There's a bold new youth movement in the Los Angeles music scene. Led by the Regrettes and Cherry Glazerr, each band, with songwriters still in their teens, takes a warts-and-all, open-book approach to music-making, all while being unafraid to take a stance.
Or to mess with a reporter.
"What's your agenda?" Clementine Creevy asks moments after arriving at a Chinatown diner for an interview. At 19, she's been around long enough to be suspicious of the press. Her Cherry Glazerr project has existed in various incarnations since she was about 15.
Creevy proceeds to say she's not a fan of the job-required question-and-answer sessions, and she lists, as affably as possible, topics she wants to avoid: her work in the fashion industry, the band's association early on with Orange County's acclaimed indie Burger Records and her youth.
She laughs, and then comically stages a mock interview with herself.
"'Tell me about Burger Records. Tell me about Saint Laurent. Tell me about being young and being in a band. Tell me about being in high school and being in a band. Tell me about being a girl and being in a band,'" she says. "That's usually the interview. That's not a question. Yes, I'm young and in a band. That's a fact, sir or ma'am."
Later, she'll joke, "I'm not good at parties."
Yet answering endless questions about youth is a reality both bands have had to face. "When you're a teenager and you're in a band, people always feel the need to just jab-jab-jab-jab," says Lydia Night, the Regrettes' 16-year-old lead songwriter
But there's vital work being done here.
The Regrettes' Genessa Gariano, for instance, discovered what had been missing from her middle- and high-school life when she met Night.
Night had a song, "A Living Human Girl."
Or, rather, she had a 2½-minute manifesto that points a middle finger at our culture's unrealistic view of femininity. Stretch marks, acne, greasy hair, a disinterest in exercising — Night turns them all into causes for celebration, with a 1960s-inspired girl group stomp and a punk-rock snarl.
"I'm not a bitch for saying what is real," Night snaps, delivering the lyric moments after mocking her breast size and just before she broadcasts news of her period.
"A Living Human Girl" is the centerpiece of the Regrettes' debut album, "Feel Your Feelings Fool!" As a whole, the 15-song work turns the confusion and frustration of modern times into high-energy blasts rooted in freedom of expression and individuality.
It also sends a message, arguing that Hollywood's pop music machinery has long failed to capture the mixed-up, muddled and angry feelings of adolescence. Cherry Glazerr is apt to decorate its stage with images of female anatomy, while the Regrettes, on song after song, bluntly and sarcastically tackle ignorance and stereotypes.
"I heard that she's a feminist, so she must not shave her pits," Night hollers late on "Feel Your Feelings Fool!" and, at a record release party Friday night at the Echo, she took a moment to dedicate the band's most aggressively explicit song to incoming President Donald Trump.
It isn't lost on either act that they each have albums hitting at a time when women's rights are a matter of debate on Capitol Hill and our president-elect has been heard on tape demeaning women. In turn, there's another, perhaps unintentional, underlying message to "Feel Your Feelings Fool!" and Cherry Glazerr's "Apocalipstick," each out this month. Maybe the grown-ups don't have it figured out, after all.
"Gender set aside, just by being a kid, people automatically assume you're dumb," Night says. "When you think of someone younger, you think, 'Oh, I'm smarter than you.' It feels horrible. No, take me seriously. Please, take me seriously."
"A Living Human Girl" seems to have accomplished that plea. The song helped secure management and a record deal with Warner Bros. for Night and the band.
"That was the song that made me want to do this," Regrettes guitarist Gariano, 19, says of forming the band.
"When I was in middle school and high school, I didn't have that song," Gariano says, seated with her bandmates at a West L.A. rehearsal spot. "I felt all those feelings. I felt alone in those feelings. I felt really alone. I was shy. I didn't have a Lydia singing that song to me. I'm so glad girls have that song now. I wanted to make sure everyone heard this song. It's important."
If the Regrettes, appearing at Hollywood's Amoeba Music for a free show on Jan. 26, are relative newcomers on the local scene, having only played their first show last February, Creevy is a wizened veteran.
Her personality — half-serious but a little wry and cynical — is all over Cherry Glazerr's "Apocalipstick," which the Secretly Canadian label will release on Friday. Ask Creevy to explain the songs, and she'll give one-word answers ("death," "drugs") or seemingly completely made-up ones, such as the moment she describes "Told You I'd Be With the Guys" as a document of fish pedicures.
Maybe, maybe not.
The song opens "Apocalipstick" with sharply pointed guitars that wind up and down while Creevy, with a cutting upper register, slices through the stutter-step melody. She details being a loner, then hanging with the boys, and then a rush of noise arrives in the song's final moments to release the tension as she appears to find solace in female solidarity. "It's necessary, to give a lady love," she sings.
"Women are so highly competitive with each other," Creevy says. "Men are competitive in a different way. They're competitive for the whole world. The whole world is available to them. But women are competitive to each other on such a small scale. They're vicious little animals competing for the attention of a man.
"It's such a small-scale thing, and it's self-defeating," she continues. "The end is close when you're a woman. You can see it. With men, you have the whole world. You may be competitive with your fellow man, but it's competition for all the opportunities that the world offers you. Women don't have that."
Cherry Glazerr and the Regrettes, who have shared bills together, including a recent benefit for Planned Parenthood, live on different ends of the punk-inspired spectrum.
"I'm constantly contradicting myself every day with my quote-unquote philosophies," Creevy says, "but the only things I take seriously — and the only things that energize me — are music and feminism."
Still, there's silliness to both — check the Regrettes' fuzzy and propulsive "Picture Perfect," which quotes Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It," or Cherry Glazerr's light-stepping "Trash People," in which Creevy brags about wearing underpants three days in a row.
The Regrettes deliver it all with a retro-infused enthusiasm. Maxx Morando's drums are already arena-size, and the bass of Sage Chavis feels lifted from Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. Nary a putdown or a kiss-off is delivered without a winning melody or soaring harmonies.
In turn, Night's lyrics envision a world where impulsiveness and insecurities always get an invite to the dance. When she deals with, say, casual everyday sexism, as she does on the snappy "Seashore," it's with a sense of glee ("And no, I won't give you a little twirl," she sings with a raspy bite). And she also has no patience for generational fears of commitment, hollering, "I don't need your maybes" on the explosive, roller-rink-ready "Lacy Loo."
"I've noticed in high school, people are so scared of being vulnerable and not looking cool," Night says. "It's so sad. Being in denial about your feelings is only going to make you unhealthy. That's the No. 1 thing my parents have drilled into my brain since I was 5 — never hold things in. Get it out.
'That's why therapy rocks," she adds.
By contrast, there's a darker, doomier side lurking in Cherry Glazerr, which will headline the Teragram Ballroom on Feb. 16. Both bands are ready to call out immaturity — "Time to be a lady's man/Time to knock out Peter Pan," Creevy sings casually on "Lucid Dreams." Sasami Ashworth's synths counter Creevy's blown-out guitar with panicked, carnivalesque notes, while Tabor Allen's rhythms jolt indirectly between both.
Even more intense is "Instagratification," which tackles the emotional roller coaster of a life plugged in to social media, complete with a freaked-out, psychedelic breakdown. And then there are the subterranean and dancy grooves of "Trash People," in which Creevy invites listeners into her head-space and swears she's not kidding.
"I'm just a trashy person," Creevy says. "I've always been that way. I shower once a week. It's not my priority. Cleanliness in its most basic term is just not something I prioritize. I want to have a clean room. I want that. But I cannot achieve it. Even when I clean my room, the next day it looks like something exploded in there.
"I'm just dirty," she adds. "I'm nasty."
A shared love of forthrightness permeates both bands.
"I think that our parents like the fact that we speak our mind," says the home-schooled Night, whose father runs the Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree and whose mother manages a sober-living facility. She met her bandmates at the instructional School of Rock in Burbank.
For Mike Elizondo, the veteran producer and Warner Bros. executive who's worked with Eminem, Fiona Apple and more, the Regrettes passed an important listening test: They won the approval of his daughters.
"They would tell me that Lydia's songs are stuff teenage girls talk about at school or at lunch, but that no one ever writes songs about," he says. "That was telling. She was an open diary to not only teenage girls but youth in general, and what this generation of teenagers are going through. I felt like even if you aren't a teenager, you were once a teenager who felt like that.
"I wasn't going to try and change her or make her write with A-list songwriters in town," he adds. "What she was doing on her own was special."
She's also wanted to be a musician since she was 5, the age at which her parents took her to see the Donnas, the all-female pop-punk band.
Creevy, meanwhile, says she broke her parents' hearts, informing them that, in order to give Cherry Glazerr a shot, she would not be attending New York University. The band for "Apocalipstick" signed with esteemed indie label Secretly Canadian, part of the Secretly Group, whose roster includes Bon Iver, Anohni and more.
"It's definitely not something you want to hear as a parent. 'I'm going to be a musician with no back-up plan,'" Creevy says. Both her parents are artists and writers, and her father, Nicholas Wootton, has had success as a television producer/writer on such shows as "Scorpion" and "Chuck."
"They really wanted me to go to NYU. I did well in school. They did well in school. They're financially set," Creevy says. "They were scared, but completely supportive of my creative endeavors."
Already, the two bands' anchors have experienced some "only in L.A." moments. Night, for instance, once performed in the choir of Ryan Gosling's band Dead Man Bones, and Creevy has dabbled in modeling and acting (she appeared on "Transparent").
Though Creevy talks at length about the political and social ramifications of music — or lack thereof — she's also quick to argue that her own opportunities disqualify her from being a generational spokeswoman.
"That's easy to say as a privileged white girl with a band and a lot of awesome aspects to my life," Creevy says. "I've had a generally easy life. I think that music is not inherently political, but a civil society puts meaning on it depending on the social-political climate."
So when it comes to relating to those who are older, the artists think they have cracked the code: just be direct.
"Be nice, be dumb, clean the floors and wash your pores," Night sarcastically muses near the end of "Feel Your Feelings Fool!" before making it clear she won't be doing any of that.
"The honesty is what makes it mature," says Gariano. "When you're younger, being honest is harder. You don't really know what you're feeling, so being able to articulate that is what makes it mature."
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