There’s a certain sense of archness about Regurgitator’s music, a sense of observing the world from a position of wry detachment. This wryly humorous approach has seen the band through a career of nearly two decades, which is why it’s so surprising to hear singer Quan Yeomans letting his guard down on their new album. Dirty Pop Fantasy, the band’s eighth full-length record, contains the requisite doses of bouncy, new wave-inspired pop, as well as a few heavy guitar freak-outs – but also several tender ballads on which Yeomans, dare I say it, sounds a little bit vulnerable. It doesn’t seem so strange, however, when you consider that during the writing and recording of their new album, Regurgitator turned to the perpetually lovelorn pop of The Magnetic Fields for inspiration.
“We listened to The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs constantly while we were recording the album,” says Yeomans. “We learned to play a lot of the songs, and we had this idea that we’d even busk some of them.” Of course, there’s more to the story than that. “I had a few relationship problems when I was living in Melbourne. A song like ‘Mountains’ on the new album was inspired in particular by that, and by The Magnetic Fields. I remember at the time how I’d sit and listen to them while I rode the trams. On the good days, I’d enjoy singing ‘Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits’, and on the bad days it was ‘I Don’t Want To Get Over You.’ That album was a really good fit for me at the time emotionally.”
In the wake of his relationship troubles, Yeomans left Melbourne for Hong Kong, and the experience of living and dating there has been an eye-opener for him. “I live in Mong Kok, which is one of the most populous places in the world,” he says. “There are 130,000 people per square kilometre here, as opposed to 8000 in central Sydney. It’s pretty intense.” Socially, the city is a whole new world. “The people you meet in Hong Kong are very different from the people you meet in Australia. There’s not a lot of art for art’s sake here. People are extremely stressed about their jobs, they have difficulty expressing themselves emotionally. They can be very cold in their interactions with you, so relationships here can be very different, too.”
As you might expect, Yeomans gets a lot of strange looks when he tells people he’s in a band, but he likes it that way. “A lot of people can’t compute that as a lifestyle or a way of surviving,” he laughs. “People in Hong Kong are all about the money. I mean, if you date a girl here and meet her parents and tell her what you do, it can be quite difficult. My best friend here is a magician – he does work for corporate people, which is basically all you do. The thing about Hong Kong is every art piece, every gallery show, every gig is something corporate. The only actual solo shows I’ve played here have been for Casio and Nike. You don’t really put on a show just for its own sake. That’s the way things are here. I mean, I get a kick out of it.”
Being an outsider in Hong Kong suits Yeomans just fine. “I don’t do a normal job here at all,” he says. “If I go back to Melbourne, every single person is a musician and an artist or whatever, so it’s not a big deal. Here, being a musician is actually kind of exciting!”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN
Regurgitator plays The Hi-Fi, Sydney on Friday October 4 and Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle on Saturday October 5. Dirty Pop Fantasy out Friday September 6 through Valve/MGM. And Regurgitator speaking at BIGSOUND in Brisbane, September 10-13.