Eleven years ago, Lydia Night witnessed her first concert by the all-female Bay Area punk combo the Donnas, and her life was changed forever. She begged for a guitar the next day, and finally got one for her next birthday. And she formed her first band almost immediately, and now the seasoned rock vet has just issued Feel Your Feelings Fool!, the Warner Bros. debut from her latest outfit, The Regrettes, and it’s fizzing with frothy, cynically-observed sing-alongs like “Juicebox Baby,” “Pale Skin,” “I Don’t Like You,” and “A Living Human Girl.”
But there’s a catch.
At present, the precocious Night is only sixteen years old, and she won’t turn seventeen until October. She was only five, she sighs, when her father took her that raucous Donnas gig. “And just seeing an all-girl rock band at such a young age was amazing,” she recalls. “It was something that I’d never seen before, and I just thought they were sooo cool. And I just knew that that’s what I needed to be doing.” And she happily details her brief – but busy – existence to PureVolume.
PUREVOLUME: What did your parents do for a living?
LYDIA NIGHT: Both of my parents are actually just huge music lovers. My mom used to play in a metal band when she was younger. Well, it was her own project that she did, actually – I don’t know much about it, and I think it was just her, solo. She went to school for engineering, and during that time when she was learning about everything, she would write metal music and record herself. I didn’t really know much about that until I was a bit older. But both of my parents my whole life have played really good music around the house and brainwashed me into having good taste. And for my sixth birthday, I got a guitar, so I started taking lessons the next day, weekly lessons. And I still take them – I haven’t stopped. Guitar is something that really doesn’t have a ceiling. There’s so much to learn, so much theory. So now I’m learning a lot about reading music and rhythmic things that I don’t really need to know. But they’re just really helpful and they make me an all-round better musician.
PV: How old were you when you assembled your first group?
LN: I was six and a half, maybe seven. It’s pretty funny now, thinking back on that. But my guitar teacher at the time, the way I knew her was through art classes. I was really into painting and doing different arts and crafts when I was a kid, and she was my teacher for that. And I knew some other girls from art class, and I knew I needed an all-girl band. So I got some friends from class together and we started a band. And I told them what they would play – I was very bossy – and I wrote all the songs. We were called LILA – it stood for Little Independent Loving Artists.
PV: Do you feel much older than your chronological age?
LN: Sometimes. I do with certain things. But I also sometimes still feel like a little kid. I dunno. With music tastes and stuff, I get along with adults a lot, just because I know a lot about stuff that’s happened before I was born. My parents have always been educating me on culture from before I was born, with movies and TV shows and music. So in that way, I think I’m wise beyond my years. But also, at the same time, I am very much a teenage girl, in a lot of other ways.
PV: Iggy Pop recently said that the defining characteristic of any good artist is curiosity. You have to be interested in – and excited – by things.
LN: That’s exactly how I feel. I completely agree – I am constantly learning. And as a child, music has been the one thing that’s always stuck. But I’ve done so many weird things. I used to do figure skating. I did karate for a while. I obviously did arts and crafts, and I got really into cooking at one point. I painted, and I did dance for a really long time, just because I love to learn, and I love taking classes, and I would always love to discover new things. Because I was so curious about how this thing worked, or how some people did that, or why people enjoy this. But music was the one thing that always stuck, throughout all those other phases. So I didn’t really have much in common with a lot of people at my middle school, and then high school came around, and I went to a public arts school downtown, and that’s when I was like, “Holy shit! There are more people like me, and it’s amazing!” I still have tons of friends that I met at that school.
PV: But you met your fellow Regrettes – guitarist Genessa Gariano, bassist Sage Nicole, and drummer Maxx Morando – at the School of Rock?
LN: And the School of Rock was totally different. That started when I was in middle school, and it was an after school program, not like a real school. I started it in 7th grade, and that’s where I met Max, Sage and Genessa. I knew Sage really well, and I had the biggest crush on Maxx, actually. Then we reconnected a year ago when I was in this two-piece band and they were all in a band together, and we played a show together, on the same bill. But right after that, my two-piece broke up, and I was looking for more people to play with. So I E-mailed them again, and it was perfect.
PV: And you actually fell in love recently, then broke up. For the very first time?
LN: Yeah. And it actually did work out well. The first time I fell in love, about a year ago, it was my first boyfriend, ever. Then we broke up a few months ago, but we’re still really close friends. I love that person, still, just as a human being, and I don’t regret any part of that relationship, because it ended in a good way. I mean, it’s first love – it’s impossible to let that person fully go. We were both of each other’s first loves, so that’s something that we’ll always share. So you’ll always have a very special place for that person.
PV: But in songs like “A Living Human Girl,” you wanted to write about an average teenage girl’s real concerns?
LN: For sure. I’ve been writing songs since I was six, and that’s just how I learned to cope with certain things, and to get myself through things. So I’ve decided to share these songs that have gotten me through things with other people. And I think it’s really cool to know that somebody else is getting something out of some random song you wrote, just coming home one night, being pissed off about something, and just sitting down and writing how you’re feeling. And then all of a sudden that turns into a song that’s helping other people? It’s really crazy, really weird.
PV: Down in your native L.A., you took part in January’s anti-Trump Women’s March. A lot of young girls your age probably take hard-won things like the right to choose for granted, right?
LN: Oh, yeah. And it’s frightening. I talk about it all the time with my friends – we constantly have to have these discussions, because we’re under attack. And our bodies are under attack, without us even feeling anything or even knowing it right now. And the future is a bit scary – we don’t know what’s next, because we have such an unpredictable president and cabinet. And I have never had an abortion – I’ve never needed that. But at least that was always something in the back of a lot of girls’ minds as a safety net, like, “If worse comes to worst, at least I don’t have to ruin my life by having a child at whatever age.” I’m not saying it’s an excuse to have unprotected sex, but it is a safety net, and it makes you feel safe in your own skin. So I think California is probably going to be okay, if they do take certain rights away. But for girls living in Georgia or Texas? If you can even find someone to take you, you’ll have to drive to another state to get a procedure done that should be your right – to do whatever you want with your own body. And for some group of old white men to try and take that away from you? It’s disgusting. It’s awful. So I’m way more scared for all those girls around the country who are going to have these awful experiences. But at least for me, I know I’m surrounded by supportive people, and I have art. I have my music. And a lot of people don’t have outlets like that – they live in places where their voices are shushed, where they’re told to be quiet. So I can’t take for granted how lucky I am just to be able to speak freely – to talk about things that I really care about and be honest. A lot of people don’t have that platform, or that option.
PV: And your home situation must still be…
LN: That’s right. I’m 16, so I still live with my parents. And I’m still in high school, and I’m about to be a junior. And halfway through sophomore year, I started doing a home school program, just because I can tour that way, and it makes everything so much easier.
PV: Plus there’s the added benefit of home-cooked dinners every night.
LN: Yeah! I know! I love living at home. My parents are super cool, and I get along with them really well. They’re both very supportive of everything I do, so I don’t have an issue with living at home or anything like that. And you’re right -- I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from!