A Teenager in Rock:
The Regrettes’ Lydia Night
Los Angeles-based rockers The Regrettes came roaring out of the gate with their debut single, “Hey Now” in 2015. The song introduced the group’s template: hooky, catchy classic pop delivered in aggressive riot grrl style, a sound that draws equally from pre-Beatles Brill Building pop and razor-sharp 1970s punk. Onstage the young band – leader, guitarist, singer and songwriter Lydia Night is 17 – plays with a power and self-assurance one might not expect from relatively inexperienced musicians.
But dig a bit deeper and you’ll find that The Regrettes – Night plus lead guitarist Genessa Gariano, bassist Sage Chavis and new drummer Drew Thomsen – have a collective grasp and understanding of rock and pop that belies their tender ages. The group has turned in knowing covers of Sweet’s glam classic “Fox on the Run” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Their readings effectively erase any perceived lines between punk, glam, pop, hard rock and any other substyles of music that influence the group.
After a run of dates in England and Scotland, the quartet returns to the U.S. for an East Coast tour leg that brings them to Atlanta’s Masquerade on June 10; the band’s West Coast dates – punctuated by another quick trip to the UK to play a high-profile Reading Festival set – will keep them busy into September.
The heavy-touring group has still found time to cut tracks in the studio. The Regrettes released the Hey! EP in 2015, following that up with a string of singles; the full-length Feel Your Feelings Fool! was released in 2017. And in February, the group returned with a five-song EP, Attention Seeker.
In between tour dates, The Regrettes’ leader Lydia Night spent a few moments in conversation about her group’s past, present and future.
How did you get your start in music? Do you come from a musical family?
“My parents don’t play anything, but I wouldn’t say they aren’t musical in many other aspects. They’re huge music nerds; they kind of taught me everything I know, taste-wise. My dad took me to a Madonna concert when I was five, and that’s why I started playing music.”
What kind of things were you listening to growing up?
“A lot of The Ramones; that was my first favorite band. That, and a lot of the classics, like The Clash and Sex Pistols; I listened to that stuff when I was really young. And then when I got a little older, I got more into The Beatles, the Stones, and David Bowie: all the essentials. And then, I got really in-depth into the ’60s, The Beach Boys and then girl groups like The Crystals and The Ronettes.
“And then, when I was in sixth or seventh grade, my mom took me to see a documentary about Patty Schemel, the drummer of Hole [P. David Ebersole’s 2011 film Hit So Hard], and that totally opened up my world. It changed the way I was writing music. I was just obsessed with Hole and Bikini Kill; I got super-into that.
“And now, I’m a lot more into folk. I always loved Fleetwood Mac growing up, but I really do now even more. And I love Joni Mitchell. So I don’t know; it’s all over the place.”
It seems that you could have chosen to go in any number of directions with your own original music…
How did the band come together in 2015? Did you know the other members before forming the band, or was it put together by management?
“We all knew each other from about five years ago, I think. We all went to music school together, and then we reconnected in 2015 at a show that all of us played. I was in another band that ended up breaking up, and they [Chavis, Gariano and original drummer Maxx Morando] were in a band. So I was like, ‘Oh. We should just all form a band.’”
How did the group get signed by Warner Bros.?
“Right around the same time as that show, I had been hit up by our now-managers; they knew Mike Elizondo and brought me in for a meeting with him. I met him on a Wednesday, and he offered us this deal on a Friday. It was the fastest turnaround; he said, ‘I think that’ll be the only time in my career that ever happens!’ Mike is the one who produced our record, and he’s also our A&R rep at Warner.”
Other than being signed, what was The Regrettes’ first big break?
“A really huge moment for us was when we played Conan [The Regrettes performed “Hey Now” on O’Brien’s late-night show on April 11, 2017].That was a really nerve-wracking thing to do, I think.”
And you played Coachella last month …
“Yeah, and that’s another obvious one. For sure.”
Festival gigs can be an opportunity for people to check out bands that they might not otherwise go to see live. How did that Coachella gig go for The Regrettes?
“It went really well. I mean, it was so fun. I feel like a lot of people got to see us and find out about us who wouldn’t have if we weren’t on that bill. It was pretty surreal.”
Your current tour has a number of dates in the UK. Do you have an established fan base there, or are you kind of starting from scratch?
“We’ve toured there once already, so we do have a bit of a fan base there. We toured there with SWMRS back in the fall, and it was incredible.”
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman’s song “A Teenager in Love” is going be 60 years old next year …
“Really? I didn’t even know that!”
… so, what drew you to decide to cover that one on the new Attention Seeker EP?
“I have just always loved that song. It’s been one of my favorites since I was really, really young. I felt like it fit the theme of having different feelings – loving and hating feelings – toward one person. That song just summed it up pretty perfectly.”
I suppose the lyrics apply just as much now as they did 60 years ago.
I know you’ve got plenty of original material, but I’m curious if you do any other covers live.
“Yeah, we do. We have a couple different covers up our sleeve; we mix it up.”
You don’t want to say what those are?
“I feel like [doing that] makes it less fun for people who are coming to the show. You’ll just have to come and find out!”
How collaborative is the band? When you write a song, have you decided just how the whole thing is supposed to sound, or is it something that the band works out together?
“It’s definitely something we work out. I mean, some songs are finished and written already, and then other songs we write together. But no matter what, even if I finish a song, it’s interpreted differently through the whole band.”
The new EP has an acoustic version of “Hey Now.” Did the idea to do an acoustic version come recently, or is this version closer to an original demo of the song?
“I think we recorded that a couple months after Feel Your Feelings Fool! In the acoustic version you hear so many different things lyrically you wouldn’t hear in the [original recording]. We just recorded a bunch of acoustic versions because we thought it’d be cool. And then we just picked our favorite one from among those recordings.”
The EP also has an acoustic version of “A Living Human Girl,” but that one sounds like it might be a remix of the first album version, just with the electric guitars pulled out.
“No, we re-recorded it acoustically. But that song already had that kind of feel, so the difference between the two recordings is less noticeable. It just sounds similar.”
Do you prefer playing live over working in the studio, or do you enjoy both equally?
“I can’t really compare them; they’re so different. And I don’t really have a preference. Being in the studio is amazing, because it’s a fun process and sort of an intimate thing between the band; it’s really exciting and creative. And then, playing live is an amazing exchange and release of energy. So, they’re both great, and for totally different reasons.”
Imagine yourself five years in the future. What might that look like as far as your music?
“Hopefully, by then we’ll have another two records out and have toured all over the world. That’s all I can really ask for. I just want to play in as many places – and tour to as many people – as possible.”
Photo by Kenneth Cappello.