John O’Regan, also known as Canadian artist Diamond Rings, has achieved moderate success in recent years. As a part of Canada’s do-it-yourself music scene, O’Regan’s musical career would begin with post-punk quartet The D’Urbervilles, before creating Diamond Rings several years later.
Since Diamond Rings’ inception in 2008, O’Regan’s one-man band has since become a full band. They also recently released their sophomore album,Free Dimensional, and have been touring in support of the album. The group recently came through Austin for Fun Fun Fun Fest.
O’Regan spoke with Red River Noise about his latest album, what he learned from attending college and if he would win in a rap battle with Snow.
How has it been performing with a full band?
Diamond Rings: It’s been great. In the past it was just me, which was a challenge considering I had to carry everything, etc. Having a band frees me up and allows me to have more fun.
You recently released your second album, Free Dimensional. How did working with Damian Taylor come about?
Rings: It’s funny because I’ve known him for a while, and we wanted him to mix my last album, Special Affections. But he got busy with the Bjork record and I wanted my record to come out right away, so we released it as is. But once both of our schedules lined up, he was the first person I chose for Free Dimensional.
Do you feel you have progressed as an artist since your first album?
Rings: Absolutely, I think I have grown a lot. I’ve gotten a lot more confident in what I do. The first album was literally about me learning how to write electronic music. Some of those songs on [Special Affections] were some of the first songs I had ever recorded on a computer. It was just fun working on Free Dimensional with Damian because I had a general idea of how I wanted the album to be. It was still a challenge, but I enjoyed myself overall.
What I like about Free Dimensional is that it has a ready-for-the-stage vibe to it. Was that intentional from the very beginning, or did that just come about as you were recording?
Rings: For sure. I would like to think that that came about after opening for artists like Robyn, Twin Shadow or Junior Boys. I wrote [Free Dimensional] imagining being on tour for awhile, and wanting the songs to be upbeat and positive.
You rap on Free Dimensional. Who would win in a rap battle: you or fellow Canadian rapper Snow?
Rings: [laughs] Snow is pretty quick. I’m going to go with Snow, at least if we’re talking about “Informer” era Snow. That was when he was at the top of his game. That is an amazing reference. I decided to rap on the album, simply to challenge myself. Fans go bananas for those parts whenever I perform, so that’s cool. But don’t expect me to get into any rap battles any time soon. [laughs]
It reminded me of Euro-dance music, or Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.
Rings: Damian and I listened to a lot of that stuff, when we would go on break from recording. Marky Mark, 2 Unlimited, C&C. All these great bands that do not get enough credit. That’s cool that you noticed that.
Prior to creating Diamond Rings you attended the University of Guelph. What would you say is one of the most important things you took from school, and have applied to Diamond Rings?
Rings: That’s a good question; you have done your homework. My manager [Remi Arora] and I met at the University of Guelph. So that’s a big thing. Also, my synth player and I used to room together at Guelph. Even a lot of the people I work and collaborate with, I met there. More than anything it was just a place for me to make mistakes, and screw up. A lot of my projects consisted of putting on shows, and curating the whole experience. It just taught me a lot.
Recently, a lot of Canadian artists have been receiving attention, both on mainstream and less commercial scales. Drake, The Weeknd, Grimes, yourself. How is it seeing a sort of beacon being placed on Canada, for new music?
Rings: I think it’s really cool, and I think a lot of that got rolling with bands like Metric, Stars and Broken Social Scene. I think my generation is picking up where these bands left off, and running with it a bit further.
Visuals are a very important part to Diamond Rings. Are there certain artists you take inspiration from?
Rings: Definitely. Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, NWA. Not only did these groups have a distinct look and style, but there was an athletic sensibility to it all. And I appreciate that because my shows are athletic. I’m running around and dancing, so it’s important that I wear stuff I can easily move around in.
What are your plans once tour is over?
Rings: I’m writing and recording every day on tour, so there’s that. Once I’m done recording new material, I’ll start preparing for the next tour, and see where I go from there.