Gentleman Reg on his new album and Kraft Dinner
Gentleman Reg (government name: Reg Vermue) has been busy this past year — spending his time writing and recording Leisure Life while moonlighting as Regina the Gentlelady in Light Fires with James Bunton of Ohbijou. He released Leisure life in three parts from July-September of this year culminating with the full release this past Tuesday (the 27th). We sat down to talk about his band lineup and how they've helped to shape a fuller sound, the perils of touring Canada, and how to turn Kraft Dinner into a gourmet dish.
Your latest album Leisure Life was released this past week — can you tell me about the recording process?
The album took about a year of arranging and recording. We recorded over many months in little chunks. I put it out as three EPs and the first one came out in July. There's one consistent band lineup (Kelly McMichael, Jon Hynes and James Bunton, who have been touring with Gentleman Reg the past few years) which I've never done before.
How, if at all, did that change your sound?
It was amazing — it changed everything really — partly because there was a keyboardist in my band and everyone could sing, so live we can do all these three part harmonies and the keys were a bigger part of it so I had all of that in mind when I was working on the songs. Basically there's a lot more vocals and synths. I let them change my sound (laughs.) I've never had so much outside creative input in the songs before. On my past records the songs are very much finished before I go into the studio but in this case it was very much open and I let my ego go. The lyrics are still all mine but it was still a huge change to my process and the end result is so satisfying to me and I love the record.
What are your touring plans for this album?
We're doing a small Ontario tour and focusing on Europe — it's so different there. I lived in Germany as a kid and I'm Dutch, so I do have a lot of ties to Europe. I've also done my time in Canada — I've driven back and forth through the country so many times, and I've had a great time. It's just so expensive and time consuming and unless your band is at a certain level it just doesn't make sense. On the other hand, to tour Germany it's so much smaller and there's so many more cities. So at this level it actually makes more sense to tour overseas even though getting there is an expense.
Are the audiences and reception different as well?
The crowd is more excited because you've come from so far away and you get treated differently for sure — by the promoters especially. They just have a different way of treating artists. The rider, the food and the drinks and, most importantly, they tend to put you up. I can't remember the last time a venue put me up in Canada, whereas there it's the norm.
You left Arts & Crafts after releasing Jet Black in 2009 and opted to release Leisure Life on your own label Heavy Head — why the change?
When I did Jet Black with Arts & Crafts it was finished for at least a year before it came out. There's just a lot of crazy stuff with labels — you have to really work within their constraints. There's also great things, of course, but there's a lot of frustrating things too. We talked about working together again with this new record and neither of us seemed that excited. The thought of shopping it around for six more months and waiting was so unappealing, so I just thought "you know what this is my fifth record...I kind of know how to do this now, so I'll just do it on my own." And so far so good.
What can people expect from your show at The Gladstone tonight?
Chinawoman from Berlin is playing as well as Army Girls. They're both great, so it's actually a good night for me to see bands. I've mostly been performing as Light Fires for the past year so it's exciting for me to be playing guitar again. With Light Fires it's dance music and it's drag and it's just a whole lot of other things, and I'm just excited to play with my band again.
What does the near future look like for you?
I just finished a Light Fires record that will be coming out in 2013 as well as some videos for Leisure Life. We also just recorded a cover song* that we were playing live on the last tour that people really liked, so that's coming out soon too.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
What distracts you on stage? The lighting
Last album you bought? The Luya's Animator
Last thing you cooked? Pasta with kale. Ok it was Kraft Dinner and I added kale to make it "healthier."
Favourite Toronto band? Kids on TV
Biggest pet peeve? Cars that try to hit me on my bike
*He would not reveal what song.
Photo by Robin Sharp