We spoke to Rena Lovelis and Casey Moreta of Californian power pop band Hey Violet, ahead of the UK leg of their current European tour.
Is this your first European tour?
Casey: We’ve been here before. Rena: We came in 2015. Casey: And now we’re back, finally.
So is this your first time headlining?
Rena: Last time we also headlined.
But this time you’re here to promote your new album?
How long has it taken for the album to come together?
Rena: It’s taken quite a while. It’s been a while since we’ve had anything to put out, besides Break My Heart and Guys My Age, but the time has been worth the wait because we really found what our sound was, and what we wanted it to be and where we wanted to go as a band. We really found the right people to work with. That time really needed to be taken.
How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard it?
Casey: It’s a bit like dance-poppy, with real instruments, guitars and things. It’s very ’80s influenced, and has lots of synths and things like that. Rena: Some songs can be, like Casey said, dance-pop and some of them can be like moody and groovy, but still have that ’80s synth influence. That’s a good description of our album.
Some of your songs address issues that face teenagers today.
Casey: I feel it was a major point on most of the songs on the album, to help people cope with certain things and to realise that certain problems are OK to deal with. Rena: It also came from personal experience and a lot of the things we touch on are about love and relationships, but I feel our songs touch on how, not just teenagers but anybody can feel different and out of the ordinary all of the time. Just feeling out of place and a little bit estranged from the world, like an alien that just came from Mars and was dropped on Earth and wondering what the hell you’re doing here. But I really feel that what we’re about as a band is inspiring other kids, and anyone else, to do what they want to do and be the person they want to be, and it’s OK to be different in that process.
Most of the people I know, especially in the creative world, are a bit different, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Casey: I feel that.
I got the feeling that your songs are quite California-centric and based around the high school experience. Is high school really such a big part of life in the US, because it’s not so much here.
Casey: You know, I think it is. Like we didn’t have a traditional high school experience, so we’re not really ones to talk. But in the US, so many TV shows are about high school, and so many people are obsessed with their high school experience. In my opinion it’s all a bit overrated and a bit stupid, especially the people who are like, “high school was the glory days”. Really? When you were 16, they were the glory days? In general, I would say the US is more obsessed with high school than other countries. Rena: Also, one of the main songs we do about school, per se, is Fuqboi, “There’s a guy at my school and he looks pretty good”. That’s the one song where there are these Fuqbois and you kind of have to avoid them. Other than that our songs are really just about relationships.
So quite universal in appeal then?
A lot of people say that you are really young to be touring and putting out an album, but people seem to forget that The Beatles and The Stones, and lots of bands from that era were your age when they started getting recognition.
Rena: Hopefully we can become a fraction of how big they are. What’s amazing is, there are a lot of bands like us that started off very young. There’s a bunch that started a little older, and they’re still incredible. The fact that we got started so young… Nia and I have been playing since we were 10 and 11 years old. While that gave us a huge advantage, people who started later also have a huge advantage because they are more experienced and can really articulate themselves. We had a hard time writing when we were younger because we didn’t have the vocabulary we do now, and we didn’t have the whereabouts in our feelings and emotions that we do now.
How many experiences does a 12 year old have, to sing about?
Rena: Yeah. It was pretty much, gotta crush on a boy at school, and stuff like that. I mean, I started playing drums with Nia when I was seven years old, and when I was eight I started playing guitar, so all I was worried about was being in a band.
Did you ever consider yourself to be riot grrrls?
Rena: I don’t know about that. I think part of what we stand for, speaking for the girls in the band, is we want to get to a place where it’s not weird for girls to be in the music industry. It should just be the norm and rather than people going, “God, you’re a girl and you’re singing songs. Oh my God, what a thing!” But really it’s, no, I’m just singing about what I like to sing about.
Do you think there is still a lot of sexism in the music industry, or is it merely a reflection of society in general?
Casey: I definitely think there is still sexism in the music industry, but being a white male I can’t say I’ve ever experienced it.
Rena: There is definitely sexism in the world in general, and I think it’s really sad to see, just because there is so much more women can do if they weren’t put down so often. I’ve been verbally, sexually harassed while being on tour before, and it’s not a fun thing to go through, but you get through it, and it’s really unfortunate that it happens. If someone gets hurt by it they should definitely ask for help. I think that in us doing this music, it’s an outlet for us, and it’s a way for us to get out our emotions and how we feel, and really speak to the people that really need it.
Here in London there’s a huge number of female bands of all genres out performing almost every night of the week. The industry appears to be slowly changing from the grassroots upwards.
Rena: That’s awesome.
Do you think that stage presence is as important as the music?
Casey: In my opinion, it’s quite important. It’s not necessary, but… There’s some bands I’d see that don’t have stage presence and I’d go just for the music, and hopefully a good light show. It really depends on the type of music you’re playing, and what you want to convey to the audience. I know concerts are all about having a good time and forgetting about problems, so when you’re on stage and you’re conveying that, it helps them to do the same thing.
Rena: I think, for me, stage presence is like prettying up the stage to sell the song, so for a long time we were practising how we could move our bodies in a way to convey the feelings and emotions in the song. Now it comes a lot more naturally to us, so it is still important, but it’s not like, “you’ve got to do this move and we’ve got to do it all at the same time”. Now we’ll maybe jump at the same time sometimes, but it’s not a choreographed thing.
What about your rapport with the audience, the stage presence must help with that.
Rena: Definitely, and I think that is something that really helps because they get to be part of what you’re doing. If you ask them to all put their hands in the air and clap, it really helps them be a part of what is happening on stage. Casey: It becomes a community type thing. Rena: You’re just one big family that is there.
Do you prefer big concerts or smaller gigs?
Casey: I think they each have their trade-offs. I prefer big gigs, because I have more room to run and around and do things. With the small gigs, it’s very intimate and you’re face-to-face with the fans, and the music really fills out the room, so it’s a really nice experience. Rena: They both have their pros and cons. I probably prefer big gigs as well. But it’s really nice at the start to really see who is coming to your shows.
But there is also a relative sense of scale. What is considered a big gig in London could be considered something small in the US.
Rena: There’s some incredible venues in London, and we’re playing there on May 8th at The Garage.
For full details of Hey Violet’s live dates visit www.heyviolet.com/live/
Catch the band live:
8TH – LONDON, THE GARAGE
9TH – GLASGOW, O2 ABC 2
10TH – MANCHESTER, SOUNDCONTROL