Diamond Rings :: I’m Just Me

By Adrienne Yeung

Everything about Diamond Rings (aka Toronto native John O’Regan) dazzles these days, especially when every facet of the platinum-mohawked, bejewelled musician throws back an image of the musical and visual changes that have taken place over the past two years. His second album, Free Dimensional (released Oct. 23) is obviously grown up out of Special Affections‘ (2010) sparkly DIY-esque pop: It’s polished, deliberate, and endlessly catchy.  While a phone interview sadly failed (the recorded interview is literally five minutes of mumbling, crackling, and my repeating “Hello? Hello?” into the Stylus phone), we managed to finally connect via trusty e-mail to find out what he’s got to say about his changing presence and sound.

“I’m also not interested in the presentation of ideas,” explains O’Regan. “I’m interested in the expression of feelings. I don’t speak to the world. I speak to the self.”

This comes through in pretty much every song on Free Dimensional, where O’Regan’s trademark baritone combined with constantly energetic backbeats seem to  produce the sounds of various emotions. Personally, I hear the sound of how you feel when you throw yourself into a new relationship (“Runaway Love”), realise you own your identity (“I’m Just Me”), and feel like you’re finally on the right track (“Stand My Ground”), among others. This is obviously different for everyone, but the optimism displayed throughout is universal.

“I’ve always attempted to make my music accessible. That’s the whole point of being an artist,” says O’Regan. “Perhaps I’m just getting better at what I do and it’s becoming more readily apparent that I treat accessibility as an end in itself, rather than simply a means to something more vapid like fame or fortune.”

The bottom line for O’Regan, it seems, is that Free Dimensional connects with its listeners. It’s not necessarily best experienced “sitting at home with virgin vinyl, headphones, and a hi-fi,” but possibly also with “a poorly dubbed cassette tape in a used car or on cheap earbud headphones at the gymnasium.”

This is instantly apparent when Diamond Rings plays live shows now, too. O’Regan explained that travelling with the addition of a band “really allows me to engage with the audience and perform to the full extent. After touring for a while, it was something that I [realised I was] really missing: to be able to look people in the eye instead of staring into the computer screen.”

A conscious effort to experiment and keep things fresh are what guided Free Dimensional out of the place that 2010’s Special Affections tour had carved for itself. He mentions at one point that he’s already working on new material. However, “the final version is never what anyone has in mind at the very outset of the creative process.” He notes that the title of the album is its own manifestation to his creative process, choosing it because “I wanted to allow myself the room to experiment with different styles and sonic textures without the fear of having to conform to what I feel are often narrow genre categorizations.”

Indeed. For example, this time around you can hear O’Regan rapping on several tracks, which is something he hasn’t tried before. He actually wrote “Day and Night” in one morning, but hesitated to add in the R&B hook that his producer had pushed for. Eventually, he “decided to just go for it. I’m definitely most proud of that song.”

The recently released music video for “I’m Just Me” is stunning in its production quality. Space themes and avant-garde outfits abound, which visually augment O’Regan’s confidence in his career and deliberate steps towards creating the Diamond Rings presence. However, he says as a reminder, “You can find a bit of me in every facet of Diamond Rings. No one part of me takes precedent.”

Friday night’s concert at the Pyramid promises a good mood, super danceable beats, and a super time. But what’ll he be doing during the day? “[I’ll be] sleeping and stretching,” O’Reagan says, “in that order.”

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