Jesse Jo Stark is pretty much the lovechild of a romance between a skull and its dearest crossbones. Her parents are Richard and Laurie Lynn Stark, creators of the L.A. rock ‘n’ roll luxury brand Chrome Hearts, which has been outfitting trendsetters with products articulating turns of phrase like “Fuck You” since 1988. At 23, her life seems to have been a meandering rollick through the back alleys of fashion, music—and generally whatever her miniature chrome heart desired. As an early teen, she was photographed for Elle by Gilles Bensimon, and at 19 she designed her first collection for Chrome Hearts, a leather jacket and spikey-cuffed affair called Pete Punk. At 20, she designed two capsule collections for Vans, called Vans x Jesse Jo, and now she’s releasing her first EP, Down Your Drain—a pop/rock assemblage of songs produced by Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols.
She’s cited the Bride of Frankenstein as an enduring inspiration, and with her signature blue streak in her hair and unruffled conversational panache, Jesse Jo is well on her way to being the next creative turbine of her generation. As she says thoughtfully, “My songs are me not really giving a shit; I try to do what I want.”
Here, DuJour caught up with Jesse Jo on her thoughts about her new EP, her family life and what it really means to be punk.
What about Down Your Drain makes it feel like it really surmises you at this point in your life?
I’m confident in all the songs I write, so I’m really just excited to get them out there. There’s one song about love and horror, and I spent a lot of time on the lyrics. I’m really stoked to have music for someone who’s gone through the same things. It’s been a really big stepping stone for me. I feel like Down Your Drain definitely represents my life and what I’m about right now. I love the sound.
It must have been wild having such edgy, artistic parents in the public eye. Did you always know you wanted to do something similar to what they did, or did you go through a period of rebellion?
I mean, I always loved music, and I always played around. When I was little I would make these horrible little purses with staple guns. But, I didn’t know what it meant, and I definitely tried to not go in my parent’s path when I was younger. But once I got into eight grade or ninth grade, I feel like I finally started paying attention, and everything became a part of me. I wasn’t always into what my parents were doing, but now they’re my biggest influences and I really wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have them as my family.
How is it having Cher as your godmother?
She’s rad. You can’t help but kind of absorb the information, you know, absorb her vibe, because she’s so influential and badass. She always tells me, ‘Get your shit together and do it. Don’t mess around. Do what you want to do and go for it.’ She’s really cool.
Do you have a favorite memory with her?
Yeah, I went on tour with her for a little when I was really young. Just like, hung out, I didn’t really do anything. But I actually got to dance on one of the shows with her, which was insane. When she had down time, she’d bring me on the back of the bus with her and play cards, and she’d always beat me. She still always beats me.
Even though there are a lot of musical influences on your new EP—rock, punk, country, blues—your signature image is very punk rock. What does being punk mean to you?
I think of us as outcasts in the fashion world, almost. We don’t play by the rules. I guess it’s about not really giving a shit. Just being you. Once in high school I was at a party, and the scene was punk, and one of my friends showed up in a pink cashmere sweater with pearls, and I was like, ‘Why are you wearing that? We’re being punk.’ And she was like, ‘Punk rock is not giving a shit, I’m not going to dress up to call myself a punk.’ It’s just going against the grain.
If you could collaborate with any living artist in the world, who would it be?
I think I would have to say Poison Ivy and Kidd Rock.