Being a photographer slash accidental journalist, I am always challenging myself and thinking of ways to improve and create great content. For this year’s SXSW Music Festival I wanted to do something that really put focus on my primary skill set, photography.
As the term itself implies, what better way to combine photography and journalism than doing a photo journal piece? As obvious as it seems, we see less and less of this type of content.
Perhaps it’s the current rapid fire nature of society where most media companies don’t see the value in time intensive content like a photo journal, especially being that it would realistically only produce one editorial in the end of it all.
At Highlark we don’t mind spending time and taking the harder road to create quality content.
The story of The Regrettes is not the norm by any means. Parts of it read like a fairy tale. They formed in December of 2015, and had landed a record deal with Warner Bros. by January of 2016.
They performed at SXSW last year but I found out about the band when their publicist sent us their first single “A Living Human Girl.” It was a great song. Well crafted musically with familiar yet creative melody lines and socially relevant lyrics that are cleverly conscious while being fun and playful.
The surprise of it all was the fact that singer/guitarist Lydia Night, now 16 years old was then 15, while guitarist Genessa Gariano, bassist Sage Nicole and drummer Maxx Morando were not much older themselves. I had been following their career since then, including their first New York City performance at The Studio at Webster Hall last September leading up to the release of their debut album Feel Your Feelings Fool! last January.
It was an impressive set, fundamentally sound and they even crushed the vocal harmonies. If there was any doubt before, there was none now. The Regrettes are legit. They are the real deal.
This was precisely why I wanted to follow this band in particular around. I pondered the same questions we all have about bands.
How are they like in real life? Do they actually get along? What do they do on their free time or on tour? What do they do before their shows? Are they down to earth or full of themselves?
// 1:00PM – HILTON AUSTIN
I was scheduled to meet up with The Regrettes at the lobby of the Hilton Austin. I had done a phone interview last August with Lydia so it was great to finally meet her in person.
I introduced myself to Lydia, Genessa, Sage and Maxx. I got a great first impression from them. No signs of pretension, just genuine and approachable.
I was told they had wanted to grab lunch at Austin Taco Project which was in the same building as the hotel, and so my day with The Regrettes began.
// 1:05PM – AUSTIN TACO PROJECT
I always like to build a little bit of rapport before getting into any shoot so I chatted with them while they waited for their order to come. The waitress brought over some hot sauces which had varying heat levels and flavors.
Lydia was having some problems with her throat, so she gave me a heads up she wouldn’t be talking much today in an effort to keep it in the best possible condition for the show later. I always forget this extra concern vocalists have and the good ones usually pay close attention and take care of it much like Lydia was doing.
It’s not an easy thing to do. It takes discipline.
// 2:00PM – POLAROID SCRAPBOOK WITH NICOLE FARA SILVER
They were scheduled to meet with photographer Nicole Fara Silver who creates this Polaroid scrapbook here at the Austin Taco Project. Nicole takes some Polaroids of artists then pastes them into her notebook. She then supplies the artists with different colored markers, stickers and such and has them draw around the Polaroid.
Nicole had told me she started doing this because she wanted to do something more interesting than just simply shooting artists. I can relate to that feeling and I respect what she is doing. It’s a great concept and The Regrettes certainly looked like they were having a good time getting their doodle on.
The final scrapbook made up of photos and drawings from multiple artists is then showcased by The Impossible Project, a company that refurbishes original Polaroid cameras that were left at the Polaroid factory when it closed.
I own one of their Polaroid cameras myself, and it’s a really cool initiative.
// 3:00PM – SOUTH CONGRESS STREET
From my interview with Lydia last year I knew the band was into thrift and vintage shops, so it was no surprise they were looking to check out Austin’s South Congress Street area known for their abundance of retro themed shopping.
We hopped in their van and headed down, but I felt bad taking up a seat making them have to squeeze in. They didn’t seem to care one bit. The answer to one of my questions was beginning to become clear.
This band is comprised of down to earth, great human beings.
I joined them as they stepped into the first shop. Instead of them all individually wandering around into different shops, they seemed to have this ‘doing things as a group’ mentality. I’m not sure if it was a courtesy to me or it’s just how they operate, but either way it was evident that they were true friends.
The first store didn’t have much to offer for men, so Maxx was ready to go rather quickly. I waited outside with him and got a chance to get to know him a little better.
I had wondered what it was like for him being the sole male in the group, so I asked him about that.
It was pretty much like having 3 sisters for him. He was always the one in the group to want to just do things fast, even walking. I’m also like that and people tell me I walk too fast, so we always found ourselves a little ahead of the group. Maxx and I would often stop and wait for the rest of the group to catch up so we chatted and shared some laughs.
// 3:30PM – TESLA
Not quite happy with the selection of shops, Lydia wanted to check out a store that was supposed to be a great thrift store. They had to load in and get to their gig in an hour, so the team ultimately decided against it.
Of course, Lydia was fairly certain they had plenty of time.
They decided to walk towards to venue and stop into stores that caught their eye. Something did grab their attention but it wasn’t clothes.
They were two Tesla cars which were being displayed.
I can’t remember if it was a real dealership or a pop-up one, but the band thoroughly inspected the cars. They were amazed and impressed by the modern features of the models.
Sage’s jaw dropped when she hopped in one of the models and looked up. I learned this later, but the Tesla has the largest all glass panoramic windshield in production. The rest of the gang including myself were impressed.
I never asked the band to pose in any way or do something in particular. Unlike a usual portrait shoot where I direct, I really wanted to capture them in their element. Candid was the name of the game, but Lydia often caught me getting ready to snap and did these funny things.
Her reactions were all spontaneous and I thought it really showed her personality which was great.
No one ended up picking up a car, but Maxx did find this tiny blue guitar mysteriously placed next to a tree.
Although at times they seemed to be in their own head, they always ended up next to each other and enjoying each other’s company. This is often said about bands, but The Regrettes are a family, not just a band.
// 4:00PM – TOMS X GIRLSCHOOL ‘WE ARE ONE’ SHOWCASE
We arrived at Austin’s Toms store where the band’s performance was scheduled that day.
Toms had teamed up with Girschool, to bring this showcase celebrating freedom of expression and strong females. As the music and lyrics of The Regrettes clearly indicate, this was a great event for the band to be a part of.
The band was greeted by Girlschool founder Anna Bulbrook, and they headed into the green room where they were gifted with a fresh pair of Toms sneakers.
Inside, a giant blackboard read “Hey bands! Sign your name!” Genessa and Maxx obliged and began to draw while Lydia broke her silence and started her vocal warmup, following exercises she listened to on her phone.
This was the type of dedication and hard work that the general public never gets to see. Some might say that they were “lucky” to get a major label record deal out of the gate, but I can almost guarantee that they spent hours and years practicing their craft, working harder than most.
Sure, there certainly is some luck involved in how quickly things happened for them, but as the saying goes, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. The Regrettes were just prepared. Most of us just never saw that part.
The band also spent some time doing things for the event, including a quick photoshoot right outside with photographer Marcus Haney.
There was a little bit of down time at this point and the crowd started to gather in the venue.
Everyone one was just relaxing and hanging out, when all of a sudden Lydia was surprised by a visit from a close friend. Her face lit up as she embraced her friend tightly. I was able to get a shot of that moment and you can see the sincere happiness radiating in that photo.
// 6:00PM – WATCHING KATE NASH
Originally I was told that The Regrettes were the first band up, but the headliner Kate Nash was performing first for this show. It may have been because she had another gig scheduled later that night.
Although I didn’t really interact with Kate, she was what she seems to be. Super fucking cool.
She gave the band members a big hug, as The Regrettes have opened up for her before. Kate is a great role model for women in general, and even more so to young girls involved in music.
It was great to see the band watch Kate Nash perform. It really humanized the whole rock star thing being able to witness the artist being a fan of another artist.
As per usual, Kate Nash and her band killed it and The Regrettes were up next.
// 7:00PM – THE REGRETTES LIVE
The Regrettes took the stage and Toms was still a full house. Some were familiar with the band, many were not, but everyone was having a great time watching Lydia, Genessa, Sage and Maxx be themselves, playing music.
Their energy was authentic, and it was apparent to the audience how much fun they were having.
At first I was busy shooting the show, but I soon noticed Kate Nash smiling and dancing right up front.
It speaks a ton about the type of person Kate is and it’s great to see established artists genuinely supporting young talent.
They totally crushed their set, but what I loved most about it was the simplicity of the whole thing.
It was what music should be and is all about. The energy was infectious and the venue was unified through music.
This was just a band doing what they love to do, success, money and recognition aside.
The crowd on the other hand did not care how many records the band has sold or how many followers they have on social media. They didn’t care if they had positive reviews from the biggest publications. They just wanted to hear great music, and The Regrettes delivered.
It didn’t matter what was going on in the world. Only this moment.
It was an amazing experience getting to spend a day photographing and getting to know The Regrettes.
They maybe just teenagers, but they are talented, mature, professional and most importantly humble. They are the kind of band you can’t help but root for. They deserve all of their success which has only just begun. I have no doubt they will become a household name.
We have nothing to worry about, our future is bright and powerful. I’m sure they will hit many bumps on their path, but their comradery will help them get through it.