Out of the gate, teen band the Regrettes isn’t holding back.
The group’s first major single, “A Living Human Girl,” takes aim at the patriarchy in one verse and societal expectations of beauty in another, with lead singer Lydia Night rattling off perceived faults as if they’re cause for celebration.
Pimples? Check. Stretch marks? Bring ’em on. “I can dress how I want, not looking for a show of hands,” she snarls over a snappy, ’60s-inspired groove.
Although the 15-year-old says the song was inspired by her first few days of high school in downtown Los Angeles, the tune’s worldview transcends adolescence.
“I wrote this song during freshman year when I was in culture shock of going from a really small Santa Monica school to a school in the middle of downtown with 3,000 kids,” she says. “I had a large friend group, and I couldn't name one of those girls who didn't constantly make comments like, 'I look really fat in this picture.' It was just sad to me, and it made me more insecure about myself.”
The band, which plays early Thursday at the Echoplex as part of the four-day, multi-venue Echo Park Rising festival, will release its debut album in 2017. If early singles are any indication, the group, which has already inked a deal with Warner Bros., has plenty on its mind. The Regrettes’ punky pop songs have a casual, telling-it-like-it-is honesty whether tackling body image or dead-end relationships.
It’s all an effort, says Night, to combat what she sees as a generation’s reticence to show emotion.
“I feel like everyone in this generation right now is in denial about their feelings and about who they are and what they like and what they don't,” she says. “Everybody is just kind of really scared to be honest and to be open and to be different and original, especially with our youth and people my age and people in high school. The people I'm surrounded by? People are scared to have real feelings and to actually be affected by certain things.”
The group’s “Hey Now” loses the girl-group stomp of “A Living Human Girl” and replaces it with choppy, fuzzy and brash guitars. Night lays her heart on the line for a boy who can’t make up his mind — her frustration ramping up with his hesitation and her raspy voice swelling to a howl. The song, she says, is “the little girl inside having a tantrum.”
“My main goal with my music is to let people know that you don't need to be cool or look a certain way or appear a certain way,” she explains. “Having feelings and being honest is cool. You're fine.”
The band — rounded out by Maxx Morando, 17, Genessa Gariano, 19, and Sage Nicole, 18 — met while taking music classes in Burbank. Night, who says she’s been in bands since she was 7, turned to rock ’n’ roll in part for revenge.
“When I was 10, my best friend at the time was starting this rock band with these boys and this other girl,” she says. “I really wanted to be the singer of it, but I didn't want to ask her because she hadn't asked me. One day I was, like, 'Well, I can be the singer. Why haven't you asked me?' She said, 'Oh, you really can't sing rock music. You have a pretty voice but you can't sing rock music.' Then I was, like, 'OK, I'm starting a rock band. I hate you.'”
Things have moved fast for the Regrettes. “A Living Human Girl” caught the attention of management firm the Knoller Group, which in turn introduced the band to Warner Bros. Night says she was at her locker when she received the text that the group would be meeting with the major label, and her immediate fear was that the corporate execs would be “kinda douchey.”
“That’s where my head goes,” she says. But a visit to a proper recording studio quickly won her over.
Night says her parents — her father runs the Hicksville Trailor Palace in Joshua Tree and her mother manages a sober-living facility — have been encouraging her musical ambitions since she was 6, when they bought her a guitar. She wanted the instrument after her parents took her to see punk group the Donnas when she was just 5.
“I went to a really small school with only, like, 30 people in my grade,” she says. “Everyone was really into soccer -- literally every single person in my class besides me and one other person. I just wasn't into it. I went to a Donnas concert and I was, like, 'This is what I want to do. These girls are badass.’”
Night says the band will be rolling out a few more singles in the months ahead, with the plan to release a proper debut early in the new year. The new songs, she says, will continue to feel like punk rock readings of her personal diary.
“For this band, our main goal is just to write honest music about ourselves and the people around us and the things that we experience,” she says. “I think that people need a friend sometimes -- a friend who isn't always there. A lot of people don't have anyone to relate to.”
Follow me on Twitter: @toddmartens