Since moving to New York, I’ve been introduced to a ton of local artists, both organically and at the hands of friends who’ve already been living here. In this new series of interviews, Grrrls in the Five Boroughs, I sit down with inspiring womxn and queer femme musicians based in New York City to discuss their personal connections to music, their communities, and their favorite local hotspots scattered across their neighborhoods in New York.
There’s something oddly comforting about finding company in the paranormal. According to recent surveys, two-thirds of Americans believe they have encountered ghosts at least once in their lifetime, and musician Violet Hetson is one of them. Pairing thunderous instrumentals with shoegaze stargazing, Hetson’s current project Powerviolets chronicles these dark forces with abstract lyrical vignettes about late-night city debauchery, voodoo queens in New Orleans, and failed romantic relationships.
A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Powerviolets to discuss her frequent ghost sightings and the process of writing the follow-up album to her 2020 LP, ‘No Boys.’
As an artist, what do you feel determines how a project ends up sounding? Is it by choice or an amalgamation of the different creative directions that the process pulls you in?
I’d say that it’s a little bit of both. I like to do [ritual-based] witchy stuff, like lighting candles and wearing crystals, to get that energy out. Then I just rock out. I honestly never really do much thinking about it. I just start with the music, and then I add all the rest. I’m not ever trying to be poetic. I just let it rip.
What comes first for you: the music or the lyrics, and which are more important to you?
The music always comes first. I write the guitar parts, and then I add the rest around it. My creative high is usually when the songs are done, cause I fuckin’ stress about it. But I do like writing vocal melodies a lot. I typically start by humming them and transposing them to guitar.
You seem to have had your fair share of experiences with the paranormal. How do you feel that has affected your music and your output as an artist?
Yep. I’m a ghost hunter. I write a lot of songs about my ghost encounters. What’s funny is that now that I’m not depressed anymore, I find it harder to write interesting songs, so now I just write about scary shit instead of sad shit.
You’re currently working on the follow-up to ‘No Boys.’ What can you tell me about the process and how the album is shaping up?
It was originally supposed to be a concept album about ghosts and witchy folklore, but it didn’t shape up to be that way. I ended up writing several songs that had nothing to do with that. There’s one song that’s just about Brooklyn, and it’s totally unrelated to spirits or ghosts. There’s another song about plane crashes because getting in a plane crash is one of my biggest fears.
To segue back into ghost talk, what are some of the craziest haunted spots you’ve encountered in New York?
My friend and I snuck into the [now-defunct] New York United Hospital Center in Port Chester once. It’s an abandoned building right across the street from a Whole Foods. There was a teenage boy who snuck in there a few years ago and died by falling down an elevator shaft. I remember looking out the window into the courtyard and I swear, I saw a man with a full beard screaming. Not even a second later, I looked at my friend to see if they saw it too, and when I looked again the man was gone. So that was definitely a ghost.
What are the most memorable audience exchanges you’ve experienced as a performer?
My band opened for Circle Jerks, Negative Approach, and 7 Seconds at Irving Plaza. We were a last-minute addition to the bill, so the audience was full of older punks. People dug it, but they were also so confused, cause they definitely didn’t show up to see some goth shoegaze-y bullshit. Then I listened to a music podcast that covered the show, and the host was talking shit about us and I was like, “Hell yeah.” I honestly found it kind of hilarious. I’m glad I made a strong impression.
What have you been listening to lately?
Lots of 12 RODS, X, and Heart. I strongly recommend listening to Dreamboat Annie while stoned. It’s a transcendental experience.
Since coming out of isolation, what makes you hopeful for the future of live music and DIY spaces?
The fact that they’re still around and still kicking [since everything re-opened]. I just love the energy, the vibes, meeting cool people, dancing, and getting drunk. I strongly prefer DIY shows over venues. It’s a lot more personal and so much more fun.
What are your favorite bands and hangout spots around the city?
Shoutout to Wince and Melissa. They rock. With regards to spots, I love Purgatory. It’s got that [inclusive] DIY vibe with the bar and the venue space above. It feels nice and personal. For a while, I was going to the skate park, even though I don’t even skate, but that’s always fun.
Anything else you would like to plug, or calls to action?
Listen to my music and come to my shows! I can be found on Instagram and TikTok at @powerviolets and my band is doing a secret show soon, so DM for address—ask a punk!
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