BETS: Project Violent Femmes

Brooklyn-based indie-pop artist BETS just released Project Violent Femmes, her full cover of Violent Femmes’ eponymous folk-punk debut album from 1983. Tequila & Denim had the chance to talk to BETS about the project and her upcoming Valentine’s Day show at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn.

Tequila & Denim: What inspired you to create this unique interpretation of the classic Violent Femmes album?

BETS: I was in the studio recording my next original album when the idea came about. I randomly started talking about Violent Femmes and gushing about my love for them, and within minutes, I realized that this was something that I wanted to do. It was a spontaneous decision, and I knew that it had to happen before I finished my other album.

T&D: How did you go about adapting the music to fit your own style and, in particular, your voice, which you’ve noted contrasts strongly with Violent Femmes singer Gordon Gano’s voice?

BETS: I connected to every song on the original album and then through that connection I tried reimagining the songs in my own voice and from a new perspective. It was important to me that each song fit together to make the album work as a whole piece of art. There were people who told me that this was a really bad idea career-wise, but I just had to focus on the fact that I knew in my artistic soul that I had to do it, and that was all that mattered.

T&D: What makes this album relevant for you (and for listeners) today?

BETS: There are so many upsetting things happening in our country right now, and these songs have a darkness that resonates with me. This album has been an outlet, and I hope it can be the same for listeners.

T&D: Project Violent Femmes falls between your first album Days Hours Nights and the album you’re currently working on. How does it serve as a bridge between the two?

BETS: It really does feel like a bridge between these two original records for me. In a way, I feel like it’s helped me as an artist to become clearer about my vision for my music. And it’s also been a fun break to get to sing someone else’s genius songs for a few months before releasing my new material.

T&D: Is your upcoming show at Baby’s All Right the first time that you’re performing Project Violent Femmes live?

BETS: Yes, it is! It’s very exciting. It couldn’t have been more perfect that the show is falling on Valentine’s Day, and I’m so happy that the two bands playing before me are bands that I love (Fieldings and Gingerlys). I’ve never really cared about Valentine’s Day, but I’m so into this. It’s going to be a very fun night.

T&D: Did the current political climate influence your decision to donate the first month’s proceeds from Project Violent Femmes to the Center for Reproductive Rights and all proceeds from your upcoming show to Planned Parenthood?

BETS: Definitely. I want to do everything I can do to support people who are at risk or being discriminated against during this administration. I want to be a force for good, and I want that for my artwork as well. So it feels important right now that the two are connected.

T&D: How long have you been making music in Brooklyn?

BETS: I moved back to Brooklyn from Los Angeles about three years ago. I started out on the West Coast, but I’m happy to have Brooklyn as my music home now.

T&D: What are you listening to right now? Are there any local artists that you’re particularly into?

BETS: So many things, and it’s always changing. A few this week have been Leonard Cohen, Solange, Blonde Redhead, Mitski, and Moses Sumney. And I went to an amazing show last night for a local band called Wild Arrows.

Check out the video for the first track on the album, “Blister in the Sun,” here.

Photography by Shervin Lainez.