Skip to main content

Photos by Dana Trippe
Make-up by Sydney Szramoski
Hair by Iggy Rosales 

It’s hard to keep doing the things we loved to do as kids. Whether it was choreographing a dance routine for our family’s dinner parties, crocheting weird animal figurines or writing spicy fanfiction, at some point people told us to get our head out of the clouds and join the “real” world. Los Angeles native Jesse Jo Stark never heeded this advice—she just kept on pushing the boundaries of creativity.

Stark’s artistic upbringing was influenced by her parents’ fashion brand, Chrome Hearts, and her godmother, the one and only Cher. Stark wrote her first song at the age of 7 and started her first band at 11. Now, her music is finally taking center stage as her debut album “DOOMED,” a vibrant punk-rock-meets-dreamy-Americana saga, makes its mark on the world.

“You wait to release this thing and you think it all leads up to this one day, but actually it continues on,” Stark says. “So it's kind of just been this wave of emotion.”

This record has been a long time coming—many of its songs existed long before the idea of a project took form. Stark penned the record’s closing track, “Trip,” seven years ago. “I think sometimes there’s this need to rush art, because it’s so exciting and you wanna put everything out right away,” she says. “I guess I never really thought these songs would have their moment. And then, with ‘Trip,’ I was actually driving to the studio one morning, I had it in my head and I searched my Dropbox for it. I ran into the studio and played it for the boys, and was like, ‘I think we need to revamp this.’”

While the contents of “DOOMED” simmered in the pot, Stark never limited herself from tapping into other unrelated creative projects. She is a longtime designer for Chrome Hearts, crafting custom pieces for the likes of Orville Peck and Post Malone, and has also expanded her merch line into its own stand-alone brand, Deadly Doll. Just last year, she made her acting debut in “Fracture,” a five-episode drama following a struggling musician in LA, accompanied by a hard-hitting EP she wrote for the series. From fashion to acting to music, Stark never shies away from doing it all, and doing it well.

Some artists get lost in the chaos of juggling multiple artistic projects, but Stark thrives in it. “I think it gets overwhelming, but I just can’t help but get pulled in different directions and I kind of love it,” she says. “That’s how I operate. I’m a lot like my parents in that way.” After dipping her toes into so many pools, Stark currently feels most invigorated with her focus on her music. “Specifically with ‘DOOMED,’ I really gave it the time it deserved. And now going into playing these shows and hopefully touring soon, I really hone in on that feeling. It’s important to me to focus on my live shows and my voice and all that, because otherwise I didn’t do the job I want to do.”

Photo by Dana Trippe

Photo by Dana Trippe

Stark is at a point in her journey where all inhibitions are out the window, and she’s unafraid to explore the many avenues of her stylistic curiosities. She experiments with new sounds, incorporating her influences without restriction. “I tried a lot of new things on this record,” she explains. “For instance, 808s, and obviously I had Jesse [of The Neighbourhood] produce with me. So there’s different tastes, but it’s just a really realized moment in time for me. It’s kind of got this amazing balance of everything I’ve ever loved.”

This unraveling of a multidimensional figure ties into her steadfast refusal to be boxed in. “I’ve never really agreed with anyone judging someone because they don’t know their genre, or walking into a room and having to be one thing,” Stark says. “It’s completely irritating to me. I feel like, why is this not my genre? Why are people not allowed to have different influences?” Stark grew up on “completely opposing tastes—country rock, metal, pop,” she recalls. “I like Britney Spears and I like Mötley Crüe.” Despite covering so much artistic ground on this new project, there are still itches left to be scratched, such as the current inspiration to make a country album.

While traversing soundscapes, Stark also reveals deep vulnerabilities. From the anxiety that comes with being in the limelight on “666 in the suburbs,” to the addiction to a toxic lover on “so bad,” the artist’s emotions are never reserved and always palpable. “[Being vulnerable is] really hard,” she says. “I have days that I’m really sweet and days that I’m not. And that’s how I describe ‘DOOMED,’ which is quite moody. Some days we’re allowed to get angry and some days we’re allowed to be sad. But I don’t think I’ve reached [the deepest] level of vulnerability yet. I think I have layers to go.”

Right before making the album, Stark got a tattoo—a pin-up version of what she would look like if she were a cartoon character. “She’s holding a bowl and she’s got a spider bikini on. I’m gonna get a ‘DOOMED’ tattoo, or lyrics, but it’s so funny: Every time I try to make a tattoo appointment, I flake or they flake. So I have yet to get one, but I will be getting one.”

Although the word “doomed” often carries a negative, cynical connotation, the singer views it in a different light. “I think it’s really about owning who you are. Kind of like, damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” she says. “I’m really influenced by dark nature and everything cool with horror, but ‘DOOMED’ is supposed to feel positive. It’s supposed to feel like you have control of the future and you don’t wanna limit yourself to all these different waves that you go through in life.” The emotional juxtaposition is illustrated in the album’s dark yet ethereal cover, where Jesse Jo, a glowing angel, beckons a hell-stricken double to rise into her open arms.

Photo by Dana Trippe

Photo by Dana Trippe

“I feel like tattoos for me are always like, I wanna hold onto a feeling,” the singer reflects. “I’m always trippy like that, where I’m like, this is going by. I think life is so fast and I always wanna hold onto that memory. So it’s more of a capsule thing for me.” To immortalize this period in her life, the artist has a plethora of tattoo ideas. “I have so much writing. I kind of wanna get this gargoyle-type wing thing. I don’t know yet. I wanna get more of a portrait—something bigger, ’cause all my tattoos are somewhat small. And then I do think I wanna get the word ‘doomed.’ I just love the word.”

High on the new release, Stark is looking forward to riding out the thrill of upcoming shows. “I’m so excited!” she exclaims. “It’s crazy. Being back with my band—obviously we hadn’t spent this much time together since before COVID, and it’s this feeling I can’t explain. It’s like being on a trip with your friends, but it lasts forever. You’re all sharing the same thing on stage and it’s this kind of otherworldly experience. I’m really grateful and I can’t wait to play more shows.”

“DOOMED” is an expedition through horror and seduction. It captures a universe where pent-up rage takes shape as angular punk anthems and unrequited lust seethes on sinister ballads. Fascinated by dualities, Stark embraces every emotion that shows up at her door and lets them manifest in her music in whatever way that feels right. Despite her appetite for experimentation, the two elements that draw everything together are an intoxicating aura fueled by passion and catharsis and an unrelenting conviction to be herself above anything else.

“I think people have a million things to offer,” Stark says. “So to be one thing is impossible, and I would never want to be one thing.” This time, she channeled light and darkness through spirited synths, rugged guitars and moody landscapes, but who knows what’s next—a soaring country odyssey, a psychedelic pop submergence or something completely different altogether? An artistic chameleon with an unshakable core, Jesse Jo Stark can satisfy any craving, and she will always leave you hungry for more.