I Regrette it.
Willoughby Thom | Wednesday, August 26, 2020
I have accused today’s music industry of being “not what it used to be” for a very long time. Yes, it has changed dramatically over the past 40 years. I consider the ‘80s to be the height of the music business. However, I have found myself blaming the industry for the decline of some of my favorite bands. Perhaps that’s not the case at all. Maybe it’s ultimately the fault of the band. Of course, this claim would be full of skepticism since the majority of us don’t know our favorite bands personally. Yet this idea has been (somewhat) proven through my own experiences. I have not only experienced but witnessed the decline and fall of the young Los Angeles band The Regrettes.
I have been a fan of The Regrettes since its formation. The band began in 2015 with Lydia Night, Genessa Gariano, Sage Chavis and Maxx Morando. In June 2016, they released their first single “A Living Human Girl.” I remember hearing this song for the first time and being incredibly inspired. Lydia Night, who, like me, was 16 at the time, sang about what it was like to be a teenage girl and that it was OK to not be perfect. This sparked the little feminist in me. She wrote what I believed, and no matter how simple and cheesy the premise of the song seemed to be, what she sang about was wise beyond her years. However, it wasn’t just the lyrics that appealed to me. It was hearing music that was made by kids my age that was authentic. Their authenticity is what made me a fan.
They followed their first single with three more: “Hey Now,” “Hot” and “Seashore.” The songs were full of angst and rebellion. They were punk. People might disagree, but their fusion of classic punk riffs and ‘60s bubble gum pop — imagine if Bridget Bardot and Joan Jett had a baby — created songs that were so unique it left you wanting more.
The band went on to release their first album “Feel Your Feelings Fool!” in January of 2017 and their EP “Attention Seeker” in February of 2018.
The years between the band’s birth and their EP in 2018 were their golden years. The Regrettes didn’t “peak” or “sell-out;” they were simply producing their best music. They not only inspired a new generation of punks and feminists, but they gave the world a glimmer of hope that “real” music was still alive. Their fan base wasn’t just teenagers either. They gave the world raw rock-n-roll, and people were listening.
It’s true that they are still young, but the evolution of the band happened quickly and dramatically. In 2018, their drummer Maxx Morando left the band. At the time, Morando was also in a band called Liily, but it didn’t seem like that was the reason for his departure. Even though Morando’s parting from the band didn’t seem to be something out of anger, it still dramatically impacted their sound. His drumming was powerful and unmatched by their replacement Drew Thomsen. Thomsen’s drumming is much more technical and tighter, leaving the band with a simpler sound versus their previous natural rhythms and improvisations.
Later that same year, bassist Sage Chavis also left the band. Chavis was temporarily replaced with Violet Mayugba, the guitarist of the Oakland based punk band Destroy Boys, and then Brooke Dickson permanently took up the role.
2018 was a major year for change in the band. To most people, this change may seem insignificant, but the constant shuffle of band members dramatically impacted the dynamic of the group and the sound. Everyone has different musical backgrounds, leading the band’s sound to a very different place on their most recent album “How Do You Love?”
Not only do they sound different, but Night’s lyrics have drifted away from being feminist anthems to being about love. There is nothing wrong about falling in love and writing songs about it except it can get extremely repetitive. This is especially true when the whole album is simply all about love. It’s natural for bands to develop a new sound over time, but this turnaround, which happened so quickly, is just too quick a departure from their origins. Between 2017 and 2019, they have become an entirely new band, morphing into the algorithm of mainstream music. And to opine about mainstream music is for another banner — along with the notion of selling out — but it all boils down to a band losing its authenticity.
What prompted me to write this article was the release of a new single from The Regrettes this summer called “I Love Us.” I listened, and it left me asking, “Is this the band that I used to call punk?” And I had to listen to it again because it didn’t sound like the band I dedicated so much time, energy and money to support. I traveled all over the country to see them and felt like I knew the music and the message. But this dramatic change in sound, attitude and direction forced me to reconsider my previous beliefs. Maybe the music industry isn’t to blame. Perhaps it’s the motives of the band that changed. The record companies want to make money, but the artist and the band also have a choice. They can remain true to their sound or they can conform.
The Regrettes have conformed. They are not punk because being punk — or even a true member of rock ’n’ roll — doesn’t appeal to the masses; instead, they allowed the people to adapt their influence on the individual message delivered by the music itself.
With all that said, I regret(te) ever calling The Regrettes a punk band.