With an average age of just 19 years, Hey Violet have already accomplished more than most: a single that's slipped up the Billboard Hot 100, a record deal with a major label, and several tours (including opening for The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters and Bush). On top of this, and more importantly, they write their own songs, tackling important issues such as mental health, the merits of dating other millennials, heartbreak and suicide. Engaged with their fans -- "We usually go out and say hi to everyone, they're extremely dedicated and passionate" -- their close involvement allows them an intimate insight into their audience's problems, bringing a fresh look to love, life, and being on the road. We sat down with Rena, their elfin, pink haired front woman.
What's your songwriting process like? Do you all work together or do you each bring different things to the table?
It's kind of a collaborative process. We work with our producer Julian and he'll either come up with an instrumental or we'll say what we're listening to and we want to do this kind of sound. Sometimes it'll start with a lyric, but it's different all the time. I remember once I just handed our producer my journal which is a really vulnerable thing to do. Like, no one wants to do that. He asked, 'will you let me read that?' and I was like 'yes, but do not share that with anybody' [laughs]. Some of our lyrics are drawn from that and that's what makes us feel so connected to these songs. They're our personal experiences, they're our words, our lyrics, our thoughts.
Did you feel embarrassed when you handed it over?
I'm kind of an open book when it comes to people asking me about my life. I'm very open about the problems I have, like suffering from depression and anxiety, and I think the stigmas surrounding that need to be cleared out because mental illness is just as important as physical illness and I don't think everyone realises that yet.
For sure, it doesn't need to be called 'mental health', it's just 'health'.
Exactly, our mind is such a big part of us. When you feel depression, it takes over because it's a serious thing. Learning about our fans, we've found that a lot of them are suffering and it's really important and inspiring for us if our music helps in any way.
How do you deal with depression and anxiety with being on the road and on stage? Does doing those two things help or make it worse?
Both. Don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful for being able to be out on the road but there are times when I think, 'Can I do this for the rest of my life?' and I question everything, as we all do.
People who suffer with anxiety tend to over analyse.
Exactly. So it's a yes and no answer, but for the most part, I do want to be doing this for the rest of my life. I am medicated so that does help. I don't like relying on medication but if it's me getting help then I have to accept that. It makes me so sad to read some of the letters we receive on how some kids' parents don't listen to them when they say they have depression or are struggling through certain things. I could go on forever about this.
Obviously I can imagine how you met your sister but how did you meet the others in your band?
Casey has been in the band for around four years but Miranda, Nia and I have been playing together for around 10 years. We were in another band before and we had another member at the time that just didn't end up working out because we wanted to go in separate musical directions -- she wanted to move towards harder rock, we wanted to go towards pop. A couple of years later, Miranda was on vacation but Nia and I started jamming with musicians to keep up our chops and this guy told us about this great guitarist he knew who turned out to be Casey. It was the four of us for a long time, and then about a year ago there was a band rehearsing close to our house that used our studio. They were using Ian as a temporary bass player and we loved him so we kind of plucked him out of that band and put him in ours.
You grew up in a musical family, what was that like?
My mum was a singer, she played piano and a little guitar and then my dad sings badly but sings at the top of his lungs anyway. He plays keyboard too. Being around it was obviously a huge influence on my sister and I.
What do you parents think when you first said you wanted to be a musician?
My parents at first were like, 'No, don't do it'. There's so much heartbreak in the industry. At first they were like, 'No, we're not going to get you lessons'. I started on drums by the way, so I was begging for drum lessons with my sister and finally they gave in. We said no to a normal life and they have been so supportive of it.
How old were you then?
I was 10 when I first started playing bass and joined our other band called Cherri Bomb. I started learning the drums when I was aged six, then moved to guitar and bass after.
That's pretty young to know what you wanted to do, you must have had a really clear idea.
Drums was pretty much just a hobby for me. I didn't want to practice everyday although I tried to, even with guitar. I just wanted to get to the part when I was good without the practicing everyday. Then I picked up the bass and it just felt right. At the time I thought I'd be doing that for the rest of my life, I didn't once think I'd be the singer of a band. Singing just happened.
Where are the experiences that form your music coming from?
Most of what I write about comes from love. I love love -- writing about it, being in it, experiencing it, going through it. Our track Break My Heart is about the darker side of love. When you're in a relationship you have the first date, the first kiss, the honeymoon stage, the butterflies in your stomach and then this track is about having felt all of that and now wanting the other person to almost break your heart. When you want to feel that desperation and longing, going to bed thinking of them and waking up thinking the exact same thing. What we're about as a band is picking apart different pieces of things and, like I said, I over analyse so much and going to those different perspectives of love and life really helps us shape our songs.
Love in 2017 can be a cruel thing with social media. When I was 17, you could text someone and there was a three day rule where you could text back three days later. There was no 'OMG, he's liked someones pic but not mine!!!"
It's a whole other feeling, how social media plays into our mind and anxieties. Social media has been so good to us and bad to us in other ways. It's been great in that we can talk to our fans and keep people updated. And in other ways, it can make us feel like we're falling apart especially with our personal relationships.
It's funny imagining a relationship with someone in your head, it's always perfect because an idea is a perfect thing.
Yeah. I'm kind of going through something similar to Break My Heart, almost relying on the pain to keep the fire in a relationship. I don't think that's healthy per se, but it definitely keeps it alive. Our song Pure is about obsessing over someone in a totally unhealthy way. We've had people say that we're romanticising abusive relationships, but no, this is just what people feel sometimes.
From the Outside is out now.
Text Hanna Hanra
Photography Ben Rayner