No Regrettes for Lydia Night’s Maturing Punk Crew

Poetry and melody are comfortable bedfellows in the care of this L.A. rocker.

Photo by Claire Marie Vogel

When L.A. punks The Regrettes formed in 2015 and then released the Feel Your Feelings Fool! album two years later, they offered something refreshingly different to a scene in danger of stagnating. There was no forced snottiness or Hot Topic fashion, little in the way of tired ska influences — and it wasn’t overtly riot grrrl, either.

The Regrettes, led by the inimitable Lydia Night — who previously smashed her way into many minds with her duo Pretty Little Demons — are not about posturing. They’re not postcard-punks, requiring a “uniform” of spiked hair, safety pins, and torn clothes. Rather, the band is all about real-life tales of their genuine experiences. Even that debut album title is a reference to not holding anything back.

The sound is a glorious mix of melodic punk rock and 1960s girl-group. The second Regrettes album is due out this summer and, judging by the “Dress Up” single that just dropped, power-pop elements have been added to the mix. It’s a potent brew. Night is the songwriter, and she’s gifted — poetry and melody are comfortable of bedfellows in her care. That said, on this new album, Night says that the other members have been more involved.

The new album is “so ready to go,” Night says. “It’s all done. I’m so fucking excited about it, oh my God. We’ve been working on it ever since our first one came out really, because of the writing. It’s been happening for a few years. Recording was about five weeks. I think every artist grows, some more obviously than others. We definitely have. This album’s a lot more of a collaboration between the band. It’s just different. I’m just older, and so the music feels more mature.”

“Dress Up” is a suave, driving pop-punk gem that Night says is indicative of the direction on the new record, while stressing that each tune is different. That’s great though, because there are shades of Joan Jett and Suzi Quatro badass-ery on there — and a bit of Chrissie Hynde, too. Night puts that all down to a newfound confidence that naturally comes through growth, as well as some of the cool jams that she’s been cramming into her rapidly evolving mind.

“I’ve been listening to a lot of early Strokes, a lot of Exploding Hearts, and The Replacements,” Night says. “Lots of Blondie. All over the place, really. But you can hear a lot of those particular things, I think, influencing this album. I’ve had an obsession with The Replacements. I’m a big power-pop person. This album’s a lot more like that.”

At the end of 2018, The Regrettes put out “Poor Boy,” a much-needed anti-Brett Kavanaugh anthem and a rare foray into politics. Night says that, while that song was something they had to get out of their system after watching the confirmation unfold on TV, they also knew that the album would be a much more personal affair.

“The album is a love story — the good and the bad,” Night says. “That’s what influenced it — falling in and out, and hating someone that you have also loved. Figuring it out. It goes through many extremes, to say the least. The Kavanaugh thing was something we wanted to get out because we were feeling it and knew that there wasn’t much of that on the album. So this is definitely kind of a personal, emotional album.”

Also not on the album is the cover of Queen’s classic “Don’t Stop Me Now,” recorded for a Silk ad campaign. It’s a genuinely thrilling take on the old standard: timely because of the recent Queen biopic plus the tours with Adam Lambert, but also exciting because of the injection of youthful, wild energy that The Regrettes add.

“We’re huge Queen fans,” Night says. “We actually did it for a commercial, and so when we got the call for that, we were like, ‘This is going to be so easy and fun because we love that song and are passionate about it already.’ ”

The Regrettes are preparing for a tour with Against Me!, and the band should be well-rested after they were forced to cancel a tour with Oakland indie-punks SWMRS because of some vocals issues for Night.

“I’m all good now,” she says. “It was really scary, but I’ll be OK. I’m just dealing with my shit. I’ve struggled with nodules and a lot of vocal issues, and had to cancel shows before. It’s a big concern when I start having flare-ups. My voice was really inflamed, and I think a big thing was we had just come off a six-week tour, that we had in-ears [custom-made monitors] the whole tour for the first time. That was such a big help for my voice, because you can hear yourself, you’re not pushing. Then the first show without in-ears in a long time, we pushed really hard. It’s not something to fuck with, and I’ve learned how extreme you need to be with it.”

Night says she’s never met the various members of Against Me!, but she’s inspired by singer Laura Jane Grace’s story. Above all, she’s excited because her dad introduced her to Against Me! when she was a kid — so she views these shows as a sort of “full circle” thing. As for the set, Night suggests that we’ll likely hear some new songs.

“A lot of fiery energy because we’re going to be so excited to be back up on stage, that’s for sure,” she says. “I actually have no idea if the Against Me! crowd will like us, but I’m ready to find out. We’re just gonna go for it.”

After that, there will be more touring. After all, this is only the beginning of the tour cycle in support of the new album. All the while, this excellent band will continue to evolve as they soak in the world around them and prepare for album number three.

There’s no stopping them now.

The Regrettes, with Against Me!, Friday, May 24, 8:30 p.m., at the August Hall, 420 Mason St. $32, augusthallsf.com

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