Feb. 27, 2013 - Issue #906: Tegan and Sara - Pop goes their world
As John O'Regan answers his phone, he's immersed in a moment of domestic crisis. The well-coiffed figure behind Diamond Rings' poppy art-rock is trying to finish some serious apartment renovations just a few days before leaving on tour; he's moved into a new apartment (across the hall from his old one), a larger suite to accommodate both more studio space for himself and a second presence: his girlfriend is moving in. Toilet, bathtub and kitchen sink will be installed by the end of the day, if the fates are willing and the interviews kept relatively short.
"I can spackle the wall while we're talking," O'Regan says, assessing the tasks at hand. "It's good to multitask."
His upcoming departure will be the second tour behind his Free Dimensional, an album that finds O'Regan adding the musical equivalent of washboard abs to Diamond Rings' once-shy pop veneer: If O'Regan's debut, Special Affections, made its impact by its putting a glammy shimmer on feelings of uncertainty, Free Dimensional finds him replacing those hesitations with an added confidence and a sound aimed squarely at the dancefloor.
"I've always tried to capture that uncertainty in my work; when I go back and perform some of those songs [on Special Affections], that whole album is born out of that feeling: of feeling alone, feeling lost, uncertain," he says. "The new album, not so much. When I was working on that album I was in a more confident and secure place: I had enough money to eat, and focus solely on making a record, which is what I've been working towards for the last decade. To have that opportunity was really something that I didn't take for granted, because I know a lot of people work really hard and never get that opportunity."
O'Regan points out that Free Dimensional was written almost identically to Special Affections: mostly in his bedroom. For its recording, though, he tapped producer Damian Taylor, known for working with the likes of the Killers and Bjork, to help guide Free Dimensional's bigger direction.
"He has the ears and the patience to go off and tune a kick drum for five consecutive hours to make it sound just right," O'Regan says. "That's something I have neither the patience nor the ability to do."
The fuller, richer sound that O'Regan's emerged with on Free Dimensional is the one he's always been getting at, he notes.
"That's always what I wanted to do—that's what I wanted to do with my first album. And I think that's something that, y'know, certainly a lot of critics and even some of my fans have not fully realized," he says. "The goal for Diamond Rings has always been for it to be, essentially, a populist art project. Pop art. And with this album, I think more than anything, it's just a product of me becoming better as an artist; becoming more confident, more sure of what I wanted to do, and better able to execute what I want to do.
"I've never had the intention to keep, y'know, keep myself in a lo-fi or mid-fi range," he adds. "There's no sense in holding yourself back if you're capable of doing more."
Thu, Mar 7 (9 pm)
With Data Romance
Starlite Room, $15
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