New band of the week: Hey Violet (No 128)

Punky Los Angelinos and tourmates of Foo Fighters who have suddenly – successfully – transformed into purveyors of R&B pop

Home town: Los Angeles.

The lineup: Rena Lovelis (bass, lead vocals), Miranda Miller (rhythm guitar, keyboard, vocals), Nia Lovelis (drums, vocals), Casey Moreta (lead guitar, vocals), Iain Shipp (bass).

The background: Anyone who saw Donald Trump’s relatively civilised first post-election audience with Barack Obama might be aware of radical volte faces for the sake of political expediency. It happens with bands, too, only for them there is less at stake and their transformations are for the less concerning matter of artistic or even commercial expediency. Status Quo went from Technicolor psych to premier exponents of no-nonsense boogie. Scritti Politti were anarcho squat-noiseniks who, seemingly overnight became purveyors of light lovers’ rock and silky soul. Fleetwood Mac morphed from blues rock to MOR, Genesis from art rock/prog to mainstream rock, while No Doubt went to bed as ska-punkers only to wake up as Top 40 popsters.

And now here’s Hey Violet on the other side of an equally dramatic shift. They started out, aged about 11, as all-female exponents of exuberant, brash punk-pop called Cherri Bomb, going on to open for the likes of Foo Fighters, My Chemical Romance and Smashing Pumpkins and securing a placement on the Avengers soundtrack, all under the patronage (matronage, actually) of Hole/Motley Crüe manager Sam Maloney. Some time last year they acquired a (male) bassist and guitarist and changed their name to Hey Violet, although they were still doing exuberant, brash punk-pop, releasing an EP, I Can Feel It, 5 Seconds of Summer’s own subsidiary of Capitol Records, Hi or Hey. Something must have happened since then, and it can’t have been a simple commercial move, because they had accrued a decent-sized loyal following. No, they must have decided that what they really wanted to do was make songs like Brand New Moves, Pure and Guys My Age: shiny R&B-drenched pop with electronic beats, choppy 80s-style guitars and massive choruses – Fuqboi, another new track, is the only one that adheres to the old formula.

So what did happen?

“We were doing harder rock music and wanted to go in a more pop direction and have fun doing it,” says Rena Lovelis, 18-year-old frontwoman of the band deemed next big thing by Teen Vogue. “I was always attracted to pop songs on the radio and wanted to experiment with it because there are so many elements you can play with with pop: you have synths and pads and different drum-beats and different background vocals. I found that really appealing.”

Lovelis – who, with her sister Nia, the band’s drummer, grew up listening to “grunge stuff like Garbage and Nirvana and Marilyn Manson” – further explains their transition from Cherri Bomb to Hey Violet: “We came from guitar-driven songs and thought, ‘How do we do this?’ So we looked at the Weeknd and 21 Pilots, who have insanely good, catchy melodies … Katy Perry was a big influence at the beginning of our change in style, but so were older people like Cyndi Lauper.”

It’s obviously working: between them, Guys My Age, Pure, Brand New Moves (and Fuqboi) have had almost 10m streams on Spotify – pretty healthy number. But Lovelis plays it down.

“We’ve got a solid fanbase on social media, which is incredible but we don’t go out and get bombarded by people … yet.”

That might come after their imminent national TV debut, on The Late Late Show with James Corden, an appearance that is making her very anxious indeed.

Has Lovelis considered burning all her grunge records, in a kind of reverse Disco Sucks manoeuvre?

“No, we actually didn’t, but that’s a good idea,” she says, laughing. “I’m kind of a pyro myself so the band will have to keep the lighter away from me.”

Her pink hair and pouty-bratty demeanour posit Lovelis as a sort of cutepop Courtney Love or a younger Hayley Paramore, who is one of her heroines. But these days she says she gets more comparisons to Debbie Harry.

“I’ve been studying her a lot – it’s such an honour. I’m not complaining,” she adds. “I think we’re bringing something different to the table. We have a fresh perspective, and we’re inspiring young people. I think – I know – our music is worth listening to. I’m 18 years old and I’d want to listen to it.”

The buzz: “Hey Violet are going to have quite the 2017” - V Magazine.

The truth: They’re the transformers of pop.

Most likely to: Have more than 5 Seconds of fame.

Least likely to: Live in a squat.

What to buy: Guys My Age is out now.

File next to: No Doubt, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus.


Ones to watch: Liana Bank$, Slow Down Molasses, Emmecosta, Kiiara, Diet Cig.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
New band of the week: Daniel Wilson (No 103)
Michigan indie-gospel wunderkind currently wowing lovers of classic soul and disco as well as modern R&B

Paul Lester

13, May, 2016 @3:27 PM

Article image
New band of the week: Brasstracks (No 109) – big band goes bass with a dose of hip-hop
This already-prolific young New York duo create brass-driven funk’n’soul for hip-hop heads and jazzers alike

Paul Lester

27, Jun, 2016 @3:04 PM

Article image
New band of the week: Sälen (No 123) – bitter-edged synthpop with fangs
Meet the new London trio whose singer loves snakes, biting lips and shocking her mum, even if the music is sweet on the surface

Paul Lester

10, Oct, 2016 @9:20 AM

Article image
New band of the week: Phoenix and the Flower Girl (No 145)
The last ever New Band of the Week brings an appropriately phantasmagoric end to the column’s 11-year run

Paul Lester

27, Mar, 2017 @7:00 AM

Article image
New band of the week: Ojerime (No 134) – murky, melancholic R&B
This musical poet of south London’s city streets offers a distinctly British take on quiet-storm soul and noir R&B

Paul Lester

09, Jan, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
New band of the week: Cabbage (No 115) – butt-naked political truth-talking
Don’t be fooled by this Manchester five-piece’s penchant for juvenilia – they’re hell-bent on filling the current vacancy for rock’n’roll commentator on Brexit Britain

Paul Lester

15, Aug, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
New band of the week: Freak (No 126) – one-man Nirvana who hits hard
Straight outta Chelmsford comes this angry young man who attended the same school as Rat Boy and left the Co-op to rage against the Man and the machine

Paul Lester

31, Oct, 2016 @12:31 PM

Article image
New band of the week: Nova Twins (No 119) – bass-heavy duo fusing grime and punk
Meet the riot twins bored by sex and cyberspace, in love with bringing punk rock to a new audience

Paul Lester

12, Sep, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
New band of the week: Gothic Tropic (No 139) – object lessons in shiny pop
She’s not very goth and there isn’t really a tropical flavour to her music, but if you like pure pop 70s/80s style, then you’ll love this one-woman band

Paul Lester

13, Feb, 2017 @10:55 AM

Article image
New band of the week: Sløtface (No 133) – perky pop with a feminist edge
Norwegian band aiming to make moshing safe for women and create the most joyous punk ditties you’ve heard since the 90s

Paul Lester

19, Dec, 2016 @8:00 AM