woman on stage performing with purple background

Meet Your New Favorite Band: Transviolet

“Just press play.” These were the words printed on the covers of anonymous cassette tapes that were mysteriously sent out to members of a label. The cassette tapes included a recording of “Girls Your Age,” which helped the song garner over 20 million plays. This was the first time the band Transviolet found themselves talked about on the news as the tactic caught the attention of almost everyone. Transviolet is an alternative pop band that began producing music in 2015 and caught the attention of celebrities such as Harry Styles and Katy Perry. The band consists of Sarah McTaggart, Judah McCarthy, Michael Panek and Jon Garcia. Their music follows an alternative style blended perfectly with rock and pop to create their own style of music, with Sarah’s unique vocals bringing a sense of something new. 

Since 2015, Transviolet has released three EPs, numerous singles and their debut album, Born to Rule, on January 16, 2020. A song by them that must be listened to is called “Money Money.” The song is a satirical take on the current problems in the country surrounding money, politics and greed as Sarah sarcastically sings, “What’s a little blood on a dollar, it’s still money, money.” The lyrics are catchy and something to add to your "Take Over the World" playlist.

Since my interview with them, Transviolet has released a remix of their song "Don't Say You Love Me" featuring The Griswolds. It's a dreamy remix that takes you to a different place in your mind. The remix is now available to listen to on all music platforms.

In most cases, the band would be together for an interview, but due to the current situation surrounding COVID-19, they have agreed to do an interview with me via Zoom as they quarantine safely in California. 

Her Campus at UCF: For those who haven’t heard of Transviolet yet, can you tell us who Transviolet is and what you’re all about?

Sarah McTaggart: I think Transviolet is about making music that we love and yeah, for me, Transviolet is about self-expression and telling authentic stories. And creating a space where people can escape to.

HCUCF: What first got you guys into music?

SM: Being a loser (laughs).

Judah McCarthy: It’s true though. No little kid starts heavily painting or writing lyrics because everything is great, right? It’s escapism, it’s self-soothing.

SM: You’re not writing poems about your life because you’re the homecoming queen.

JM: Right, you never got voted class president and thought “This needs a poem.”

HCUCF: Who inspired you to make music?

SM: Yeah Yeah Yeahs was a big inspiration for me. And, like, Hayley Williams, because I loved Paramore growing up. Beyonce (laughs) and Destiny’s Child. Those were the kind of bands and projects I was really into and liked everything about. Radiohead, Nirvana — I started getting into more indie stuff as I got older. Once I saw that there was a landscape of music outside of what was played on the radio, that’s what started interesting me because I was like, “Oh, woah! There are so many people making music. It’s not just the stuff on the radio or super popular, there are people saying weird stuff all over the place. I could be one of those people saying weird stuff.”

Michael Panek: I guess the idea of making noises just seemed kind of fun and inspiring. My brother brought home a guitar one day and I was like, “Oh, that’s cool! He can play that, that probably means that I can play that too.” For me, the most inspiring thing was feeling whatever you want to call that energy of two people when they’re playing music together in a room. I was like “Oh, what’s this?” That was very inspiring and I knew I wanted to keep doing this.

SM: Collaborating and cowriting is unlike anything else, because you’re kind of using each other as a mirror and figuring out how to pull things out of yourself that reflects in the other person. They’re trying to do the same for you and it’s just very vulnerable.

JM: It’s like being seen.

HCUCF​: How would you describe the music you typically create?

SM: I mean, I guess it’s always hard to put a label on your own music because, for me, it’s my stories, my ideas, my experiences, or things I want to be. Like writing "Undo." When I’m there in the chorus singing “I’m not the kind of girl that you undo,” at the time, that was a lie. I very much felt like I was being unraveled and undone, but in writing that song I created this space or possibility to step into this strong person, and it becomes a part of you. For me, they’re like self-fulfilling prophecies almost, or diaries. I’m creating a history of who I was and a wishlist of who I want to be, I guess.

HCUCF: I really like what you said about “self-fulfilling prophecies,” can you elaborate a bit?

SM: Yeah, I really believe that through music you can create these characters and realities that maybe haven’t come to be yet, but you can step into them through the magic that is music and fabrication. You have these ideas and they’re like little electrodes, and then suddenly it becomes a reality while standing in a room full of people that were inspired by those same ideas.

HCUCF: What is your creative process like?

JM: All of our songs started in different places. At least for me, when writing lyrics, I used to wait for inspiration and let a song come to me when I was a younger musician. Through Transviolet and going to writing sessions, I turned into practice rather than waiting for lightning to strike. It’s more so about having that mindset, like, “Where’s the song in front of you today?” There’s always a song right in front of you, and [it's about] always being ready for it and trying to translate the world around you. And with Transviolet, a lot of times one person has an idea and it’s sent along through ideas, and someone adds to it, and it either becomes a song or doesn’t. But it’s just always written.

SM: Yeah. I guess for me, it comes from the world around me. It comes from things that have happened to me, what I want to happen and fiction. Now I feel like it’s looser, because I like writing pointedly about things that have happened to me but I also like writing these fictional worlds.

HCUCF: What would you be doing right now if it wasn’t for music?

MP: A math genius janitor (laughs).

SM: I would probably be a director. I really enjoy storytelling and it’s not much of a departure from writing songs, it’s just in a different way. Whenever we shoot music videos and I get to direct, I really enjoy it, so I probably would do that.

JM: I have no idea. I probably would have changed careers many times and moved to ten different places. Recently, I’ve been thinking, “Maybe I can be a therapist.” I can listen to people. Dr. J...DJ, Dr. J.

MP: What does DJ stand for?

JM: Doctor Judah, Doctor Judah (laughs).

HCUCF: Who would you like to collaborate with the most?

SM: Recently I’ve had my sights set on a couple of projects. I’d really love to be featured on a Flume track or Louis the Child.

HCUCF​: What is one message you would give to your fans?

SM: You are enough.

MP: Yeah, that’s a good message. To continue on that message, say it to yourself in the mirror. It’s a little scary, I’ll admit, but it’s good to do.

HCUCF: How does it feel to be without a label?

SM: Great. Yeah, we’re officially label-free as of two weeks ago and we signed the final papers. I feel a thousand pounds lighter and it feels really good to have complete creative control. It feels really good to be independent.

At this point, Jon Garcia finally joins the interview after some technical difficulties, and it's as though the final piece of the band is put in place. The levels of energy go through the roof and it's interesting to watch them interact.

HCUCF: Now that Jon's here...what is your favorite song to perform live?

JM: Right now, it’s "Born to Rule" and "Long Shot."

MP: Yeah, that’s fun. "Long Shot" is good too.

JM: "Pretty Head," too. It’s been the last song of our setlist for a while because it’s obnoxiously loud.

SM: "Pretty Head" is one of my favorites to play live because I can let loose and go crazy.

Jon Garcia: My favorite song to perform would probably be "Easy on Me," that's the first one that comes to mind.

HCUCF: Which famous musicians do you admire?

JG: Rivers Cuomo. I recently started listening to Wheezer again.

SM: Recently, I’ve really been into Doja Cat, FKA twigs, Lykke Li, Aurora and Karen O (from Yeah Yeah Yeahs).

MP: Jacob Collier.

JM: James Blake. And also, Bon Iver.

HCUCF: In October 2018, you performed live on The Late Late Show with James Corden and it was an amazing performance. How was that experience? How soon can we see you perform on television again?

JG: I had a dream we actually did one last night.

SM: That experience was really cool. It was one of our first experiences on television and it was the first time I felt comfortable on television. It’s a surreal experience because you’re performing usually very early in the morning in a studio that’s either empty or just a couple hundred people that are sitting down. It’s not like performing to an audience. And there’s a camera in your face and you know it’s here forever. Whereas [with] performing a show on tour, it’s like a Mandela experience because you perform, and then it’s not around forever.

MP: Television studios are very cold.

HCUCF: What is the best advice you have ever been given?

SM: Don't be afraid to say "I can't" or "I won't."

JG: Create boundaries and don't overdo it.

MP: Express how you feel, no matter if you feel like it makes you weak.

JM: Shut up. It made me start paying attention more.

HCUCF: I've had so much fun sitting down and talking with you four about your life as a band and just getting to know you. Sadly, we only have a few more questions, such as how did you put together the Apocalypse Summer Show?

SM: Yeah, I think we would do another show like it. It was something that, when the idea was presented to us, I was very skeptical. The idea of asking people to pay for a live stream is just one that I wasn't used to and I wasn't sure people would be willing to pay for a live stream. But we were pleasantly surprised and it was a lot of fun. We did it through Veeps and I really liked that 100% of the ticket sales went to us.

HCUCF: Do you think you would do another concert like this one?

SM: Yeah, I think so. Yeah.

HCUCF: What are you working on now?

SM: Right now, we're working on the album. We have a song that's pretty much finished now, it'll probably come out at the end of October. We have a collaboration with Reo Cragun (who they previously collaborated with on their single, "Kaleidoscopes") that we're super excited about, I love Reo. We're also working on a music video for our song "Freak Like Me," that we'll be shooting by the end of this month. A lot of fun stuff in the works.

HCUCF: Do you have a theme for the next album?

SM: I think [that with] the theme for this album, we really set this intention to re-energize. I think that right now, at least for me and a lot of people I talk to, everyone is just very exhausted with everything that's been happening in the world lately. We're just being traumatized and traumatized all over again. You wake up and you see the news and it's disheartening. If I'm going to make music and I'm going to make art, I think the most important purpose I can serve right now is to re-energize people. I think when you make music that's happy and an escape, they can come to that music and recharge, then go back into the world and fight for what's right. That's what I hope to achieve with this new body of work; creating a space in this cultural desert where people can come together and have a place to escape and feel all their feelings, and then get back out there to be part of the revolution. Because we're in it, this is it!

JG: Yeah, I agree with everything Sarah said (laughs). We're excited to release new music and keep pushing what we're capable of doing.

HCUCF: My last question for you four is: what are your goals for Transviolet?

SM: My intention is to re-energize and to feel the revolution. For Transviolet, I want to bring joy, fun, absurdity, color, and I want to inspire people.

MP: We had a little band meeting the other day and we all agreed that we want to be more intentional and focused on where we're headed and what we do.

SM: And on our impact on the world. As we grow and as we get bigger and there are more people listening; we have 400,000 people listening monthly to us on Spotify. It's easy as an artist to get caught up and want billions of followers/listeners. We need to be mindful of how we're impacting that community, especially right now. I don't want to just be throwing my consciousness around the world without intention, I think that's unwise to do right now. Going into this next body of work, we're thinking about how we want to affect the world and the energy we're trying to spread.

JG: Yeah, and people need inspiration right now, too. The music can do everything both Sarah and Mike just said, but also from another perspective, it can be inspiring by just the fact that we created that music and it wasn't easy. The monthly listeners on Spotify weren't created from black magic or something, there was just a lot of work from a lot of people. Also, talking about that kind of stuff, we can talk together as a band on how the true nature of being a human being on earth right now can be messy. That's for all of us, every single one of us.

As the interview comes to an end, I sit there appreciating the band more than I had in the past as they spoke with an eagerness for the future. It's easy to see that they're bringing a fresh new wave of artistry to the industry, one song at a time.

In the interview, Sarah also thanks her fans: "A huge thanks to all of our patrons on Patreon who have helped us to be able to do these kinds of things. Like, make music videos. it's not free, so it's nice to be able to make it in the way that we want to make it and collaborate with people that we want to collaborate with, and that's all thanks to our supporters."

If you want to keep up with the band, be sure to follow them on social media!

Instagram: @transviolet

Twitter: @TRANSVIOLETBAND