Tessa Violet cuts a distinctive figure, with bright yellow hair (sometimes orange, sometimes green, sometimes pink) and a seemingly limitless supply of multicolored jumpsuits that even Liz Cooper herself would envy. The brightness of her attire matches the sparkle of her spirit, a bouncy, effortless swag that sees her in almost perpetual motion. She has spent her 30th year at the current high-water mark of her career, with oodles of momentum and a work ethic that promises only more of the same.
Violet's tour hits Florida this month, with shows in Orlando, Gainesville and Jacksonville. She's become a fairly regular presence here, having performed at the Abbey in 2017 and House of Blues last year. It really makes perfect sense that she would play here so often, since she lived in Orlando for several years, and maybe even still does. (That's none of your business, bucko.) Opening for her on this leg of the tour is alt-rock trio band Daysormay, hailing from Vernon, British Columbia.
Violet tours incessantly, at present in support of her second album, Bad Ideas. She's taken a fairly novel approach to promoting it in the streaming era, issuing the album one song at a time, and collectively as a batch of three-song EPs running into 2020, at which point all nine songs will be reissued as a single LP, with two additional songs. The new material continues in the vein she initially plumbed with "Crush," but with denser wordplay; it's a potent formula, for sure. The first single was the title track, which dropped last November. The second single, "I Like (the Idea of) You", was released in May, and it goes deeper into dance music territory, but with an Arctic Monkeys/MGMT kinda vibe.
At age 19, Violet won $100,000 in a video contest to see who could get the most views for a video about brow and lash makeup, and she poured her winnings back into her own channel, which grew rapidly from there. She was an early entrant into the nascent vlogosphere, recording under the name "Meekakitty" for several years, while making fan videos about some of her favorite bands. Violet soon made the jump into making her own music, releasing her debut album Maybe Trapped Mostly Troubled in March 2014, followed by the Halloway EP two years later.
Violet is best-known for her 2018 single "Crush," our favorite song of last year, and one that went viral across all platforms, with more than 42 million views on YouTube alone. Her willowy, breathy vocals bounced smoothly atop a thumping, synthy beat as she danced through a grocery store. It was something of a departure from the acoustic indie-pop sound she initially brought to the table. The boffo numbers that she drew with "Crush" boosted her fanbase exponentially, allowing for mostly sold-out shows wherever she has gone over the past year.
One clear (and yet, not so clear) sign that Violet has truly broken out into the mainstream is her sudden, random and totally confusing emergence as a meme in Eastern Europe, where cadres of Russian nationalists have taken an odd fancy after noticing Cyrillic writing – the word "bear," ironically – on her sweatshirt in the "Crush" video.
It's great stuff, aesthetically speaking, but it makes absolutely no sense, to her or anyone else, since a) she's never been to Russia, not yet anyway; b) she's had virtually nothing in terms of political content of any kind in her music; and c) although her personal politics have never really been specified, one naturally assumes that she leans strongly progressive, and is thus not sympathetic to the memes' themes.
They say all publicity is good publicity, but on this point, she may not agree. She respectfully declined to answer any questions about this, and we don't blame her one bit. It speaks to her skills that Tessa Violet is considered a national treasure in two different countries.
This story is from the Aug. 14, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.