Regurgitator – 25 and counting

Australia’s favourite electro-alt-rockers Regurtitator have been making music for 25 years. Hailing from Brisbane (now scattered over some states), they have released 11 albums, played almost a thousand shows, and toured on average once for every year. Oh, and they spent three weeks in a literal bubble that one time.

Ahead of the their Cairns show at the Tanks in October, we caught up with bassist Ben Ely who, as if putting together a 25 year anniversary tour wasn’t enough, was working on yet another project.

NQMP: Ben, thanks for taking the time to chat. How’s your day been?

BE: Today I’ve been working on a visual art show, kind of spending any of my spare time trying to get that together. It’s for a gallery in West End with two friends of mine, they both do a lot of work with bands, doing record covers and t-shirts and stuff. We’ve just been friends for a long time and thought it’d be good to a show together.

NQMP: Actually I’m curious about some other side gigs – your children’s project The Pogogo Show and the Really Really Really Really Boring Album-

BE: that‘s the right amount of reallies

NQMP: Precisely four reallies yeah. That’s a few. I was interested to hear that your daughter Dee Dee is involved. How has that been, working together?

BE: Well ever since my kids were little… you know, music is a form of communication as well as play and stuff. I’ve always liked to interact with people by making music and when they were little I would do that with them and we kind of made up a lot of silly songs. And a lot of them made it on the record.

NQMP: Ha right. So you were basically writing a record without realizing it at the time?

BE: Yeah exactly. It took about 15 years. A slow burner that one.

NQMP: Everyone in the band has children and you’ve been playing music to young adults for a long time now. What ideas do you have about the kids in 2019, in such a noisy world, and how best to speak to that?

 BE: Well there’s different types of kids and there’s little kids and teenagers and I think they’re very different beasts. The Pogogo Show is directed more at two and up I guess, you know, younger younger kids. And by the time they’re teenagers they want to listen to like, Nirvana or…

NQMP: …Regurgitator?

BE: Well yeah maybe! Just something a bit more musical. But yeah, kids are great. It’s funny because as Regurgitator we’ve always kind of had this playful, sort of childlike quality. Just juvenile behaviour. So doing a kids project is actually kind of easy for us because it allows us to just take that juvenile playfulness and push it further and be more stupid, and it’s ok. Which is ridiculous. It is ridiculous…but it’s also kinda fun. I think if we did it all the time we might lose some IQ points or something.

NQMP: 25 Year tour. Whopper. Excited?

BE: This is going to be epic. I’ve just been working every day to make this the biggest and most ambitious show it can be.

NQMP: You’ve played Cairns a bunch of times- what can people expect for this tour?

BE: Oh, it’s going to be big man. It’s going to be a long show, as long as we’re allowed. There’s going to be all these different sections with costumes and short films and basically just a huge retrospective of the whole 25 years.

NQMP: So you’re match fit?

BE: Oh yeah I was just doing some pushups.

NQMP: Right, and you’re on a treadmill talking to me now?

BE: Yeah and I’m thinking, ‘ah shit this is going to kill me’.

NQMP: Well I have to say, you’re all looking in tip-top shape. Frankly, it’s hard to believe you’ve been touring for 25 years. Do you keep fit in order to tour or do you tour because you’ve still got it, or..?

BE: We tour I think because we really enjoy it. We enjoy it still. I mean, for the last ten years we’ve been going, ‘ah if noone comes we’ll just stop’, but we keep getting good numbers and everyone’s having a great time. You know, we’ve all got lives outside of the band so to do it is like catching up with your high-school mates and going fishing or something. You’re just like, ‘oh this is just a nice escapist adventure to do a couple of times a year’.

NQMP: How has it changed?

BE: We have a lot more gratitude now than we used to. I think when you do it all the time you take it for granted. But now we’re a little older you go ‘we’ve got all these songs and people still like it and we’re having fun and getting along.’ It’s a good escape, a good release valve for a few… old guys.

NQMP: Ha, let’s not go that far. Hey so Flume licked an arsehole last week and I-

BE: Sorry what? What happened sorry?

NQMP: Oh, you didn’t hear? Yeah, um Flume sort of licked or nuzzled someone’s arse on stage at Burning Man. There’s some footage-

BE: Really? Of like… a girl or a guy or..?

NQMP: Um it was a girl. Sorry I didn’t think I’d need to explain this. But yeah there was someone in the crowd with a sign saying “Does Flume even eat ass” or something and it turns out that, yes he does. In a very public way.

BE: Haha oh god. Oh man I miss everything.

NQMP: Well I was thinking, Regurgitator have a song ‘I Will Lick Your Arsehole’. You’ve basically been doing it since before it was cool, and-

BE: Well we never actually did it!

NQMP: Oh right so it was more like an offer? Or a threat?

BE: Ahh, well I didn’t write the song, that’s Quan’s responsibility. I’m just the bass player. But no, I actually haven’t done it on stage before. That’s… wow that’s pretty shocking. People do shocking things.

NQMP: They do. Moving along. Ben you once said in an interview “All these different styles and movements have come and gone and we never really fitted in with any of them”. And I have to admit, in my view Regurgitator never came to rest anywhere in a way that I could make sense or was like other bands. You really have charted your own path and it’s unlike anyone else. Could you possibly elaborate on what you meant and is that a fair enough assessment? And does it translate to other areas of your life or is it just a band thing?

BE: Well I think it’s definitely a Regurgitator thing. I mean that’s probably why we’re called Regurgitator. Each band member originally did have very different musical tastes and we also, as individuals, like lots of different types of music and we wanted to play with everything. When we started it was heavy and distorted and we kind of hit a moment when Quan wrote Blubber Boy which was a pop song. And I remember the moment when we played the song and it kind of freaked us out. We left the band room and we’re standing in the hallway at the rehearsal space going, ‘oh my god we just wrote a pop song”, like we were sinning Christians or something. But then it was like, ‘oh but it actually felt pretty good’. I guess as long as it feels good and has some energy then it fits under the Regurgitator banner. I think it’s just in our nature to play different styles, whether that’s to our detriment or to our benefit.

NQMP: Hmm right.

BE: Sometimes it’s a conscious decision too- when we went into the Unit album, until then we had played a lot of heavy guitar music and we were attracting a lot of guys and a lot of guys were breaking each others bones at our shows and being kind of sexist and racist which was weird. We were listening to a lot of 80s and we kind of joked about doing a record that sounded 80s, consciously, to try and attract more of a female audience, and for the creative enjoyment of just playing in that realm of 80s music.

NQMP: I read somewhere Quan saying, of the creative process for Regurgitator “The art of romance is in not knowing, and as soon as you know what you’re doing the romance is over”. Does that wrap it up?

BE: Haha that’s a nice way to put it.

NQMP: Yeah it’s like Keats or something

BE: You should have talked to him, he’s much more articulate. But yeah that’s a neat way to put it.

NQMP: Well that’s a good segue about another thing Quan said. You released ‘I Sucked a Lot of C*ck To Get Where I Am’ 25 years ago. I was thinking; if you’d sucked a lot by then, to get where you were, how much have you sucked since, figuratively speaking, to get where you are now?

BE: Haha oh wow! Well that song originally came about because we were going to release our records independently but then we got some offers from some majors and we were umming and ahhing and tossing and turning for quite a while, so that song came out of that circumstance. But eventually we were able to re-write the contract to get it more to how we wanted so we kind of dodged that penis then.

But yeah, through our lives… I mean, occasionally it will happen where I have worked outside of the band in other fields where I feel I might’ve not been true to myself and done what I think is right. But Regurgitator, we’ve been very lucky to get through… kind of avoiding as many penises as possible. Which has been really great. And it’s because of the people that buy our records and turn up to our shows that allow us to avoid those penises. It makes us very grateful. We feel very lucky. We dodged the penises.

NQMP: Perfect. And on that note, thanks for chatting.

Jake Gries

Regurgitator play the Tanks October 11th with fellow Australian treasures The Fauves.

Tickets available through Ticketlink

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