KJ Sims and Jamila Sims, the local brother-sister duo known as the Chrome Cats, discuss which song best exemplifies their upbeat blend of hip-hop and pop. The Chrome Cats’ sound has placed them on Billboard’s indicator charts twice – and they are only four years into their career.
KJ, 19, and the lyrical rapper of the group, throws out their song “Get Away,” an uplifting track off their first full-length 2013 album, “Flight to Paradise.” KJ’s reasoning is simple enough; he likes to sing it, and being put on the spot to perform, he says it’s easier to do.
Jamila, the melodic 16-year-old vocalist of the group, seems to agree.
“Don’t you think you should perform ‘Best Life?’ ” says Mercy Sims, the mother of the duo.
In typical mother-knows-best fashion, the two heed the suggestion. Their single, “Best Life,” debuted at No. 37 on Billboard’s Top 40 Indicator charts in December.
Monitored by Nielsen BDS Music Tracking, the chart ranks the total weekly plays of 70 radio stations that report their play list online. The pair also appeared on the same chart in 2012 for their single, “DNA of a Winner.”
Their fan base, known as the Chrome Army, has helped them build a substantial presence in social media.
“It was a great feeling to see our songs on the chart like that,” KJ Sims says. “The first thing I thought is that we have to put this on Facebook and Twitter, and share it with the fans because they really helped requesting it and putting it out there.”
Locally produced by Floyd “Timeless” Thomas, “Best Life” is about making the most of your life every day, an apparent message in most of their songs.
“We’re all about positive vibes. If we can add any positivity to our music, we do it,” Jamila Sims says.
As the two give an off-the-cuff performance of the song, Mercy Sims looks on with joy as if it was the first time she has heard them sing.
“I’m really proud of them. They are following their passion,” she says. “I just encourage them to stay positive and stay grounded.”
The duo says it was their mother who first inspired them to create their own music. Growing up in a church choir in Nairobi, Kenya, Mercy Sims says she and her husband, Michael Sims, always encouraged music and family jam sessions in the household. Initially growing up in Vallejo, Calif., KJ and Jamila participated in piano and dance lessons.
“In the summer of 2006, our mom suggested that we should write some songs and record some music and we just thought it was cool idea,” KJ Sims says. “Our aunt took us to our first studio in San Jose, Calif., and we made our first CD – it had four songs on it.”
“Yeah, we made a little EP and had a photo shoot.” Jamila says laughing. Only 12 and 10 years old at the time, it would take four more years when the family moved to Fort Wayne for the two teenagers to decide to pursue music seriously.
“That summer it was just fun, we weren’t thinking of it as a career. When we moved here, we had more time to focus on music,” KJ says.
The first order of business was procuring a record deal with the Malaysia-based company Lakefront Records. As an independent label that founder and CEO Bryan Tan established in 2010, the Chrome Cats became its first international group. The two have released multiple singles, one EP and one album without physically meeting Tan.
Michael Sims, who represents his children as their manager, says that he and the duo hold business meetings with Tan over Skype.
Jamila Sims says that the Internet has made the music industry more accessible for music artists and fans alike; the two have been able to accomplish their initial goals without having to leave their family home for a bigger city.
“I think the Internet is just a really cool tool. Wherever you are in the world, you are able to connect with people,” she says
Following their first album release last year, the two are preparing to return to the studio this year with plans to experiment with new material.
KJ says he would like to learn how to produce music, while Jamila recently tried her hand at rapping on a song the two recorded.
“The benefit (of being brother and sister) is that we’re somewhere around each other. We live in the same house, so I can always knock on his door and say, ‘I have this great idea for a melody,’ ” Jamila Sims says.
“I say the challenge is that we don’t have a cut-off time,” KJ says. “As far as edits on a song, it can go on forever.”
With dreams of selling out Madison Square Garden and performing on the festival main stage at Coachella, the siblings say that their support of each other has become the best motivation.
“We definitely push each other to try something different and try something new,” KJ Sims says. “Music doesn’t really have any rules or boundaries.”