Diamond Rings, real name John O'Regan. (QMI file photo)
Toronto glam-electro-pop star Diamond Rings, real name John O'Regan, is ready, as they say, for his closeup.
O’Regan's buzzed-about, polished-sounding sophomore album, Free Dimensional, already nabbed him performing spots on Letterman and Leno in the last couple of weeks, and he begins a headlining club tour of Canada on Nov. 16 after opening for Montreal band Stars and doing his own shows in the U.S.
"A lot of what this album is about is not fighting those things that come naturally," says the peroxide-blonde, faux-hawked O' Regan, 27, his six-foot-four frame draped in a black leather vest and black pants at a Toronto bar recently.
"It's about embracing all within us that is contradictory or different ... Like I recognize I'm speaking from a relatively privileged position when I say that, being in an open and accepting major cosmopolitan city in Canada. You go drive five hours up north and maybe it's a little harder to show up at a bar with tights and eye shadow on. But I'm making my music for those people. There are people everywhere who want to be different."
O'Regan began his musical career in the post-punk group The D'Urbervilles, and then the Casio-pop duo Habitat, before heading out on his own as Diamond Rings after graduating with a studio arts degree from the University of Guelph, where he played volleyball.
"I grew up playing like punk music and detesting fashion and the world of pop and probably hating most of what I do now," he says. "And I think that's what I find really exciting and interesting about the path that I'm on."
His first independently made album, 2010's Special Affections, garnered him an opening spot on Swedish dance-pop star Robyn's 2011 tour, and a best new artist Juno nod in 2012.
"I was really psyched about getting nominated for a Juno," says O'Regan, who attended the ceremony in Ottawa earlier this year. "I know that turned on a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't have heard of me. I know it made my parents and extended family pretty happy ... Maybe in some people's estimation, it made me less cool."
His musical influences range from Kylie Minogue to Kraftwerk to Grace Jones to Public Enemy.
So when it came to making Free Dimensional, O'Regan hooked up with Montreal-based producer Damian Taylor (Bjork, The Killers) through multi-instrumentalist and fellow Canuck Owen Pallett, with whom he'd previously collaborated. O'Regan was encouraged by Taylor to adopt "a more confident and more direct lyrical attitude."
"It is a big step for me as an artist. Every record, everything I put out, should feel different, and should in some way represent my taking a risk ... Feeling accomplished or confident in a certain way that's kind of when I get bored. I always want everything that I do to feel a bit foreign or a bit unknown 'cause that's where the excitement comes, that friction between feeling comfortable and uncomfortable, that is really charged, that's what keeps me coming back."
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