The Regrettes Are Here To Prove That Riot Grrrl Lives On For Gen Y

Smashing the patriarchy may never take a vacation, but The Regrettes can show you how to enjoy both this summer, guilt-free. In just over a year, the L.A. punk outfit — featuring frontwoman Lydia Night, 16, drummer Maxx Morando, 18, bassist Sage Chavis, 19, and guitarist Genessa Gariano, 20 — has brought its brand of bittersweet pop to the main stage, signing with Warner Bros. Records in 2016 and performing with acts like Kate Nash, Sleigh Bells and Twin Peaks.

When listening to the band’s debut, Feel Your Feelings Fool!, which was released earlier this year, one could hear The Shirelles’ doe-eyed harmonies laid over a surf rock sensibility à la Best Coast — except if its face were shoved into the sand for a grittier taste. Through their music, The Regrettes tackle everyday fears for people of all ages — body image, crumbling relationships, “proper” gender expression — with an unabashed voice rooted in the female experience.

Ahead of their national tour, which kicks off this weekend, I spoke with the promising foursome about their latest album, breaking out in their teens, modern feminism and the power in being vulnerable.   

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How did you all come together to form The Regrettes?

Lydia: We all met at music school a while back and then reconnected about a year and a half ago.

Sage: I was pretty shy when I first joined [the school] and I remember admiring Genessa and Maxx as musicians until we all opened up and became friends. When Lydia joined, which was a bit later than the rest of us, I immediately fell in love with her. She was younger than me and yet so well established as a creative and so confident, but not cocky, that I instantly had to befriend her. Our first show together at the music school, luckily, gave us the opportunity to work together and we have all been close ever since.

Genessa: I had a solo project with Sage and Maxx. Lydia was in The Regrettes as a two piece with a different drummer. When that drummer dropped out, Lydia asked if we could all come together to reinvent the band. Maaaagic.  

What drove each of you to pursue music, especially so early on in life?

Lydia: When I was six my dad took me to a [The Donnas] concert and it changed my life. I knew that’s exactly what I needed to be doing.

Sage: I knew really early on that I wanted to be a singer and involved in music. Maybe because of my parents and genetics, but I like to think Britney Spears inspired a lot of it. My mother used to let me watch this DVD that had practically every live performance and music video that Queen ever recorded. I really don’t have any childhood memories that don’t include that playing in the background. Freddie [Mercury] is a big inspiration to me. Not to mention my amazing grandfather who, when I visited him one year [ago] in Germany, gave me my first guitar lessons. He taught me a lot about perseverance with music and then even went on to gift me a guitar when I had returned home and I started taking lessons that summer. 

Genessa: I took guitar lessons for a bit when I was younger; I didn’t see it as a potential career until I started going to a music school where I played with other people. The collaboration is what made me and still makes me love it. 

Maxx: My cousin Matt Barrick, a drummer, always inspired me to play drums and pursue it from a very early age. He made me want to play drums. 

What artists do each of you consider to significantly inspire you?

Lydia: Big Star, Karen O, Beyonce, Amanda Palmer, The Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly, Hole, and The Ronettes. 

Sage: Like I briefly mentioned, Queen — specifically Freddie Mercury — is a huge inspiration for me. Freddie’s vocals alone are inspiring but its his story and his personality that really push me to constantly grow and push myself as a person. Prince is another huge inspiration to me, for similar reasons too. Prince has always inspired me to be unapologetically myself. It’s something I only truly learned recently, even though I faked it tons as a young girl. Being true to yourself is something thats so inspiring and super important to an artist or musician. They are both tattooed on my arms for those reasons, kind of like my guardian angels reminding me to be me and never give up.

Genessa: Joni Mitchell has inspired me more than anyone else.

Maxx: Archy Marshall, FOALS, Cosmo Pyke, The Districts, Kendrick Lamar, and Frank Sinatra.

It’s quite impressive that you’ve signed to a major label like Warner Bros. Records all before reaching 20 years old. What do you believe are some advantages or drawbacks to launching a music career at a young age?

Lydia: I think since we are so young a lot of people only focus on our age and don’t take us as seriously. An advantage to being so young is that we can provide a perspective we don’t hear from very much.

Sage: I think the hardest part is feeling like you and your band deserve it or have earned it. It’s hard to remember that when you get a lot of comments from friends and strangers that make you think otherwise. Not to mention how hard it is to see friends that are working towards the same goal work their asses off and not get the same luck that we have had. But that’s something we can all change in the future and it’s something we are always working on when we can. The music industry is a community of friends and family and we can all help each other out.

Genessa: The biggest drawback of being so young and in a band on a label is that I’m still learning to respect and love myself. It can be hard to go to photoshoots and interviews when I don’t feel like I deserve what I have or even know who I am! My judgment of my own self-worth can get a bit skewed with ideas of who I want to be and who I think I should be. Buuut… this is also a huge advantage. Pushing through and learning how to appreciate what I have regardless of insecurities has helped me grow exponentially as both a human and a musician.  

Maxx: I think some advantages are that you can kickstart everything at a young age, leaving lots of time for you to build and focus on your craft. The major label aids in that giving you a leg up or boost. Drawbacks: Some people take our age into account and don’t take us as seriously. 

“The biggest drawback of being so young and in a band on a label is that I’m still learning to respect and love myself… Pushing through and learning how to appreciate what I have regardless of insecurities has helped me grow exponentially as both a human and a musician.”

The title of your debut, Feel Your Feelings Fool!, is plucked from the track “Head in the Clouds,” which involves a girl who’s hesitant to speak her mind to her partner. Why did you choose that lyric to represent the album as a whole?

Lydia: We actually wrote that part of the song after we named the album. The album name really represents our beliefs as a group and an overarching theme that can be heard in the album.

Sage: We were in the studio when Lydia wrote that breakdown in the song. I was going through a break-up of sorts and Genessa and Lydia thought it would be such a perfect opportunity to write that section to a friend about what I was going through since we were sure I wasn’t the only one that’s felt or gone through something like that. “Feel your feelings, fool!” came out of us realizing how often we don’t allow our own selves to feel something in fear of what could come out of that — which is such a terrible way to live! You must let yourself go through the feelings life gives you or you’ll never grow and evolve and become stronger. So, we wanted it to become a message to anyone who would come across the album in hopes that it could help someone else the way it helped us all.

Most of your songs straddle this interesting line between sounds reminiscent of 1960s girl groups and riot grrrl punk, mixing sweet pop melodies with driving lo-fi riffs. Could you explain your creative process in trying to strike that balance?

Lydia: I think it actually came from not searching for a sound at all. I’m super inspired by lots of music from the 1960s and 1990s and it kinda just happened.

Sage: We wanted it to feel natural to us and that sound has always been natural ever since we came together. Lydia listened to a lot of 50s and 60s girl groups growing up and, coincidentally, the Motown show was the first show at our music school we worked together in. So, that’s where the vocals and melodies stem from and the rest of it is kind of a mash-up of all of our musical influences. Our producer Mike Elizondo had just gotten an 8-track recorder when we met and had the great idea of recording our record on it, which is how we managed to keep everything sounding genuine to ourselves.

Genessa: There really weren’t any preconceived ideas of how we wanted to sound going into this; it all happened organically. Lydia’s vocal melodies and the harmonies are where the 60s sound is coming from. I guess the riot grrrl side pops up in Maxx’s drums, the simple chord progressions and in the lyrics. 

In your music, you often address a typical woman’s insecurities in a way that spins them into a cause for strength. Most notably, on the track “A Living Human Girl,” you present the female body in all its natural — and unrefined — glory. What drove you to adopt this confessional yet confrontational sort of songwriting? 

Lydia: I started writing that song as a tool to help myself escape from this really scary and self-deprecating mindset. Coming at it from a strong perspective really forced me to believe in the words I was stating. It was so important for me to not feel alone and this was my way of doing that.

Maxx: When Lydia wrote the lyrics, she wanted to put herself out there in order to make other people dealing with the same issues feel comfortable and realize these kinds of things happen to everyone.

At this moment in history, women’s issues and gender equality have sparked popular debate in mainstream culture, producing plenty of socially conscious art in the process. How do you believe your work contributes to the stage of fourth wave feminism?  

Lydia: I think we contribute by being totally unapologetic about who we are. We are so lucky to live in a time and place where we can speak freely and have the platform to do so.

Sage: I think it’s hard to not be true to yourself when creating any kind of art, whether it be music or painting or poetry. We are all feminists so, with everything happening in our country, it’s hard to not let it anger you. You need an outlet for anger and the best way for us was to put it into our art. You can only hope that your anger is creating something powerful and effective and so, if we are contributing to the feminist movement, then I know we are doing something right. Just making one person feel like they have a voice or have the power to change what is making them feel terrible is enough to make me feel like we are contributing.

Genessa: Ahhh, I could go on forever about fourth wave feminism. First of all, I’m not sure if we ever left third wave feminism, but if we did, the LGBTQ+ community stands at the epicenter with an emphasis on sex and body positivity. I think with “[A] Living Human Girl,” we have spoken for both the former and latter. After one show, a trans woman came up to us and discussed how that song helped her through her transition and coming out to her wife. She brought us all to tears in the best way. 

Maxx: I think the platform we’re given gives us the opportunity to have a louder voice to contribute as a whole. 

“You can only hope that your anger is creating something powerful and effective and so, if we are contributing to the feminist movement, then I know we are doing something right. Just making one person feel like they have a voice or have the power to change what is making them feel terrible is enough to make me feel like we are contributing.”

Going further, how do you strive or hope to represent the voice of your generation for a wide range of audiences?

Lydia: By continuing to make art that is true to ourselves and to also grow as humans and do that with each other.

Sage: Like I said, I hope we can make others feel strong when they least feel like their efforts can change anything. Not just women should feel like they have a voice. Every race, gender, religion, etc., deserves to believe in themselves and we hope to give them the push to do so.

Genessa: I hope to influence in only positive ways. To me, vulnerability is what is most important. With social media and celebrity culture glamorizing lives, I think raw human vulnerability is what is going to keep young and even older people from losing themselves in the search for perfection.

Maxx: By saying what we mean and meaning what we say. Use this platform to get our voices heard.

You’re preparing to embark on a national tour this summer, your second since releasing your debut earlier this year. What are some things you look forward to while on the road?

Lydia: Everything! I miss it so much! It’s such a crazy release of energy and emotions playing live shows and I have been in desperate need of that.

Sage: Leading up to a new tour, I always get really excited about the food. I love trying out new restaurants and getting a true taste of the culture.

Genessa: AH. Touring is my favorite. I selfishly enjoy the escape from reality, but I also love seeing and meeting people and places. Playing shows outside of where I live makes me feel like I’m a part of something and I look forward to that feeling more than anything else. Also, I love gas station snacks. 

Maxx: All of it! Seeing new, old, and familiar places. Playing cool places as well, everything about it.

Do you have any other projects or performances lined up in the near future?

Lydia: Lots of fun stuff coming up soon for sure. More touring and more music!

Sage: We have a few shows in July on the West Coast and something in the works for the fall that I can’t say anything about just yet. But any and all of those dates can be found on our website or, if you follow our Instagram, we post there regularly.

Maxx: The Regrettes have lots of shows to come!

The Regrettes will officially kick off their summer tour on June 11. To find a show near you, visit their website for all upcoming dates.

Feature image courtesy of The Regrettes 

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