Catching Up With The Regrettes
The Regrettes are the most dangerous band in the world today. No, they aren’t the second coming of Guns-n-Roses, or even the Sex Pistols, and we should be thankful for that. I don’t expect The Regrettes to be milking their generation for $250 concert tickets on a bloated reunion tour in thirty years and they are light years ahead of the Sex Pistols as musicians after one album. Confident that their imperfections are their greatest strength, The Regrettes are the brightest hope for rock-n-roll’s next generation.
In three short years, The Regrettes have managed to create the perfect rock-n-roll template for the digital age. The band’s melange of influence reflects a generation raised on unlimited choices. No longer do we rely on an older sibling or a single music channel on television to find the really good shit. And judging by their music so far, The Regrettes were raised listening to the really, really good shit. They are one of the few bands that can cover 50s Doo-wop (Dion’s “Teenager In Love”) one minute while mixing in the breakdown from Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” the next. The band has something to say and they are going to use whatever style they want to be heard.
If first impressions foretell the future, The Regrettes leader Lydia Night will someday be mentioned in the same breath as Deborah Harry, Shirley Manson, and Gwen Stefani. Leading the band members into a quiet lounge before their Las Vegas concert supporting The Struts, Night carries herself with the understated swagger of an artist who knows they have what it takes to change the world but that the journey has only just begun. Settling in over a jar of pickles, the band and I talk about their recent EP, life on the road, and the intense loyalty of their fans.
Having met at a local School of Rock program, Night, guitarist Genessa Mariano, and bassist Sage Chavis have been friends longer than they’ve been a band. “It brings a lot kids out of their shell that didn’t know they were capable of doing that before. I never really had a place that made me feel comfortable and confident. That place brought it out of me,” remarks Chavis. For Night, the program pushed her outside her comfort zone.
“For me, going into School of Rock, I already knew how to play and write music. But what it did mostly for me, besides introduce me to them, was, it was my first time ever singing without playing guitar. And that was something that I had been really uncomfortable with for a long time and it got me comfortable doing that.”
And comfortable she is. The band has criss-crossed the U.S. and U.K., playing tiny rooms without stages as well as some of the biggest festivals. “Club shows tend to feel more genuine. We’re here and we’re partying with our fans. The people who came for us. As for a festival, people may be tired or drunk or they’re far away and it feels a lot more disconnected. You don’t feel like your normal self” notes Chavis. Regardless of the size of the room, however, no artist expects for their personal space to be invaded while performing.
Last year at Growlers Six festival, the band made unwanted headlines when a stage crasher shoved Night to the floor. However, the band refuse to let the incident affect how they approach their live shows. “We had a really long break between that and our next tour,” says Night. “Our next tour was us with a band, SWMRS, we are super close to. I just feel really safe with them and their crew. So I knew that was the best scenario going into a tour. We were surrounded by people we knew. Everyone was on the look out and really aware. You don’t want to think about it. It ruins a show if you’re sitting their thinking I could get hurt.”
Having rebounded from the incident, the band’s next tour date is never far away. An upcoming show at The Chapel in San Francisco is one they are especially excited for. “We are headlining there which is always something we talked about. That venue is amazing,” says Night. One thing they don’t have to worry about is people showing up. Their fans are legion, online and at shows, with some making the effort to see more than just one each tour.
“This last tour was the first time we had fans that followed 5 or 6 shows in a row. And that’s fucking crazy! I’ve never done that for a band. That’s serious commitment,” an excited Night exclaims. The bond between the band and their fans runs deep. Says Chavis, “There’s these two girls, Alicia and Abby, that I literally talk to every day. And we all do. If I ever feel shitty, Alicia knows and will DM me. It’s so cool. And they’re in the UK!” The band uses social media as a way to constantly stay in touch with their fans and they keep it unfiltered.
“It is crazy and they’re so into it, too,” says Gariano, “I can imagine when I was a little bit younger, when I was not able to access people, it would have been crazy if I could talk to all the people I wanted to.” Chavis agrees. “When we grew up, we were used to not having social media to access what our favorite artists were thinking and they’re so close to it. They have us in their pockets, all the time. We grew up in a time when we would get a poster of our favorite band and put them on our wall and talk to them. And hope one day we could get a ticket to see them live. They were like a mystery and now it’s so hands on.”
So is too much access a dangerous bargain? Gariano observes, “Sometimes I want to keep things a secret. When people know things, it takes the mystery away which is something I really loved about the artists that I cared about. I liked that aspect of it.” As the one already sharing so much with her lyrics, it is something Night has to keep herself aware of as well.
“I’m super open, so sometimes I forget that I have to almost censor myself to some point because I’m so comfortable just saying whatever and being an open book. And then that does take away the mystery so I need to hone it in sometimes.”
The band’s latest EP Attention Seeker offers two new songs that offer different emotional perspectives of a relationship. While “Come Through” delivers the empowering kiss-off to an ex, “Red Light” shows a more vulnerable side of those feelings and how nothing is ever as cut and dry as we might want to pretend. For Night, she sees herself in both songs.
“I don’t think I’m that negative. “Come Through” is pretty hash. But I definitely feel that way quite a bit. But I like to think I’m more of a “Red Light” day to day kind of person. I’m usually not really pissed at someone! Only sometimes, when I’m fired up.”
The band’s determination to empower women, in music and life, might ruffle some feathers but that is what rock-n-roll does best. Nobody remembers the ones that play it safe. Night’s outspoken attitude and willingness to turn words into action is an extension of a new generation’s passionate approach to politics and making a positive impact on the world. “I think now, especially with what’s going on in our country, there’s so much shit happening. It’s more important than ever,” says Night. And that is what makes The Regrettes so dangerous.
Wicked hooks, smart lyrics, and incredibly fun and subversive videos might get you on the radar but it takes something deeper to keep you there. Do you stand for something or will you fall for anything? In music today, it seems like more and more promising bands end up taking a fall. With The Regrettes, each band member brings something unique to the mix including new drummer, Drew Thomsen. There is a real passion for the process of writing and recording music, playing live, and all the other aspects of “the job”; including sitting through interviews when the venue has free bowling downstairs.
As set time approaches, the band need to get ready for the show. Are there any tour essentials to keep them sane on tour? The jar of pickles went down well, for starters. “Almond butter, my lamby, and lots of water,” says Night. For Gariano, the answer is simple, “Goldfish in every green room.” A few seconds later, with perfect comedic timing, she adds, “Goldfish snacks, not actual goldfish!”
With a new album in the works, the future looks bright but the band refuses to take themselves too seriously. Their five year plan is simple. “More followers on Instagram than Beyonce,” jokes Chavis. They might be joking but if The Regrettes continue to be the voice for a new generation of rock-n-roll fans, that joke may come true. One hour later, they are winning over a packed venue and then meeting new fans at the merch booth. Taking it one night at a time, like so many rock-n-roll bands before them, The Regrettes are your new favorite band even if you haven’t listened to them yet.