Regurgitator – 25 Years of entertaining the kids, both young and old alike

To celebrate their quarter-century tour, and existence, BMA’s Cara Lennon took a deep dive with cheeky chappy Quan Yeomans to talk about entertaining the kids, both young and old alike. Over to you, Cara…

Has it really been a quarter century since the lads kicked off? The band you used to catch on Recovery between Monkey Magic and Dylan Lewis pulling a stupid face is now on their 25-year anniversary tour. 

They’ve released 11 albums, been the band in a bubble, copped shit from Alan Jones for singing about cock… But what about 2019? Why, their very first kids’ album, of course! Regurgitator’s Pogogo Show sees Quan, Ben and Pete team up with Koko [of Boys Boys Boys!] to rap about unicorns and lay down pop punk pillow fights. Front man Quan Yeomans elaborates.

[BMA] Pogogo Show. How did that come about?

[Quan] Ben [Ely, vocals & bass] has had kids for a lot longer than I have and he always, being the creative genius that he is, plays with the kids and was very musical, and they sang a lot together as they grew up. He would come up with silly songs all the time and play them to me. And I’m like ‘Dude, you gotta do a kids’ record man, don’t worry about the band’. We were going through a period of being in the wilderness and not really connecting as a band—I was overseas. And he just never got round to doing it. I think he gave a song away to a kids group and they did quite well. He just sorta sat on it for a long time. 

Then we were recording Dirty Pop Fantasy in Hong Kong and spent a bit of time together and then started throwing little ideas around to do a kids record with the band instead. Silly kind of ideas, on a dictaphone, in a 12-story walk-up in the middle of Sheung Wan.

Then we got back. We were now both married and had kids and the relevance kinda came up again as my kids got a little bit older. We got together one more time at his place when he used to live in Melbourne; around  three, four years ago now. We put down a few more solid ideas just with an OP–1, which is one of the coolest little keyboards you can buy (by a company call Teenage Engineering). He was playing bass, and we just put down rough ideas for songs, and five made it to the record. 

Regurgitator have become adept at balancing their many commitments

Did you play them to your kids during the writing process? 

Yeah, yeah, I mean just for kicks, to get feedback and stuff. That’s the great thing about doing kid stuff. You can play it to yours and they can tell you how much it sucks. Kids don’t have any filters…

Not really. Not my kids anyway.

So that’s what got the ball rolling. Then we thought of finding a fourth member to give it a bit more appeal, and a female just to change the dynamic a little bit. Koko was in Melbourne and we played with her band a few times. We all loved her as a person. And she was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ So we got together in a rehearsal space in Melbourne called the Bakehouse, and just recorded the album in one day.

Damn. That’s super fast.

Yeah. We had a few scripting ideas. Pete is a natural; he’s really, really great with his scripts and with his acting. It gelled really quickly. We wanted it rough and a bit silly and bit like ‘whatever’ as well. We didn’t want to overwork it.

Any other differences between doing a kids album and doing one for adults?

I think it was really important for us to do it together in a room to record live. Ben really enjoys that approach. He really wanted to do it for this one and I agreed. I thought the dynamic would work really well with four of us going hell for leather just throwing in ideas and getting it down quickly. 

In terms of mixing, we weren’t as particular about it, probably because it’s all about the vocals, and getting the gags out there, so the kids can understand the words.

Have you got a sense of how kids are responding to it?

We’ve played just over half a dozen shows. Some of them have been really great, and others have been a bit like, ‘What the hell are we doing here?’ kinda thing. We particularly found it hard to do festivals. Outdoors festival type things I found a bit odd, whereas it works really well in theatres. Playing to kids that age is completely different to playing to older kinda twenties, thirties, forties… people that we’re used to. It’s really hard to gauge. I find it really quite difficult to gauge their enthusiasm sometimes.

I mean, you’re doing it a lot for the parents as well. The parents are really enjoying it, which is a big part of the reason why we did it. I don’t really wanna take my child to see the average kind of kids band that’s out there because, it’s just… it kills you. It’s soooo tedious. You gotta put the smile on for them—they’re loving it, it’s fine—but honestly, it can be like eating razor blades.

I think a lot of the parents really enjoy [Pogogo] and that’s very important. And it is a lot about fans introducing their kids to our music through this medium as well, so it’s kinda cool in that regard. But yeah, kids are kinda weird; you don’t know if they’re scared, or if they’re so focused they can’t really express it. They don’t really respond in the same way. But the crowd sizes have certainly been very, very healthy and really surprising to begin with ‘cause it’s such a new project.

If a typical Regurgitator gig involves jumping up and down and screaming the lyrics to I Will Lick Your Arsehole—how does this experience translate for the under 12s?

This pic seemed appropriate to place here after that particular question

Sure, well… obviously we can’t really throw those… [laughs] I’d like to, but there are some parents that don’t really get it, or don’t wanna put their child through that part of their education. I’m happy for my child to know about those words as long as he understands that context is important.

There were a couple of tracks that didn’t make it onto the record because ABC Kids were putting it out and they’re quite strict. Even though they were double entendres and weren’t like, specific. We had a song called I’m a Duck, and I Don’t Give A… They just didn’t wanna go there, which was a shame. I was willing to drop stuff, which I don’t really like doing, but I was willing this time.

Whose brainchild was Farting is Part of Life?

Whose brainfart you mean? I think it was basically between Ben and Dee Dee; they were having a conversation. Or maybe it could have been Anouk. One of his daughters and him were talking about it and that’s how it came about. It’s a pretty diverse album—there’s a big difference between The Box and Mr Butt.

We didn’t really have a focus for the record. This is just the silly first one, which is great, but in future I’d like to have a bit more focus in terms of theme. A bunch of sketches strung together with some script and narrative. You know, ones that focus on science, or the human body, or emotions, or something like that, just to tie it together a bit more.

But we are a band of mixed bag aesthetic so it’s not surprising that it ended up that way, and all my planning may not actually eventuate. [The next one] may be another collection of crazy brain farts. We might call the next one Brainfart, actually.

Certainly not out of character.

No, exactly. It’s a very Regurgitator thing to have  an album that’s playing with all these different sounds then have one or two tracks that are completely off the wall. Like Weird Kind of Hard (the elevator muzak interlude to the Headroxx album about a guy working at a drum store to pay child support, which then disintegrates into out-of-tune scat, nonsense words, and snickering).

[For that] we kind of had to like say, ‘Look Pete [Kostic, drums] it’s time for you to record something, get something out; just write something that is real and true to you and we’ll, you know… we’ll make a mockery of it.’

He was very open about it, I mean they’re really raw lyrics and they are about his life. It’s kinda sad in a weird way but it’s great that he can do that reflection. A lot of art practice is really about reflecting on life, and it’s cathartic and kinda pleasant to do it from time to time.

I wouldn’t have realised it’s based on someone real!

I know, I know, that’s the great thing about it. And I really respect him to be able to put it out there, to be honest.

What about the lyrics to Party Looks then? They sound like character dialogue made up from people you’ve met at parties over the years.

I haven’t been to a party for, like, ten years. It’s me thinking back. That one’s more about the idea of being in a club trying to have a conversation and just reading their lips, going, ‘What the fuck are they—what did you say? I don’t know what you said but I’m gonna nod and smile and carry on with the conversation.’ I’ve had that experience quite a lot so that was the idea behind that song.

Let’s talk anniversary tour. Does it ever feel like you’ve been permanently on the same trip for 25 years? You guys always seem like you’re touring.

Yeah, but we keep it fairly relaxed now. We occasionally do this kind of tour where there’s 20 or more shows in a row. But it happens maybe once or twice every three years or so. Our bodies just can’t cope with it otherwise. We’re a bit older now and we do high energy stage performances, so it’s tough to carry that for long. Unless you’re really fit. It does feel a bit tiring when you’re in the middle of it, but we don’t tour that much; we’ve just never really had a long hiatus.

What’s the gearshift like on a big tour like this going from regional gigs to big shows?

The larger shows we do are festivals and they’re so much easier in lots of ways. They’re getting harder in terms of performance because you’re dealing with a bunch of young kids that are all into whatever’s on Spotify. You’re old flesh. So it’s kind of weird, and tough, playing to people who don’t know your music. But the touring is very easy.

When you’re doing your own tours you’re responsible for everything. I’ve spent the last five years paring down my gear so I don’t have to carry too much and don’t end up hurting my back. I managed to get my whole rig – my amp and guitar – to under 14kg. I remember touring with a Marshall stack and full drum kit at some point in the ‘90s. It was just insane.

So it’s nice that’s technology’s gotten more portable as you’ve gotten older?

It’s amazing. It’s really great. Pretty soon we’re going to be holograms and we won’t have to get off the couch.

And at festivals you’re converting people that are hearing you for the first time.

That is one of the privileges of playing live and still
being able to do it, you know. I think we play better now than we ever have as a band, because we’re a lot more focused and aware of our bodies, and of being careful with our craft. And we still enjoy it which is vital. It’s really great where you do have young people come up to you and go, ‘I started to listen to you on your seventh album’.  And I’m like, ‘What? That was awful! How are you even attracted to us?’ It’s weird, but it’s nice.

You guys were my first live gig, at an all ages festival. It was a revelation just being able to stand in a field and scream swear words…

Honestly, that’s why I do what I do. My wife works in health care and I’m just like, man, you should start a band, just so you can scream. It’s just such a good stress reliever. It’s why I’m reasonably calm as a human being I think, because I get to stand on stage and scream my guts out to a bunch of strangers. It’s really, really nice. Great therapy.

And for the Quarter Pounder Tour you’re doing it with Shonen Knife and the Fauves.

They’re great bands, for different reasons. Shonen Knife are an awesome Japanese group. We’ve played with them before and they’re just really lovely people. Part of the criteria as you get older and more experienced in the game is playing with bands that are pleasant to be around. We’ve been really fortunate in the past. Glitoris were lovely people to travel with, as were The Stress of Leisure on the last tour. And the Fauves and Shonen Knife are a similar kind of thing; really, really great people.

The Fauves you’ll love just for the banter. Andrew the front man is simply incredible. He’s just so sardonic and self-deprecating and hilarious. He used to do this fanzine called Shred. If you can find copies of it they’re just hilarious. I had a man crush on him for some time but I think I scared him off. He’s such a shy, shy dude.

Everyone gets one…

Really? I’ve had a few in my time: Shaun Micallef, David Attenborough. 

Have you met them?

I managed to sing on the same song as Shaun Micallef but I never met him. I only said yes to it because I thought I’d meet him.

Are there any bands you have toured with that stand out?

The Mint Chicks! They’re always going to be my favourite punk band ever. When we toured with them I was just like, ‘Damn! These guys are good! They should be bigger…’ Of course the younger brother went on to do Unknown Mortal Orchestra and became massive as a result of that. They shouldn’t have disbanded. They were so amazing.

Is there going to by any Pogogo on the tour? Maybe Pidgeon Riding a Motorcycle?

Maybe! Maybe we’ll do a baby metal version.

It seems there will be plenty to look forward to when Regurgitator hit The Basement on Thursday, 24 October. Tickets are $55.85 from oztix.com.au

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