At an early age, Chloe Chaidez knew she was different from other kids. While her friends were playing with toys and learning how to play the recorder, Chaidez was drawn to the raw power that music afforded her. What she didn't realize when she started playing bass at 10 was that her love of this creative outlet and her ability to harness an immense talent would become a full-fledged career.
Chaidez was born to a punk-rockin' father who played drums in LA underground outfit Thee Undertakers. Her dad blared classic rock and punk, but the young Chaidez was also drawn to the sounds of David Bowie, Sigur Ros and Band of Horses.
Now 19, the singer/songwriter has a vast musical knowledge that goes beyond her years as a player. Her music has been described as fusing genres as far-ranging as new wave, R&B, and '80s dance pop. This diverse sound has allowed Kitten to open for the likes of No Doubt, Paramore and Charli XCX.
By the dawn of her teens, Chaidez and her then-band Wild Youth landed on the radar of much larger groups. They were summoned to open for Midlake at the Fonda Theatre after Wild Youth gave them a recorded cover of one of their songs and Midlake liked what they heard from the youngsters. Many LA bands strive to one day play at the Hollywood staple; Chaidez graced the stage in front of a live crowd before she finished middle school. As important as the gig was for getting her name out there, Chaidez knew she had work to do if her band was to become more than a novelty.
"If I was watching myself at the Midlake show, I would have been like, 'Who are these dumb kids playing?!'" she remembers. "But since it was me, it was really cool."
Wild Youth disbanded soon after. Chaidez then began to carve out the vision she had for her own outfit. Within a few years, she discovered her voice as a songwriter. In order to flesh out ideas, she'd play acoustic open mics around town.
Kitten began to really take form when they started gigging at the downtown LA all-ages club the Smell. Though she hung out at the iconic punk venue at the onset of her teens, her music wasn't akin to the Southern California punk acts that became associated with the venue. Even so, in one of the many early incarnations of Kitten, three of the four members of FIDLAR (Elvis and Max Kuehn and Zac Carper) played in Kitten before going off to form their own successful band.
However, the band's first show at the venue revealed that Chaidez and her new band had a long way to go. "I invited all of my friends to check out my band, and the whole thing was terrible and sloppy," she says. "During the last song, one of my OG guitar players had his capo a half-step higher than it should have been, and it sounded absolutely terrible. He and the bass player thought they were each fucking up, and they got into a fight while I was trying to play the song! It was so bad."
After that subpar set, Chaidez fled to the venue's bathroom, where she sat for an hour because she was embarrassed by her band's antics and was afraid to face the large number of friends who had made the trek to see her band.
Fortunately, things got better. Despite having enough rotating members to make Guns N' Roses look stable, Chaidez brashly states that "what Robert Smith is to the Cure is what Chloe will be to Kitten" because the band is really a solo project. She's keenly aware the statement is a bit over-the-top, but she doesn't deny the guys who would play in the band are replaceable, that she is the be-all, end-all with regard to the creative vision, which includes a ferocious, mesmerizing live show.
Chaidez has built a fan base with the release of three EPs, and in June, her self-titled debut was released via Elektra Records. Inking a deal with a major these days isn't as lucrative as it once was, but Chaidez acknowledges that in addition to being very good for her, the project needed the financial backing that could only be afforded with a label. She was able to acquire the necessary equipment to keep things moving in a positive direction.
Separated into three distinct parts, Chaidez says the new album reflects different periods of musical growth and exploration as she has matured as a performer and composer, working to figure out what she wants Kitten to be. The sound could be closely associated with such bands as the Eurythmics and OMD.
"Debut albums are pretty much your life's work in one album," she explains. "There's a song called 'Apples and Cigarettes' that's the last song on the record. I wrote that song when I was 15, and it's acoustic and different than anything else on the album."
Zigzagging the country on her first headlining tour means benefits for the singer/songwriter that she never got to experience as an opener. "It's cool to have a dressing room and snacks, too," she says.
Nearly a decade into her musical career, Chaidez and Kitten aren't yet household names, but Chaidez has learned so much for someone who isn't yet 20. Instead of looking at the traditional metrics of success, Chaidez realizes that there's more to being a musician than album sales.
"I think that any artist will never stop as long as they keep growing," she says. "As long as people think you're new, it's good because that means someone is discovering you."
Kitten perform with Dear Boy and Nilu at the Wayfarer, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 764-0039; www.wayfarercm.com. Fri., 7 p.m. $15. 21+.