Biography: In the opening seconds of Hey Violet’s “Brand New Moves” video, frontwoman Rena Lovelis sings along to a warped beat, framed in a cartoon TV set and looking like a new-wave pop star from another era. Over the next three-and-a-half minutes, the stop-motion video explodes into a collage of glitter, lightning bolts, lipstick-smeared mirrors, and spinning disco balls—all of which serves as the perfect backdrop to Hey Violet’s dancey but deeply emotional twist on synth-powered alt-pop.
With Rena on lead vocals, her sister Nia on drums, Miranda Miller on vocals and keys, Casey Moreta on lead guitar and Iain Shipp on bass, Hey Violet’s sophomore EP Brand New Moves (out on Caroline) marks an evolution from the guitar-fueled alt-rock the band first unleashed in their early teens. While the L.A.-bred outfit channels more raw energy than ever, Brand New Moves reveals that delving into electronic music has hugely expanded their sonic possibilities. “When we started playing around with synth, we realized there’s so much you can do and so many new sounds you can create,” says Rena. “It changed something chemically in our brains and let us move into this new direction that feels really good to us.”
The follow-up to their well-received 2015 debut EP I Can Feel It, Brand New Moves finds Hey Violet collaborating with producer/songwriter Julian Bunetta to dream up a groove-driven sound built from bright melody and fat beats. The band recorded in Bunetta’s home studio in Malibu, often working into the wee hours of the night to shape the EP’s introspective yet irreverent mood. “A lot of the demos and some of the final versions of the songs were recorded on a hand-held microphone—just me in a room, singing my heart out,” notes Rena.
Throughout Brand New Moves, Hey Violet let that heart shine through songs that pulse with pure but nuanced feeling. “Most of the songs are love songs, but they come from different perspectives—not just good love but also troubled love and longing and all these different emotions that we’ve experienced,” Rena says. And in her vocal performance—a brash and breezy delivery that’s “as if Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani and Hayley Williams crashed into each other and made a whole new generation of rockstar,” according to Galore—Rena gives off the irresistible impression that she’s telling precious secrets to each and every listener.
The EP’s most blatantly joyful track, “Brand New Moves” snakes its heavy groove and jagged guitar lines around Rena’s sweet but soulful vocals. “That song’s about how things can start to get bland when you’re with someone for a long time, so you take a break and come back and then you realize, ‘Oh, we were perfect for each other all along,’” she explains. On “Fuqboi,” Hey Violet merge fierce guitar riffs and skittering synth into a genius kiss-off that fires off line after killer line (“And when there’s cute things he’d say/I bet he stole them from Drake/And did I mention he wears his mom’s earrings?”). Darkly charged but luminous, “Pure” unfolds as a supreme synth-pop epic exploring what Rena refers to as “being with someone and wanting to experience all kinds of firsts with them.” And rounding out the EP are two re-workings of “Brand New Moves” that further prove Hey Violet’s sophisticated musicality: a stripped-down version gracefully centered on acoustic guitar, and a gorgeously atmospheric remix unveiling the band’s more experimental leanings. Of the bands new single, “Guys My Age”, Rena says, “We wrote the lyrics one night in Palm Springs after talking about our experiences with how boys can sometimes be naïve in relationships and not yet know how to treat a woman like a queen.”
Born in New York but raised in L.A., the Lovelis sisters grew up on bands like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson (thanks mainly to their mom, a former rock singer) and began playing music before the age of ten. “I remember wanting to be a ventriloquist at one point, and then wanting to be a racecar driver, but by the time I was seven it was like, ‘I wanna do guitar, I wanna do guitar!’” recalls Rena. “My parents didn’t want us to play music—they told us how the industry’s really heartbreaking and we’d probably have a lot of letdowns and a lot of hurt—but finally they gave in and let us take lessons.”
Several years after Nia took up drums and Rena started on bass guitar, the sisters posted an online ad seeking bandmates and soon hooked up with Miranda (a Florida native and sometimes poet who learned to play piano from her grandfather). A few years later, the trio connected with Casey (a fellow music obsessive who’d picked up guitar at seven-years-old) and asked him to officially join the band with an onstage proposal at the Viper Room. “We were in the middle of our set and we asked Casey, ‘Will you be in our band?’, and thankfully he said yes,” says Rena. “He was so nervous that he messed up the last song of the show, and we all laughed at him afterward. That’s when it all clicked and Hey Violet really came together.” Now with the addition Iain Shipp, (LA bassist and mutual friend) the band is complete.
By 2015, Hey Violet had earned a passionate following, largely due to their years of playing shows around Los Angeles. In March of that year, the band inked a deal with Hi Or Hey Records, a label founded by Australian rock band 5 Seconds of Summer in partnership with Capitol Records. Soon after the signing, Hey Violet’s fanbase rapidly expanded when the band performed a number of spontaneous acoustic sets throughout North America, Europe, and the UK while supporting 5 Seconds of Summer on their arena tour. Released in July 2015, I Can Feel It quickly shot to #1 on iTunes in five countries, in addition to reaching the top five in ten other countries.
Having recently won the Next Big Thing prize at the Teen Choice Awards, Hey Violet’s always-powerful chemistry has grown even stronger through their non-stop touring. “Tour’s always a highlight,” says Rena. “We all really stick together, we’re a super-close little tour family.” Lately the band’s kept busy on the road by playing their new favorite game Werewolf, making Hawaiian-themed playlists on Spotify, riding their scooters around venues before sound check, and—as always—taking time to hang out with fans in person or connect on social media. “Even just seeing a comment on Instagram about someone loving one of our songs—that makes us so happy,” Rena points out.
In building their own secret universe for the band and their fans to dwell in, Hey Violet have gained a new sense of self-discovery over the past year. “We all really understand each other in a way that we didn’t when we were younger,” says Rena. “We understand each other’s strengths and all our weaknesses, and we know how to help each other through them.” And because of that understanding, Hey Violet brought a new level of boldness and a more refined vision to the making of Brand New Moves. “Of all our new songs, there’s not one that I’m not completely in love with—they’re all songs I want to play loud in the car and dance along in my seat,” Rena says. “I think that’s got a lot to do with us all growing up and getting on the same page and knowing what we want, so that we’re finally able to say, ‘Yes—that’s exactly how this band should sound.”