An Interview with Sarah McTaggart of Transviolet

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In life, it’s important to operate with integrity and with deliberate intent. As an artist, the capitalist society we live in can crush you. The same can be said for us as human beings. Unfortunately, the world we live in generally has very little regard for us as people. Instead, its usually only about what we can offer, and when that well dries up- you’re kicked to the curb. The alphas of the world will take what they can, and leave us for dead. With all this being said, it’s important to persevere, and continue to operate by your own moral code. Call it protecting oneself. Sarah McTaggert and her band Transviolet know all too well how easy it is to be swallowed up by the machine, but thankfully- they kicked back, and broke out on their own. Stronger than ever, and operating with true artistic intention, they’re on the precipice of releasing their debut full length album, Born To Rule. The title says it all. Transviolet are not a band who will be absorbed into the never-ending funnel of social media, politics and hate that spew from the bullshit spigot. No, Transviolet will and are succeeding on their own accord, and on their own terms. Cheers to them. If you would like to learn more about Transviolet, head over to their website here. If you dig what they do, consider supporting the band through Patreon here, because if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Spotify doesn’t pay. For a band that righteously kicked back at capitalism and general corporate oppression, I can dig it. Shop local and support the indies that you love. They need you now more than ever. Cheers.

Andrew:
Sarah, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here. It’s been some year, hasn’t it? What have you been doing to keep your mind off the ever-raging dumpster fire?

Sarah:
Hahaha thanks for having me. I’ve been writing a lot. We have about two albums worth of new songs to sort through and finish, so that’s been a really nice distraction from everything. I’ve also picked up rollerblading and roller skating which I’m still shockingly bad at, but it’s fun to be a beginner at something. This year has been really challenging, and full of the lowest lows for me, but I’ve learned a lot about who I am- and one thing I’m working on, a lesson I’ve learned through trying (and failing) to roller skate, is that I can be really hard on myself for not understanding/picking something up immediately, and that can cause me to miss out on the joy of learning something new. 

Andrew:
Tell us a bit about your backstory? How did you get into music?

Sarah:
I moved around a lot as an adolescent, so I didn’t have many constants in my life. Music was the only thing that I could carry with me from place to place, and it kept me grounded. It wasn’t long before I started writing songs of my own. I picked up a guitar when I was 15, and started playing open mic nights as soon as I could get into the bars. I fell in love with writing my own songs, and the rush of performing them. At 17, I was in art school in San Diego, planning on becoming an animation artist, but music took over my life. I dropped out, and started putting my music online- really anywhere I could. Eventually, Mikepan (my band mate) found a page I’d put up somewhere and asked me if I’d wanna write/sing over a track he’d made. I did, and we’ve been making music together ever since. 

Andrew:
As an artist, who are some of your earliest influences? As you’ve evolved musically, how have those influences changed?

Sarah:
I grew up in a very conservative household, so my exposure to “secular” music was very limited as a child. For some reason (I think because my mother was the epitome of a “California girl”), Beach Boys was an exception, so that was a big influence. Despite my parents’ best efforts to shelter me, songs like “Jolene” by Dolly Parton and “No Scrubs” by TLC eventually found their way into my headphones and into my heart, and I was thoroughly obsessed. My love for Pop music was ignited. Then came Indie music. I remember the first time I heard it. A boy I liked made me a mixed CD (LOL remember those!?) of all these songs I’d never heard of, but immediately fell in love with. It had stuff like Bright Eyes, The Postal Service, Broken Social Scene, Modest Mouse, The Format, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs on it. It really inspired me. I loved how raw and loud and honest they sounded. My cousins were really into Pop Punk/Rock like Blink 182, Green Day, and Weezer, so I got really into that too. Once I went off to college, my exposure to music exploded. My roommate introduced me to Radiohead, Passion Pit, Nirvana, and The Beatles, and in some ways I’m glad that was the first time I’d heard them. I was a young adult, hearing songs like “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Lithium” for the first time. There was something really perfect about that. I think songs find you when you need them the most. When I write music now, I’m drawing on all those influences, plus so many incredible artists I’m inspired by now. I don’t limit myself to any specific genre- I love stuff from Tame Impala, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, SZA, Beyonce, Meg Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, K.Flay, Alt G, Grimes….there’s not much I don’t like/don’t find inspiration from nowadays. 

Music Mondays: Sarah Of Transviolet – Valfré

Andrew:
Tell us the story of Transviolet. How did the group come together?

Sarah:
The short story is we met online. The long story is I catfished the band kind of (not on purpose). I was living in the Cayman Islands at the time, but had plans (but no means) to move to San Diego. So, on a musician networking site, I said I was in San Diego. Mikepan, who actually was in San Diego, found my page and wanted to work together. I came clean, and we laughed it off (being that I was over 3,000 miles away from San Diego), and started making music remotely- sending files back and forth via email. We wrote six songs that way, and released it under the project name “Noise Floor.” I still like those songs. I’ve been putting them up on our Patreon for people to enjoy. 

Andrew:
You’ve released three EP’s so far, right? Transviolet, Kaleidoscopes and Valley. Your debut full length album was released this year and it’s called Born To Rule. How do you feel you’ve progressed as a group since your first released in 2015?

Sarah:
I feel like we’ve really learned to trust ourselves. We were fortunate, or unfortunate (depending on what day you ask me) enough, to be picked up by a label pretty quickly after we put out that Noise Floor EP. It was a whirlwind. Suddenly, we had so many people wanting to be involved, and give their two cents. When I look back, I’m really proud of younger me for standing up for myself. Even with really powerful people casting doubt on my instincts, I managed to keep my integrity intact. I knew who I was and what I wanted to say, and I didn’t let anyone sway me. I do wish I had been a little more tactful at times, and looking back, I understand everyone was just trying to do what they felt would help us reach success, but at the time, it felt very personal, and I’d often get very passionate and emotional. Then again, it’s still really weird to me that people would sign us, saying they wouldn’t want to change anything, and then try and change everything before the ink even dried. I’m still really grateful for all the experiences it afforded us. I mean, we got to play at huge festivals like Reading and Leeds in the UK, and open for incredibly talented artists like Twenty One Pilots, Miky Ekko, Joywave and Dua Lipa. With that being said, I’m really enjoying being independent and having complete control over our music and our business. 

Andrew:
Tell us more about Born To Rule. What was the experience of recording your debut like? What was the inspiration?

Sarah:
We’d been dropped from our second label, but we were still in this weird contract where we weren’t quite independent either. We were very much in limbo. I needed to will myself back into power, back into control. I got to the point where I just didn’t give a fuck what a piece of paper said. I was going to liberate myself. No one was going to tell me what to do. When I listen back to those songs now, I can hear that very clearly. I was just muscling through all the bullshit we were wrapped up in. Despite all the nonsense, we got to work with some really incredible co-writers and producers, and it’s my favorite body of work we’ve released to date. It was all just recorded in our home studios, and in the studios of the producers we worked with. The title song, “Born To Rule,” was written with one of my favorite people, Alex Reid. We have such a long history together (we also wrote “Girls Your Age,” “New Bohemia,” “Night Visons,” and sooooo many more together). We also wrote “All My Sins,” “Money Money,” “Rituals” and “One For The Angels” together. 

Katy Perry and Harry Styles love the band Transviolet -- here's what you  should know about them - AOL Entertainment

Andrew:
Where can we get your new album and what formats will be it be released on?

Sarah:
It’ll be up on all the major dsps. if you want to hear songs before they are out, we’ll put stuff up on Patreon earlier. Thinking we’ll finally put something on vinyl this time around too. 

Andrew:
Lyrically, what themes do you most often touch upon?

Sarah:
Resilience is one that comes to the surface again and again. I’ve had an extraordinary, but often very hard life, and there were many times I thought I wouldn’t survive, but I did. So many songs have come out of those times I thought it was all over. Coming of age is another one- that period of time was both so exciting and traumatic; it’s left me with so many scars to heal and stories to tell. Empowerment is a big one, especially on Born To Rule. Love and heartbreak is always a throughline, as it is in life.

Andrew:
Let’s switch gears a bit now. Tell me your thoughts on the current state of the music scene these days? What’s it like out there for an indie artist?

Sarah:
It’s a double edged sword. On one hand, you have the ability, more so than ever before, to learn how to make music, to create in your bedroom, and to put out music without anyone or anything getting in your way. There is so much access, and that’s really cool. On the flip side, we’ve devalued music. You’d throw up if you saw what we get paid on Spotify for hundreds of thousands of streams, yet, I can’t deny how useful it is to get our songs out to new people. At the end of the day, I think the changes are good, but you just have to get creative with how you monetize your music. You can’t solely depend on album sales or streams. You have to learn to supplement your income in other ways. We’ve found the direct support from our fans on platforms like Patreon, really helpful. 

Andrew:
There are a lot of artists out there whom are fantastic, but get stuck in the underground, while others go on to great success. What is it about our culture that causes this to happen? Do think the general public is truly listening?

Sarah:
That’s a tough question. the short answer is- it’s complicated, and the answer is different for each artist. I can speak to our experience and say, in retrospect, there were some choices we made while on a major label that I now believe kept us from going on to “great success.” Specifically, at one point, the label was really into a song written by an outside production duo. They were a really big deal, and the label was really excited about the song, and thought it would be a huge hit. The song didn’t really resonate with me, and I didn’t want to sing something I didn’t write, especially if I didn’t even like it. To make things weirder and more complicated, we had just sent our label a song we were all really stoked on, and the head of the label at the time loved it and wanted to take it to radio, but our manager at the time didn’t like it. Our manager was pushing us to cut the song by the production duo while secretly meeting with the head of the label to tell him he didn’t think the song we sent was a hit. We ended up finding out there were some weird politics at play. It all got really messy, and ended with us firing our manager and ultimately leaving the label. Looking back, should we have just cut the song the label and our manager was excited about? Maybe, I don’t know. It definitely would have made a lot of people on our team excited and happy, but it’s hard to say where that would have led us. Long story short, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that really has nothing to do with the meritocracy of a song or the artist. Sometimes stars align, and everyone gets on the same page and big things can happen. For that superstardom, radio-hit-kind-of-success, I think you need everyone to be on board at the same time, and that just doesn’t happen. However, I still believe a great song can find its own way out to the world, and sometimes it just takes a little longer if you don’t have a huge label behind you. I think when a great song finally makes its way to people’s ears, people will love and support good music no matter where they found it or how much clout an artist has. 

Andrew:
In the world we live in today, we are more or less dominated by capitalism and the never-ending barrage of social media. How has this effected music as an artform? Is an artist’s ability to get their music out there hindered by all this, or helped?

Sarah:
Capitalism depends on exploitation to survive and grow, and the music industry isn’t immune to that. People will try to exploit artists, that’s just a function of living in a capitalist society. It’s easy to exploit us because artists have to make art- most of us, even if there was no way to make money from it. It’s like breathing-we have to do it to survive emotionally. Predatory people see this and see an opportunity to exploit, because what artist doesn’t want their work to be heard by more people, or to have funding behind their projects? I have mixed feelings about social media. On one hand, it’s an incredible tool to connect with your fans and other artists (in fact, in the last 2 days, I’ve collabed with 3 artists I admire, all of whom, I reached out to via social media). On the other hand, it’s addictive, and you can get lost in being an influencer versus being an artist. There’s only so many hours in a day, and it’s easy to get sucked into the scroll. I made a conscious decision to spend less time on all platforms, because I felt it was affecting my mental health and impeding my creative process. 

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Taps? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Sarah:
I’m all digital. I have a dream of being into vinyl, but I live a pretty minimalistic lifestyle and the idea of having a bunch of records cluttering my space gives me anxiety. I see why people like it though. The big artwork is really beautiful, and it’s a really tactile listening experience. Maybe one day I’ll have a record collection when I live in a big spaceship. 

Transviolet Premieres New Song “LA Love” on The FADER - pm studio world  wide music news

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Sarah;
An Awesome Wave by Alt J found me at a time I really needed it. I love how unique and intricate it is. I’ve always thought I had kind of a weird voice. I don’t really sound like anyone, and I can’t sing like any Pop singers I like. Hearing the vocals on that album inspired me to lean into my weird and not concern myself with trying to sound like anyone else. The songwriting on Plans by Death Cab For Cutie taught me how powerful vulnerability can be. I’ve carried that with me. Visions And Art Angels by Grimes has been something very empowering to me as well. Really anything by Grimes; I’m obsessed with her in a sort of unhealthy way recently. I love that she just does her thing without giving a fuck about anyone. That’s a very inspiring energy to me. 

Andrew:
Once COVID-19 is finished with us, what’s next for both you and the band?

Sarah:
We really miss touring. That’s definitely at the top of the list. We felt pretty bummed out about what happened with Spacetour, having to cut it short by 5 shows. Excited to get back out there and sweat and sing and dance with our fans once this all clears up. 

Andrew:
Last question. In a world that’s been so confined by the constraints of capitalism, big business and the alienation caused due to the internet age, how do artists find their footing these days? What advice would you have for younger artists?

Sarah:
Go outside. Be in nature and soak up all that richness and beauty there. Be present for your life. You can’t be inspired if you are absent in your own experiences. Disconnect from screens. Spend time alone, and do something creative everyday- even if it’s just doodling or experimenting with a recipe, keep the creative juices flowing. Spend time with your chosen family and communities, let them support you when you need it. Be intentional with your work- what are you trying to say? What impact are you trying to have? Think big, but work small. When I say that, I mean – have big goals, but take small steps, and foster every connection with people that are on your wavelength along the way- your fans, your collaborators, your team. For instance, we have about 350K monthly listeners on Spotify, and about 37 patrons on Patreon- and we actually earn more on Patreon. Don’t forget the human element in what you are doing; you don’t need billions of streams to be successful. A small group of really passionate fans can be just as supportive. 

Watch: Gorgeously Surreal New Transviolet Video for 'The Hamptons' |  BlackBook

Interested in learning more about the music of Transviolet? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

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