Interview: Violette’s Mix of Escapism and Intimacy

Violette © 2021
Violette © 2021
In her sophomore EP, ‘In Her Beauty Lies My Death and My Life’, Violette balances escapism and vulnerability as she steps into independence.
‘In Her Beauty Lies My Death and My’ – Violette




Poetry is the best place to hide your darkest secrets. I can hand them right over to you and you might never actually know what I’m talking about. That’s the best part of music is that there’s so much there.

For many, period piece films and television shows offer an escape from reality. Be it Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette striding through the corridors of Versailles before an untimely death, Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Brigerton evading the watchful eye of London’s most infamous gossip, or Kiera Knightly as Elizabeth Bennet searching for a single man in possession of a good fortune, the dramatisation, costuming, and other-worldly nature of costume dramas brings viewers out of their own time into an immersive slice of historical fiction.

And yet, something very raw exists behind Kiera’s pursuit of love.

In her beauty lies my death and my life - Violette
In her beauty lies my death and my life – Violette

As Kirsten hurries down the hall, The Strokes’ “What Ever Happened” pulses behind her, bringing the audience back to 2006. The pressures of a social class and status terrorize Kiera’s attempts at romance. The actions of another threaten Phoebe’s future to the tune of “Thank U, Next,” played on a string quartet. For Chelsea Tyler, aka indie pop artist Violette, who spent her quarantine watching two period pieces a day, the ability to balance escapism and raw emotion is engrained in her new record, In Her Beauty Lies My Death and My Life.

“On the surface level,” she recounted, “it’s just, ‘oh Kiera Knightly’s looking for a man,’ but there’s also so much richness in them because they feature a lot of issues with society and a lot of issues with status and socio-status, they’re really deep. And then you get into those themes of love and hiding things and obsession/possession, all that stuff so doing this EP, it was trying to figure out how I could provide some escapism.”

Just as a costume drama maintains the duality of escapism and truth, Violette does the same in her work. Take her pseudonym, for instance, which was inspired by The National’s album title, High Violet. In changing her name she takes on a character, embodying a different title, yet she doesn’t change completely. “I used to get so nervous, shaking and wanting to throw up the whole day, but the first show I played as Violette, I was nervous getting there but as soon as I walked in I went “no, this is home’, this is what we do.”

“Violette” is a mixture for Chelsea, more of a costume than a personality. “I think there’s something really good about having the duality of that,” she said,  “but at the same time it’s not like a 180 different person.”

Violette © 2021
Violette © 2021

 


Her name also came from a love for French music and culture, a love which is featured in a song titled “En Sa Beauté Gît Ma Mort Et Ma Vie,” a translation of the album’s title. The phrase, which Violette initially thought of for an album with a previous band, DRMCTHR, had stuck with her. Tied with the escapist aesthetic of a period drama, she felt that the quote could mean many things and represent a greater ideology. “And nobody knows who ‘her’ is in relation to me, she can be a lot of things and I think that’s what’s so beautiful about it. Each song kind of represents ‘her’ in different ways, it makes the ‘her’ character ambiguous.”

In the poetry of “her,” Violette finds safety in the ability to be open but enigmatic, as the pronoun could reference many people or things- an ex, a place, even herself. “Poetry is the best place to hide your darkest secrets. I can hand them right over to you and you might never actually know what I’m talking about. That’s the best part of music is that there’s so much there.” The album deals with themes that can be hard to discuss, like, as Violette mentioned, possessiveness or obsession. Poetry and an ambiguous central figure was, for Violette, a way of exercising those darker elements in a beautiful way.

Violette © 2021
Violette © 2021

The “her” of the title, though, takes on a bit more specificity “In the instance of wanting to name the EP that, I think the ‘her’ for me is music and in music I find the best of me and the things that are the worst. I’ve had those times in the highest of highs and, on the converse, that “getting drunk and not wanting to be there” lows. For me, this is a big statement EP, this is probably the most “me” I’ve ever felt and the most from-me my music’s ever been.” This, her sophomore EP, has allowed Violette to branch out in her own direction after her tenure with CRMCTHR. Though she still collaborates with former bandmate, Bryan Czap, “it [her solo work] is really cathartic cause I feel like I’ve grown up and learned a lot about myself…instead of it being a thing with three or four people collaborating, this is the first time I really get to say what I want to say by myself and for myself.” In creating the “her” of the title, “she” is someone very personal to Violette. “She” is the music in which Violette is able to be independent.

With this EP, Violette hopes to only accept what comes her way, with the goal of furthering her work and anticipation of the joys of playing live. “I love the music. Making this record was really special and I think that anyone who connects with it and finds something in it, that’s enough.” Violette wants her listeners to feel understood, connected to something in her work. With the darker themes within the EP, the traits that “may not be as lovely to talk about,” she wants her listeners to feel comforted in solidarity, that it’s okay to bring difficult topics to the surface, in a way that balances the desire to escape and the ability to be open.

And nobody knows who ‘her’ is in relation to me, she can be a lot of things and I think that’s what’s so beautiful about it. Each song kind of represents ‘her’ in different ways, it makes the ‘her’ character ambiguous.

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In her beauty lies my death and my life - Violette

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