At 16 years old, Lydia Night sings with the tenacity and poise of someone who has been in the music business for a long time.
The lead singer of Los Angeles’ the Regrettes, Night has been fronting bands for about a decade. After catching the punk rock bug at the age of 5 when her father took her to see the Donnas in concert, Night picked up a guitar and began rounding up friends to play their own rock music.
“I was very bossy and I told them all what to play, and I wrote the music,” Night says of her girlhood groups. “It was pretty cute.”
Ten years later, Night doesn’t have to be quite so controlling with The Regrettes, which opens for the Frights Feb. 23 at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo. The band, made up of lead guitarist Genessa Gariano, bassist Sage Chavis and drummer Maxx Morando, formed a few years after the teens became friends at the School of Rock in Burbank – an after-school music program that pushes kids to perform onstage.
The school’s lessons paid off, and it wasn’t long after the Regrettes started in 2015 that the band signed with Warner Bros. Records – releasing their debut album, “Feel Your Feelings Fool!,” last month.
Featuring massive guitar riffs, rollicking drums and Night’s snarling lyrics, the album is packed with 15 songs that take a sledgehammer to traditional teenage insecurities.
On the track “A Living Human Girl,” Night highlights the absurdity of modern expectations of beauty, creating a rally cry for women to embrace their so-called “imperfections.”
“I wear short skirts and sometimes long pants / And I can dress how I want, not looking for a show of hands,” she sings.
Taking insecurities head-on is a common motif of “Feel Your Feelings Fool!” and Night threads that theme into the songs in a way that’s relatable to anyone – not just teenagers.
“I’m 16, so I don’t know what it’s like, obviously, to be an adult yet. But I know that throughout my short lifetime that stuff sucks,” Night says of her own vulnerabilities. “Other people have told me that that doesn’t really go away. It’s just different. It just changes. I think no matter how old you are … You’re never 100 percent secure.”
Onstage, however, The Regrettes look about as confident as anyone in the business. In a string of West Coast tour dates opening for major acts such as Kate Nash and Sleigh Bells, the band has built up a focused intensity that can easily transform a crowd of passive listeners into ravenous dancers.
With Gariano firing off soaring riffs and solos on songs such as “Seashore” and “Hot,” and Morando and Chavis adding an equally aggressive rhythm section, Night is given a platform to strut, stomp and scream to her heart’s content.
“Whenever I’m onstage I feel like I’m myself to the fullest extent, because I’m just not worried about what anyone thinks,” she said. “And it’s weird, because you’d think it would be the opposite.”
Although she was unable to vote in last year’s presidential election – a fact she described repeatedly as “very frustrating” – Night is fully aware of the political nature of fronting a punk band, and she hasn’t shied away from that in the least.
She wrote recently on Vice music site Noisey about her experience at the Women’s March in Los Angeles the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, expressing her frustration with the “misogynistic” language that was used throughout the political campaign. That frustration has been surfacing at the band’s live shows, with Night dedicating in jest some of the band’s feminist anthems to the new president.
“I think this is the best time to be doing what I’m doing,” she says. “Because this is when we need it. This is when it really matters. … It feels really good to be a part of something much bigger.”
It’s easy to describe Night and her bandmates as “wise beyond their years,” and Night puts that wisdom on display with how she handles ageist comments about the band’s youth.
“You’re talking to me like I’m dumb / Well I’ve got news, I’ve got a lot to say,” she sings on “Seashore,” a song that builds to a raucous chorus that gives the middle finger to any such critics.
“It used to really frustrate me when people would talk down to me,” Night says. “But now I just don’t let it get to me anymore, because it just gives me more incentive to kill it.”
She hopes that attitude can help inspire others, as well. As the group eyes more expansive tours and writes new songs, Night’s goal is to bring The Regrettes’ message of acceptance, rebellion and independence to a larger audience. Whether that emboldens more young women to write songs and start their own bands, or simply gives listeners an escape from their day-to-day worlds, The Regrettes are up for the challenge.
“I just want to make people feel something,” Night said. “When I can connect with a song, it can literally just change my mood within seconds and make me feel better. And I want to do that for other people.”
With a decade of experience under her belt, Night is off to a strong start.