[Cover Story] The Regrettes on Female Empowerment and Recording ‘In-The-Moment’

The Regrettes

The Regrettes: On Teenage Power and Knowing When to Quit Over-Finessing Your Recordings

During this tenuous time, female empowerment is necessary now more than ever. We’ve been introduced to the riot grrl spirit of Sleater-Kinney, the magical prowess of Stevie Nicks, the fervor of Siouxie and the Banshies, the punk sensibilities of Hole, the unabashed lyricism of Courtney Barnett, to name just a few greats. There’s a newcomer on the scene by the name of Lydia Night, a self-assured leader for The Regrettes, the “perfectly imperfect” new pop/punk band from Los Angeles. Here’s the deal; she’s only 16 years old. With such wisdom at such a young age, she and The Regrettes are setting the tone for this generation’s voice in the music industry. Drawing from a range of time periods, their sound is reminiscent of the past, but always looking towards the future with a hint of neo-modernism and post-punk thrown in for good measure.

Forming this four-member band with guitarist Genessa Gariano, bassist Sage Chavis, and drummer Maxx Marando, Night and The Regrettes have since taken their music to new heights, touring with Performer faves Sleigh Bells and receiving critical acclaim from media outlets like NYLON and NPR.  Song lyrics offer a perfect candor, with total honesty brimming through. We’re not introduced to archetypes or allegories, but rather, the real truth of what it’s like to be a young person in today’s America, wading through the world while you’re still learning its ways, and extracting strength from your experiences and dusting yourself off again. It’s not easy to be young in 2017, and The Regrettes tackle this time period, yet also show up with the knowledge of teens who are wiser beyond their years. Simply put, the band’s tracks are relevant at any age.

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With just four singles out right now, The Regrettes are priming us for their first full-length album, out this month on Warner Brothers. “A Living Human Girl” truly captures the essence of the band, with true-to-form images that conjure up how it felt to be a teen, from those awkward moments to even the physical manifestations of growing up. In it, there’s such truth, yet Night sings with an unabashed frankness, almost as if to say, “This is me right now, but so what? This is who I am and I’m sharing my truth with you.” 

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Night also knows when a song is done, and when to stop overworking it to the point where its meaning gets lost in production values. She’s been quoted as saying, “The way that we write, it’s all based on honesty. If I finish a song, I’ll just leave it – I won’t really go back to it. I like things to feel in the moment and I don’t want it to be perfect. If I work on something too much I lose it and get bored and I want to do the next one.”

In these tumultuous times, these young voices are vital to the cultural landscape, using music not only to inform listeners of their experiences, but also to continue immensely important dialogues. I caught up with Lydia Night about the band’s first single, their influences, and what it’s like to make music that resonates throughout time at such a young age.

First off, I love “A Living Human Girl” and the anthem it creates. The string of lyrics “I can dress how I want/ Not looking for a show of hands” is amazing, to select only one snippet. What was your inspiration for this?

Thank you! This song was inspired by a huge wave of emotions I was going through after starting high school. I wasn’t used to the extreme insecurity shown in young women and I was honestly overwhelmed.

The video for “A Living Human Girl” is amazing, too, and addresses the objectification of women. Was this your original vision?

It was! The director captured my ideas so perfectly.

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You are only 16 years old, which is amazing for someone who pens lyrics with such wisdom. What are your favorite subjects to discuss with your songs and how do you go about writing them?

I really can’t pinpoint subjects in my songs because they are all so all over the place, honestly. 

Are you trying to speak to your own generation, another generation, or are The Regrettes using different voices for each?

I think different voices for each. I want our music to be timeless.

How have your family and friends fostered your dream?

My family has always supported me heavily and so have my friends. We wouldn’t be here without them.

When I was a teen, I was listening to punk, writing in a diary, and riding my bike to my friend’s houses. I definitely wasn’t spearheading my own punk band. How did the band form and how did you decide this is what you wanted to do?

Honestly that’s not that different than what I do [laughs]. We all met a long time ago at School of Rock and reconnected about a year ago. And here we are!

You’ve toured with some of the best feminist groups of recent time, and now you’re about to tour with Sleigh Bells. Talk to me more about how your live performances harness female power and energy.

I think I harness that power because that’s who I am. I am a powerful woman and I want people to know it.

This election and the result are obviously a point of contention for many people, including women. Is your music going to be used for social change in the coming years or to spread a message?

Totally. There’s no way for it not to be. 

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Your youth is your power to get messages across, too. What messages are you looking to share?

Self-love and self-respect. 

How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you?

Raw and fun.

Who do you all listen to on tour? Your music is not of this era, so it’s interesting you’re pulling from genres so far back in time, mainly from the ’60s and ’70s.

This is so random, but on tour I usually listen to a lot of rap music [laughs]. Lots of Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino.

Follow on Twitter @regrettesband

Photos by Alexander Dantes

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