Photography by Ryan Shorosky
Fashion by Julia Ehrlich
Cailin Russo wants me to come to her band’s show, and she wants you to do the same.
If the videos on YouTube are any indication, it’s a worthy investment—Russo pogos around the stage in athleisure like an early-days Gwen Stefani, encouraging maximum sing-alongs, and roaring through powerful vocal performances.
“House With a Pool is [best listened to] live,” she tells me. “Live will, I feel like with this type of music, and with the band, always out-trump listening to it on record. But if you want to sit down and listen to it, I would suggest doing it while driving. I always want to make music that you want to listen to in the car.”
House With a Pool is the first album by the band Russo (when she’s joined by Tyler McCarthy on guitar, Hayley Brownell on drums and backing vocals, and Sean Ritchie on bass, they’re just called “Russo”), and driving is precisely the sound on the record. That’s not much of a shocker, considering Cailin is the daughter of Scott Russo, the former leadman of Unwritten Law, one of the most canonical SoCal pop-punk groups.
Though the songs on House aren’t exactly traditionally punk, they do have a razor-sharp edge to them—much more so than the lounge music Russo made under her own name over the past few years. The band’s first single, “Lonely,” comes in at a blistering 2:38, and has a kind of New York City–circa-Yeah Yeah Yeahs–peak vibe, complete with angular guitars and Russo’s leopard-like growling vocals.
“I grew up [in a] super punk rock [household],” says the 24-year-old Russo—who got her first real taste of fame when she was featured in a Justin Bieber video—with a laugh. “And so, naturally I was like, I’m never going to make rock music. I went into this jazzy, neo-soul situation and made a whole project, and then I was like, ‘Is this something that I think is different?’ So, I wrote this song, ‘Lonely,’ two years ago, and it was a lot more pop-punk, and I was like, ‘I don’t wanna put it out.’ My manager was on the phone for an hour, like, ‘You wrote the fucking song. It obviously, naturally came out of you.’ I was like, ‘You’re right.’”
Now, that decision seems like a natural one. Songs like the hooky “Loudmouth” and the excellent singsongy “Bad Things” are absolutely seamless power-pop numbers that blur the line between the L.A. slackness of bands like Best Coast and the pristine guitar-pop of classic rock radio giants.
“‘Bad Things’ is my favorite,” says Russo, who apart from the Bieber vids did a fair amount of modeling. “It’s a bit reminiscent of the Rolling Stones. It’s just the most California sad summertime jam.”
Though she adamantly eschews the punk tag (“I feel like a hypocrite calling myself punk, because I’m not that punk, even though I grew up super punk, and I have tattoos, and I party. If a punk heard me say I was punk, they’d be like, ‘Fuck you.’”), her badass, anti-establishment side does shine through when I ask her what she stands for.
“So, ‘Free Palestine,’ first of all,” she says. “Also, just the basic human rights: sex, age, race should never be an issue with living life. Also, I’m super against guns. If it were up to me, I’d remove all the guns in the U.S. Guns are my least favorite thing on the face of the earth, and in America especially, because it’s so ingrained in our culture. If it were up to me, I’d say fuck the 2nd Amendment, because we’re not out here loading gunpowder into muskets anymore—to be able to buy a semiautomatic weapon is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard.”
CLOTHING GYPSY SPORT, HAT LACOSTE
Makeup: Charlotte Prevel
Hair: Vernon Francois
Photo Assistant: Julian Berman
Stylist Assistant: Grace Lynch
Makeup Assistant: Keely Maroney
Production Coordinator: Tim Oliver