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Rocker Nicole Laurenne makes a dramatic shift in Black Viiolet

Nicole Laurenne releases the debut EP from her new modern lounge jazz project Black Viiolet July 19.
Photo: Bella Petro, Design: Gil Roberts & Nicole Laurenne
Black Viiolet
Nicole Laurenne releases the debut EP from her new modern lounge jazz project Black Viiolet July 19.

Nicole Laurenne has spent nearly two decades rocking hard with ferocious garage rock bands The Love Me Nots and now The Darts. In a conversation with KNKX, Laurenne talked about making a dramatic shift to her new jazz-influenced project, Black Viiolet.

“I’m multifaceted,” she exclaimed. “We all are!”

Black Viiolet has two singles out now online, the four-song "Kill Me Now" comes out July 19. Laurenne said there are a dozen more songs already recorded for an upcoming album.

Drawing comparisons to hip-hop adjacent acts like Portishead and Lovage, Laurenne said she actually found inspiration from an animated source. “Jessica Rabbit,” she laughed, saying the Amy Irving-voiced singing scene “always struck me. I wanted to do that someday.”

Laurenne said that being the torch singer in a modern hip-hop setting was the goal. “I want to put a beat underneath a torch song. Like the Amy Winehouse-Mark Ronson production: big drum beat and the horn section with that Jessica Rabbit delivery.”

The pandemic break gave Laurenne the opportunity to experiment with production and write a few songs, and her music community backed her with enthusiasm.

She sent her demos to her Darts producer, Bob Hoag in Phoenix who told her, “You’re going to need real horns, but other than that, it’s pretty kick-ass.”

Next, she shared the music with her friend and booking agent in France who, despite Laurenne’s reservations, arranged for a band and a place for them to work on Black Viiolet’s first official recordings.

The sessions in Bordeaux, France, were elevated by the live musicians. "I would hear them talking in French, figuring out the parts," she said. "It was glorious. It was magic!”

The next step for Laurenne, who’d recently moved to scenic University Place, was to Ruby Room Recordings in south Seattle to perfect the sound of the beats and the vocals. The four songs on Kill Me Now and an additional pair of early singles share a crystalline production that rewards close listening.

Black Viiolet’s first concert took place in late spring in Seattle with a few of the area’s finest musicians, including drummer Conrad Real of legendary hip-hop band Digable Planets and jazz horn players Jerome Smith and Marissa Kall.

A fellow Chicago-native, Laurenne said she hit it off immediately with Kall.

“We’ve become like almost best friends. She’s 100% energy. This project in Seattle has come together because of her help," Laurenne said.

Kall even shot a video for the Black Viiolet song “Kill Me Now,” which sounds like it could be the next great spy movie theme.

"We were running down the alleys in Tacoma at two in the morning, her on her skateboard filming and me running in these ‘James Bond’ dresses,” Laurenne said.

The reaction from fans of her rock groups has been immediate. “It’s shocking! The calls started coming in from these beautiful, huge jazz venues.” Black Viiolet tours for this fall and next spring are set to fill breaks in The Darts upcoming European tour dates.

Fans of Laurenne’s rock and roll side are sure to catch on to Black Viiolet as the two projects share her passion for a great stage show. They’re also, she said, very open-minded music fans, “they just like good music.”

Jazz fans can follow Duke Ellington’s maxim that there are only two kinds of music: the kind you like and the kind you don’t. Open your ears to the unique, new view of vintage torch music from Black Viiolet and you may discover your new favorite singer.

Release parties for the Black Viiolet EP Kill Me Now will be July 19 at the Rabbit Box and for all-ages at Easy Street Records in West Seattle on July 20.

The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Washington. LISTEN ON DEMAND

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.