Interview with REGENTS (ex-Frodus/Battery/Thursday/S.T.T)
Formed in 2007 and boasting members from some of the most recognizable bands in hardcore and punk music, DC/Philly/Alabama quartet Regents has put together a ruckus, cathartic sound that screams release. Featuring David NeSmith (Sleepytime Trio), Drew Ringo (Maximillian Colby), Jason Hamacher (Battery/Frodus), and Lukas Previn (Thursday), Regents are no strangers to the stage or the road, and they’re looking to bring their new sound to a place near you very soon.
With punk rock quickness and gruff, aggressively delivered vocals, punctuated by superb drops that both double and cut in half the tension of the delivery, the songs offer solid bursts of intensity that will make any Riot Fester wet his/her pants with glee. More of an expansion than a reinvention, Regents’ driving rhythms and raw emotional delivery has an underground sound that all punk fans should check out.
I, for one, am very much looking forward to finally see these guys perform live. And with a new full length, titled Antietam After Party, produced by Jawbox’s J. Robbins (who also took over bass duties for the recording), we will all hopefully get a chance to do just that very soon. Interesting side note: TODAY is the 150th anniversary of the actual Battle of Antietam, so the timing couldn’t be better for this one! I spoke with the band to discuss the new record, how the group came together, the members’ previous acts, and when we can expect to see Regents hit the road.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! How is everything going with you guys lately?
R- Things are great but very, very busy. These are exciting times for all of us.
G- That’s what I like to hear! Regents members are pretty spread out geographically, having members from DC, Philly, and Alabama… Can you tell me a bit about where you are from, how the punk/hardcore scene is in your area, and how the responses have been at your shows thus far?
R- David, Drew, and Jason are originally from the DC area and Lukas grew up between London, Massachusetts and NYC. We all grew up listening to DC punk and were inspired by the angst of DC and their socially conscious ethics, like the activist punk organization Positive Force. Jason and Lukas now live in DC, Drew in Philly, & David in Alabama.
So far, the majority of our shows have been great. We’ve been able to reconnect with old touring pals like Retox and Planes Mistaken for Stars, and connect to kindred spirits like the Coliseum and Ladder Devil guys. We can’t wait to hit the road with Retox again in November.
G- For sure… I’m excited to catch one of those shows myself! Upstate, NY, please! So your new album, Antietam After Party, is titled to commemorate the 150 anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. Can you tell us a bit about the significance of this title and event, and where did you find the inspiration to write the songs on the album?
R- Antietam After Party is a tongue in cheek reference to the Civil War Battle of Antietam. It’s not named to commemorate the anniversary, but highlight the meaning of the battle. The name materialized one night as we were throwing out names for the record. Jason wanted to name the record Lacrosse After Party and David was reading a book about his family’s role in the civil war. His great great grandfather on his Mother’s side fought for the Union at Antietam against his great great Grandfather on his Father’s side who fought for the Confederacy. Dave’s family still has the musket and discharge papers from the battle!
After brainstorming the name we started to think about how Antietam changed the dynamic of the Civil War. Up until Antietam, the Union was getting hammered and Lincoln didn’t want to issue the Emancipation Proclamation behind a string of defeats. The Union’s victory at Antietam added weight to Lincoln’s Proclamation and strengthened the Union’s position to free the slaves. The history is interesting to us and Antietam After Party is a pretty funny album title.
G- Hmmm… A clever title and a history lesson all at once. If only all interviews were as informative… Thanks for that!
So, given the nature of current music consumers, if you had to pick only (1) Regents song to play for a new listener, what song would you choose, and why?
R- Pretty tough question! Perhaps “Cron Job”. A “cron job” is computer speak for a job that runs over and over again based on a specified time, date, or duration. When the United States decided to invest in our veterans returning from World War II with the GI Bill, the impact was substantial and made such a difference in people’s lives. Imagine if we took that premise and expanded on it! If the US offered a free year of higher education to everyone completing a year in the Peace Corps, Americorps or the Armed Services, our entire society would benefit. We could help Americans, and help ourselves in the process, by providing assistance and aid over and over again.
The song also ties into the sentiment of the WWI Bonus Army “occupy movement,” and also references the modern day Occupy Movement, i.e. folks coming together and demanding a return on promises… the “cron” reference alludes to a continued, ever repeating, need to fight, protest and demand what you are due.
G- More solid info for the day… And here I though “Cron” was something you smoked with rappers. So members of Regents come from a host of very influential and respected bands… What particular influences from your former pursuits have you brought to Regents, and how does the energy created here differ from your previous band?
R- For this record, we took the energy, anger and aggression of our past and built upon it. The 7″ sounded like Sleepytime Trio with the drummer from Frodus. But as time passed and we spent more time playing together the writing evolved to be a little heavier, a little more melodic and way more pissed. We made a conscious effort on this album to reconnect to our roots, follow our hearts and record what naturally occurred.
G- Nice, and what was your writing process like for the recording and who in the band typically comes up new music? Do you have a primary songwriter, or do you write music more organically through jamming during rehearsals?
R- Our writing has evolved out of necessity. A couple of the songs off the album were written with our first bass player at a time when we all lived closer and were practicing regularly. Then he quit, so Dave and Jason wrote and recorded a bunch of song demos. They sent them to Drew so he could work on his parts at home in Philly. The 3 of us would get together and hash out ideas then record a master demo. We like to say that Dave and Jason are the farmers, and Drew is the chef, meaning Dave and Jason handle creating concepts and structure, and Drew focuses on filling out the songs and adding texture.
We had basic song structures down before recording and concentrated on the details in the studio. The songs really came together once Drew laid down his baritone guitar parts and J added bass. We’ve started writing with Lukas and are excited to add another farmer to the team.
G- Right on, and speaking of J. Robbins, a legend in his own right, how was working in the studio with him, and what transpired that necessitated him playing bass guitar on the record?
R- We’ve known J for years. He recorded a couple Sleepytime Trio records and Frodus played a handful of shows with Jawbox but none of us had played or wrote music with him. The guy is magical to watch, write and work with.
This record is all about timing. The album was originally going to be (2) separate 7″s, but after some thought we wanted to really push ourselves to write a full length. We had already decided to record the 7″s with J and had studio time scheduled when our original bass player bailed. Jason had approached J about playing on the record but he couldn’t commit because of time constraints.
David and Jason went into the studio without a bass player and tracked 3 songs by themselves. J had some great feedback about the songs and had some unexpected free time, so he jumped on in and decided to play on the record. He would take the songs home after David and Jason laid down the base tracks and send us his ideas over email. We were totally shocked how amazing his parts were. He really took the bass lines to an entirely different level. His style is very unique and we couldn’t be happier.
G- That’s just awesome… Nicely done! Earlier you mentioned politics, and with the upcoming presidential election upon us, how you feel about the current state of affairs politically, and what do you think is the most pressing issue facing our nation today?
R- Number one issue? Money in politics. Super PACS, Billionaires, Multinational Corporations etc. The amount of money funneled into controlling elections is horrible, manipulative and disgusting.
G- I can agree with that… I’m surprised they don’t sell tickets to vote. Now that that is out of the way, what are your overall goals with Regents? What artists would you like to share a stage with in the future, and in what countries and areas do you hope to perform the near future?
R-We play music because we need to. Music is our way of grounding ourselves. Everyone is this band lives hectic day-to-day lives at home. All of us make large-scale sacrifices to play in this band. Every time we practice, play or record, there are plane tickets to be bought, childcare to be arranged, and organizing logistics and equipment. Our costs NEVER get covered. For us, it’s not about “covering costs” or how many people are at the shows. There are no illusions of making money or “making it” with our music. For us, it’s about creating ideas and sharing experiences with ourselves and others. To us, touring is a privilege, not a necessity. It’s a great way to reconnect with each other and meet and interact with people on and off the stage.
We would love to take Regents to far off places and share our ideas with people that may not normally experience this type of music. Last year, we started planning an adventure tour into South East Asia. We want to play anywhere people will listen with any band that will have us. If there is a handful of people in Borneo, accessible only by trekking through the jungle, who want to hear what we do…. We’ve got our hiking boots ready.
We’ll take Regents to the end of the Earth. Who knows… Maybe we’ll start organizing tours based on ancient trade routes or historical conquests… Touring the route Silk Road or the paths of Alexander the Great would be amazing.
G- Wow… Great answers and I really appreciate how honest you guys are about your music and pursuits, and I hope you guys get the chance to make that Alexander The Great trek happen!
Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
R- The advice we would give is not to think about “Making It.” Concentrate on what you want to say with your music, not who you want to impress with it. Enjoy what you do every day… and never quit making music. It doesn’t matter if millions, thousands, or 10 people listen because music is a part of who we are, not just what we do.
Music can be a powerful tool. Music has changed generations, influenced politics, and changed lives. It’s not just about record sales, Facebook likes, or Instagram photos. Don’t misunderstand us, all of those are great tools but there should be substance behind their use. We grew up listening to all kinds of music: Minor Threat, Black Flag, Indigo Girls, Sepultura and would have LOVED to follow them on Twitter or Instagram. Imagine getting Henry Rollins’ twitter feed during a Black Flag tour or seeing photos from the Minor Threat tour van!!!!!
Take pride in your creativity and never underestimate your potential. There is nothing wrong with making money, but it should not be your primary motivation. Lastly remember playing to 10 people in an empty room always beats not playing at all.