This post is one of a series, where Fawkes Contributors anticipate Music Festival Season by tracking the hottest festivals on the East Coast: Boston Calling, Firefly Music Festival, Governor’s Ball, and Shaky Knees Fest. Gotta Catch ‘Em All!
If you played Transviolet while we were hanging out, I wouldn’t tell you to turn them off. That being said, if you asked me if I wanted to hear some Transviolet, I’d convince you to play something else. They are by no means an unpleasant band to listen to. Their sound follows a strain of indie pop that is actual pop music. Their music shares the melancholic, LA, young, beautiful, and doomed style popularized by Lana Del Rey. They’re front woman Sarah McTaggart’s voice ranges from intimately flirtatious to outwardly bombastic. Besides sounding like Del Rey, she also comments on the same subject matter- hedonistic pursuits, failing love, young good looking people who can’t find happiness.
Transviolet is a young band. Their only release is their self titled EP released last year on Epic Records. Since then, they’ve been remixed by Twin Shadow, and appear to be playing SXSW. They currently occupy a position that could set them up for a level of moderate success that could take them from the last band on the bill to maybe a mid level band. They could very well start popping up on your Pandora stations, or even your Discover Weekly on Spotify. Maybe if everything goes well, they can score a crossover hit.
I’ll probably skip them though. Listening through the first EP, I was not thrilled. Again, they weren’t unpleasant. They were just background music for me as I mentally noted clever phrases to describe them with, like that one-two punch of opening sentences. It’s not that they’re a bad band, actually quite the opposite. They have a crafted and polished sound. I’m sure on stage they will perform their songs well. The crowd will be swaying back and forth, maybe a little stoned (because that’s the only way I imagine acting in a crowd to this style of music). Everyone will be pleased.
I’d rather see a band with far less talent, or a band with far more talent. The latter seems obvious, but it is to the very point I am trying to make. I think that Transviolet is a mediocre band. They’re good, but not great. They’re a little too skilled to seem like their hearts in it. And, I get it. Of course their hearts in it; they’re musicians, artists, whatever. They seem to envision themselves as too cool. Transviolet sounds cool, which is not always a deal breaker for bands. The Strokes (who are on the opposite side of the Gov Ball Bill) exude cool. But the Strokes were cool because they didn’t seem like they gave a shit if you thought they were cool or not. The only thing they seemed to care about was their music. The music came before the image. And that’s why I’ll be skipping Transviolet. They were cool before they started making music. They have that detached aura of the popular girl in high school who breaks up with the Quarterback and starts smoking pot. It just seems like a put on.
I sound a lot harsher than I intended to be. The detached image that Transviolet projects in their music strikes me as dispassionate. I can’t imagine this band trying on stage, which is problematic. A lot of the appeal for the early shows at a festival that these small bands are getting a huge stage and to see what they will do with the venue. This is great for a lot of young bands who are able to deliver strong, emotional, and fun performances. But, these performances are often delivered with a ramshackle, nothing to lose mentality. They require the band to let their guard down, which I don’t think that Transviolet will do. There is too much at stake. The second they lose their image they lose their identity as a band, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not saying this makes Transviolet bad or worse. I just won’t be attending their performance.
By Alex Sniatkowski