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Credit: Courtney Campbell & Brenda Brooks

Chloé Caillet: modern fusion

Chloé Caillet’s percussive house productions are rooted in her natural affinity for world cultures, and an appreciation for music of all shapes and shades. Megan Venzin speaks with the rising Ibiza sensation to learn more about the exploratory nature of her new ‘Intro’ EP and the safe spaces she’s fostered in the name of authentic connectivity  

It usually only takes a few sentences to link a person’s voice to the location they are from. The manner in which they stretch their vowels or roll their R’s or place inflection could be indicative of formative years lived along an American coastline, or perhaps across the ocean, somewhere far away. 

Chloé Caillet’s accent is admittedly hard to pin. There’s a fluidity in her cadence that rings like a romance language, but the roundness in the O’s just doesn’t align. With a surname like Caillet one might still assume the rising house producer is Gallic through and through, but that wouldn’t be quite right either.

“I grew up in a house where we were speaking French, English, Spanish, and my grandma would cook Moroccan food — there were just so many flavours of the world,” she shares on a video call with DJ Mag from the front yard of her flat. Sporting a red T-shirt and freshly washed hair — a comfy alternative to the vintage fashions she often dons on stage — she speaks about her cross-continental upbringing, which began in New York City and includes a line-up of influential stopover cities en route to Ibiza, her current home base. For Caillet, that lived experience translates into a deep appreciation for the cultures that collide on the nightlife-obsessed island where she’s known for curating queer dance parties and spinning headlining sets at beloved clubs like DC-10.

Her latest body of work, the ‘Intro’ EP,  arrived on May 12th via CircoLoco Records, and it is another byproduct of her geographically-robust background and natural curiosity. “My EP is really a blueprint of my musical inspirations from growing up,” she explains with a smile. The five-track project (or seven, if you count two extended versions) spotlights collaborators from around the globe and interweaves Latin rhythms, African percussion, and groovy basslines across a mix of chilled-out productions and club-ready cuts. Together, they offer a glimpse into Caillet’s world and the factors that shape her boundless aesthetic.

Sonically speaking, it displays a wide spectrum of styles and is representative of its creator’s own identity, as well as her aspirations. “Every country has their own heartbeat, has their own rhythm, has their own way of developing structures of songs, has their own way with timbres — I just really wanted to explore that,” she shares with palpable enthusiasm. “A dream of mine would be to actually go to physically different countries and work with local artists, bring a little rig, post up and just record. There’s so much music out there, you know? And with our job, what’s so cool is we get to immerse ourselves globally into all these different cultures.” Given Caillet’s history, we can’t think of a better person for the task.

Caillet’s social profiles list Paris as her hometown, but she was born in Manhattan. She spent her preteen years living downtown with her mother, who is French-Italian, and her father, who is French-Spanish (and there’s some Moroccan on his side, too.) They filled her days with notes of music of all types from around the world, jazz, opera, and classic rock. It was only inevitable that their child would become enamoured with diverse sounds.

“The first thing I said when I could was ‘I want to do music!’ I remember I had a karaoke machine in my room as a kid and I would just spend hours on it singing songs,” Caillet shares of being drawn to art from a young age. She eventually enrolled in piano lessons, wherein instructors immediately acknowledged her unusual talents.

“The teachers would tell [my parents], ‘Chloe’s gifted — there’s something real here, this isn’t just a kid who’s learning an instrument.’ But at the same time, my parents didn’t come from creative backgrounds, so they thought, ‘this will just be a passion — there’s no way my daughter will be an artist, that doesn’t happen.’” They continued to foster her strengths, while calmly voicing their concerns.

Chloe Caillet looking to the left of the camera the camera in round, black sunglasses. Her brown hair is wavy and frames her face. A photo of her DJing in a maroon filter  is on the left
Credit: Courtney Campbell & Brenda Brooks

“I grew up in a house where we were speaking French, English, Spanish, and my grandma would cook Moroccan food — there were just so many flavours of the world.”  

The family relocated to Paris when Caillet was 11, and when she turned 16 she left for boarding school in the UK.  “Actually, I got kicked out of my first school, I had to take like six months off to kind of reset,” she shares candidly. “I taught myself guitar and joined a band in Bristol and was playing a bunch of music. It was actually a great time for me.” She’d already begun to learn about music tech and production, and six months later entered a music school in the English countryside to study jazz piano and finish out her high school education. With graduation fast approaching, the multi-instrumentalist made plans to return to the States for college.

After a long time away, Caillet heeded New York’s call and quickly immersed herself in the thriving music scene there. “Every night I was at a different show, at a different place,” she explains. “I used to work at GrandLife Hotels where we hosted amazing parties including some for fashion brands, others for DFA Records, some for LCD Soundsystem and then for bands like The Rapture, The Ting Tings, The Kills. It was a time when all of these bands were doing this electronic-crossover thing — they were doing performances into DJ sets and they’d have after-hours in Brooklyn. New York was great!” The energy of the city fed her soul.

While completing a music business degree at NYU (the compromise she’d made to appease her mom and dad), she nabbed an internship at Universal’s Republic Records, and was soon scouted by their imprint Lava Records to serve as their creative director in A&R. “So, I was 21, and had tasks such as flying out to LA to find tracks for our roster artists to work on, and I’d help out with creative ideas for music videos to styling and implementing artists into the fashion space,” she explains of diving into the deep end (some of the names signed to the imprint at the time were Lorde, Jessie J and Maty Noyes.)

“I kind of figured it out on the spot,” she continues confidently. “I already had good ears, because I spent a lot of time growing up in different countries, so I always had access to what was happening in the UK before people in New York were hearing it.”

Upon graduation, she shifted toward management and took on a bevy of jobs. She served as music director for a New York-based hotel company, and launched an agency where she provided creative direction to artists. And in the way only a 20-something New Yorker would dare, she effectively juggled her professional life with her insatiable post-dusk affinities. When off the clock, she worked doors, promoted parties, and got to know some of the town’s important players. She also happened upon a chance to reconnect with performance.

“I was curating a lot of different things in New York and specifically in the nightlife scene, and my friends were just like, ‘Chloé, you should DJ, literally pick up an extra couple hundred a week, warm up for all of the acts, put yourself on the lineups and just play — we want you to play, you have great taste,’” she explains of the moment that led to informal lessons at a homie’s house, and eventually her first gig at Soho House.

Those opening slots indeed opened doors to the life Caillet dreamed about as a child. “A manager approached me and was like, ‘You have to decide — you can’t fully be this person you’re trying to be while also running a business and doing music for a hotel and having your feet in too many places, you have to really just focus on the artist side, because that’s going to take up your entire life,’” Caillet remembers of a trajectory-shifting conversation. She took their advice (and yes, her parents were pissed.)

“I have to be honest, I was terrified,” she shares of the months following her fateful decision to go all in on DJing. “Being connected to your artistic identity is very vulnerable. You have to put yourself out there and you’re on your own. You can develop an amazing team and have backing behind you, but at the end of the day you’re the one leading the ship.”

Selection of live DJ shots of Chloe Caillet side by side in a maroon filter
Credit: Brenda Brooks

Even without the cushy salary and the 401K, Caillet stayed afloat. And true to her first manager’s word, artistic obligations and offers started to stack up. First were the local bookings, but it wouldn’t be long before she made appearances on an impressive array of stages — spots like fabric in London and Pacha in Ibiza, where she held a residency alongside Dixon. Her work in the studio was heating up as well.

In 2021, Caillet turned heads with a deep, filter-drenched remix of Beck’s ‘Chemical’ —  a treatment that the famed musician requested personally. Some months later she dropped her first original single ‘Love Ain’t Over’ via her self-launched label, XCESS Records. Listening back, the hazy four-on-the-floor groove is like a crystal ball into the types of funky low-ends that are now a hallmark of Caillet’s distinctly global sound. The track went on to become an end-of-the-year hit, with artists like Gerd Janson, Carlita, and No_4mat reworking the tune and lifting its creator’s international profile in the process.

By the time the aforementioned single blew up, Caillet was already at work on another stack of cool cuts, a handful of which would become the ‘Intro’ EP that dropped last month. Like many works that have emerged recently, the majority of the music materialized in a state of lockdown.

“The tracks I would say are not even so clubby,” Caillet explains of the compositions that landed on her debut extended player. “‘New York What The Fuck’ (stylized ‘NYWTF’) was at the end when I started kind of going back out,” she continues. “I was in LA and I wrote the track with my friend Mikhail, and that was the last track made on the EP.” And that makes sense, as it’s an absolute banger, packed with the kind of pent-up energy that we all remember releasing on newly liberated dancefloors.

The other selections come in dreamier, introspective trappings — take ‘Know Now,’ with a luscious vocal contribution from Poté, another artist whose work is deeply influenced by his ancestry (which in this case is rooted in Angola.) ‘In The Middle,’ with Falle Nioke and Wekaforé, was quite literally produced smack dab in the middle of the pandemic, as the name suggests. They worked together in a studio in Barcelona mere days before the Omicron wave resulted in another round of shutdowns. In times of uncertainty, Caillet dove into production, trusting that the right tunes would emerge.

‘Quieres (Part 1)’ and ‘Quieres (Part 2)’ are a curious and delightful pair. The latter features the vocalist Kaleta, from Lagos, Nigeria, singing in a native tongue over an intoxicating drum line. Its counterpart features Spanish freestyle, compliments of Ana Sting who dropped the lyrics spontaneously during an at-home session in Ibiza alongside Chloé.

‘Intro’ is as much a tribute to its originator’s desire to blend multicultural art forms as it is a testament to today’s level of connectivity. A project with features from such far corners of the world can be a challenge to produce, period. Throw in a worldwide health crisis, and it sounds insurmountable. Yet, Caillet talks about its genesis like each selection emerged exactly as it was meant to.

“It’s all different artists that I’ve met and discovered whose music I really admire, blended in with my different take on production and the forms of rhythm and instrumentation that I love,” Caillet shares in a contented tone. “I think that spending a lot of time in Spain, too, and dating a Spanish woman really influenced a lot of my musicality. I learned so much about her world and a lot about Spanish culture which really inspired me. I adore the local music and the rhythm and vocals that accompany each other in tracks.”

Chloe in a white vest and brown and pink patterned trousers. She is looking at the floor and walking against grey background and a selection of live DJ shots
Credit: Courtney Campbell & Brenda Brooks

“Being connected to your artistic identity is very vulnerable. You have to put yourself out there and you're on your own. You can develop an amazing team and have backing behind you, but at the end of the day you’re the one leading the ship.”

It’s obvious that Caillet is happy in Ibiza — a place that delivers inspiration and balance. “It’s one of the reasons I moved here. I was living in major cities my whole life and I’m really hypersensitive,” she explains of her thought process behind setting up shop there (she holes up in Miami during the off-season.)

“I’m always very aware and I absorb a lot of energy, so when I’m in London or New York, it’s like my body’s not switching off.”  She graciously shares some of the grounding rituals that keep her sane on the road, which include being very intentional with her sleep schedule, keeping a regular fitness routine, packing her own snacks, and taking supplements.

“There are things like magnesium, like Chaga, like CBD, that really help calm your nervous system down to get to sleep, which I take pretty religiously,” she adds. But ultimately, she finds the power of the island to be naturally recharging. It’s safe to say the success she’s found along the isle likely contributes to her feelings of satisfaction also.

In 2022, she served as a resident DJ for CircoLoco, the popular party that takes place at the island’s DC-10 (the ‘Intro’ EP, which came via the promoter’s collaborative imprint, alongside Rockstar Games, serves as a continuation of that relationship.) She has four shows scheduled there this time around the sun. However, those high-energy house sets are only one small way that she’s bringing her positive energy and influence to Ibiza.

Last season, Caillet formed a queer collective alongside three of her close friends from Spain called XTRA. Their prime offering is a party that takes place in Pacha’s Funky Room, with an emphasis on line-ups that champion queer, female and POC artists. The soundtrack is eclectic — think everything from dance to baile funk, urban and more. Their most recent gathering popped off on May 24th, and while the music changes often, the intention behind the event remains the same.

“It’s the first time in a long time that we have a space for the queer community to come to and feel safe,” Caillet explains of their mission. “Although Ibiza has this very free spirit, I think the clubbing space here is a little old school.”

They ensure an inclusive environment by taking a variety of measures so guests can experience a carefree night out that’s all about the music. Recently, XTRA threw pop-up parties at Paris Fashion Week, in Mexico City at the iconic SIC club during Zona Maco, and in Barcelona. There’s also talk about bringing a stateside edition to LA in the coming months. Caillet is unable to play every party due to other obligations (she’s playing Glastonbury, Tomorrowland, and a slew of local slots to name a few), but she loves that there’s a place to dance alongside her favourite crowd when she can. “You got to create the party that you want to go to,” she says matter-of-factly.

It’s not exactly unexpected that the girl who grew up between New York, Paris, and the UK managed to build a happy refuge with an ethos to bring people together in the name of art, love, and acceptance. XTRA’s events, much like Caillet’s ‘Intro’ EP, are snapshots of what’s possible when we make authentic connections and seek to understand cultures outside of our own: Badass grooves, and a better world, too.

Megan Venzin is DJ Mag North America's deputy editor. You can follow her on Twitter @Meggerzv