All that glitters: There’s more to Canada’s Diamond Rings than meets the eye

WEKB_DiamondRings_0711
credit: Norman Wong

If you were to catch a Diamond Rings set for the first time, and had absolutely no expectations for or knowledge of their music, your initial reaction might be…whoa.

Because the synth-pop outfit (the solo project of Toronto-bred John O’Regan, that has recently expanded to include a full band) seems designed to catch you off guard, and throw you off balance. O’Regan dresses the part of a Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie — makeup and all — voguing for the crowd and throwing his angular, androgynous form around the stage with abandon.

“Yeah, Bowie comes up a lot,” says O’Regan. “I think because, obviously, there aren’t as many men in music who wear makeup as there are women. And that’s totally fair, I’m a Bowie fan as much as anyone else. But I think when I look to my inspiration in terms of what I do aesthetically, it’s probably women more…say from people like Annie Lennox or Grace Jones. Women who are assertive and powerful without sort of stooping to the lowest common denominator and just prancing around in a bra and panties. I think it’s empowering and it’s more of a powerful statement not to show off everything all the time.”

O’Regan’s empathy for and identification with femininity has obviously spurred some speculation about his sexuality (he’s deliberately ambiguous about that). And, for some, his flamboyant stage persona might seem like schtick. But that’s all sort of beside the point.

“I think, initially, it was just a way for me to unsettle the audience, by kind of unsettling myself,” he muses. “When I started out in Toronto, trying to make a name for myself, a lot of what was going on was just heteronormative indie rock. Big bands, six or seven people up on stage, there’s like four people playing guitar and someone playing like a glockenspiel and everyone kind of chanting and yelling and running around.”

With Diamond Rings, O’Regan (who had previously briefly fronted a fairly heteronormative indie band of his own, The D’Urbervilles, before going solo in 2009), wanted to step outside that box. Moreover, he wanted to smash apart that box’s walls.

“The goal became to kind of present a show where I could leave people not fully sure of what they’ve just seen,” he says. “A lot of times you go see a band and you feel like you’ve figured out the whole thing within the first minute. My goal is to always keep engaging people, or re-engaging people, and that was kind of a big approach with the new record [2012’s Free Dimensional]. I think it’s important for people to see that people aren’t just one thing. People can be a lot of different things all trapped in one body.”

Indeed, O’Regan compares gearing himself up for one of his dynamic performances to an athlete pumping himself up in the locker room. “Part of the ritual of playing hockey or football or whatever is just getting your equipment on, getting the uniform on,” he says. “I feel like that gets everyone kind of out of their regular character and into their stage character.” He grew up playing sports, a fact that might surprise those who have a certain idea about a man who dons glittery eye makeup and skin tight lamé pants on a nightly basis.

You’d be wrong to pigeonhole Diamond Rings, however, as their heavily 80s-influenced brand of synth-pop is ever evolving. O’Regan attributes a lot of this growth — both musically and in a slightly toned down stage persona, now that he’s sharing stages with a full band — to the influence of bands he admires. For his current tour, he’s opening for UK new wave vets Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), a band he cites as a huge influence.

“I’ve toured with a lot of different artists but I haven’t yet really spent a lot of time on the road with a real career band,” he enthuses. “Never with a group that has sustained a career over multiple decades. We’ve been learning a lot. You’d be a fool to not learn a lot from a group that that has seen music grow and change over such a big stretch of time.”

He pauses, searching for an appropriate analogy. “It would be like being on a hockey team with an amazing player who’s been around for 15 years, like Wayne Gretzky on the Kings,” he says. “You learn just by watching and being around them, that’s enough. Just trying not to miss anything.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Pennsylvania police shooter manhunt near home of suspect's…

A police manhunt intensified on Friday for the gunman who killed an officer and wounded another in an ambush at a Pennsylvania police barracks a week ago.

Local

MAP: New York City street closures, September 19,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on September 19, 20 and 21. There will be many streets and…

Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Television

'Outlander' Season 1, Episode 7: 'The Wedding'

Claire and Jamie are man and wife!!! Like, ALL THE WAY, if you know what we mean. (Twice.)

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…