Kitten is not a cutesy YouTube rapper or a bedroom pop project, but rather an L.A. dance-rock five-piece fronted by 18 year-old Chloe Chaidez. Her massive pipes and commanding stage presence are more reminiscent of Pat Benatar or Karen O than Jenna Marbles.
Everyone in the band is fresh out of high school, though you wouldn't guess it from their recent performance at Jubilee Music Festival, where Chaidez straddled amps, lassoed the microphone, and stalked the stage in a way that made you turn to the person next to you and ask: “Who the hell is that?”
That's a question lots of people have been interested in since Kitten's second EP Cut It Out dropped in 2011. Though the band's elephantine synth and guitar riffs have been compared to everyone from Eurythmics to New Order, Chaidez herself seems to be the main point of interest. She's been interviewed by Carson Daly, played fashion muse for Teen Vogue and Steve Madden, and Elle called her “The New Face of Alt-Rock.” Kitten, meanwhile, has already opened for two behemoths: No Doubt and Paramore. All this without a proper LP.
Chaidez lives with her father — who was a drummer in the punk band The Undertakers — in a drowsy Pasadena house with a “God Bless America” banner hanging over the doorway. Lounging with her bandmates in the backyard on a Sunday afternoon, Chaidez wears massive combat boots and an animal print-top. She laments that Pasadena doesn't have many venues for young bands.
Instead, she “grew up” at The Smell. “I walked in there when I was 13 and I had this really lame guitar and this tiny amp and my mom was like 'go play,” says Chaidez. “And then I just played a couple songs.” And though she is blossoming into her own alt-stardom, those humble beginnings continued for quite a while. “People don't realize we've been a band for so long,” says Chaidez. “Yeah we've opened for a lot of cool bands recently, but we did a tour where we played for like ten people.”
A 2012 residency at the Bootleg Theater helped them break through. By their final night, so many people showed up that Hayley Williams of Paramore had trouble getting in. “The bouncer was like 'I don't care who you are! She ain't gettin in, it's full!” says Chaidez.
After a couple years of press, the group members say they get slightly annoyed by the fact that everything written about them focuses on their age. They feel as if sometimes their youth is used against them as a sort of novelty, and novelty doesn't last. It's something they are afraid of, and they combat that image by treating the band like a long term job, rather than a vehicle for quick recognition. “As we grow up it's just going to die,” says Chaidez.
Chaidez herself seems especially seasoned. When I check to see if my iPhone is still recording mid-way through the interview, she leans over and says, “I spotted that, I was ready to grab my charger if needed.” Clearly, she's no stranger to the media; in fact when I looked over some other interviews she she's given, I found that she gave me some of the same stock answers, but with enough friendly charisma and charm that it felt like she was telling them for the first time. A true pro.
After the interview, I follow the band into a rehearsal space, where their manager plays me two unreleased cuts off their new EP Like A Stranger, which comes out August 27th. The title track is clearly a single, full of pulsing hooks that highlight Chaidez's terrific voice. It's dance-y, radio-ready, and clearly designed to introduce Kitten to a wider audience. If they find it, there will be even more bright lights pointed at Chaidez — a prospect she seems willing and able to entertain.