The Regrettes’ reinvention: “I want us to go as big as we can. I don’t see a ceiling for us”
How the LA punks tackled personal and political upheaval (and the other ‘P’ word) via the poppy ‘Further Joy’. “I’m in a way better place than I was a year ago,” singer Lydia Night tells Ali Shutler
“Knock me down – I won’t back down” Lydia Night sings on chirpy new song ‘Anxieties (Out of Time)’. This sense of defiance can be felt throughout The Regrettes’ brilliant third album, ‘Further Joy’. From the disco funk of ‘Step 9’ to the swaggering ‘La Di Da’, this is the poppiest material the punk band have released so far. “The music that we’re making now feels confident in a way that we’ve never been before,” she tells NME.
Night is speaking to us from the lobby of a Holiday Inn Express in New Orleans because bassist Brooke Dickson is asleep in their shared room, ahead of the 15th show on their ongoing Get The Fuck Out Of L.A. tour. The LA four-piece have already announced another headline jaunt for April alongside festival appearances at Coachella, Tennessee’s Bonnaroo and Madrid’s Mad Cool. “I feel like it’s a new normal that feels better than it ever has,” grins Night, happy to be back on the road. “Everything feels like it’s clicking into place for the band.”
Between the release of the band’s last album, 2019’s ‘How Do You Love?’, and today, Night has endured political turmoil in America, a global sense of panic and confusion through a pandemic and come forward with her own experiences with sexual assault. “There was a lot to be angry about,” she says. “But I just realised that a lot of my anger was really just exhaustion and sadness. This was an album where I had to not focus on events that were happening, and instead look at myself.”
The resulting record is introspective, vulnerable and revealing. “It’s never reactive,” she insists, explaining that for The Regrettes’ 2017 riot grrrl-inspired debut ‘Feel Your Feelings Fool’, she’d get pissed off, go to her room and write down her feelings: “That was super therapeutic and great for those albums.” But with COVID giving the band nothing but time, Night could start processing things.
“I would write a lyric about my eating disorder or something else that I’d never spoken about before,” she says, “and instead of taking it out or hiding it in poetry, it felt good to explore. I figured if it felt good for me, it would probably feel good for other people as well.”
Take melancholic recent single ‘You’re So Fucking Pretty’, which sees Night singing about a girl she had a crush on when she was younger. “I didn’t realise how scared I was about the using the word ‘bisexual’ until I started writing that track,” she explains. “It’s not that I thought there was anything wrong with it; I just had imposter syndrome. I’ve never dated a girl – I’ve never dated someone who doesn’t have a dick – so I felt like I couldn’t identify with the queer community as much as I wanted… which is so fucking stupid.” Releasing the track has been “really helpful” for Night, as other people have shared similar experiences and validated those romantic feelings.
Elsewhere, ‘Subtleties (Never Giving Up On You)’ finds Night wrestling with body image: “For a long time, I felt like I couldn’t talk about struggling with eating disorders of body dysmorphia because I felt like I wasn’t skinny enough; I wasn’t living dangerously enough.” She’s in recovery now, with doctors and therapists helping her understand her condition. “But it’s still a scary thing to talk about,” she says. “I’m opening myself up for people to look at me, to judge my body and it could change people’s view of me. But really, that doesn’t matter. Hopefully when the song does come out, it will continue to help. I know it’s important and it’s empowering for me, so hopefully others will find some strength in it.
“I’m not sitting here being like, ‘I feel fucking perfect now’. It’s a continuous struggle with that, with my mental health, but I’m in a way better place than I was a year ago.”
Although ‘Further Joy’ is defined by Night’s brutal honesty, she insists she felt no trepidation about opening up on the record: “I’ve just reached a point where it feels stronger to do that than the opposite. It’s like I’ve tapped into this new world. I just felt really empowered throughout the process. There’s no reason to hide when so many other people deal with these things.”
Upon forming in 2015, The Regrettes quickly established themselves as contenders for the title of Punk Rock’s Great New Hope. But when she spoke to NME ahead of last year’s single ‘Monday’, Night proudly declared, “Fuck yeah – it’s a pop song”, indicating that the new album’s departure from the serrated anthems of its predecessor.
She explains today: “We realised how much we still cared about what people thought after we realised it and got so much positivity from our fan base.” As with any change in direction, though, there were dissenters: “But we’re even proud of the backlash, of people saying they miss our old sound. It means we’ve made enough of a change and taken enough risks to warrant those comments. I feel really good about the fact that not everyone is down, because that means we’re doing something new.
“I’ve been listening to so much feel-good music – Diana Ross, Whitney Houston – that even when I was sad, I could dance the pain away. A lot of people need that right now.”
“I’ve been listening to so much feel-good music. I could dance the pain away” – Lydia Night
Alongside nods to Phoebe Bridgers and Paramore, ‘Further Joy’ was inspired by the forward-facing pop of Charli XCX and The 1975. “I saw The 1975 live and was blown away by how confidently they are a pop band,” says Night. “Now when I say we’re an alt-pop band, I don’t feel embarrassed, only proud.”
It’s also what helps keep them separate from the ongoing pop-punk revival, epitomised by the success of Ohio’s KennyHoopla and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker’s huge resurgence as a producer. “We don’t look down on it, but we’ve been making guitar-driven music for so long now, it feels like we’re just doing our own thing,” says Night. “I’ve never felt connected to any sort of scene. But we’re definitely inspired by artists like Olivia Rodrigo, who are incorporating rock into pop and making such beautiful, eclectic albums. It’s nice to see people giving a shit about guitars.”
While The Regrettes’ previous two albums boasted a scrappiness that made them perfect for punk rock venues, ‘Further Joy’ sounds like it’s demanding grander live spaces. “I want us to go as big as we can – I don’t see a ceiling for us,” Night says, before pausing and admitting: “I don’t know where it makes sense for us to go. All I know is that I want as many people to hear our music as possible. And I want to take it as far as we can take it, for as long as we can, because I just fucking love it. We’re just ready for whatever the world wants to give back to us and whatever we can give to it.
It all comes down, she says, to “that confidence that we never had before,” which is something Night wants to pass on: “I want this record to help others feel proud about who they are and what they’ve gone through, even if their experiences are completely different to mine. I hope that they can come back to the sense of freedom that’s found within the album, of the confidence that comes from talking about your struggles. Maybe that helps them dance through their own demons and pain.”
– Main image credit: Riley Donahue / Perpetual Studio. ‘Further Joy’ will be released on April 8 via Warner Records Inc.