Regrettes bring ’60s sound back to life

By John Benson

Adapting ’60s music into a modern sound is what The Regrettes have to offer the Columbus music scene.

So far, the response has been positive for the female-fronted, soul-R&B revival group that formed less than a year ago and is hoping to jump aboard the Motown-inspired zeitgeist.

“There are a few soul-R&B bands that have a classic ’60s sound in the national landscape, such as Alabama Shakes and Fitz and The Tantrums,” said keys and percussionist James Allison, calling from his central Ohio home. “Right now, bands have moved away from the ’80s synth-pop stuff. There are even a bunch of big vinyl dance parties going on that were really big in the ’60s. I think all of the bands are a tribute to a type of music that sort of never really died but has not been in the forefront as much in recent years.”

When it comes to influences, The Regrettes cite the girl super groups of the ’60s, such as The Supremes, and legends such as Aretha Franklin and Etta James. There’s also the raw, rootsy sound of early Stax Records. The band is led by co-lead singers Mehgan Hutchinson and Lizzy Morris, who trade vocals about love, revenge and everything in between.

For the better part of 2012, The Regrettes have grown a reputation for sweaty, late-night jams. Now the act is about to release its debut effort, “Don’t Talk Back,” which naturally will be out digitally and, you bet, on vinyl.

Allison said the group added a lot of garage band elements and pounding percussion rhythms to its material. This includes the lead single, “Been Around [Too Long],” and the chugging track “This Means War.”

“It’s definitely paying tribute to a genre and era of music that was very prominent for all of us in our influences,” Allison said. “That music is just timeless. The people who have been hearing that have really been responding to that.”

The one thing you shouldn’t expect from The Regrettes at its Youngstown debut Saturday at Cedars is a cover. As enticing as a well-placed Aretha tune would sound, Allison said the band is all about originality, not novelty.

Still, considering The Regrettes are so tied to a certain era, Allison said the group has been mischaracterized as a novelty throwback act. While he said he understands the perception, it does seem to get under his skin a bit.

“There have been one or two people who said you can be seen as a glorified cover band when you’re doing that stuff, but I totally disagree,” Allison said. “There’s a way to put your own edge on things and a way to make it more expressive about things that are going on right now, and the opinions we have and the basic spin that we want to put on the music. Really, it’s definitely adaptable to any time period.”

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