Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on September 2009
It’s been eight years since Brisbane’s Regurgitator played at Fuji Rock Festival. For their long-awaited return engagement, the quartet will appear at a fest of an entirely different nature. Created by Tokyo-based Australian headhunter Kevin Gibson, Kevrock is essentially a big 40th birthday present to himself. Free but invitation-only, the event takes place near a hotel that Gibson owns in the ski town of Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture, and features some of his favorite bands, both Aussie and Japanese. Headliners Regurgitator and the Hoodoo Gurus will also be doing one-off gigs in Tokyo while they’re in the country.
“Someone asked and we said ‘Japan? Kev? Yes. Please!’” frontman Quan Yeomans (far right) writes in an email. Regurgitator enjoyed a period around the turn of the decade when they were truly Big in Japan, playing Fuji Rock and returning for their own tour. Their 1999 album …art enjoyed modest chart success here, as the band’s spiky, potty-mouthed pop-punk struck a chord with Japan’s punk legions.
“I miss it so,” Yeomans sighs. “Japanese audiences are some of the most careful listeners in the world. We were constantly astounded by how responsive they were to our live shows. They would get all spooky and cute in the quiet sections then burst into energetic cheers. The only odd thing that I remember was how quiet they were after the initial clapping in between songs. And the fans made the cutest gifts for us too!”
But Japanese audiences can be fickle as well, which accounts for the long gap since Regurgitator’s 2001 heyday. In the meantime, the group released 2004’s Mish Mash! and their latest, 2007’s Love and Paranoia. The former was recorded for a Channel V reality TV show, Band in a Bubble, in which the group entered a glass recording studio in the center of Melbourne, only leaving when the album was completed. “I learnt that transparency of process is the only real way to ensure a truly democratic process,” says Yeomans.
Cultivating their taste for unusual recording locales, Regurgitator next went to Rio de Janeiro for Love and Paranoia. “I wouldn’t call it an ‘inspired’ choice,” he quips. “The choice itself was settled upon in a rather blasé fashion. ‘Brazil?’ ‘Yeah why not?’ Then we got there and we thought, ‘Oh my god, what were we thinking?’
“Rio is one of those tropical cities whose jungle feels only barely tamed. It looms on the edge of civilized human habitation, happily waiting for a small slip-up. The studio was quite famous as a rehearsal space frequented by a lot of the most famous Brazilian bands. There is another worthy space on the other side of the Corcovados [mountain], but apparently ours was preferable because the other one happened to be situated right next to a large Favela, and every now and then stray bullets would fly into it. In a country where the drug gangs organize mass assassinations of the police, you really feel an edge to life that you don’t get in places like Japan or Australia.”
On Love and Paranoia, openers “Blood & Spunk” and “Destroy This Town” are drenched in the edgy atmosphere in which the disc was recorded, while “Romance of the Damned” is a creepy number written from the point of view of a stalker pursuing his prey. Surprisingly, the album is almost devoid of Brazilian musical influences. Instead, it’s suffused with generous doses of the ironic ’80s synth-pop pastiche for which Regurgitator became known after their mid ’90s debut—a fact perhaps accounted for by the addition of keyboardist Seja Vogel prior to the album.
“‘Prescient’ is giving us a little too much credit, I think,” Yeomans responds when asked about his band’s early work predating the current ’80s revival. “At the time, we were just out to confuse everyone, including ourselves. Besides, is there really much kudos to be claimed for being amongst the quicker to rehash something great that came before?”
The singer adds that the ’90s Brisbane scene was one of widespread experimentation. “Aesthetically, music on a nationwide basis seemed appallingly dull, at least the stuff they were force-feeding everyone on the radio. At the time, I think Brisbane itself was really good for young bands and musicians. There were quite a few abandoned buildings and very cheap rehearsal spaces centrally located, and people seemed extremely enthusiastic about forming new bands, experimenting with genres, and generally making a racket.”
At Kevrock, Regurgitator and the Hoodoo Gurus will be joined by a smattering of domestic acts, including formidable female Tokyo rock trio Bo-Peep and British-Japanese funk-pop outfit the Kinlay Band. Bo-Peep will also back Regurgitator for their date at SuperDeluxe in Nishi-Azabu.
Electronically enhanced punk rock band from Australia with Bo-Peep and others. Sep 18, 7:30pm, ¥4,000 (adv)/¥4,500 (door). SuperDeluxe, Nishi-Azabu. Tel: 03-5412-0515. Sep 20, 10:30am, invitation only. Powderhouse, Hakuba.