Relive Your Youth with this Violent Femmes Covers Album by BETS

Hear the shoegaze & indie-pop interpretation of the classic alt-rock LP

bets band brooklyn

Photo by Shervin Lainez

If there is one constant in this world, it is that everyone loves Violent Femmes. Maybe your older brother played them for you around the same time that you got your driver’s license, or maybe ‘Blister in the Sun’ is your go-to karaoke jam today. For Brooklyn indie pop singer BETS, Violent Femmes were the “soundtrack to her life” as a teenager. That’s why she decided to pay homage to Violent Femmes with a full-length cover version of their self-titled 1983 debut album. The BETS album project violent femmes reinterprets the alt-rock classic with gauzy shoegaze guitars, seductive vocals, and electro-pop textures.

The covers album is a fun break between BETS albums; her own debut, Days Hours Nights, was released in 2015. Project violent femmes is streaming below via BETS’ Bandcamp (the first month’s proceeds will be donated to The Center for Reproductive Rights). She is celebrating the project with an album release show at Baby’s All Right on Valentine’s Day. Read an interview with BETS below.

Dan Redding: What inspired you to cover a full Violent Femmes album?

BETS: It was really a spontaneous decision. I’m in the middle of working on my second LP. Partway through that process a few months ago, I don’t know why, but I started talking about the Violent Femmes and just getting really excited about how much I love them – especially that first album. So I started geeking out over that and just kind of realized, ‘Oh, we should take a break from the other album, and do a full covers album as quickly as possible.’ I don’t think I realized how insane that was, actually! [laughter] I always think I can do everything faster than is actually humanly possible.

Yeah. That’s probably good!

Yeah, I guess it is. Because then I get more done in the end, I guess. So it really was a pretty quick process. I decided going into it that we wouldn’t kind of nitpick it the way that obviously we’re going to on my original album – that it was more just a fun side project. It really was a passion project that was just made out of complete love and admiration for them and their first record. That’s how it all began, and it happened right away and then the decision was made, basically.

You chose to interpret the Violent Femmes album using some slower tempos and dreamy textures – and I know some of those elements are your style, but they also contrast the style of the Violent Femmes album. What inspired you to choose that particular take on the songs?

It is kind of what you’re saying – that was very intentional. I think one of the reasons I decided this was a good idea in the first place was because my voice contrasts so strongly to [Violent Femmes singer] Gordon Gano’s voice. I never considered doing a full cover record before, or even a cover song – but I always believed that good covers always had to be the opposite of the original in some way. That’s why this seemed like the perfect idea, just because I felt like, with my voice being in such opposition, we could do the music that way too – and yeah, keep it along my style of music but using their amazing songs. I didn’t want it to be at all similar to theirs. I watched so many YouTube covers of Violent Femmes songs and a lot of them are so similar, it’s kind of embarrassing. I just think it’s such a perfect record to begin with, that trying to do what Violent Femmes did is just a foolish decision because you can’t mess with perfection, you know?

Do you have a favorite cover song, from any artist?

Cat Power’s ‘Sea of Love.’ She does so many good cover songs that it’s hard to say, but I love her so much.

What are your earliest memories of Violent Femmes?

Let’s see. I grew up in the canyons of L.A., and I have three brothers. I feel like everything about my childhood and musical memories has to do with them telling me what to listen to, and what’s cool – my brothers educating me on the Violent Femmes and being like, this is what’s good. I do feel like it’s the soundtrack of my life back then. Which is why it holds such a spot in my heart. It completely takes me back there when I sing the songs.

Me too, I have memories of being a teenager and hearing that album in the car with my older cousin – fond memories.

Yeah, people have been saying to me – particularly people who were old enough to have been alive when it first came out – they’ve been saying, ‘Oh my gosh, when I hear your record, I forgot how much [Violent Femmes’ debut] was imprinted in me and how I know every word.’ I just think that’s so cool. That’s kind of the other reason why it was so fun to do – that album is from three decades ago or something crazy like that, it’s hard to believe. But it had such a strong impact on so many people.

Have you found that this project is informing your next album, or your songwriting going forward? Do you think it will?

I think it’s been educational for my next record. … We were probably halfway done with my next record, when this little side project happened – but I feel like it is definitely gonna help educate moving forward on this next record. Also, the times have changed so much since this all started – I didn’t know Donald Trump was gonna be president, I could have never imagined that this would all be happening. So the extra time that it added to the other album is also gonna educate because in a way, that changes everything, with what’s happening politically in our country.

But yeah, sonically too. Singing this Violent Femmes covers record is so much fun for me. I definitely want to make sure that on my next LP, I feel the same way. I’m like, ‘Well, it’s gotta be better than this one because this is the covers record!’ So my goal on the new record – just selfishly – is that I want it to be really fun for me to perform.

I want to follow up a little bit on the subject of President Trump. He has been so disruptive in politics, and it’s also disruptive for artists, and for me as someone who covers entertainment. How is your music or your live performances different than they were a year ago?

Because of what’s going on politically?

Yeah – for me, even the idea of entertainment seems different now because people are so focused on politics, and rightly so. It has forced me to ask questions about the fundamental nature of things that I’ve never had to ask in my life before.

I know! I feel the same way. It’s been deeply impacting me as it has everyone. I definitely have had questions about how can I go make music, or focus on rehearsing for this show at Baby’s All Right – these things that seem so trivial, in a way. I guess I’ve just reached the conclusion that it’s actually more important now than ever to do artwork and to support artists and musicians – and all types of creators, really. It’s harder now than ever to do it, and I can only imagine it’s going to get more difficult. But that’s why I actually think it’s desperately important. And I also think that giving people an outlet outside of what’s going on politically, and outside of going to protests, and calling the Senator’s office everyday, et cetera, et cetera – that’s only sustainable for so long. People need creation and music to support them through this hard time as well, so that they can keep doing all of that and keep fighting. …

Personally, I feel like I need both: I need to keep going with my artwork, but I also need to be actively fighting in whatever ways that I can, whether it’s donating to ACLU or calling politicians and telling them I’m pissed. I feel like both are an important balance for me.

You’re donating some of the proceeds from the Violent Femmes album to charity, right?

Yeah, that was actually part of this process for me. I had come back from the Women’s March in D.C. – which seems like months ago, but I think was only a week ago or something! [laughter] I felt that I can’t live this segmented life anymore. Part of me is interested in fighting against these powers that are so negative, and then part of me is like, ‘I’m an indie pop singer!’ It felt so segmented. Then I realized, ‘Oh, I’m just going to involve and incorporate my music and my activism together.’ For the first month that my album is on Bandcamp, all of the proceeds will go towards The Center for Reproductive Rights, which focuses on women’s rights. The album release show that I’m playing at Baby’s All Right on Valentine’s Day – all of the money that I make from that show will go to Planned Parenthood.

That’s great!

Yeah, I’m excited. If I had known that Trump was gonna do a Muslim ban and these horrific actions, I probably would’ve incorporated ACLU, but I’m gonna do that with my next activist movement – I’m just like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s so much to protect, and so many people that I want to support during this time.’

Once I made that decision, I felt so much better about that question that you’re asking about art – and how to keep going, or how to think that entertainment is important at a time like this. That kind of brought it all together for me.

What should fans expect of this show on Valentine’s Day? Are you doing the whole Violent Femmes cover album?

The whole album, yep! I’m so excited. We’re gonna do it top to bottom. It should be a really fun night. There’s also two other amazing bands playing: Fieldings and Gingerlys. It’s a whole thing to do for Valentine’s Day.

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