like. There's no way I can maintain one mood in a day.

What were you pissed about when you wrote it?

Sometimes music pisses me off. Sometimes I think music is trash. Some of the stuff that we're fed, the shit that's played on the radio, I'm like, “I'm sorry, but I don't agree. That's not good enough for me. Do better.” Why the fuck are we still put into this box because of all these record labels and executives and money?

I want to see real art and I want to see things that take a while and have meaning. I just get annoyed sometimes. I see a lot of my friends struggling with being ripped off or copied. When shit's so blatant, it bugs me. 

Outerwear: Jean Paul Gaultier Vintage Harness Corset; Botom: Jean Paul Gaultier Spiral Pants; Footwear: DIDU Ankle Boots; Earrings: Chrome Hearts Chain Spike Star Earring; Rings: Chrome Hearts Diamond-studded Rolling Stones Ring, Chrome Hearts Brass Knuckles Double Ring    

What is success for you?

Exactly what I'm doing. I'm living my life, loving the people I'm around, constantly learning; being able to come home to my dog and love her. Success is not what you think it is.

Being in the studio is the calmest I can be. I'm so OCD-chaotic. I hope that I get to tour this album, and I hope that it really inspires people, and I hope that after I die, it leaves a mark. That's all I can hope for. I'm grateful to be able to do what I love, and I don't even know if I'm that good at it.

You don’t know if you’re good at making music?

Everything we do is just a matter of opinion, and sometimes we're just lucky, and sometimes we connect [with people] and we don't know why. It's a guessing game. We don't know why some things strike and some don’t. That's why I say I'm honored and lucky to be able to get to live inside of my art because you never know what people respond to. It's intimidating to share yourself.