A few weeks ago, the songwriter and recording artist Charles uploaded to her Bandcamp page a very catchy and somewhat dismaying song called “Call the Cops on Me,” in which she offers specific instructions to anyone unfortunate enough to be the subject of one of her crushes.
“It’s just something I told someone when I was so in love with them,” she explains, speaking over the phone earlier this week. “I told them, ‘Please just put me out of my misery, call the cops on me, I like you so much.’ I always threaten very violent things when I like someone. 'Please just shoot me in the leg.’ It’s an inside joke.”
Charles, also known as Charlotte Lindèn Ercoli Coe, feels things very strongly. She recorded her first album, a collection of electronic sighs called Cactus Milk, two years ago while still in high school and after a break-up. “I was severely heartbroken, and 18 years old, and living with my parents, and I didn’t know how else to channel sadness, so I just attempted that.”
For her debut and the follow-up, last year’s That’s How Baby Learns, she recorded vocals and loops of her Casio keyboards onto her iPhone’s voice memo application, and then edited them using Garage Band. “It has a very minimal and basic sound to it, which I like very much.”
Charles grew up in Ojai, California, a small town two hours outside of Los Angeles. Her uncle, a professional film editor who worked with Cameron Crowe, started mentoring her early. “There wasn’t anything for me to do after school, so I just started working immediately, doing videos for people and editing. So when I arrived in L.A., I already had a lot of work under my belt.” She’s currently attending school at Santa Monica College (“to fine tune some production skills”) while making music and videos; it turns out that learning how to edit film is good training for learning how to edit music. “I work all day and all night and somehow still have time leftover to hang out,” she says. “I’ve never been this busy or this happy.”
Recording under her nickname (“I have a very split-down-the-middle sense of being feminine and masculine”), Charles didn’t expect anyone but a few of her friends to listen to her music. She was shocked when people started congratulating her for getting covered by the influential music blog Gorilla Vs. Bear. “I looked it up and said 'Oh wow, that’s a lot of people,’” she remembers. “I guess we’re not as anonymous as you think on the internet.”
Though she’s only recently turned 20, Charles says that her career has already peaked: The online buzz led to an opportunity to open for Neon Indian, aka “the reason I made music in the first place. I was just with [frontman Alan Palomo] at SXSW. He is totally rooting for me, which just means the world to me, because I saw him when I was in high school, and that was the turning point. I knew I wanted to make music.” she adds, “I went on eBay and bought a really bad keyboard, and shortly afterwards my dreams did come true.”
But even though she’s already accomplished her main life goal, Charles is hard at work on a third album, which will feature a bit of a professional upgrade. She’s used her album sales to both buy a “real” microphone and a Roland synthesizer. The only obstacle is that she’s been in a healthy relationship for a year.
“It’s hard to write about things when you’re not heartbroken. Now that I’m in love, it’s a little bit harder to have a problem with anything,” she says. “I suppose I’m writing about people I know and, this is vague of me, but different experiences. I’m really just entranced by strangers that I meet and all sorts of things. I still linger on the heartbreak subject, because I suppose I’ll never be 100% over that.”
Fortunately for us, happiness won’t be slowing her down any time soon: “I feel like I need to hire people to keep me miserable so I can be inspired to make more songs.”