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A Little More Than Regular: Regular John

The result of two years of hard living, hard partying and hard work, Regular John's debut album, The Peaceful Atom Is A Bomb, has been dubbed by Rolling Stone magazine as “the perfect distillation of everything good that’s happened since rock found a heavy, fuzzy imagination in the late sixties.” Relocating to inner-Sydney from their country hometown of Griffith, the album finds common ground between the band's vast range of influences whilst simultaneously displaying an experimental side that might not always be obvious from their powerful live shows.
In light of their success, bassist Caleb Gorman and guitarist Ryan Adamson recently spoke with Side Street, Sydney.

How did you become Regular John?

Caleb: Both Ryan and Brock started Regular John in high school back in 2002. We all moved from Griffith to Sydney together and I joined on bass. Once we moved we began to start taking the band more seriously - practising more and playing more gigs.

Ryan: At that point it was 2005.

Why ‘Regular John’? I realise the title is from a Queens Of The Stone Age song.

Ryan: Brock chose the name.

Caleb: You know when you’re in high school and you come up with these band names, but in hindsight, they just weren’t that great? The name stuck so we just kept it.

Ryan: It doesn’t conjure up any expectations because it doesn’t sound specific to a single genre of music. It could be a rapper's name, like Lil' John.

Do you think growing up away from the city and its influences helped shape the band's sound?

Ryan: We never had an indie record store or anywhere we could really access underground music, so the only kind of rock music we knew was from what was being played on Rage, which was for the most part pretty mainstream stuff. Even the late night clips they were showing were of the bigger alternative bands.

Caleb: But to us they were the only alternative bands. Growing up, we didn’t know about the underground scene 'til much later. We didn’t know the difference between what was cool and what wasn’t and we were able to create our own sound without knowing and having to keep in mind what was trendy. There was no need to feel endorsed by a certain subculture.
When we arrived in Sydney and started gigging, everything was very dance rock oriented and we didn’t really fit in. Had we formed the band in Sydney at that time I’m sure we would have sounded just like everyone else.

Ryan: And we would have sucked so…

Caleb: We’re still not cool but that’s fine by us.

At the time Sydney was probably at its electro best (or worst). How has it been playing to crowds that are returning to rock music?

Ryan: I think we weeded out the people that weren’t into guitar driven music. When we first started out half the crowd were rocking out and the other half were confused looking hipsters. Our fans are really cool, but not in a fashionable way. Oscar Wilde once said, ‘fashion is so horrible that it changes every six months.’ There’s what’s ‘cool’ and there’s a cool that’s a lot less self-conscious.

Do you feel there’s an obvious shift between your Marrickville 2204 EP and The Peaceful Atom Is A Bomb?

Caleb: The Marrickville 2204 EP we recorded in one day and had more of punk feel to it. It was a statement that we were Regular John and it gave us more attention as a band. We had a lot more time to record The Peaceful Atom Is A Bomb and worked with a producer, which was the obvious next step. It was exciting for us because we’re big fans of layers of guitars and sonic soundscapes just as much as we are fans of really raw guitar.

I know that the cover art was by Caleb, and I think album art is always important because it’s a further extension your music.

Caleb: Artwork is a big thing for us because it’s what you’re looking at when you’re listening to the album. Bands like Pink Floyd, Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead all have great artwork and I get just as excited listening to the albums for the first time as I do looking at the album sleeve booklets. It feels slightly lost now with the digital age.

How do you approach writing new music for the band?

Caleb: Every song is different. Some songs we jam and they’ll grow organically and other times someone will come in with an idea and we’ll build upon that. When touring there’s generally no time to work on anything new but instead you improve your skills as a musician.

Do you think it’s a realistic ideal to want to be a musician and solely base a career around that?

Ryan: In the seventies and eighties, and even the late nineties, record companies were throwing stupid amounts of money at bands, but now the industry suits have wised up. CD’s aren’t selling as well as they used to because it’s no longer the only means to access music and unless you’re internationally successful it’s not a sole source of income.

photo by Jacinda Fermanis

Are you concerned about the potential of overexposure?

Caleb: I don’t worry about the hype so long as we don’t believe it. It’s interesting because a lot of the more mainstream publications have been supportive whereas the smaller independent blogs aren’t as enthusiastic. It’s not like we want to dominate the world but we’re not happy to just sit in the underground. It’s easy to get caught in the expectations of not ‘selling out’ and doing everything independently. We want to do our own thing and pave our own path.

Regular John are playing this Friday, the 22nd of January at the Sydney leg of Big Day Out. The event is sold out, but if you were one of the lucky ones to score yourself a ticket, you can catch the boys playing the Local Produce stage at 2.30pm.

words: Jacinda Fermanis


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