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The Regrettes: "It takes a lot to stand up in a crowd and say the things that I say"

Los Angeles punk quartet The Regrettes are touring the UK this month - and you're about to start seeing a lot more of them.
Published: 1:46 pm, May 18, 2018
The Regrettes: "It takes a lot to stand up in a crowd and say the things that I say"
"I don't want to think about it, or I'll totally psych myself out," Lydia Night affirms over the phone from her native Los Angeles. The 17-year-old leader of garage-pop outfit The Regrettes is referring to the band's scheduled appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! tomorrow night, where they will perform tracks from their recently released 'Attention Seeker' EP.

Guitarist Genessa Gariano, bassist Sage Chavis and drummer Maxx Morando are the rest of the band; today, they're off doing "whatever they do to prepare," says Lydia. "Genessa is probably at home drawing, Sage is probably doing her makeup or at the gym, and then Maxx, god knows. He's a wildcard; I never know what he's doing."

Playing live on one of the most popular talk shows in the world is, of course, a big deal, but the young bunch have already had a fair few big deals in their short time together. Since forming properly two and a half years ago after initially meeting at music school, they've shared stages with Sleigh Bells and Kate Nash, visited the UK with SWMRS and on top of all that, the start of 2017 saw the release of their gutsy, doo-wop-stroke-riot-grrrl debut album ‘Feel Your Feelings Fool!'

Penned in the deepest swathes of her teenage years, the album's voice is unmistakeably and unapologetically Lydia's. "The majority of that record was written before the band even formed. I had like fifty demos before going into it, from a three-year period," she explains of its origins.

One of those demos eventually evolved into ‘A Living Human Girl', two-and-a-half-minutes of ricocheting garage pop with body image and gender stereotypes in its lyrical crosshairs. It was a powerful mission statement and one that set the tone for things to come, though it wasn't easy for Lydia to bare her soul so extensively so early on.

"It's such a vulnerable song; it takes a lot to stand up in a crowd and say the things that I say. When I realised, ‘Oh wait, when you write a song you're going to be performing this', that's when I was a little nervous. But I knew I need to get over it for myself and the sake of other people. I think it's a song that needs to be heard."

Her bravery paid off. "Honestly, at almost every show someone will come up to us and say, 'That song helped me get through this, it's getting me through school right now…' Someone came up and said it got them through their sex change. There are a lot of really crazy, cool, incredible things that have come from that. It's amazing."

The genesis of Lydia's passion for activism occurred when she was in seventh grade – that's Year 8 – when her best friend Grace introduced her to Rookie, the uber-hip online publication which promotes female empowerment as one of its key values. "I was like, what's a feminist?" Lydia recalls. "Grace totally told me everything I needed to know. From then on I've been all about it."

Not all of Lydia's music is quite so big talk. ‘Hey Now', for example, is a straight-from-the-heart teenage love song reminiscent of 1950s candy cane ballads, the type Lydia's childhood was soundtracked by. "It's the only music that I think is really timeless. The lyrics are vague in a simple way. We can't make songs like that anymore," she muses.

Across the album, she chooses her battles carefully (other big hitters include the snarling ‘Picture Perfect', and ‘Seashore', a chirpy anthem about not letting yourself be put down) making sure there's room for downtime.

"I think there needs to be a balance. Not all of the music that I write is blatant and in your face. I think that I have a strong perspective, all my music has that, but that perspective doesn't necessarily have to be some political statement about what's happening in the world. Sometimes it's more a statement about exactly how I'm feeling and that in itself is a bold, vulnerable move."

Nowadays the band spend more time writing together, for the sake of convenience as well as enjoyment. "It's great writing a song when Maxx can immediately play a drum beat along with it, and then have Sage come in with the bass line or guitar part. I write the majority of the lyrics, but if I'm like, 'Ah fuck, what rhymes with door?' They're like, 'Poor!' or 'Whore!' and I'm like, perfect!"

Although Lydia still appreciates the therapeutic aspect of taking time to reflect by herself, she acknowledges that "there's something to be said about writing with a group. That kind of exchange in creativity is a very intimate, cool thing. I love both."

A result of the band's new-found team dynamic is the bouncy lead single from the 'Attention Seeker' EP, ‘Come Through', the video for which sees the band giving Lydia's jerk boyfriend his just desserts, in more ways than one.

The clip was directed by Claire Vogel, a serial collaborator of Lydia's. "Claire is my favourite director ever. I told her what I wanted [in terms of the] musical aspect; then she brought in the storyline. We filmed it at this amazing mid-century house. It was seriously the coolest house ever."

One shot from the video stands out. Dressed in a striking blue suit, Lydia spins lackadaisically in a chair, tearing pages from an old book and tossing them carefreely over her shoulder. Mirroring a similar scene from the band's ‘Seashore' video, a visual tribute to strong women from throughout history, it's a fitting metaphor for the way The Regrettes use their music to rip up the out-dated attitudes of the past, having an absolute blast all the while.

The future looks bright for this promising young foursome. With an extensive US tour just around the corner and a slot on the Main Stage at Reading & Leeds, you can expect to hear more from The Regrettes very soon (as for new music, Lydia promises "there will be something new in the world" by the end of the year).

For now, she's off to prepare for the big show tomorrow. Spoiler alert, they absolutely smash it. Another rung surpassed by a band heading defiantly for the top.

Taken from the June issue of Dork - order your copy below. The Regrettes are touring the UK from 19th May.

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