I once saw Chloe Chaidez do a backflip off a kick drum, so needless to say she’s one worth watching. At just 22, Chaidez and her band KITTEN have already shared the stage with iconic female-fronted acts such as Garbage and No Doubt, not to mention rock antihero Courtney Love. With influences ranging from Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, to Annie Lennox, Chaidez’s is a sonic force to be reckoned with. I caught up with Chloe in my garden on Metropolitan avenue, to pick her brain about the songwriting process, leaving Los Angeles, and the mythology of New York City.
Michelle Rose: You’ve been playing music and recording for almost a decade now, and you’re only 22! You signed a major record deal as a teenager, correct?
Chloe Chaidez: That’s right. I started KITTEN when I was 15, and signed with Atlantic Records not long after. It was an overwhelming time. I was at peak teenage angst and my parents were finalizing their divorce. Life was a bit complicated.
MR: It’s hard to imagine getting that sort of opportunity at such a young age. It must have been pretty intense.
CC: Totally. It came with this false sense of invincibility. I was constantly playing with fire, not understanding how vulnerable I was. We had this one show in San Francisco – it was just after my 15th birthday – and afterwards a man in a T. Rex shirt came up to me. He told me what an amazing show it was, said he had a gift for me, and slipped something in my pocket. When I got to my hotel room later I realized it was heroin. And I tried it. I don’t know why. I was standing over the toilet about to flush it and just thought, “Why not?”. I spent the evening curled up in a ball listening to Sigur Ros. I was so dumb and so lucky that my experience with the drug began and ended there. I’m in disbelief when I look back, which I’ve been doing a lot lately.
MR: Wow that’s insane. So you’ve been in a reflective place?
CC: [Laughs] I guess! I’ve been trying really hard to put more of myself into these songs, to be less vague. I’m able to articulate what I couldn’t then. There’s this line on a new song: “I’m closing my eyes but the fear stays the same, I’m turning back into the girl that I was. And everyone’s acting like I haven’t changed, but I know the things that I’ve done.” That sums a lot of it up.
MR: You’ve had some lineup changes and you’re based in New York now…
CC: New York is magical! I love Los Angeles, but you can’t beat the opportunity and excitement of the 8 million people buzzing around each other here. I fell in love with this place while I was briefly living at the Silent Barn [the renowned, all-ages venue in Brooklyn] back in 2014. I’ve wanted to live and work here ever since, but commitments kept me flying back and forth between here and LA. The guys I’m working with now gave me a reason to stay. We’ve just been so inspired. And it’s been fun to be around these native New Yorkers. I had never met anyone like these guys before coming to the east coast. They’re obnoxious! They’re cosmopolitan and into eclectic music, but they have this outer borough, townie thing that they cannot shake. Like some weird mash up of Tony Soprano, Brian Eno, and Oasis.
MR: Your last full length record came out three years ago. Have you been working on the follow up this whole time?
CC: I came back to the west coast spring of 2015 for some shows with Courtney Love and OK GO. These dates were all in California and surrounding states, so it made sense at the time to stay in LA. I brought [my collaborator] Dave back with me from New York and we made the Heaven Or Somewhere in Between EP with my former collaborator/manager, Chad [Anderson]. There was a ton of inspiration for that EP, but when it came time to write the proper follow up, the three of us couldn’t seem to get on the same page. Dave and I were in a similar place, but Chad and I just had different visions. You work with someone so closely for a decade- through ups and downs, and national tours, and album cycles- it’s an intense relationship. It gets really hard when the juju deflates and the lack of connection turns to shouting matches. I knew I had to move on. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I’m here now, and it’s good.
MR: I’m sorry I just have to ask about.Courtney Love?!!! What’s she like?
CC: [Laughs] I’ve had the privilege and honor to open for a lot of great bands over the years. It’’s been very educational. Courtney Love was dope. I’m gonna be honest, unlike a lot of my friends I didn’t grow up listening to Hole. But after being around her for a bit I think she’s kind of my fantasy rock n’ roll big sister. She really plays the best character with her demeanor and the hilarious shit that she says. I didn’t really get to talk to her too much, unfortunately, but I admired and took notes from afar.
MR: I feel like you have a very clearly defined sonic relationship with your visuals. Your music and your style, your Instagram – everything is really cohesive and striking. It’s modern, but it’s also retro. Would you say that you’re inspired by nostalgia? Do you feel like you’re inspired by those decades that have gone by?
CC: That’s sweet of you to say! I feel inspired by anything now, or from 200 years ago that speaks to me. I tend to go for an imagery that has somewhat of a sex appeal. I don’t mean skin, or a picture of a nipple – this, too can be great – but imagery that has allure. Anything too overt can take away from your goal statement. This is what I strive for in my own style as well. I love Bryan Ferry, he my aesthetic God. I also love Annie Lennox, Dale Bazio, although they get a bit colorful at times. When I am referencing images for my own visuals, I try not to limit myself to any particular decade because I think that can be crippling. I carry that same philosophy in the music.
MR: Do you want to talk about where you’ve been recording the new record, LP2? In Chelsea right?
CC: Yeah, we’ve been working in Chelsea nights and weekends and weekdays in Greenpoint. It’s been amazing. Manhattan is a whimsical place, fantastical in nature. Artists can’t afford to live here, of course, but it’s aura is still conducive to making art. Being in Greenpoint always feels like home. I think both energies live on this new record. Both the lifestyle fantasy, the smell of fancy champagne, expensive horderves, and the reality of finding myself in an environment where I’m comfortable and trust the people I work with. I really feel like me, and the record reflects that.