PHOTOS / SHANNA FISHER
STORY / Britt Perkins
Jewelry / Karen London
When I hear “young band,” I get scared. I think Jonas Brothers. I think Taylor Momsen. I think about the O.C. Hearing that the band Kitten is fronted by 17-year-old Chloe Chaidez, and has been since she started it at 15, was one of those moments. It was a little scary. Then I listened to their Cut It Out EP, and age became just another number again.
The breathy dance tracks pay homage to Karen O’s raw sexuality while maintaining an irreverent tone, especially on “Japanese Eyes.” Some coming-of-age romance is thrown in for good measure on “Kill The Light,” while “G#” tends toward shoegaze. “Cut It Out” could easily be written off as a track by and for teens at a house party. Chaidez admits that’s she’s a little bit sick of the age discussion but understands that it’s an interesting topic. She also says things can just get weird when people disregard her age. Like the time a 40-plus-year-old man in England offered her a line at a house party.
“[It makes me think] ‘Why are you doing this? Do you realize what you’re doing? You’re such a stereotype’… It’s always silly to me I guess. Especially when they’re older,” Chaidez says.
That’s not to say Chaidez wasn’t living her own Barrymore/Lohan experience at one point.
“Before we made this record and EP, I was in a really bad place and I was living sort of the complete cliché of a teen in bars every night,” Chaidez says.
But she turned it around with a little help from Freddie Mercury.
“I was watching this Queen documentary on tour in the UK [and thought] ‘What am I doing? I’m making my first record. I want to be as big as them,” Chaidez says.
A tour with Young the Giant in 2011 and a residency at Los Angeles’ Bootleg Bar in September of this year isn’t a bad way to start that climb. Recently signed to Elektra Records, Kitten’s members include Lukas Frank, Bryan DeLeon and Waylon Rector.Though there have been some rotations in the band’s lineup due to “attitude issues,” Chaidez says that the important thing is to have everyone 100 percent motivated and sharing in the same goals that she did for the band.
“On stage, people may think I’m a bitch,” Chaidez says. “But I’m a girl and I’m the youngest, and [the guys] make fun of me so much…I am definitely the little sister. I guess I make myself a target at the same time. I’ll pass a cute guy and say, ‘Oh my God, he’s so cute.’”
Chaidez is refreshingly level headed without being desperate to leave her youth behind.
“I think when I meet people, they think I act older than I am,” Chaidez says. “Very soon after that I think the teenage girl comes out in me…I’m not afraid to act my age in front of them.”
We talk about ageism and sexism in the music industry, but Chaidez seems to focus on working hard and putting out music that speaks for itself without paying much attention to the social dynamics within the industry.
“I really admire bands who I can see put a whole lot of effort in what they do,” Chaidez says. “I find that really inspiring. I can tell. I see the tenacity behind it and how much they work.”
And despite having Kitten’s dedicated and of-age manager and writing partner, Chad Anderson, on board, Chaidez explains that she has a lot of control over the direction of the band and its look.
“I don’t feel the need to constantly shove it down people’s throats,” Chaidez says. “But I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t something I wanted to do. My image would be any which way if it weren’t directed by me.”
Chaidez gleans inspiration from the city of Los Angeles and books or movies, citing Stanley Kubrick, PT Anderson and Larry Clark as some of her favorite directors.
“I’m not too arty farty when it comes to that sort of thing,” Chaidez says. “I don’t necessarily go to the woods to get my inspiration sparked. I often watch great performances.”
Chaidez was a also a gymnast from the ages of 3 to 12 and gets a lot of inspiration from watching Olympic athletes competing and breaking records, which spurs her to finish that song or write a better guitar line.
Kitten is inspired by and freely emulates youth culture romanticized. House parties abound in Kitten music videos shot by her friends, and when Chaidez wants to be painted gold, they make it happen.
Happily, Kitten is not a “teen sensation,” but a band that can be enjoyed and expected to evolve through a more experimental and less manufactured discography than some of their peers.