Seemingly poised on the brink of global stardom with their latest hit “New Bohemia” enjoying constant airplay, Transviolet and their lead singer Sarah McTaggart are busy forging ahead in the music industry.
She may be driven and ambitious, but the band’s Caymanian singer/lyricist is not about to let fame go to her head. “It’s easy to get caught up in wanting more,” she said of all the hoopla that has surrounded the four-piece since their hit “Girls Your Age” blew up last year. “I try and celebrate small accomplishments, and remember how far we’ve come.”
Small in stature, Ms. McTaggart is huge on keeping it real. So, despite scoring envy-inducing Spotify streams of more than 2 million and counting for “Girls Your Age,” and huge big-ups from the likes of Harry Styles, it’s all very much a case of “business as usual” for her and bandmates Mike Panek (bass/keyboards), Judah McCarthy (guitar/vocals) and Jon Garcia (drums).
“Of course we’re touched by the big name endorsements,” she said, in response to all the buzz surrounding the support from a roll-call of industry insiders, including Katy Perry. What is more in her comfort zone is giving some insight into the group’s dynamics and their creative process.
“We’re a family,” she said of herself and her three male band members.
“The boys are all from Rochester, New York, whereas I was born in Scottsdale, Arizona, and lived in 14 different places before I was 18,” she said, explaining that while it left her feeling slightly rootless, the constant moving also gave her an independent streak.
Talking of how she and her bandmates operate, she said, “Our writing style is free and very collaborative … it’s definitely changed. I hope it continues to evolve.”
The dark pop quartet, whose edgy and articulate lyrics resonate with fans, has many influences, including The Beatles, Nirvana, and Radiohead. “All of them were just making music they loved and fighting for it,” she said. A philosophy she obviously holds dear.
The singer and Panek “met” on musician networking site while Ms. McTaggart was still in Grand Cayman, and it wasn’t long before she took the logical step to head off to San Diego to take their collaboration to the next level. Soon after that the duo was joined by the New Yorker’s former schoolmates Garcia and McCarthy, and Transviolet was born.
A lot has happened since then.
Recently signed to Epic Records, and with the band’s first album due for release later this year, it is not bad going for a group that has already built a solid reputation among its peers. In speaking of the group’s big break, Ms. McTaggart said, “LA Reid discovered us through industry word-of-mouth. We played for him and he offered us a record deal on the spot. It basically involves them giving us money to make art.”
Deep Cayman connection
Ms. McTaggart’s journey into music for the masses really took off in Cayman.
Moving to the islands with her family in her early teens was a big adjustment, and she instinctively turned to music as a release. “To be honest, I was very lonely when I first moved to Cayman,” she recalled. “I didn’t really fit in at [Triple C School], and I desperately wanted to go back to California. I took solace in writing music, and my cousins were some of the first people I played music with. In that way, Cayman had a huge effect in shaping my music.”
With singing and performing already in her family’s DNA, it was natural to turn to them to improve and grow as a performer. “I’ve had some voice lessons here and there, but it was my cousins Will Verhoeven and Brett McTaggart who really took me under their wings, taught me how to play guitar and helped me record my first few songs,” she said, making sure dues were paid.
“[We’re] are all very musical, and it was always something that was a given. I knew I was an artist, and to do anything else didn’t feel right,” Ms. McTaggart said about the drive that feeds her ambition.
For this and other reasons, home will always be Grand Cayman, and she looks back on her time spent here with great warmth. “I left six years ago, [but] I miss the warm cerulean sea and the soft white sand. I miss Sundays out on the boat at Rum Point and snorkeling with the sea life. Most of all, I miss my family.”
The Transviolet songstress also credits the local music scene for helping her take her first steps toward making her passion her profession. While on island, she sang solo on the local circuit. “I played Cayman Culture Jam, Petapalooza, the Hope for Haiti benefit concert, and many, many open mics at Calico Jack’s, Royal Palms, Aqua Beach and Havana Club,” she said, reminiscing about former times.
“We would absolutely love to come [to Cayman to] play as Transviolet,” she confirmed.
“I’m so proud to have heritage from such a beautiful island, with such loving people. What that island has is so priceless, and we need to take special care of the environment and our animal friends. There is no industrial or financial gain that is worth the loss of this rare, pristine, natural treasure,” she said.
Passionate about promoting global tolerance and environmental stewardship, Ms. McTaggart asks fans to “Share the love. Don’t forget that all love is the same. Everyone has the right to love who they love, and marry the person they love. If you are gay or just don’t fit in, if you are being bullied or discriminated against by your peers, teachers, family and community, you are not alone. There are so many people that will love and support you for who you are. It will get better.”
Moving on up
Hot on the heels of their recent success, the band is currently busy touring and promoting their newly dropped four-track EP. As well as the latest track, the EP features “Girls Your Age,” “Bloodstream,” “New Bohemia” and “Night Vision.”
Having played venues across the U.S., the band is keen to take their particular brand of dark pop over to Europe, starting on Monday in Brussels. They begin a six-date U.K. tour the day after, followed by U.S. dates, including the Governor’s Ball, New Yor; Firefly, Delaware; and Taste of Chicago; and Summerfest, Wisconsin. The hectic summer touring schedule will culminate with sets at the epic Reading and Leeds festivals (Aug. 25 and 26) before the band gets a well-earned break.
Luckily, touring is something that Transviolet enjoys.
“We love being on the road and getting to share our music,” said Ms. McTaggart, having at one time or another shared the stage with Mikky Ekko, Twenty One Pilots, Gallant,
Joywave, Peaches, Jack Garratt, Declan McKenna and more.
With the band riding high on the crest of its eponymous EP, the tours, chat show appearances and the upcoming album, life is good. In what particular direction the singer-songwriter moves remains to be seen.
Global domination, despite her love of small accomplishments, seems tantalizingly within her grasp.