Chloe Chaidez seems genetically predisposed to lead a band of rock stars: The daughter of a Los Angeles punk drummer, the 19-year-old singer already possesses the confidence and experience of a seasoned music-business professional. She performed Bowie covers for audiences as a 10-year-old prodigy and opened for indie-rock idols like Conor Oberst at 12. She has led her current band, Kitten, since she was 14.
Kitten builds around Chaidez's vocals, the sort of powerful pipes that once caused lighters to be lifted in their honor. Playing shows alongside Garbage, Paramore, No Doubt and Charli XCX, Kitten's not only fit with big acts propelled by the women that lead them but also shown the ability to crawl past genre barriers. That's something that the band's self-titled debut, released in June by Elektra, bears out, too, as it hops from sleek synth-pop and raw alt-rock to big ballads and Prince-ly R&B. Chaidez owns all these moves with ease.
From a tour van between stops, Chaidez spoke about the crucial encounters she's already had, the critical standards she holds and the performer crushes she harbors. Kitten is already a club headliner, but Chaidez sees arena marquees ahead, a grand ambition for which she seems preternaturally suited.
I started so young that it's hard for me to realize that I'm only 19 now. It's a bummer, because in some ways I'm a little more jaded, but you can only learn from experience. For whatever reason, it didn't really take long for me to get comfortable on stage. After my first show when I was 10, I sort of felt at home, like I could be myself.
When something is finished or close to being done on [music production program] Ableton, there's something very tempting about leaving the song in its most raw form. I love solely electronic music, I really do. But I think what makes Kitten's music interesting is the guitar work and the live drums. Once those elements are added, that's when I feel like it's fully done. Kitten will always be a rock band; that's what makes it different.
I've never really considered myself a singer. I've more considered myself, as douchey as it sounds, a "vocal stylist." I often find myself wanting a more alien tone for my vocals. Think about someone like Dave Gahan: He could be singing silly lyrics and the poppiest melody, but because of that other-worldy tone, it doesn't matter. The tone of my voice is my strength and my weakness. It's what gives Kitten's music a little bit more of a mass appeal but also limits its coolness. I like music where the person sounds really off. That's where I find the limits with my voice.
Thank God for YouTube. If I were in a day and age where I couldn't just type in whatever rock star I was trying to find, I'd still have to find DVDs, or do something to see that. There are these videos of INXS live at Wembley, like 1991, and I watch that religiously. I'll show my friends, who don't care: "Dude, just look at this guy [late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence]!" At first it was, "Damn, he's so hot," but now I don't even care what you look like. I have such an attraction to you as a person and a performer. I've grown to love this man, totally platonically.
Us playing arenas, not even because I think I'm a fucking star, or whatever. The music lends itself to that environment. Something I've noticed along the way is that the Kitten demographic is so wide. There's girls my age, and we dress the same. But there's also older guys and girls, people who maybe wouldn't normally go out, just normal people. [Laughs.] I can see it really going to another place, filling up the Staples Center with all those normal people.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Paws out"