UTG INTERVIEW: Violet Night Discuss ‘I Hope You’re Well’

British Columbia duo Violet Night released a four-track EP at summer’s end, titled I Hope You’re Well. Attributing influences to The National, Blink-182, Death Cab For Cutie and more, the effort offers slow and steady, genuinely heartfelt tracks that fans of any of those acts should find enjoyment in.

We had the opportunity to speak to Violet Night members Connor Pohl and TJ Rounthewaite about the project’s inception, where their musical paths began and all things I Hope You’re Well. You can read through our conversation below to get the scoop on Violet Night. You can also stream the band’s EP and view their newest music video for “Dawn.”

Let’s start off with a little bit of an intro to Violet Night. How did the two of you originally come together to work on this project and what was the process like starting out?

We became friends about six years ago, we bonded over our love for the same style of music and film, and we share a very similar sense of humor. We always talked about being in a band together but it wasn’t until last November that we finally sat down to write music with one another. The process was completely natural and I think you can hear that in the EP. We never over-complicated, or over-thought anything. For us it was really about how it felt. We wanted to create something that would reach people and inspire them the way our favorite artists have reached and inspired us.

Looking back at where your musical path began, do you remember when and why you settled on wanting to become a musician?

Connor: Growing up I always heard from my Mom in my earliest years how her brother, my uncle Danny was in bands and how cool it was being around that for her growing up. Without her always bragging about him I wouldn’t be on the path I’m on. Mom introduced me to Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, all the great classic rock acts at a very young age and I couldn’t get enough of it. I originally wanted to be a drummer, but my Dad made me take guitar lessons when I was 12, and my brother ended up playing the drums (and becoming quite incredible at them, I might add). At first I was a little apprehensive, then it grew on me and there was no looking back, I’m very thankful for it. I remember listening to bands like Blink-182 and Green Day as early as grade 5 on a portable CD player. Music is really all I’ve ever really known. I always wrote lyrics and played guitar, but singing came around about 5 years after I’d started playing guitar because I couldn’t find anyone to sing all the songs I was writing. These days I listen to a wide array of music, from Bring Me The Horizon and Slipknot, to Coldplay and Death Cab For Cutie. Although the latter are definitely big inspirations behind what we’re doing here. Ultimately I settled on wanting to do what we’re doing because it’s such a beautiful form of self expression, and when people out there are connecting with what we’re writing, it’s amazing. That’s the goal. To move people, to inspire, create and connect.

TJ: I don’t remember the age, but I remember the moment. My grandma had an old upright piano. One day I just sat down and hit one of the keys. I fell in love with the sound. In that moment I knew that I could do “this” for the rest of my life. Even if nothing ever comes from it, I’m always going to play the piano.

Little Prairie seems to be a pretty spot-on name. Is there a music scene in your area or do you have to do some traveling to find that kind of activity near you?

Yeah, for us the closest towns we can gig are an hour away, to two hours away where there is a small but growing scene.

I Hope You’re Well. Is your newest effort’s title directed at anyone in particular? Any story behind that?

You know, there is so much sentiment and honesty in this record I have a hard time listening to it in the same room as other people, because I feel like it shows a part of me I would sooner hide than completely reveal. I always like lyrics to be interpreted by the listener. I feel that way it’s a much more intimate experience. It’s about what it means to you, and not anyone else. So instead of giving it all away here I’ll leave it to the imagination.

As far the mood, sound and lyrical content on the EP, how would you describe it to someone who’s yet to give it a listen?

It’s down-tempo, indie rock. It’s dark and longing with glimmers of hope at times, and at other times it’s full of energy and passion, We tried to musically convey everything we felt while tracking this record, so it was an experience for the listener from front to back. We would go for vocal takes that had more emotion and feeling as opposed to “perfect” takes. We’ve always said this isn’t a band, it’s a feeling.

I hear a lot of dark ’80s pop like The Cure and Depeche Mode in this EP. Is there any influence from that era for you guys in your writing? Where did you draw inspiration from for this release specifically?

Going into this release there was a lot of influence coming from bands like The National and Coldplay although we’ve been compared to Depeche Mode and The Cure a lot, which is humbling! If it wasn’t for The National and Matt Berninger’s baritone vocals I don’t think I would’ve sang any baritone on the record. Originally it was all written to be sang in my higher register but when we did a scratch vocal track in the studio I sang all in baritone to save my voice for vocal tracking days. The result had everyone going, “Connor, I’m really feeling that baritone there. It feels great, I’ve got chills,” and so we ran with it. I’m naturally a baritone singer so it makes sense. I think my love for Blink-182 to present day must have me writing somewhat like Mark Hoppus, who is the world’s biggest Cure fan. So any Cure influence that’s being heard, I almost guarantee that’s where it’s coming from. Third generation! [laughs]

The album’s artwork, inside and out—what can you tell me about those images, where they were taken and who’s in them?

Those photos were taken in Banff and Jasper, Alberta. We feel they really represent the sound of our record visually. Something about the quiet, calm and cold of Canadian winters just really captures what we were looking for. Who’s in the photos shall remain a mystery, and maybe someday become a tale of folklore or urban legend.

This EP’s been out for over a couple months now. Where has your focus been since its release? Any new material in the works?

Our focus since its release has been to get it to the ears of as many people as possible. It seems to us when people give it a chance they almost always enjoy what they’re hearing. It’s been a very reassuring, happy time to be the two of us. We’re constantly writing and have a lot of new material in the works between us, it’s all sounding incredible and we’re excited to share it with everyone. We hope to record more this winter and release our debut full-length album sometime next year. We will be working again with Randor Lin at Turnkey Studios—he’s an incredible producer and we’re proud to have such a brilliant mind behind us.

Are either of you currently involved with other projects or is Violet Night your main focus?

Connor sings and plays guitar in the alt-rock trio City Light Vigil, whose full-length album Under A Bright Shining Light comes out in December. CLV worked with the same team of amazing producers and engineers behind the Violet Night EP.

Do you have any touring plans lined up for the foreseeable future?

Currently we do not as we’re waiting before our full-length album is completed before we hit the road, although we will play gigs here and there in the coming months; we’re focused on writing the best songs of our lives right now.

What are your goals or expectations for this band? Where do you hope to see VN end up?

The goal is to someday live off of doing what we love to do, and this is it. We’ll keep it honest and hope for the best.

Brian Leak
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