There was a time when Chloë Drallos – aka Zilched – was embarrassed that she ever loved Stevie Nicks. Growing up with a love for the classics and then rejecting them in the name of riot grrrl, Drallos has since found her happy medium in a cover of Nicks’ classic “Stand Back.” The cover is one of two songs from a special two-song EP, out yesterday, November 9th, just as Zilched wraps up a short tour with dates in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Brooklyn.
Drallos’ video references the original, as she dances in the dark under a spotlight. Except, in the Zilched version, Nicks’ dancing troupe is replaced by a shrine of the queen herself; Drallos makes her offering. It’s a celebration of youth, an acknowledgment of the music that shaped her, and a killer performance of her go-to karaoke song; she and her sister spent many nights early on in the pandemic with Ian Ruhala of HALA, the three of them doing drunken karaoke at his house. As a nod to those times, she got Ruhala to play guitar and bass on the cover.
Both “Stand Back” and the video for the EP’s previous-released single, “A Valentine,” encapsulate Drallos’ trademark DIY aesthetic. To be fair, it’s more than just an aesthetic, considering Drallos acts as her own merch designer, photographer, director, booking agent and producer. It’s not uncommon for budding artists to wear multiple hats at the beginning of their career, but it feels exceptional that Drallos mastered all of the above before reaching legal drinking age.
Drallos knew early on that she had to be a musician. Not because she liked being on stage or because her parents did it, but because it was the only thing that seemed to make life worth living. “It was mostly me being like, ‘this is the only thing that I think would make me maybe like my life, or whatever.’ So I was just like, ‘This is the key to being happy and not having to go to college. So I was just doing it.”
“Doing it” meant driving the 45-minutes from her hometown of Hartland, Michigan, to any show she could book in Detroit. The first show she played at Detroit’s El Club was the same week as her high school graduation. While other teens were thinking about college or prom or whatever teenagers think about, Drallos was planning her move to the city, and making sure she had a few friends when she got there. “I hear people say, ‘That must’ve taken a lot of guts,’ or ‘that must’ve been really hard,’ but I wasn’t thinking of it that way. I was like, ‘this is what I gotta do and I gotta do it now,’” she recalls.
It helped that Drallos didn’t really feel engaged with any part of her hometown. There, she kept to herself; even her music was a really private part of her life. While she was booking shows in Detroit, she rarely ever played out in her hometown. In fact, it took her a while to feel comfortable on stage. “I didn’t really hang out with a lot of people in my town so I was really removed from everything,” says Drallos. “And I also had, like, crippling stage fright.”
She explains that part of that nervousness stemmed from feeling like she wasn’t a good enough singer. Growing up listening to artists like Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and the like, her idea of what a voice “should” sound like didn’t line up with what was coming out of her. Her early music education consisted of absorbing as much knowledge about the “greats” as she possibly could. “I would come home and watch VHI Classic all day and I would write down all the bands or songs that played, and then I would download them on Napster, listen to them for a few days, delete them so I had more room, then do it again.”
This resulted in her early songwriting career to have a heavy folk-rock leaning. “For me, Bob Dylan was, like, my guy,” Drallos laughs. “I was obsessed with him and wanted to be him so I just wrote songs that tried to sound like him. But then I got into riot grrrl and grunge and I was like, I need a cheaper guitar to be cool.” She turned in her hard-earned Gretsch for a Danelectro and started to let herself sing. “My first practices did not include a microphone – I was sooooo shy,” she says.
Since then, Drallos’ deep knowledge in folk and rock has seeped into her smart and melodic songwriting style, delivered with the angst and honesty of grunge. In “Stand Back” Drallos pays homage to one of her heroes while inserting her own sonic personality. “She’s an artist I loved so much when I was in middle school. I thought she was like the perfect woman,” says Drallos. “In high school, I was trying to forget that I was ever like that and was too cool for that and then after I moved out, I went back to a bunch of those types of artists and was like, ‘I’m not too cool for these, they’re still the greatest.’”
Zilched may be cool as hell, but no one is too cool for Stevie Nicks.