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A Whisker Away From Spotlight

Chloe Chaidez Speaks With JAM Magazine

Fronted by dynamic lead singer Chloe Chaidez, the Los Angeles-based four-piece Kitten creates '80s post-punk-influenced dance-rock. The daughter of former Thee Undertakers drummer Mike Chaidez, Chloe grew up listening to a mix of punk and '80s new wave bands like the Go-Go's, the Motels, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. A precocious adolescent, Chaidez formed her first group, the cover band Wild Youth, at age ten. Three years later, she had formed Kitten, and with producer/manager Chad Anderson began working on original material.

In 2010, when Chaidez was only 15 years old, Kitten released the driving, guitar and synth-heavy EP Sunday School. That same year the band signed to Atlantic. In 2012, Kitten returned with their sophomore EP, Cut It Out. A high profile opening slot touring with Paramore has raised the band's profile in 2013. The band, however, is still a work in progress for this former state champion gymnast.

JAM: For lack of a better word, the music business can be quite terrifying. Look at the tens of thousands of people every year that try out for American Idol, America's Got Talent, the Voice, X Factor etc. - all those people think they have the talent to go to the next level, but they can't, because unlike your band, they don't "believe" they can actually do it, they just hope. Believing is the single biggest hurdle any band can overcome. Do you remember the moment where you went from thinking, to believing, you had something special, something real?

Chloe Chaidez - The "music business" is yes brutal, but more brutal for me is the intense toggling of emotions that goes with attempting to make a record, and all of the creative dissatisfaction/euphoria that comes along with that. I think harder than rejection from some label dude, is the disappointment of hearing something out of the speakers that you hadn't initially wanted, and then trying to fix that. There's a lot of stress and fear in that process, fear that the music will inaccurately represent your "vision" for lack of a less clichéd term. As far as an "aha" moment, I've quite honestly felt I always could be up to par with the best, and maybe that's from having good parents who always told me I was special.

JAM: Most musicians in this country never get beyond the local level, or even leave their basement or garage, because they can't envision the big picture. All they see are the problems, the obstacles, the odds, the economics involved that are keeping them from achieving their dreams. Thus they remain at the local level forever. At what specific point in the past did you look beyond that way of thinking to knowing you could go out and grab the brass ring?

None of those real life concerns have really ever crossed my mind once. Maybe I'm just young and naive, or maybe I'm just too into what I'm doing to stop and think about it. I believe that starting at such a young age had something to do with it.

JAM: I always hear musicians say they gave up a lot to get to where they presently are. Honestly, I don't believe that. The only thing you are sacrificing is time. There isn't anything you leave behind you can't pick up again. You are basically starting a business you believe in, and you are all employees working for the start-up. I think you should have a band disclaimer that reads, "No humans were harmed in the making of this project." Do you understand where I am coming from?

Yeah, but I feel like I only hear rappers say that kind of shit anyway. I don't picture the singer of Grizzly Bear saying something like that. I think it's something people say to look tough, like they've been through "the struggle" and "sacrificed".

JAM: It used to be that promising bands would be developed by record companies and be given time to develop. In essence, they paid their dues, waited their turn. Not anymore. Technology has allowed musicians to make and distribute music for relatively nothing, almost taking away the thrill of being unique when you were one of the chosen few signed to a label. Unless you know the game, your odds of succeeding are miniscule. Has the knowledge your father passed on to given you strength to face the challenges ahead?

Oh no, no, no! Unfortunately, if anything, it's the other way around. My dad didn't get far enough into his musical career to really know the ins and outs of how the music business works. Not saying I know everything at all, but we'll have arguments about the ever changing format of music today, and we'll go on for hours. I have one philosophy: if it's great and all the pieces are there, people will find out. The Beach Boys could release Pet Sounds in 2032 and someone will find about it.

JAM: Did you ever reach a crossroads with your music where you could take it in several directions, or has Chad Anderson's presence as a co-writer helped you hone and focus your vision?

When the band was initially signed, I think everyone had this idea in the back of their heads that I would go writing with a million writers that had their names on everything under the sun in order to see what we could come up with. That definitely wasn't my vibe. Chad understands me personally and creatively more than anyone in the entire world, which is only natural after having worked together for almost 5 years - since I've been and had nothing.

JAM: What was it about the word 'Kitten' you felt embodied the image, as well as the feel of the music, you were writing about and creating?

The name Kitten sounded classic and iconic to me, kind of like Blondie or something. My goal with this entire project was for it to be iconic and to make a real impact. I think the name just adds to that.

JAM: In the dark ages, and that refers to any time in the last century, when people actually purchased music, you were making an emotional investment in that artist as well. That's why classic rock acts today, that made their mark back in the day, do great business when they hit the road. The music, the band, meant something. Now everybody with an Internet connection has the history of recorded music at their fingertips. The relationship with artists has now become a social media type of game for fans. Do you prefer today's wired world of 24/7 access and feedback as opposed to a time when there was some mystery surrounding a group?

I think there is really something to be said for both. The connection a band is able to make with their fans via the internet these days is truly something special. That said, I think the humanization can be overdone. When I think of my favorite artists of all time, I can't imagine them going grocery shopping, or even listening to their favorite records the way I do. At 15, I thought Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was from a different planet. She definitely didn't eat In-N-Out burgers or burp like I do, or more importantly, didn't tweet about it. I think that mystique is still important. The good news is today, an artist can fully control their perception and the art associated with their music 24/7. I think very bold statements can be made this way.

JAM: Major labels were stripped of much of their power because they failed to react creatively to the file-sharing revolution that caused sales and revenue to collapse. Now if it affected the bottom line of major labels, it had trickle down effects on artists like you. The business side of music is quite tricky. By releasing an EP first to the general public, is this one of the ways bands have adjusted to the new frontier that face you - go slow and steady before trying to hit on all cylinders immediately with a full album of material?

To be honest, I try to not to think of the music in those terms. Labels have marketing departments and plans that they feel address some of those issues, but to be honest, I'd just as soon have my record out at this point. It's finished and I'd love for people to hear it. I'm willing to follow the labels lead on some of that stuff because that's what they do. By the same token, the music making should be left to the artist and only the artist, because that is what we're best at.

JAM: There's tons of music out there. It's all free, at everyone's fingertips. People like to feel they belong when they hear an artist. Even if something is great, people will move on if the music doesn't grab them. Videos only go viral if they hook you the very first time watching them. It's no different in music. How important is it now for you to wed those two - music and video - together? Let's face it! YouTube has become your generation's national radio service.

Like I said earlier, with a bands image so sternly glued to the music nowadays and with all of the social media platforms, you need your videos to be a proper representation of who you are. Let's say you've just discovered an artist who sounds like the love child of Tom Waits and Elvis Costello. You look him up, and his music video looks like it's directed by a guy who made Ashton Kutcher's latest romantic comedy, and appears to have no artistic vision or particular aesthetic. It would probably bum you out. Videos are just another avenue for a band to show you what they're about, what they're trying to say, and that's important.

JAM: The most compelling question a person has to answer when coming to a crossroads in their life is two words, "What if?" When your gut instincts are telling you to go in this direction, but external forces are pulling you to do the opposite, this moment of truth will affect you the rest of your life. At what point in your young life did you realize you had to answer 'what if' when it came to pursuing music, or just become one of the girls hanging out?

Good question. I mentioned something like this earlier, but there really never was a "what if" moment in my mind. It was always very clear, and music is the only thing I feel I really know about and can succeed at. It's like comparing a person with normal vision to someone who is color blind. The color blind person just won't see the greens and reds; those colors are not an option.

JAM: How important has it been to you, and where you're at today, to have parents who completely understand what the music business is all about, can talk to you about its pitfalls and rewards, and are 110 percent behind what you're doing because they instinctively know, especially your dad, this is something you just have to do?

Well to be honest, they don't really understand the "ins and outs" of this business at all. My dad sure as hell understands music, but he doesn't understand the assholes that run it and how their minds work. Again, he understands the most important part- the bands and artists.

JAM: Obviously if you want to last in this business, you're going to have tons of ups and downs. It's about character as much as it is skills. When you looked at Waylon Rector, Lukas Frank and Bryan DeLeon, even Chad Anderson, did you first have to determine whether or not they were musicians you could build relationships with, adjust to change, learn the game, and continue to risk when it came to creating music?

Relationships as creatively intense and close as the ones I have with the people you've listed above cannot be planned out. It's kind of like a girlfriend or boyfriend. You decide to continue the relationship because it seems to be working out. Then all of a sudden you're three years in and sharing your lives together. These relationships kind of just fall into place because you had no one else at the time, and the respect for each other's talent was mutual.

JAM: Your generation grew up thinking, and actually believing, that if any form of entertainment was on the Internet, it's free to download, especially music and movies. Now that you actually make a living in the music industry, do you understand why there has been so much uproar over the chaos the web has caused in the entertainment industry?

I've always understood it. People need to make a living. That said, I have always known that my income will come from the road. Touring is something that's not dependent on blog hype or radio. If people love to watch your band, it doesn't matter whether or not Pitchfork gives your album "best new music" or you have a hit single, you'll be able to eat.