Rising from the independent Brisbane underground scene in the early 1990s, Regurgitator were a breath of fresh air for the local music scene.
With a carefree attitude towards music, the three-piece indie rock band made an immediate impact on a music scene that was beginning to labour in its own self-importance.
After signing with Warner Music in 1995 and releasing a self-titled EP which was quickly followed by another titled ‘New’ that same year, Quan Yeomans (lead vocals, guitar), Ben Ely (bass, vocals) and Martin Lee (drums) soon found themselves thrust into the nominated mantle of saviours of Brisbane rock, with the band themselves still unsure where they fit musically.
“From my perspective – and I’m not sure if that’s true for a lot of other people in the scene – but the scene then felt congested,” Quan surmised. “Bands that were big at the time were very middle of the road kind of Australian rock stuff and then there were the pop/rock bands. The music was kind of soft. There was metal around but I think we were just so weird and came out of nowhere and people were saying ‘what is this stuff’?”
“It had an edge to it lyrically and a weird sound sonically so I think we broke through because of those reasons more than anything else. It was more a point of difference.”
That was 25 years ago and although much has changed in the music world in that quarter of a century, Regurgitator – or more so their approach to music – has not.
In early October the band will be setting out on their Quarter Pounder – 25 years of Being Consumed Tour, traversing the country from one side to the other and presenting their live performance in typically unique fashion.
“It’s going to be a bit of an extravaganza,” Yeomans declared.
“There’s gonna be a lot of costume changes and we’re taking it to the next level. Usually, when it comes to set lists we do what we think the crowd is gonna enjoy and we’re gonna enjoy playing and it generally makes for a good show. But with this one there’s gonna be some older stuff that we haven’t played in a long time so it’s more structured. There will be four sets mixed with videos and costume changes so it’s a little bit different to a regular show.”
Throughout their career, Regurgitator have steadfastly refused to be pigeonholed in terms of genre and stylistic output. From their debut full-length album ‘Tu-Plang’ in 1996 to ‘Unit’ the following year, they went from a rock/hip-hop hybrid with spatterings of techno and dub to a more electronic-based and pop-infused sound, in the process drawing the ire of portions of their fan base who were not receptive to the change. This trend continued with hip hop-focused album ‘…art’ and the keyboard-driven pop-rock of ‘Love and Paranoia’, but Yeomans insists that despite objections and criticism from some of their fans the band remained focused on satiating their own musical goals rather than those enforced by public expectation.
“I think we more responded to our fans at certain points,” he mused, “like after ‘Tu-Plang’ we noticed there was a lot more aggression in the crowds and more male dominance and we were getting a little bit tired of it. We thought about that in the studio and tried to soften it down a little bit for ‘Unit’ and did some music that certainly wasn’t popular at the time. It was popular in the 1980s but it took a while to come back and I think we kind of delved into it a little bit earlier than most bands, which wasn’t so different for us. We generally – certainly in the early days – were trying to form our sound while still taking a lot of influences on board. I think a lot of the stuff we came up with was accidental and very DIY in the punk sense and we didn’t know what we were doing. We were trying to copy styles and genres and failed, and in that process of failure you come up with a certain aesthetic that seems to work best.”
Although maintaining their artistic integrity throughout and refusing to let outside influences influence their music, Yeomans admits that there were times the criticism levelled at the band was difficult to digest.
“Oh God yeah,” he laughed.
“There were years and years that I refused to even read any kind of musical criticism.”
“In essence, what it is is one person’s opinion of a piece of art – which is valid – but it’s not necessarily what I need to know about or what other people need to be guided by. Everyone has to make up their mind. I would agree that there were weaker moments in our career and albums that I hate and I would still say the best record we did was the second one ‘Unit’ because the timing and everything about that record seemed right. It was incendiary for that reason. Everyone has an opinion and is allowed to have that opinion, it’s just… that’s another thing about being an artist is you’re open to everyone’s opinions either way. There’s no buffering, you just switch off the internet and don’t respond. Its a cop-out these days though because you have to listen. You have to be able to read it and understand it and it can be tough.”
After 25 years in a competitive industry that has broken many that came before them, Yeomans insists that while there is still breath in Regurgitator’s lungs, they will continue to press on.
“I always thought my tombstone would read ‘That was one hell of a ride and I didn’t think it was ever gonna end’,” he laughed. “I don’t know about the band itself, if we would ever stop. We will get more and more tired as we get older and we’ll probably tour a little less… we have a break every few years until we eventually get bored of doing other things and then go back to the band. I can imagine us still getting up on stage in wheelchairs but if it ever does get dull or annoying we’ll just stop and take a break. I can’t see the end of it at this point.”
And aren’t we glad about that!
IMAGE (c) Benjamin Hunt, Deafen County @usbenthem