It’s so incredible to see bands like Regurgitator still killing it in the music industry. Their ability to shift and change their sound to suit and mingle within any genre is truly inspiring. However, when they performed at an Andy Warhol tribute show, their ability to be on the forefront of invention and reinvention truly stood out. On the back of a wonderful performance at the National Gallery of Victoria in April this year, the boys are at it again, bringing their rendition of The Velvet Underground and Nico to the Sydney Festival and Tassie’s MONA FOMA in January next year.
Regurgitator’s Ben Ely took the time to chat to us about influences, why they chose to cover this particular record, and being inspired by Aussie music.
MF: You’ve got the Sydney Festival coming up next year in January where you’re performing The Velvet Underground and Nico. Why that particular record?
BE: I think it’s just one of those records that really change your perspective of music. I think when I was in high school, in the suburbs where I grew up, I was listening to Madonna and Michael Jackson and Prince, or even listening to Metallica or Iron Maiden and then I started getting into punk. But I had a mate who was a bit of a goth kind of guy, you know the black hair and the makeup and at the time he was a really interesting guy and I remember going around to his house after school one day and he played me that record. Immediately I was like “wow this is like nothing I’ve ever heard before”. There are these few moments when something clicks in your mind and you start thinking about music in a very different way. It’s a really different sort of sounding record to anything that’s around.
MF: Did you ever get into that goth phase when you were younger?
BE: My first girlfriend was a goth (laughs), so I wore paisley shirts and dyed my hair black and wore pointy shoes, but when you’re a teenager you go through all sorts of weird phases.
MF: When did the idea first come about and when did you as a collective decide that you were going to attempt that album?
BE: Our manager booked the music for National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). He’s been doing it for a very long time like around eight years, and we’ve never ever played a gig there. I think there was a moment where we all looked at each other and said “how come we’ve never done this before?”. I guess because he manages it he doesn’t want to be seen picking his mates to play. But over coffee one day he just said “oh this Andy Warhol show is coming up, and he said if you were to do a gig what would you wanna do?”.
My wife is a contemporary dancer and just did a tour in China, and a friend of ours Mindy plays the guzheng. So, I had this idea because we all love that banana album so much, why don’t we do the banana album, which is kind of Warhol’s influence with a Chinese influence. And well, we presented it to the gallery and they liked the idea and yeah that’s how it kind of started. We did it at NGV and it was just so fun. We really wanted to do it again and it seemed that other cities were interested.
MF: You’re an artist as well, is that something that also pushed you in that direction?
BE: Not really, it’s kind of like wearing a different hat. Being in a band or any sort of creative industry you get to express yourself in so many different ways. If you want to, you can throw yourself creatively and express yourself in so many different ways whether it’s recording or art. I don’t know many jobs that allow you to express yourself in so many different ways.
MF: Is it a different feeling for you guys on stage when you’re covering someone else’s work than what it would be if you were playing your own stuff?
BE: Yeah! It’s heaps of fun, because the songs are so much better! (laughs). It does feel as though it’s not as much pressure and you kind of get to pretend that you’re one of your heroes, like say Lou Reed for example. It just had this really nice feeling to it, playing that record. It’s funny though because some of the songs are quite dark and heavy, you know about drugs or bondage or prostitutes, like really dark subjects. But when we did the show it just kind of felt really celebratory. A real celebration of the music. It’s a fun interpretation as opposed to mimicking it.
MF: Is there a particular track you liked playing the most?
BE: I was lucky enough to sing Venus in Furs. I just love the vibe of the track. That song is about bondage, and it feels really spooky. I love the rhythm and the way the bass moves and how the lyrics sit in there. It’s really fun.
MF: And now you guys are playing MONA FOMA in Tassie as well, is there anyone on that lineup that you’re looking forward to seeing yourself?
BE: I would love to see the Peaches Christ Superstar, it looks incredible.
MF: In terms of you guys making music, is there anyone who’s influencing you to keep creating and doing that sort of stuff?
BE: I’ve actually just been checking out a bunch of new artists in Australia. I’m always searching for new music, it always seems like there is something new popping up just around the corner. There’s a lot of really great stuff. I really like Bad/Dreems and Summer Plague. It’s really inspiring.
MF: There’s a crazy influx of new stuff out there right now hey?
BE: Yeah definitely, once you start looking there’s just so much stuff. It’s always great discovering new stuff. It’s a great time for music.
MF: Is there any band that you’d like to see cover your early stuff?
BE: Oh wow I’ve never thought of that. I dunno we’re kind of outsider weirdos. We kind of don’t feel like we fit anywhere, ever. We always struggle with the question “oh who are we going to play with?”. We like to play with hip hop and punk rock, all different sorts of styles. A lot of bands that are you know, in those kind of scenes don’t sort of seem to connect with us because we don’t really do one thing. Actually, there’s a really funny band in China called New Pan, I’d probably like to see them play our stuff.
MF: Speaking of collaborations, you had that spontaneous performance with Waleed Aly and Dan Sultan. How did that come about?
BE: I think Prince had just passed, and Dan had covered Purple Rain recently, and then suddenly Waleed showed up, it was all really kind of spontaneous. Really spur of the moment stuff, although looking back on it I’m kind of wishing we did rehearse! (laughs).
MF: You’ve been playing music and playing in bands for such a long time, is there anything left on your bucket list that you’d like to pursue?
BE: I’m really enjoying doing a lot of solo stuff at the moment, I did a record called Goodbye Machine last year. It’s pretty dark but I’m writing stuff now because I like the idea of just travelling around and playing shows myself just me and a guitar and enjoying that restriction.
MF: You’re just about to wrap up your tour, have there been any standouts so far?
BE: All the moments have been really great, but the standouts for me have been Byron Bay and Adelaide. Adelaide was really feral, it just seems like Adelaide people just get so excited. Byron was a big surprise, we didn’t think anyone was coming in and all these crazy surfers went nuts!
Regurgitator will perform as part of the Sydney Festival in January 2017.
Regurgitator Perform The Velvet Underground & Nico
Tuesday, 17th January
Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent
Tickets: Official Website
Sydney Festival 2017
Saturday, 7th — Sunday, 29th January
Various Venues, Sydney
Tickets: Sydney Festival
MONA FOMA 2017
Friday, 18th January – Sunday, 22nd January
Various Locations, Hobart