We talk to Transviolet, the LA four-piece putting thought into their moreish pop sound.
Transviolet’s mission statement reads like a post-millennial, socially progressive version of Brad Pitt’s iconic “you are not your fucking khakis” speech in Fight Club: “Too many times we let characteristics define, and ultimately, divide us. We are not the colour of our skin or the amount of money we have in the bank. We are not our gender or our sexual orientation. We are all humans in need of love, respect, and acceptance.”
When they’re not striving to bring about a post-identity-politics society, this Los Angeles foursome are making sophisticated pop – or, more likely, their music is all part of their far-reaching goals. Although their excellent EP was only released recently, Transviolet’s fan base already includes some famous faces: Katy Perry, Harry Styles and Ellie Goulding are all fans, and with good reason. Their biggest track thus far “Girls Your Age” has been bouncing around my head for days and thanks to a beat-heavy remix treatment by Twin Shadow, it’s set to stay there for a while yet. “New Bohemia” meanwhile, with its chart-conquering sound yet thoughtful and empowered lyrics, is definitely going to be one of next year’s must-listen tracks (so do as we have and get on it early).
We got the opportunity to sit down with the guys from Transviolet and have an unusually frank New Noise chat with them that touches on their illustrious fans, the importance of honest writing, and their strong feelings on the internet.
You’ve got some pretty high profile fans, what’s that like when you hear someone like Harry Styles or Lorde are into your music?
It was pretty unreal. I had been rock-climbing that morning, and didn’t even have my phone on me. When I finally checked it, I was in disbelief. The guys had texted me a trillion times and our Twitter had exploded. It was insane. We’re so flattered to have him as a fan.
You took your time releasing your EP, what was the thinking behind that?
We are very particular, and we wanted to make sure everything was just right.
What inspires you when you all write together?
Past experiences, conversation, possession.
Sometimes it’s specific. There’s a definite intention from the start. I have something on my chest, and I know writing about it is the only way I’m going to make sense of it. The guys and I build something from scratch with that intention.
Sometimes it’s something someone said- maybe an off-handed comment someone made in passing that piqued my interest, or a random phrase that I can’t let go. It rolls around in my head, collecting significance, eventually being scribbled down in a notebook, where I come back and explore it further, writing down any other words or phrases it inspires. At that point, if we all are into it, we keep building around it.
Sometimes I just take my brain out of the equation and improv over a track. The guys have all become amazing producers, so there’s a constant flow of new things to write over. They pull up a track, and I try and just translate what the music is saying into words. I let it possess me, and don’t worry about the end result. It’s like speaking in tongues, then listening back to our subconscious. Sometimes it’s genius. Sometimes it’s nonsense.
Your lyrics are occasionally quite brutally pure and honest compared to the up beat nature of your songs. What’s the thinking behind that?
I don’t see the point in writing things that aren’t honest. Everything I write is something I feel, or have felt very deeply. I like the juxtaposition of the upbeat production under a cutting lyric. I think it’s unexpected, and more likely to grab the listener’s attention.
You’ve talked about how transgressing and challenging the status quo is important to you. When do you think you guys become so passionate about this?
I’ve always been naturally inquisitive, so challenging the status quo was inevitable. I was 15 when I started aggressively questioning everything around me. Often, innovation comes from frustration- and I find the answer “that’s just the way things are” especially infuriating. I got that answer a lot in Bible school. Perhaps they are to blame for my critical nature.
Do you think there’s a point where you’ll think you’ve made it?
Hahaha, I don’t know. I don’t think there is such thing as “making it”, you just have more to lose. We like to take time to appreciate the small accomplishments, and be grateful for where we are right now.
You’ve talked with slight disdain for the internet before, do you think overall it’s a positive or a negative thing?
I don’t have disdain for the internet. I just hate that we have this amazing tool at our disposal and we misuse it. I think overall, it’s absolutely incredible. We have the ability to educate ourselves, connect with like-minded individuals and organize a movement that could mean real change. We just have to get off Facebook long enough to make it happen.
What’s been the most surreal moment of 2015 so far in terms of your career?
Hearing our fans sing our lyrics back to us. It’s so moving to know that someone has connected so deeply with something so personal.
What was it like the first time you all played music together?
A mess. But, we knew there was something there. Even though we were broke as fuck, even though we were playing in the living room (that doubled as Judah’s bedroom) of our weird little house in Van Nuys, even though our instruments weren’t the best, the speakers were blown and it sounded like shit, it was amazing. There was chemistry there. There was love there.
You’ve just completed 27 shows in three countries, how did you find that?
It was celestial. We’ve felt like animals in a cage for the last few months leading up to it and were very happy to run wild.