The Violet Kind discusses EP ‘OXTR’ and why the same rhythm was used in every song

The Violet Kind - pictured L to R: Katya Mansell, Kyle Grieve, and Liam Duffy
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The Violet Kind is a trio out of Scotland and is made up of bandmates Katya Mansell (guitar), Liam Duffy (bass), and Kyle Grieve (drums). Drawing on influences from Paramore and Death Cab for Cutie, their music is clever and has catchy melodies. Their new EP titled OXTR speaks of the sensitive topic of sexual violence. The opening track “Speakeasy,” is a strong emotional song with a message of the reality of the rape culture. It is heavy in subject and is a standout among today’s music.

The Violet Kind – pictured L to R: Katya Mansell, Kyle Grieve, and Liam Duffy

How did the three of you meet and form the band?

The Violet Kind:  We’re all close friends of friends who became best friends in our own right! Initially, Katya and Duffy met at a paintballing birthday party! About a year later, we had a show coming up at the o2 ABC in Glasgow and needed a drummer, and Katya ran into Kyle (who just so happened to be a drummer) at a house party! That was a pretty fun first gig together! So many parties – we look so fun but we’re actually really boring!

Who and what inspired you when you were growing up? Who and what inspires you now?

Katya:  Seeing female musicians when I was growing up was really powerful because I didn’t even realise that it wasn’t considered the norm. There was nothing strange to me about picking up a guitar or playing drums just because I’m a girl. Brody Dalle was on Kerrang! TV and I just thought she was (and still is) the coolest! Courtney Love, Dolores O’Riordan and all these ladies who were f*****g killing it made me believe that I could, too. I still remember my twin brother introducing me to Paramore when they released All We Know is Falling and being totally captivated by this incredible voice and their heartfelt songs (the emo in me still lives!). Nowadays, I’m influenced by indie rock bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, alt-J, Foals, Stereo Honey, and Now, Now. I love creating that kind of pretty soundscape you hear from these bands and using nice chord inversions and interesting rhythms to develop that. I also take a lot of inspiration for the lyrics from writers such as Patti Smith and Rupi Kaur – I love their honesty and ability to make something pretty out of pain, something which they both model so eloquently.

Kyle:  Then: Musically, back then it was weird stuff. Mainly things like Primus, Aphex twin or The Residents to name a few of my favourites. Initially, it was rhythm, but most of all I love music from various PC/console games that I used to play while I was growing up. I always loved how music could affect an atmosphere or hit deep within people’s feelings and create memories and change moods – that was something I wanted to do. My friend and classical guitarist Ben Malinowski was also a major influence in how I make music today. Now: Vulfpeck. And a lot of K-pop/J-pop it seems. I could go on forever, to be honest. Also, Dave Grohl is a king.

Liam:  What has inspired me is very different to what the band sounds like. I think we all have different tastes and inspirations but also a lot of common ground which contributes to making our sound unique. The bands which influenced me then and now both vary a lot but are very similar! It started with indie rock bands in the ilk of the Arctic Monkeys, who were my first gig back in the day at the Glasgow Barrowlands! I headed in a very different direction and took a big liking to early metal after finding the likes of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and thrash metallers Metallica. I then started listening to The Red Hot Chili Peppers (maybe a bit late to the party!) but they quickly became my favourite band! Loving the eccentricity of Funk and the power of Metal and the blending of genres, in general, steered me onto my love of bands like Faith No More and Slipknot – not too far away from Kyle’s early Primus days! Nowadays, I have taken a more symphonic turn enjoying Nightwish and Epica. I love Celtic music and Nightwish’s Symphonic Metal with Celtic elements really is something special, especially live!

What kind of instruments do you play?

Liam:  I play mainly Jazz basses. My first bass was a candy apple red Deluxe Active Jazz Bass with active pickups, which is still my favourite bass to date! I definitely think there is something in the way you mold you’re playing to your first instrument. Since then I’ve never strayed too far away from them.

Katya:  Fender, Fender, Fender! I actually always thought I’d go for a Paul Reed Smith when the time came to get my first decent guitar but when the time came, I lined up three Fenders and picked the Thinline 69 and I’ve never looked back! I agree with Liam – there’s something really special about your first instrument! I’ve also got a really pretty Faith acoustic guitar for those softer moments!

Kyle:  At the moment I’m only really playing drums live. They’re made by Pearl. It’s that Joey Jordison limited edition kit with that crazy loud snare. I did only get it ’cause it was massive and cheap at the time. All my cymbals are un-marked and were given to me from my dad when he replaced his. After that its just anything – as long as it makes a sound and its cool to me, its fine.

The new EP, OXTR, has a very strong concept. Can you tell us about it?

You know what – when I started writing OXTR, it didn’t feel like a concept people would even be willing to talk about. It’s really cool to see how far we have come in such a short space of time to be up for addressing these issues, so thanks for asking the questions! The overall theme deals with sexual violence. It was named OXTR because that’s the chemical structure for oxytocin; the scientific reason as to why females, in particular, respond to a perpetrator by fight, flight or freeze. Oxytocin is known as the love hormone though so that was used as a disguise. I wanted to hide certain themes throughout the EP to make it more accessible, but also to show that what is going on is sometimes so hidden from us that when we do hear about it, society immediately thinks it must be a lie. Each song deals with a specific issue; “Speakeasy” exposes the perpetrator for the wrong they have done, whilst “Good Behaviour” highlights the absurdity of blaming the victim. “Coffee and Contemplation” praises the care which exists for survivors from support workers at organizations such as Rape Crisis Scotland, and “Science” acknowledges the evidence which proves why so many women do not ‘put up a fight’, encouraging survivors to take the time they need to heal. The same rhythm was used in every song – either performed by the rhythm section, sung in the melody or played on the guitar. The lyrics are sometimes swapped around and certain ideas are linked between songs. I also took inspiration from the way John Williams writes motifs in his film scores, using ascending riffs to represent the heroes and descending riffs to represent the villains. Yeah, it was certainly a fun creative process despite the heavy subject matter and we’re so glad to be able to finally share something which feels so empowering.

How did the concept of the EP come about?

I actually started writing the EP around about the time that Brock Turner was in the news in 2016, serving just three months of a six-month sentence for a sexual assault. I wanted to highlight how f*****g ridiculous it is that even in cases where there is enough evidence, people are still getting away with committing heinous crimes. I wanted to change the way society talks about the ones who have experienced sexual violence; to actually think about the way the trauma will affect them more than the way an accusation will ‘follow someone’. That’s where the concept grew from – blaming the ones who are truly at fault and giving a voice back to the survivor.

In present-day society, what do you think can be changed? How do you think we can change?

I think there are a lot of positive changes happening and I feel really proud of the way my generation stands up for such important issues. There’s just this tangible feeling that people are sick to death of the way survivors are treated and I’m encouraged to see the way conversations have opened up, especially since the #MeToo campaign. I think people are ready for their voices to be heard, and now more and more people are willing to listen. I absolutely think the way society changes is because individuals change – they reflect on what’s going on in the world and do something about it. A lot of it comes down to education work is being done to ensure conversations about the likes of consent are happening in schools and universities, which is great. I’d love to see the attitudes of the emergency services continue to change with continued trauma-informed training so that those working directly with survivors understand and act accordingly to the range of responses that someone can experience after a traumatic event. Something also needs to happen with the law to help survivors get the justice they deserve. Currently, it is so difficult to actually convict a perpetrator that often the process of going through the judicial system is just as traumatic as the crime itself. So yeah – better attitudes, more education, and an effective criminal justice system – just a little bit of change then!

What was the recording of this EP like, considering the heavy subject matter?

The part that was really difficult to record was the interlude between “Speakeasy” and “Good Behaviour.” For that section, I did a bunch of research on cases where people were using language which seemed to question the victim’s role in the crime instead of addressing the perpetrator’s actions. I gathered and rewrote victim blaming statements and then took my recording equipment all over town to coffee shops, colleges and my friend’s houses in order to record people saying them. I recorded a whole range of different languages too, addressing the fact that this is a worldwide problem. After recording several takes for each phrase, I picked out my favourites, edited them and then arranged them so that it would create this really intense build up. I’m not going to lie – there were tears occasionally, but it felt so important to make a statement about the weight of all those ‘little comments’ which actually have such a detrimental effect on those who have experienced sexual violence.

The recording process of the songs was amazing though! We worked with Rod Jones (Idlewild, The Birthday Suit) and just loved his approach to the whole thing. Because it’s a concept EP, all the parts were pretty much there so it was a matter of finding creative ways to get the songs down and adding a few details. I had spent months pouring myself into the writing process before bringing it to the band to write their parts and rehearse, and it felt really cathartic to finally record something we were all so proud of. Yeah, it was really special.

What is next for the band?

Loads of good things! We’re playing a lot of shows, organizing a tour, recording and releasing more music! We’re really looking forward to getting back into the drawing room with some new song ideas, too!

What advice would you give to up-and-coming artists/musicians?

Kyle:  I don’t know what to say. I feel most other musicians have it better sorted out than me. When I was at college, my Bass and theory tutor Al James had a poster in his little bass room. It was a poster of the piece “Encouraging Words” by Zen Master Guishan. After reading it I was changed. I was practicing every day for ridiculous hours. Check it out on the internet if you have a second. Also gig as much as possible.

Liam:  I would say definitely first and foremost love what you do and make sure you enjoy playing. After practicing the same piece for the 10th time it might not be so appealing, so make sure you keep it fresh! Divulge in a variety of different musical forms and genres. The joy you get from discovering a different style is great and it really advances your playing and understanding of music and in turn, can help mould your own style. Practicing and getting familiar with recording techniques is a great skill to have and can be the first step to getting your music out there.

Katya:  I think it is so important to stay true to yourself. Take time to develop your sound and write music that you love! One piece of advice that Newton Faulkner shared at a workshop was “write what you need to hear.” That always stuck with me because when you write honest lyrics, people connect with them. There will always be people out there who aren’t into the stuff you write, and there will be people who love it. What matters most is creating music that you’re happy with! Once you have something you’re proud of, get it out there. Set goals and work hard to achieve them. Play loads of shows, meet lots of people and be good to the people you’re working with! If you believe in what you’re doing, the right opportunities tend to turn up!

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