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Concert Review: Kitten at the Bowery Ballroom - 10/28/11 (Photos, Interview)

Chloe Chaidez faces away from the crowd at New York’s Bowery Ballroom and goes to take a large gulp from a bottle of water. Before she can swallow, the drummer starts clicking his sticks together, counting down to the next track. Like a rabid dog, Chaidez whips her head to the side, spraying and foaming from the mouth as she dives back into her duties as frontwoman for her band, Kitten. The LA group’s raucous performance this past weekend showed precisely why they have begun to attract some serious attention since forming just over a year ago.

Kitten combines the frenzied punk energy of Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs with some of the subtle electronic undertones of Bloc Party. They’ve already been named by SPIN as one of the most promising young bands and also had their music video played on MTV. Leading up to the release of their debut album, which is scheduled to drop in January or February, they are currently on tour with Electric Six.

The most immediate thing about Kitten is the way Chaidez demands the full attention of the crowd when she is onstage. Not unlike Karen O (who Chaidez is quick to call a major inspiration) she possesses the electrifying ability to command the stage and hook you in with her antics, then keep you interested with her hefty musical talents. At only 16 years old, she is able to write songs that range from grandiose pop-rock anthem (“Chinatown”) to quiet singer-songwriter ballad (“Alison Day”).

In between mid-song handstands and climbing 15-foot stacks of amplifiers, Kitten pounded through a quick set that also included covers of Joy Division’s “Transmission” and The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry.” Before the last chord of their final song, the vigorous punk gem, “Kitten With a Whip,” was done ringing out Chaidez threw down her microphone and headed off stage, leaving her bandmates behind.

It’s not often that such a young band successfully pulls off the type of brash dynamism that runs rampant throughout Kitten’s live performances. The group shows promise beyond their years and it’s safe to say we can expect big things from them in 2012.

Before the show I got the chance to talk to Chaidez. You can read the entire interview right here. Below that you can also find some pictures from the show. 


The NJ Underground: How’s the tour going?

Chloe Chaidez: It’s going really great. Electric Six are really fun. They’re really great guys both personally and musically. And I just love them more and more every night.

NJU: Would you mind telling us a little about how your band got started?

CC: We started about a year, two years ago and this was probably a year before we released the Sunday School EP that you know now. I had a previous band, it was kind of a novelty act. We just did covers and stuff and we were all 10 to 12. Anyways, that sort of disintegrated after a while…

NJU: I feel like every kid has been in one of those bands at one point in their life.

CC: Yeah! (laughs) Good. So after that I really got serious about writing and really god serious about playing. So that’s how this sort of formed it was just mutual friends from LA and from Hamilton High School and that’s kind of how the band was formed. And we’ve had some rotating members but right now I think the core lineup is pretty solid.

NJU: Everything I’ve read about Kitten seems to always lead with the fact that you’re only 16-years old. Does all this preoccupation about your age bother you?

CC: Yeah it was never something we intended to be, or for that to be a label put on us. We always wanted the music to speak for itself. We wanted for people to hear the music and then find out about my age. I guess it doesn’t bother me, for some it makes a good story but I would never want people to know right away. I would rather them to discover later, rather than not know.

NJU: I’ve read stories about you and your younger band mates having to wait outside of 21+ clubs until right before you were about to perform. I feel like things like that may suck when they are happening, but at the same time they also give Kitten more buzz and make for a better story.

CC: Yeah. Well it’s definitely different. We’ve actually had to do that a lot on this tour. It started in Utah; you know the laws are pretty strict there, and then the same in Portland and Seattle. But yeah, we’re just doing our thing and we happen to be young.

NJU: Can you tell us a bit about your new album?

CC: Overall we’re just really really excited about it. It’s definitely a big leap from our Sunday School EP, it’s a lot different. It’s more unique, more sonically defined, and I think it’s going to be out in either January or February. We’re actually shooting a video for a song off the album tomorrow here in New York.

NJU: For what song?

CC: It’s called…well it just changed actually; it’s called “Sensible”.

NJU: Does the album have a title yet?

CC: Not yet. I’m going towards self-titled. I feel like that’s kid of classic for a first record, so we might do that.

NJU: You guys also just covered “Panic” by The Smiths for "Please, Please, Please: A Tribute to the SmithsHow did that come about and how did the song end up turning out? Are You guys big fans of The Smiths?

CC: Yeah we are. I’m a big fan of The Smiths and Morrissey. I don’t really know how that came about. I think someone who had interviewed us once and ran this label, Laundromat Records, did a The Cure tribute album. But this one is really cool, Built to Spill is going to be on it, Class Actress, and a bunch of other really cool bands. It came out awesome; I think it sounds really cool. I mean, it’s such a great song.

NJU: Are all the songs on the album new, or are you re-working any of the tracks from the EP?

CC: I think we’re going to bring over “Kill the Light,” but it’s gonna sound a lot more like the rest of the record though just to make it more cohesive. But other than that, no. We never made a video for “Kill the Light” so I think we’re gonna do that and a single. But I think that’s it.

NJU: The first I heard of you was when I watched your cover of “The Greatest” by Cat Power. That performance was so powerful, is there anything acoustic on the album?

CC: Well there’s going to be two mellower songs. One of which is called “Apples an Cigarettes,” which we’ve semi-released. We’ve done a lot of performances of that one. But yeah it’s going to be acoustic but with weird sounds around it, like trippy keyboards and stuff the kind of make it a little different from your typical acoustic song.

NJU: What was it like playing with Young the Giant?

CC: That was March and into April. They’re song [“My Body”] had just hit the radio, so all those shows were sold out. It was before they played the VMAs, but they were still really on the rise. That was the best, such a fun tour.

NJU: They’re also a smaller band, but have since blown up into the mainstream. Did you learn anything from them or take any examples from their success story?

CC: Yeah, definitely. They were really professional and really respectful to all the bands that came around. They were not divas, the shared dressing rooms. They were great.

NJU: I love the reference to Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” on your song, “Kill the Light.” Are you a big Bruce fan?

CC: I am. I was actually just listening to Nebraska. It’s my favorite Springsteen album. 

NJU: It’s a great album to listen to around Halloween too.

CC: Yeah! It’s really spooky and moody. And I like how his vocals are kind of buried. I actually just read that all those songs were just demos for the E Street Band, but then they heard them and said, “you should put this out.”

NJU: Along with the preoccupation with your age, many people seem to be very quick to compare you to Karen O [Yeah Yeah Yeah’s lead singer]. Do these comparisons get old after a while, or do you find it cool to be mentioned in the same sentence as someone you admire?

CC: I think whenever there’s a rock band with a female front, people try and compare it to someone, and there’s aren’t many female fronts! They just try to compare it to the closest things they can think of. Especially with the toms at the beginning of “Kill the Light,” people are like “oh, that’s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs” and obviously our live performances are similar, but we really are different in a lot of ways. At first the comparisons were cool but I definitely want to move away from that. I think this new record will branch out from the Karen O image. I was definitely very influenced by Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, especially the EP, that’s really a snapshot of where I was 15 or 16 because that was all I listened to. But that’s not going to be kept for my whole career. I’d like to move on from that.

NJU: Yeah, because being as young as you are, your music tastes are probably developing so quickly. How do manage something like that? 

CC: Now I’m starting to develop my own persona overall. In terms of musically though, I think that will grow from different influences and not just one influence. I was trying to be Karen O when I was younger, but I want to grow more and develop.