Overemotional, melodramatic, hormonal—in 2017, these are the words leveled at girls and women to shrink them from feeling (and then expressing) their emotions. But let's be real: there's a lot to feel right now in America, especially if you're a teenage girl. Not only are you exploring your identity, forging friendships, and maybe falling in love for the first time —you're navigating your place in a larger culture of immense sexism, body shaming, and political turmoil. Each day, you're thrown into the world in new ways, and simultaneously forced to confront the ways that world is looking at you.
But on Feel Your Feelings Fool!, the debut album from LA-based garage pop quartet The Regrettes, 16-year-old frontwoman Lydia Night feels her feelings—and refuses to apologize for them. Case in point: the standout "Seashore," a fiercely feminist missive that rivals the group's doo-wop-infused debut single, "A Living Human Girl." Night begins with calm confidence, addressing someone who's patronized her: "You're talking to me like a child / Hey, I've got news, I'm not a little girl / And no, I won't give you a little twirl." But by the chorus, she's growling over a reverb-guitar groove: "My words are growing stronger / And my legs are getting longer / I'm like nobody else / So you can just go fuck yourself."
Night began writing the song in the shower, ruminating on a fight with a friend. But soon, she realized its message resonated beyond that situation: "I was pissed off at the way I was being dealt with and the way I was being talked to [by this person]," she says over the phone from LA. "But then I realized, it was not just about that situation. I've been playing in a band since I was seven, and I've dealt with so many assholes who doubt [me], because not only am I really young—and people automatically assume [it means] that it's a novelty act—but also, I'm a lady. That combination is the worst when it comes to people talking down to you, or assuming that you don't know how to work your pedals. Silly things that are just ridiculous."
"Seashore" was first released as a single back in November 2016; so, the day after Donald Trump was elected the group—comprised of Night, plus 19-year-old Genessa Gariano (guitar), 18-year-old Maxx Morando (drums), and 19-year-old Sage Chavis (bass)—dedicated the song to him on Twitter.
"It was just such perfect timing," Night says, "Because he is the perfect example of an entitled older male who thinks he can talk down to women and people of color—anyone who's different and doesn't fit in his little box. That's why I dedicated to him. I was like, "Oh, fuck this dude." This song took on an entirely new meaning. Now, when I sing it, I just think of his little carrot face. I get so angry when we play that song. And it feels good."
Ever since the group formed in early 2016 (after meeting over three years ago in a music school program), jamming onstage has been a real outlet. But for Night, the band's primary songwriter, penning lyrics is equally cathartic. She typically writes a track in one fell swoop—often in less than an hour. "I never really go back through my notebook and edit songs," she explains. "Sometimes I wish I worked in a different way, because there are certain times where I'm like, 'Oh that could have been better.' But at the same time, that's what makes it my own and makes it great. I like to get [songs] done on the spot, because that's when they feel the most honest. I want to capture that exact moment in time."
This type of emotional urgency vibrates the length of Feel Your Feelings Fool! With the exception of backing vocals and harmonies, the album was recorded in live takes, after the band rehearsed in the studio for a few weeks. (Three takes per song, Night says, was their magic number to get it right.)
One thing that didn't come as immediately for the group was picking a name for the record. Night explains: "I was like, 'OK, what do I want this album to mean to people? Every song is so different—what's the overlying theme?' But then I had an epiphany: every song goes under the theme of people accepting their feelings and not feeling shame about their feelings. [The album] covers being super pissed off, to being head-over-heels for someone, to going through a fight with your best friend—all these things that, especially at my age, have been so hard to accept and be OK with feeling."
The phrase "feel your feelings fool" appears only once on the album—blink and you might miss it—but it's a glorious moment. On "Head In the Clouds," a dizzying, two-minute romp reminiscent of The Donnas, a cheeky Night makes a speech that may outdo Taylor Swift's infamous "Shake It Off" monologue singing, "So, my friend kept going on and on the other day about this asshole that she's kind of dating / And she puts it all out on the table, but he just can't handle a label / And she feels so bad about wanting something more that she's scared she's gonna get left at the door / And I know he might seem really cool, but I told her / Just feel your feelings, fool!"
Yet as much as Night can be fierce and fiery, she can also step back into stripped-down, Julien Baker-esque territory, as she does on "Cold," a hidden track attached to the album's last song. "Cold is super personal and very important to me," Night explains, "because I wrote it in the peak of me falling in love for the first time. Everything was just so crazy and confusing and I was trying to make sense of what I was feeling. [This person and I] dated for a long time, and then recently broke up. But I couldn't be more grateful for that experience. I don't regret any part of it. It was my first real relationship, too. Experiencing falling in love and then heartbreak all in the same year is crazy and intense, but there are going to be a lot of songs that come out of it."
It's been a whirlwind year for Night and The Regrettes in more ways than one. But when thinking about how her life has changed most since forming the band, Night moves away from music and examines her relationship with herself. "Going into high school in that first year, I was just so worried about what everybody thought of me," she admits. 'I was like, 'It's so important that everybody likes me and thinks I'm cool and wants to be my friend.' So even if someone does something mean to me, I have to quickly patch it up—and take the blame even if it's not my fault—just because I don't want to lose that person or my reputation. But then, for the first time, someone did something messed up to me and I just decided to see what would happen if I didn't patch it up.
"At first, it sucked. It's so scary to know that people are talking shit about you. But then I realized, 'Wait, if I like myself, why does it matter if they don't? If they're saying something that's not true and I know that, why does that matter?' That's when everything started clicking for me … I just like myself much more than I ever have in my life. It's interesting to see how me loving myself affects every relationship around me. Everything is much more positive."
Perhaps Night's evolving sense of self is why her words—as she says on "Seashore"—keep getting stronger and The Regrettes are just getting started. "People think that teenagers' opinions are much less educated because they haven't lived as long as older people," Night says. "But it's just not true. Maybe they're not as wise, or whatever you want to call it, but trying to take that away from someone is not fair and not OK. Their opinions are still completely valid and meaningful."
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