The Regrettes: “I always wanted this album to be dancing the pain away”

Perpetually the coolest kids on the block, The Regrettes are preaching self-acceptance and playing by their own rules.

Perpetually the coolest kids on the block, The Regrettes are preaching self-acceptance and playing by their own rules.

Words: Neive McCarthy. Photos: Lissyelle Laricchia.

Lydia Night has been doing a lot of reflection and learning over the last couple of years. Over Zoom, with her cat Casper incessantly nipping at her and Buffy the Vampire Slayer lovingly watching from a framed portrait on the wall, she’s often deep in thought. As the frontwoman of The Regrettes, she and her bandmates are currently gearing up for the release of their third album, ‘Further Joy’. It’s their darkest, most ambitious, and most hopeful work yet. So naturally, something quite daunting to be on the cusp of. 

“In the past, I’d always viewed my lyrics as being super honest and talking about subjects that were hard, and I was,” Lydia recalls. “I didn’t realise how much of a front I was putting up still because I was talking about things on such a surface. With this album, this isn’t some diary entry of mine. This is like a therapy session, and it’s on full display. It’s equal parts terrifying and freeing.”

On ‘Further Joy’, the mask is off, and the walls are down. While unapologetically grappling with topics the band might have shied away from once before – anxiety, sexuality, the less evergreen moments in a relationship – they also shrug off the crunchier, grittier sound they’ve been known for previously. The Regrettes transform under the neon-tinged 80s inspired lights of their fresh pop sound: it’s a brave new world in a multitude of ways. 

That bravery is something learned, for sure. ‘Further Joy’ is bound together with startling self-acceptance and the need to finally do something that they really, really love as a group. “I was naturally gravitating towards pop music in my life; that’s what I get in the car and put on,” Lydia explains. “I’m writing these pop songs at their core. Why would we go in the studio and make them sound rockier, cooler? That would be really dumb.”

“Instead of being like, ‘no, that’s too much of a poppy melody’, I realised that’s actually what makes this special. Let’s push that further. Let’s fully dive into those waters instead of just dabbling. I think that’s when my brain exploded with so much inspiration and excitement to make an album that felt like us as people and not just the way we wanted to be viewed and portrayed in our music. It was this moment where we get to pick if we make a pop album, whatever that means for us. So, we did! It’s so funny when you tell yourself a lie for so long that you can’t do something, and then there’s that click where you realise no one is sitting here saying you can’t. Even if they were, who gives a shit? Do it. Life’s too short.”

It’s a sentiment that echoes the quote from prominent British philosopher Alan Watts, which plays out over the beginning notes of ‘Nowhere’: “You can’t live at all unless you can live fully now.” It carries through ‘Further Joy’, an album grounded firmly in the present, experiencing all the heightened emotions of the here and now in glorious fullness. For the band, it seems acceptance and ownership were fundamental for this album to come to fruition. Sometimes, things aren’t completely peachy, and yet at others, you might feel on top of the world. They immaculately capture those sensations in all of their intensity. 

Album opener ‘Out of Time’ sets the example with immediacy. Spiralling and tightening with fraught, almost unbearable tension, it joltingly produces a sonic version of the physical experiences of anxiety with impressive accuracy. “We really wanted to capture this walls-caving-in feeling. Yet, with that release in the riff, it feels anthemic in a way. It’s the first time we’ve ever had that – it’s such a dark song, but it’s so empowering at the same time. It feels like you’re running away in this beautiful way from this anxiety monster, and you’re finding liberation in it. I think a lot of the time, that’s how I feel with my anxieties. I have these moments where I’ll come out the other end of having a panic attack, and the other side of that feels like such a high, and it’s so freeing to come back into my body and realise none of that is happening.” 

It’s somehow frozen with fear and yet an exhibition of strength. These moments happen, and they’re terrifying, but as tracks like ‘Out of Time’ show, they soon pass. That feeling doesn’t last forever, and the present very quickly becomes the past. The Regrettes have been encouraging us to experience the full depth of our emotions since their aptly titled debut album ‘Feel Your Feelings, Fool!’ but never more firmly than in this exploration of the present. Experiencing your feelings as and when they unfold might be horrifying, but those ups and downs are fleeting and important. 

Regardless of how lump-in-throat heart-wrenching their lyricism gets, the album still feels like one long opportunity to twirl and dance your sorrow away. It’s emotive and unleashes a world of painful truths, but their new pop sensibilities let it spin under the dancefloor lights. That juxtaposition is something Lydia has been striving for throughout, even subconsciously at times. “I always wanted this album to be a dancing the pain away kind of thing and forgot in the process of making it that that’s what I pictured the third album being. It happened really naturally because of so much of the subject matter. I just love music like that, and I’ll always continue to go back to how much I love The 1975. I feel like their lyrics and subject matter a lot of the time is really fucked up and really dark, but you just feel really good listening to it. You can feel heard while also only internalising how much of that you want to. You can cry to those songs; you can dance to those songs – that’s something I just love as a listener.” 

“I didn’t realise how much of a front I was putting up”

Lydia Night

‘La Di Da’ is perhaps the perfect example: a twinkling, childlike track intended to evoke the playfulness of ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ and its ilk. It’s hard not to revel in the uplifting, nostalgic nature of a track that makes you want to dance with the abandon of your childhood. On closer inspection, however, it explores disassociation and not being present in a way that is at odds with the light-hearted sound. It feels almost like a celebration of the honesty that is so crucial on ‘Further Joy’. By understanding and owning the less easy elements, the album possesses a levity and relief at casting these thoughts into the world. And that levity, in turn, lets you dance those sorrows away. 

“I used to be a little more open on Instagram and online on social media. I try and be very real on those apps, but naturally, things are very curated,” remarks Lydia. “I try my best to show both sides of certain things, but there’s a lot that I choose to not talk about online because I want to make sure I’m delicate and thinking before speaking, especially when it comes to things I struggle with day to day. I’m not getting online being like, ‘just had a panic attack, what’s up guys?!’ – that’s just not something I feel good doing. With an album and songwriting, there’s a lot more time, and it can be a lot more delicate, so it felt like the right time to touch on that for myself. I felt like I was in a place where I was ready to do that but also in a place where I felt ready to share those sides of me and pieces of me that have been really hard to talk about in the past. It’s a total mix of nerves, and also just excitement for as much as other people might listen to a song like ‘Subtleties (Never Giving Up On You)’ and be like ‘oh, I connect to that’, I get to feel the other end of that connection and know that I’m not alone too. If someone comes up to me at a show and says a song helped them with this, I feel so much less alone. It’s a special exchange, but it’s so weird because it’s so unlike any other art form, I feel. It’s bizarre.”

‘Further Joy’ beautifully navigates those difficult internal struggles Lydia mentions. It’s breathtaking how the band manage to articulate their experiences with such gorgeous tenderness. ‘You’re So Fucking Pretty’ is a first for Lydia and the band, chronicling a crush Lydia once had on a girl. As the first time she had openly acknowledged her sexuality in her writing, it feels a really important, validating step: achingly gentle and normalising, that openness The Regrettes are so adept at seems to spill forth more easily from this point onwards. It’s a truly stunning moment on the album. 

“Every time you write a song that pushes your comfort zone a little bit more, you realise it’s not so scary,” Lydia reflects. “It really is like therapy. Every single time I’m in a therapy session and I’m honest and talk about something that I was nervous about or avoiding before, the next time I come into a session, I’m going to be a little more open and feel comfortable because I just think life is that way. You do something scary and realise that wasn’t that bad, and it’s the same thing with writing this song, especially putting it out. Now that it’s out and I’ve talked so much about it, I’m just like, oh, okay. People are so nice, and everyone has been so sweet. It doesn’t change anything. I’ve known I’ve been this person for years. What’s the difference? I have so much imposter syndrome all the time. A huge piece of why I didn’t want to refer to myself as being bi or being part of any sort of queer community was pure imposter syndrome screaming in my ears and telling me that it wasn’t my place, and I don’t get to be validated in that way – it’s totally this fucked up part of my head. The more I push myself and am honest about who I am, it feels exciting to talk about other songs on the album, and it feels exciting to go there and to write even deeper and deeper into these subjects. It was really emotional and powerful to have the song coming out.”

The song in itself is unbelievably pretty. It’s graceful and soft, and Lydia’s vocals are at their most bewitching against the track’s atmospheric piano. It feels like a freeing whirlwind from this point of the album onwards. As ‘You’re So Fucking Pretty’ lets out a sigh of open release, the final tracks find a dazzling lack of tension and instead grow euphoric. As they embrace a healthy dose of synth-induced optimism, they seem to find that capacity to live fully and unashamedly.

“I’m in such a better place now,” Lydia observes. “I’m still struggling with a lot mentally and just in general in my life, but I’m allowing myself the space to deal with that versus making it so much worse by getting mad at myself for struggling with it. That was the wheel I was stuck in for a long time. In this culture of wellness and optimal health, all this shit, it’s so easy to be like, I’m a terrible person for not knowing how to feel better. Once I did a lot of work and a lot of therapy and this album came together, I’m now able to just take space and take time and realise, hey, I don’t feel very good today. That’s okay! That’s not a choice. I’m not sitting here like, I’m going to feel like shit today. These aren’t things you have control over a lot of the time. You just have control over doing what you can to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like. I’ve gotten a lot better at taking care of myself, and that’s been huge.”

As the pure joy and love of ‘Show Me You Want Me’ plays out, drawing the album to a close, that ‘Further Joy’ has never felt more significant. It’s that hopefulness that plays out amongst all the vulnerability and darkness and nestles at the core of the album, resulting in this sense of freedom and contentment. There are dark times, but if you’re living fully, then that is part of the experience. The Regrettes have found their feet despite those, and along with it, their ability to get themselves through those trying times. And, of course, then write a banging, light-filled album about that journey.

Taken from the April 2022 edition of Dork, out now. The Regrettes’ album ‘Further Joy’ is out 8th April.

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