As an art form and a means of communication, music is fairly unique in its ability to be at once inherently personal and all-encompassing. It can capture an indefinable feeling at a certain time and forever be held dear as a memory, while simultaneously drawing large crowds together to share a new, collective experience.
So found Ben Ely, bassist and singer in Regurgitator, when they toured in 2012 to perform their lauded albums, Tu-Plang and Unit. “I had at least six to eight couples coming up and go, ‘We had sex for the first time,’ or ‘I met my partner and then we got married listening to you,’” he laughs. “And then you get people that go, ‘I used to listen to you when I was three and now I’m old enough to come and see you play!’”
Unbeknownst to the Brisbane alt-rockers at the time, their long-time manager Paul Curtis conspired to record the Melbourne dates of that tour, and those recordings are about to be issued as Nothing Less Than Cheap Imitations – their first live album in a career spanning 22 years. “It’s pretty warts and all,” says Ely. “It’s not like a live album like KISS would do where they go back in the studio and make it all neat and clean – it’s pretty rough and live. I think a lot of people are keen for that.”
Having been forged in the fires of early ’90s Brisbane, and rising to national prominence in a cluster of bleached hair, tattoos and attitude with the release of Tu-Plang in 1996, Regurgitator are something of a national treasure, an anomaly in the narrative of Australian pop. As is demonstrated on the live album, time has not diminished the Gurge’s power and intensity – something that audiences will be reminded of when the band returns for a run of shows in August and September.
“We haven’t played for almost two years now so we’re all excited about doing it again,” says Ely. “We want to treat it like a party and throw in a couple of older songs that we haven’t played for a while – maybe grow some handlebar moustaches, get some leather hot pants, I’m not entirely sure! We’re still in preparation for that.”
Despite the intense amount of time the pair have spent together since their early 20s, Ely is genuinely excited at the prospect of returning to the stage with his co-frontman, Quan Yeomans. “Quan and I are best friends,” he says. “I’m getting married for the first time in September and he’s my best man and our manager’s my best man too. We probably fought quite a lot for the first ten years and now we’ve gotten into a point where we know how to be together without fighting. It’s like the most perfect family scenario you could possibly imagine.
“I think the big trick in being in a band is working with someone that you really relate to on a musical level. I appreciate my relationship with Quan, because outside of Regurgitator, I’ve played in lots of bands, and I’ve never had a relationship that is as naïve and juvenile and fun. It just seems when we get together it works.”
The latest project the pair have embarked upon together may come as a surprise to those who will forever associate them with ‘I Sucked A Lot Of Cock To Get Where I Am’. “We’re in the process of working on a kids’ TV show, which is really bizarre,” says Ely. “We just laugh our arses off all day coming up with these retarded ideas that are so juvenile, designing puppets and making really stupid songs. It feels really genuine, like we should have been doing this 20 years ago.”
It is refreshing to hear that the same sort of wide-eyed enthusiasm that typified their early work is still around, although applied with a little less aggression.
“We used to distort everything – the drum kit, bass and guitar, and Quan would scream kind of incessantly,” remembers Ely of their embryonic years. “We used to swear a lot more, and that kind of worked to our benefit at the start. I remember when Quan wrote the song ‘Blubber Boy’ – that definite shift from being angry young men to trying to toy with some sort of pop sensibilities and play with melody as well.”
Regurgitator were among the last wave of Australian bands to experience the budgets afforded by a major label at the end of the century. “It was great,” says Ely. “They just let us do what we wanted – we toured America and Europe quite a lot. It’s a very different industry now; you’d have to be mental to do it as a career. You just have to really love the process of making music and the enjoyment of putting the puzzle of the song together.”
The band now produces music in its home studios, with albums available for a pay-as-you-please investment via Bandcamp. “You can just have it if you want, we don’t care,” shrugs Ely. “That’s why we feel so fortunate that we’ve got those people that go to our shows. It blows me away every time we do a show and sell it out, or get a large crowd. I personally have a lot of gratitude for the band that exists as it is today, and look back fondly on what we’ve been through in the past.”
Regurgitator’s Nothing Less Than Cheap Imitations: Live At the HiFi Melbourne is out independently on Friday September 4.
Originally published in The Brag on 5/08/2015. View original article.