The sounds of explosions shake the seats and walls of the Sydney Opera House. The roar of racing motorcycles echos through the iconic venue for the first time in its history. Over 1,400 people watch on as scenes of gang warfare are fought out before them. And dwarfed beneath this action, a set of musicians.
‘That was the Akira project,’ says Quan Yeomans of eclectic local favourites Regurgitator. The project, a part of the first Graphic Festival – a series of events exploring the medium of comic books and graphic novels – saw the band reworking and performing live the score to the classic Japanese anime film, Akira. ‘The film was a masterpiece. They spent ten years creating the damn thing, so you can imagine how long must have been spent on the soundtrack – the to-ing and fro-ing, and changing arrangements to get things exactly right. It’s amazing. And we thought, “What the hell are we going to do?”
Although Quan typically speaks in a chilled out monotone, it is easy to detect the enthusiasm for the project seeping through when he talks about Akira.
‘It was an arduous task. Sitting down to work on it was daunting. It worked out really well though. We started with trying to do something completely different. We watched the film, and every time we heard something, we tried the opposite of what we’d heard. We spent two months sitting in front of ProTools and watching the film over and over again. It was so tiring, even though the finished work seemed quite simple when we played it all the way through. We’d love to play it again, though.’
With both anime and Australian music fans left reeling from the spectacle of Regurgitator’s Akira remix (‘They don’t even get that many people in there for opera!’ noted Quan,) the founding creative forces behind the band have found themself living in the same city for the first time in years, and free to develop new music.
‘Ben [Ely] and I are living in the same city for the first time in several years,’ Quan explains the parallel moves to Melbourne, and returning to recording music after producing the live score. He says that the plan now is ‘to focus on the band as a music producing band. It’ll take a little while to get back into the swing of things.’
In the meantime, Regurgitator have released Distractions online, a collection of the songs that have been produced since the return to Melbourne. The songs’ styles range from pitch-shifted electro-vocals, punk-rock ditties about web-trends, and bubbly romance fantasies.
The songs are now available online, and Regurgitator fans will be quick to notice that there is no discernable style or connection running through the four songs. Quan says that this is the result of having ‘shed some of the old habits of a “band,”‘ one of the benefits of now being signed to an independent label.
‘We’re trying to focus a little bit more on what we want to get out of what we do, and what the best artistic approach is. We’re not going to focus on albums anymore. We’re on an independent label, so why the hell should we have to adhere to this creative paradigm that’s been around for 80 or 90 years and just doesn’t seem appropriate these days. I know that I haven’t bought and album, or even listened to one from start to finish in years. It is just not the way that 90 percent of the young listeners are listening to or acquiring music.’
It is a trend which will suit the ‘Gurge, and allow them to return to their musical roots.
‘In a sense, it is more like when we first started out,’ Quan reflects. ‘The band started because we made a demo tape at a School of Audio Engineering course that I was doing. Four-tracks is what I used to use all the time to create. For those last four songs that we did, we went into a studio for the first time in years and felt completely uncomfortable. Listening to it, it sounds cool. It sounds like a band playing. But I don’t think it’s sonically superior to anything we could have done by ourselves. We both have decent spaces here and ways of recording, so we can use that. That’s kind of in keeping with the spirit of the band. Essentially, if you look at us, we are kind of like a punk band who got into pop music then became stupidly popular.’
Looking forward, the band plan on releasing more music via their soon-to-be-updated website, with songs uploaded as they are completed. Compilations of favourites may then be released on CD and vinyl to tie in with tours. This new style of releasing music will be a load off Quan’s shoulders. ‘We won’t have to sit around figuring out how to try to list them. It was always one of the pains of being in this band. The music has always been a bit all over the place.’
Coinciding with the website update and release of the Distractions recordings, Regurgitator will be touring nationally, avoiding the consistency of sound which Quan identifies with touring for the last album, Love and Paranoia.
‘I think we’re going to avoid that, and go back to a more eclectic kind of thing. We’re really interested in bringing some visual elements, particularly after doing the Akira thing. Also I explored quite a bit of that with my solo shows, just because I felt completely naked on stage on my own. I needed something happening behind me to make it a bit more entertaining.’
Beyond the tour, Regurgitator hope to delve more into other artistic projects, as they did with Akira. Since their last album the group have collaborated on a dance performance called Rock Show in Brisbane, and other projects they’ve worked on independently. Quan notes that he and Ben ‘tend to do a lot of different things now. Ben is a really good painter… I like to do my animation and theatre work.’
Of course, the most prominent performance art piece would be 2004’s Band in a Bubble, which saw Regurgitator locked in a glass dome in Federation Square to record their album Mish Mash! Quan says that it was ‘the ultimate version of making ourselves uncomfortable,’ and ‘a bizarre experience.’
In the end, though, he decides that ‘the band is this lumbering, creative beast that does whatever it turns its focus to.’
For the time being, that will be the September tour, with supports from Rat vs. Possum and Japan’s DJ Krush, and the release of new songs via http://www.regurgitator.net.