the AU Interview: Quan Yeomans of Regurgitator (Melbourne / Brisbane)


Regurgitator are like an anathema in the rock world – they can be crazy and heavy as anything but at the same time innocent and twee as a cute toddler mangling a bowl of ice-cream. Though their cheeky exterior conceals a subversive and manic heart, Regurgitator after almost fifteen years have come to dominate the Australian scene as well as all but fade away from it. Quan Yeomans, one half of the “duo” that comprise the formerly Brisbane based band talked candidly to the AU review’s Tom Valcanis about his new endeavors in Regurgitator as veterans instead of upstarts and his recent solo project.

Okay. Quan. (I pronounce it “Kwohn”) How’s it going?

Good, how are you doing man.

I’m doing pretty good, actually. (pause) I’ve got a confession to make.

Oh no. (groans)

It’s nothing weird. It’s good, it’s good. I promise. The first album I ever bought when I was a kid – I was about thirteen – this shows my age, by the way. To you. Not that I’m old or anything.

Not that I’m old or anything – Jesus Christ! Which album was it?

It was the Unit album. It was the first album I ever bought with my own money.

Wow. That’s way cooler than my first record, that’s for sure.

What was your first record?

That I bought with my own money? The Ghostbusters Soundtrack. (laughs)

Haha, that's not too bad! Let’s get to some questions. Well, I just have to say – it was the Unit Re-Booted version and I had to go to a friend’s house because my computer was too slow to run the videos. So yeah. The Unit rebooted my computer. Anyway, tell us why you’ve moved to Melbourne from Brisbane to record a new album?

First of all, I didn’t move from Brisbane, I moved from Hong Kong – me personally anyway – which is even dumber because it’s so warm in Hong Kong compared to Melbourne. Secondly, we’re not really recording an album any more because we decided that we can’t be bothered recording an album. We’re just going to do what Kanye West does-

Go up on stage and interrupt award ceremonies?

Yeah, that. It seems like a really good career move to me. (laughs) What we’re going to release tracks every month now over the internet – no specific date – and probably just work up to it. We’ll release compilations with full album art for people to buy as they wish. The reason that I moved here from Hong Kong is because there’s no music scene at all. I liked relaxing there and doing nothing – hanging out with magicians and alcoholics and actor/models, it wasn’t really fulfilling.

Well, you recorded your solo project “Quan the Amateur” there, if I recall.

Yeah, that’s right. Oh, you’re one of the very few people that call me “Kwohn” by the way.

Oh, why is that?

Well, my father calls me “Kwann” and my mother calls me “Koowaahn” but a maths teacher called me “Kwohn.”

Oh! Well, I once knew a guy in high school with the same name as “Kwohn” so I’m just reverting to that.

That’s cool.

But you recorded your solo album there.

Yeah, I had a lot of time on my hands. I was a man of leisure so I thought I’d do a solo record. Hell man, it took me ages! It was so difficult – have you ever tried doing that? Jesus.

What, recording a solo record? Not recently, no. (laughs)

It was just a bastard making it by yourself and being responsible for it – it was a nightmare. I won’t have the same kind of attitude to doing it in the future. I made these vinyl toys that I wanted to sell for charity. My goal was to make twenty-five grand by selling them all. But I made a grand over the last six months, so I’m kind of embarrassed about it. But really, I want to keep my solo thing going so I can promote that kind of thing.

Was it especially hard doing it in Hong Kong since there’s no music scene there, as you mentioned? Was it hard getting producers and engineers in?

Are you serious? (laughs) I did everything myself, man. There weren’t any producers or music technicians. I had a really good space to do it in, that was the one benefit. I was living in a commercial warehouse that was converted so I could make noise at four in the morning and no one would care. It was really great in that regard but that was part of the reason why it was so demanding because I had to do everything myself. It was really great in that regard – I mixed it myself which is something I’ve never done before but that was probably part of the reason why it was so demanding. So I paid the price in terms of going crazy and losing all perspective. Hopefully it didn’t effect the musical quality too much.

Well, yes. I don’t know where Regurgitator went, personally – you were off the radar for a few years and then I was watching rage and there you were.

What, recently you saw us on rage?

No, Quan (Kwann) the Amateur.

If you’re having trouble with that, just stick to Kwohn.

(laughs) Thanks man.

No worries. Well yeah, the project was just a side thing. Regurgitator’s always been going but we’ve been traveling around so much we never get a chance to do recordings and when we do it’s been a bit half-arsed. Now that [Ben Ely and I] are living together – well not together, but in the same city we’re going to be a lot more focused I think.

Can you believe the ‘gurge are fifteen years old?

I believe we’re sixteen or seventeen years old. It’s frightening isn’t it?

Well, a bit. (both laugh) Considering when so many bands die in the arse after about ten.

Well, you can argue we died in the arse.

No, I’m not implying Regurgitator did – but I’m saying that a lot of bands have.

Well – I’m saying it could be argued that we have. We just refuse to leave the arse. We just kind of festered in the arse. But age improves everything, right? Nah, it’s shit.

But shit does improve with age. It becomes manure.

Exactly. That’s the theory behind this whole band. Take that as our manifesto, if you will.

Would you call yourselves a rock band that uses electronics? An electronic band that uses guitars? Or is it even more blurry than that?

Oh man, it’s like so blurry now. We’re barely a band. We think of ourselves more of a creative beast lumbers along and does whatever it wants now. It’s a model that probably suits us better in this day and age as well. Especially when it comes to releasing whatever you want. We were on a major label for years and years we did the whole rock band thing and tour the world supposedly and kind of made a living and made a great career and I’m really thankful for that. But now that’s kind of out the window and we’re on an independent label and we were thinking about releasing in the same way that we used to and it just didn’t make any sense.

I mean we’ve both got interesting side hobbies – Ben’s a great painter and I’m really interested in making videos and animation and all that sort of stuff and there’s different sides of us that really want to produce stuff. But we never really had time to do it all at once. So not doing album is probably the most sensible thing we can actually do.

I always described your sound as “pop music that Martians listen to.” How would you describe it?

I’d say we’re more of a shock pop band. The idea was to write pop music that was a bit more strange or bizarre I’d like to say. I don’t think we’ve done much of that lately. I think we’ll probably get back into that sort of thing. It’s kind of come around again and things are a little bit more conservative even though there’s a vast array of things you can get yourself into these days there’s still room for everyone as well as new things and interesting things. We’ve always had a niche somewhere.

I heard some of the new tracks and it sounds to me that you’re going back to your “roots” – some electro there, a little punk here. How’s the creative process now that you’re song-focused?

Well, on that EP [you heard] that’s the last kind of thing that we’ll be doing. We got together with a drummer and sort of wrote, rehearsed and did it, you know. We did it “the band” way, which we hadn’t done for years. I’m the kind of guy that likes to get in the studio and do a whole heap of electronic stuff and mould it the way I like to mould it. Ben’s more into the band kind of thing so it’s a push and pull thing like we used to. Maybe that’s why it’s more of a roots thing for us. Let’s face it, you’ve gotta have something to go back to, right? Neither one of us are going to have drug meltdowns. So there’s gotta be some sort of thing we can go back to. So I guess going back to the roots of your music is the alternative.

Your previous label, Warner Music put your entire back catalog on iTunes last year. Do you embrace the digital revolution or are you skeptical of it? What’s your favorite musical medium?

I am not skeptical at all. I mean it’s there; you can’t do anything about it. It’s one of those technical revolutions that’s changed millions of jobs everywhere and mine was one of them. I don’t buy records that often at all. I download my music and I’m happy for people to download our music. As far as I’m concerned you can’t control data and copyrighted data is very difficult to control. The only thing you can control these days are performances because they’re original and you’re part of it and there’s no one else that can do it in exactly the same way. I’m happy to accept that to have happened over the last five years. There’s nothing I can do about it.

Well, people can still record your gigs on their phones and upload it to YouTube even while you’re playing.

Oh, totally. But it’s always going to be different to actually being there. If you want to taste my sweat or have me spit in your eye then you’ve got to be at the show (laughs.)

I think there is a massive disconnect from the real life experience and what you see on YouTube. It doesn’t compare, in my opinion.

Exactly, but having said that, the funniest thing I saw recently was a friend of mine living in Hong Kong was with a pop band from Australia that I’d never heard of – but was huge in Asia – I think she was a soap opera star here? Anyway, he was doing the drums for them and he’s like a great drummer – he was playing in this ridiculous auditorium at Hitech which is like a conference center. All these Asian Hong Kong-ese girls and boys were sitting down listening to them play and ninety percent of them were watching them through their phones – it was ridiculous! They were filming it for their friends but spent all the time looking at the screens on their phones while they were doing it.

Wow, that’s scary.

Yeah, it’s the future. Apparently.

Over the years, Regurgitator have been termed as “indie.” Recently, “indie” has become a byword for emasculated pop-rock that barely offends the parents of their intended audience. What’s your take on that?

That sounds pretty much like us these days. No, I don’t know. God, that’s just one person’s opinion, right? Or several people’s opinions that you probably won’t ever have a chance to talk to, except when you do press. I don’t really understand – there’s so many genres now and so many labels for them that it’s actually more confusing now than not having any labels. Aren’t labels meant to make it easier for other people to understand or to describe something to someone? There’s so many now you’re better off saying to someone just download it and listen for yourself. It’s a click away. Why do we even have these words to describe music? It’s not something you can do without actually listening to it now. Back in the day when music was talked about and were made more popular by word of mouth – you had to describe music so you made labels. Now I just don’t see the point of it.

That’s true – when you label something you also libel it in a way – you set up expectations in others that expose their prejudices to a certain label. It’s just too confusing when fans say one thing and the band says another.

I’m surprised people talk about music at all these days when it’s so easy to go online and do a couple of clicks and you’re there and you can listen and go “oh, that’s what it is.” You can make your own mind up and not be poisoned by anyone else’s opinion. “This is what it’s like, this is what it’s like live, do I want to go and see a live version of this.”

Now that Regurgitator is in an advanced stage, do you still have a cynical, take no prisoners attitude like you used to?

Advanced stage? You make us sound like some kind of disease. (laughs)

That’s not what I meant! There’s so many new bands you’re kind of like the stalwarts of the scene, in a way.
It’s very, very weird. We did a show at the East Brunswick Club and we got interviewed by this guy and he was a bit cheeky – I liked his interview style because I kind of like to do that too – but he asked us something that made me a little bit uncomfortable just because we were about to play. He asked us if we were still relevant. I just had a knee-jerk reaction and said “Of course not. Just stop listening to us. Instead, use the opportunity to check out new bands with far more relevance than us. Do it now, do it today.” (laughs) But it is just one person’s opinion. It is a personal thing whether you think a band is relevant. It could be a band that was recording in the 1930s and that can be as relevant as a band that started recording in 2009. You might love them for a year and forget about them. You might love them for two weeks and forget about them.

I find myself listening to new music a lot – the last band I was super excited about was Sleigh Bells. I was listening to them while I was doing the vacuuming. It got my head nodding and pushed all the right buttons but after that I never listened to them since. That’s how some people function. They might find something they love and it’s relevant to them for five minutes and all of a sudden they’ve found something else and forgotten about it and have been distracted by something else completely different.

Fair enough. But one thing before I go – what does the guy say at the start of “The Song Formerly Known As” on that sample, it’s been bugging me since I was thirteen years old!

Well, it’s a random sample. It cost me like sixty-six percent of the publishing rights of that song. It was from a Silver Convention record and they weren’t even that massive of a band. They found out we used it and we hadn’t cleared it before hand and they were gonna sue unless we handed over that much of the royalties. Just for that sample and the “thank you mister dee-jay” which is from the same song. It wasn’t even a hook or anything! It was the original recording and I didn’t make any effort to clear it. So I guess I deserved what I got.

Damn. Well, it’s been great talking to you Quan (Kwohn), best of luck with your projects and Regurgitator!

No worries, thanks a lot for the chat!

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