spill tab keeps it copacetic
The long-time covergirl for Spotify’s “Bedroom Pop” playlist, Claire Chicha, AKA spill tab, joined IPR’s Lucius Pham in Des Moines to talk traveling the world, getting “loud and abrasive” and reckoning with her inner KLEPTO.
Rising ‘bedroom pop’ star spotted outdoors
Wearing an orange baseball cap and large, earthy green sweatshirt with the hoodie up, Claire Chicha snuck into the early Friday evening pit at Hinterland Music Festival undetected.
Scheduled to perform in Saint Charles on Sunday at 1 p.m. with bassist Caleb Buchanan and drummer Gabe Stout, Chicha, better known as spill tab, bounced along with festivalgoers to the electronic stylings of North Carolina pop duo Sylvan Esso.
Later, at our Saturday afternoon interview, Chicha sipped on an oat milk chai latte from Caribou Coffee: a fitting order for a star whose breakout EP Oatmilk made waves in the pop world.
Spill tab is the longtime cover artist for – and literal face of – Spotify’s mega-popular “Bedroom Pop” playlist, with over a million saves on the platform. The 26-year-old explains how Gen Z’s favorite genre refers both to a “sort of lo-fi-y, rock-indie” sound, as well as the room where it all began.
“If you open up the ‘Bedroom Pop’ playlist,” says Chicha, “most people who are on there probably, definitely started out making music in their bedroom, but no longer do that, but they're still considered a bedroom pop artist. I guess in some ways that’s kind of romantic, you know, it’s like a romanticization of that genre. Because it’s such a nice thing to remember that it was like made from just this freedom of whatever the f-ck I can do in my bedroom, I can put out in the world.”
Just weeks after its July 20 release, the “CRÈME BRÛLÉE!” singer-songwriter opened up about her latest EP KLEPTO, as well as her penchant for risk.
Spill tab’s newest, five-song EP KLEPTO is a trip inside spill tab’s twisted mind, fusing love and danger with Computer Age experimentalism. Tracks “fetišh” and “CRÈME BRÛLÉE!” bring the sweetness, while “Sunburn,” “Window” and “Splinter” rip with abandon. Chicha admits that the album might get listeners pulled over.
“I just really like the word,” says Chicha of KLEPTO, “sometimes just, like, the way that it sounds and it rings, it’s so nice. I feel like all those songs on the EP have a bit of a crazy energy that you can speed your car to.”
Kleptomania describes an inability to resist, or compulsion for, stealing. KLEPTO’s title refers both to the primal, human need for greed, as well as her own checkered history with petty theft.
“I definitely was a klepto when I was in high school,” says Chicha, carefully. “I saw this tweet a while ago that just like, dude, made me laugh so hard, probably because it’s, like, somewhat true. It was this tweet that was like, women steal because it’s sort of the reminiscence of our hunter-gatherer days, you know? Where men be hunting and women be gathering. And it’s just coded into our DNA to gather little things here and there. I’ll be at Target and I’ll be like, I wanna gather that trial size mascara. I wanna gather that underwear.”
From top to bottom, the nearly 12-minute EP exists in a constant state of frenzy. From lust and greed to pride and envy, KLEPTO is spill tab at her most sinful. The EP’s hypnotic lead-off single, “fetišh,” sets the tone. The track’s first lines, mixed with Chicha’s sultry alto and powers of persuasion, capture spill tab at her most confident:
I'll be your fetish
I keep your heart alive
I leave it cold and spinning
I'll be your medic, I
I pulse behind my eyes
I keep it copacetic
The “fetišh” music video opens with Chicha wading neck-deep in water, bathed in a blood red light with her mascara running. Splitscreens of a sun-kissed spill tab running through fields and dancing around the pool complement the song’s bumbling basslines and general horniness.
“Window” is the second song on KLEPTO. This too, speaks to our deepest human desires, or maybe curses: “I’ll push away like I did when I had you clear / It’s the crux of the nature to crave what is not near.” Come for the hook, stay for the funkiest bass maneuvering on the record.
KLEPTO’s third track, “Splinter,” is not just a windows down song, it’s a sunroof-open, arms-flailing-in-the-wind song that's all about not wanting to drive a splinter deeper into the skin of an old relationship. “Splinter” is a guttural exercise in restraint, like Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license,” only wiser.
Jared “Solomonophonic” Solomon, a producer and guitarist known for his work with longtime collaborator Remi Wolf, lent his signature distorted sound to KLEPTO’s first, fourth and final songs. Track four, “Sunburn,” sounds like how a sepia filter looks, perfect for Hinterland or any outdoor, summertime music festival.
“[Solomonophonic]’s just, I think, one of the greatest producers of our time and constantly making the craziest sounds,” says Chicha.
Naturally, spill tab’s short and sweet EP had to end with dessert. The construction of “CRÈME BRÛLÉE!” began with what Chicha describes as a “weird, Baroque-y” guitar riff courtesy of Solomonophonic that ultimately claps its way into a Dick Dale-style cacophony of shred and glitch.
“I think I just wanted to make something loud and abrasive,” says Chicha of “CRÈME BRÛLÉE!.” “And something that would be fun to play live. Because that's, I think, that was around the time that I was starting to do more live shows. And I realized… if you can channel that energy live, it just creates such a more interesting experience for me and also the people watching.”
From Bangkok to Bonnie
Claire Chicha was born in Bangkok in 1997. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was eight months old, relocating again to Paris for seventh grade because of the economic “sh-tshow” that was late-aughts LA. Chicha returned to Bangkok for eighth grade, and spent her college and early adult years bouncing between New York and Los Angeles as an A&R intern for labels like Mom + Pop (under Suzanna Slavin) and Atlantic Records (under Maureen Kenny and Madison Vickery).
A citizen of the world, Chicha speaks French, English and level one Korean, which she failed to execute on a recent trip to South Korea - her first in over a decade.
“I downloaded Duolingo,” says Chicha, with her hand over her face. “That sh-t did me so dirty. Duolingo wrecked me, because what they do is they teach you the alphabet before they teach you any, like, lines. Before you learn how to say ‘What’s your name? My name is so-and-so,’ you have to learn the entire alphabet. I just spent three weeks on Duolingo every single day before I went to Korea learning the f-cking alphabet. And then I got there and I couldn’t even say ‘Hello, my name is Claire!’ I was like ‘Nooo! I f-cked up!’”
Language is a familiar struggle for many hapa children, who might only be able to connect with one parent’s native language. Chicha’s father’s influence shines through on her French-language songs, such as “en quarte” and “Calvaire,” two notably soft and atmospheric dancepop efforts from the typically feral spill tab. Chicha connects with the Korean half of her identity in subtler ways.
"I think the ways that I've been in touch with my Korean side is that I don't say salmon,” says Chicha, “I say ‘sal-mon,’ you know? Just little immigrant parent things that occur. ‘Suh-pa-ge-tee’ is how my mom says spaghetti, it’s the cutest thing in the world. I love it. And that's how I keep in touch with my roots.”
Chicha also credits her Korean immigrant mother for the initial idea to study music business in college, noting she “would kill me if I went to school for just music.” Knowledge of the business of making music was invaluable to Chicha when launching her post-grad music career, and she’s grateful for the push.
These days, Chicha lives in Los Angeles, where she and childhood “bestie” Jade Sadler make up for lost time. Sadler, a visionary music video director and editor whose credits include Dom Kennedy, Boyish and bennytheghost, speaks the same visual language as Chicha… not to mention French.
Sadler is responsible for some of spill tab’s most iconic EP covers and music videos, directing “Anybody Else,” “PISTOLWHIP” and the DIY blueprint “Cotton Candy,” which the pair produced on a $50 budget with a greenscreen.
“Cotton Candy” appears on spill tab’s December 2020 debut EP Oatmilk, a compilation of Chicha’s earliest pandemic era creations, alongside “Calvaire,” “Santé” and “Name.” Discussing the EP with DIY Mag, Chicha admitted her reverence for the title dairy alternative comes from her being “so goddamn lactose intolerant.” After Oatmilk, spill tab’s sound got even more frantic.
The cover for spill tab’s 2021 sophomore EP Bonnie was designed by Sadler and Chicha. It depicts Chicha in fluorescent green against a noisy pink wall, with a stank face and clenched teeth –– like the pop cousin to Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs.
The six-song EP balances softness with roughness, featuring tracks “PISTOLWHIP,” “en quarte,” “Anybody Else,” “Indecisive (feat. Tommy Genesis),” “Grade A (feat. JAWNY)” and “Velcro (feat. Gus Dapperton).” Chicha’s favorite song to perform these days is “Grade A,” where she relishes the opportunity to “switch up” and rap Jawny’s verse in his absence.
friends: past, present and future
As the buzzy, new artist on everybody’s lips, spill tab has a lot of musical friends. Gus Dapperton, Solomonophonic and Wallows – the Dylan Minnette-fronted trio spill tab opened for on many 2022 Tell Me That It’s Over tour dates – are just some of her many contemporaries. But who all has Chicha worked with thus far? And who’s on her radar?
Producer David Marinelli, AKA marinelli, is Chicha’s main musical collaborator. The pair kicked off the spill tab experiment in 2019 with their debut single “Decompose,” a dreamy, yet plaintive fairy tale that repeats, “I’ve not forgotten / That we’ve become rotten.” Billie Eilish’s OG drummer and a burgeoning artist in his own right, marinelli shares Chicha’s new wave sensibilities. And, because there’s always an Iowa connection, marinelli’s self-directed music video for his single “Sarah” was shot in Le Claire.
After college, Chicha cut her teeth as merch operations manager on Gus Dapperton’s Where Polly People Go to Read tour, in support of his celebrated 2019 album of the same name. The pair later collaborated on spill tab’s second EP Bonnie via the uber-catchy single “Velcro.”
“He's got a talent, obviously, as an artist,” says Chicha, “but especially as… a producer because he helps other artists bring out different parts of themselves. I think he's just so talented.”
Spill tab entered the industry more hardened than most thanks to her work managing artists for major labels and schlepping merch on tours. With three EPs now under her belt and a bevy of features for Metromony, Matilda Mann, Aaron Taos and more, spill tab is in the stratosphere –– within arms-reach of the stars.
And yet, when asked to imagine a hypothetical Rosalía x spill tab collab, the normally boisterous popstar blushed and whispered “Stahhhp, I can’t. I’m so scared.”
“I’ll say this with a lot of love and respect for myself,” says Chicha, “[Rosalía] is too cool. To me she’s like a deity. I can just worship her from afar, it would almost like burst the entire bubble to, like, know her too close. I just want her to exist in this sphere of… of magic.”
Tempering expectations a tad, Chicha revealed which of her favorite new artists she’d love to take with her on her next headlining tour. Like Miryam Solomon, a London-based, genre-diverse songstress and percussionist known for her soothing, soulful tones and sonic wonderlands. She also mentioned some up-and-coming rapper-slash-poet from Toronto named Drake.
What’s next for spill tab?
In the past, Chicha has referred to her discography of singles and EPs as her “little baby body of work,” with most spill tab songs clocking in at around two minutes in length. Fresh off the release of her third EP, Chicha is now entertaining the full-length debut album she’s long avoided.
“I used to always say that I hated the album format just because it's just… quite a commitment.” Says Chicha, “For me, why I would want to do this, it would be to create a world that was truly like… ten to 14 songs long. And I think for a long time, I was just wanting to still experiment with different sound palettes and stuff, and I think I've come to the conclusion that I can still do that while making an album. I'm certainly ready for an album now.”
Chicha also understands the importance of a first impression, adding, “you only get to do this thing for the first time once.”