carolesdaughter: “I was drawn to extremes… so felt like I never belonged”
Thea Taylor aka carolesdaughter, 18, is sober now, but that wasn’t always the case. Thea – pronounced ‘Tay-ah’ – spent multiple stints in rehab, starting when she was just 13, much to the sadness and chagrin of her parents, who as well as being teachers are Mormons. It was during one of the later bouts of treatment, two years ago, Thea wrote Trailer Trash, her most recent single.
Trailer Trash showcases a curious strain of rock-inspired alt.pop. While it’s totally different from previous single Violent, both have sparse arrangements and lo-fi production in common, while featuring words dense with the experiences of a life lived in acceleration (‘My stomach always seems to toss and turn / Drink so much my organs start to burn’).
“Growing up in a strict religion, whether it’s catholicism or Islam or whatever, you’re going to feel sheltered and repressed,” explains Thea of how she’s ended up here. “Because of the type of person I am, I was drawn to extremes, style-wise and music-wise, so felt like I never belonged, even when I was a kid and didn’t have any of the external stuff.” By ‘stuff’ she means the plethora of piercings on a face currently framed by blood red hair, but likely to change soon.
Thea is one of 10 siblings, two of them adopted; her mother is a high school maths teacher and her father, now retired, worked in special education. The family’s Mormon faith made music the subject of intense scrutiny, with even the most tamely suggestive lyric resulting in the radio being hastily switched off. Keen to police what else was being listened to, her parents didn’t allow headphones in the house. “I wasn’t able to listen to metal or punk or anything like that. It was considered weird.”
Curiosity is difficult to curb, though, and Thea’s was particularly piqued seeing someone with a tattoo of Black Flag’s iconic logo. It wasn’t just that those four misaligned bars were striking, she was intrigued by the idea that someone felt strongly enough about the image and what it represented to commit it to their flesh. Taking to the internet to “dig deeper”, she devoured YouTube videos and pored over Reddit threads alike, discovering a wealth of punk and hardcore bands, new and old, who articulated the same sense of dissatisfaction she felt.
“The basis of a lot of punk and hardcore is a drive for social reform and drawing attention to the issues of the time,” she says of this welcome gateway to a new world. “I loved the passion and expression. I was this little kid who was angry, listening to these bands who were angry, too. Plus, it was this taboo secret I was keeping that no-one knew about.”
Thea’s drug use was more difficult to hide, however, given she started using at age 11. “When people hear that they wonder how that could possibly come up in an 11-year-old’s mind. I wasn’t doing it for attention or any of that stuff. I just needed an escape. I tried [drugs] and thought that’s what I’d been looking my whole life. It basically stole all of my teenage years. I’m in recovery now and have to look at myself every day or I could go back [to using] in an instant.”
While drugs took a lot from Thea, their hold preventing her from maintaining school or friendships, she’s philosophical about what the experiences have given her.
“Going to rehab is one of the most unique experiences a person can have,” she reasons. “You’re learning to live with the most difficult people in the world to live with – addicts – and the empathy and understanding you gain from being in that situation you can’t get anywhere else.”
It was an opportunity to try out her music in front of an audience, too. One of those compositions, the forthcoming Please Put Me In A Medically Induced Coma, proved so catchy, they’re still singing it in that particular facility.
Thea’s SoundCloud beginnings and juxtaposition of styles has led to comparisons with late emo rapper Lil Peep, which she’s hugely flattered by. “He was one of the first artists I listened to and related to every single thing he was saying. That sound resonated with me and got me so inspired.”
She’s obviously inspired by her mother too, given she influenced her artistic name – Thea is, quite literally, Carole’s daughter – but it’s been a complicated dynamic. For evidence, look no further than the track My Mother Wants Me Dead. What’s more, years back, when the natural blonde dyed her hair black, her distraught mother smashed her “goth” daughter’s guitar. So how would she describe their relationship now? “It’s actually super-strong,” she clarifies. “Admittedly when I played her that song and told her what it was called, she said: ‘Why would you say that?’ She doesn’t like the smell of cigarettes, so [the song] was a way to talk about that.”
Having “fought tooth and nail” to get where she is today, both personally and artistically, Thea lays claim to another victory: her colourful life has provided her parents with an education in open-mindedness. “They’re more understanding now and way more accepting of people, because none of my siblings went in this direction.
“The misconception [my parents] had for a long time was that anyone who dresses like they’re in some kind of subculture is a bad person. The main conflict we had was that I wasn’t going to school, looking different, and doing drugs. Now that they can see I’m able to look like this and be happy without there being any bad stuff.”
With all of her siblings having left their California home, Thea is the only one there now, living with the parents she rallied against and reconciled with; they’re proud of her hard work these days. She’s speaking to K! from an expansive bedroom with white walls and few signs of distractions – conditions conducive to days spent doing interviews, managing social media accounts (she has more than 700,000 followers on TikTok), and writing music. Just don’t expect an album from her anytime soon.
“Albums aren’t that important to me. I’m planning on an EP of six songs. The problem I have with albums is that usually the first two songs and last song are good, but I don’t know what happens in between? For me, every song I write has to sound like a single. I hope when I create an album at some point, I don’t have those filler songs.”
And what of the fact Thea hasn’t actually performed a gig as carolesdaughter yet? She’s been announced as the support on Machine Gun Kelly’s Tickets To My Downfall U.S. tour this autumn, but if she’s nervous about the prospect of opening big with regards to her live career, she hides it well. “Because a lot of the success I’ve been happening has happened during quarantine, it feels like I only exist on the internet,” she laughs. “It’s going to be exciting to go from zero to 100, not just me for me, but everyone coming to the shows who’s been locked up for so long.”
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