The first time Regurgitator’s lead vocalist Quan Yeomans heard of the ‘90s referred to as an “era” he cringed. “I was like, oh, okay – we’re at that stage in the career now,” he laughs. “There’s some hard realities to learn and accept.”
Regurgitator formed almost 30 years ago in Brisbane, with Yeomans and Ben Ely joined by original drummer Martin Lee before Peter Kostic joined the band.
Their second album UNIT was released in 1997 – the same year as Grinspoon’s Guide to Better Living, Silverchair’s Freak Show, Savage Garden’s Savage Garden, The Whitlams’ Eternal Nightcap, Jebediah’s Slightly Odway and Human Nature’s Telling Everybody.
It was a big year for Australian music.
Now, although they’re always working on new music, Regurgitator falls into “1990s nostalgia” – something which Yeomans says people have a “weird intimacy” with.
“I guess that’s why we still have careers, right? Because people still feel that intimacy and that need for reconnecting with themselves as teenagers,” he says. “Because, let’s face it, if you don’t do that when you’re our age a lot of your spirit dies, I think, and it’s kind of important to dig back. Unearth that youth within you.”
For Yeomans, the days of festivals like Big Day Out, Livid and Homebake were fairly low-key.
“Apart from when I was actually standing on stage in front of 10,000 people, it was all very low-key,” he laughs. “I didn’t give a fuck what I looked like. I had a steady relationship with a girl I was totally smitten with at the time. I had terrible hair. I had no interest in how my appearance was in the media – I was so unexperienced and naive about a lot of things. Even with my band mates and what they were getting up to.
“I had no idea what it meant to be a rock star or to be famous or anything like that. It was very much like, oh, well, this is what I do now – somehow I fell into it. It still feels like that to a certain degree.”
Yeomans says he felt very alienated at the time, particularly in situations in which he was expected to interact with his peers, like waiting backstage to perform at a festival like Big Day Out.
“I did not know what to do with myself,” he says. “I would prefer to just read a book or avoid awkward interactions with people I didn’t really feel I’d have much in common with.”
In keeping with the trend of nostalgia, Regurgitator recently finished a run of shows with bands like Grinspoon and Jebediah at Spring Loaded Festival.
“The one thing you do realise when you see these bands play again… it was competitive at the time, and you kind of thought everyone was shit except your band for a while there,” Yeomans laughs. “I mean, I know I had those competitive feelings. But when you see the bands play [now], you kind of know why they were successful. There’s a lot of talent there, and they’ve kept it going.”
The experience, he says, has been vastly different to their younger days – and much more enjoyable.
“That’s another thing that’s been really interesting seeing those old bands and meeting those old people,” Yeomans explains. “The fears that you have as a younger adult with socialising with people that are clearly putting on a face because their job demands their ego to be a certain way or whatever. So meeting them again as older people, and getting to know their personalities as they actually are, and not being afraid to talk to them as human beings, has been really good.”
Yeomans reflects on his perceived “arrogance” when he was younger, which came down to social awkwardness more than anything.
“I’ve always been fairly socially awkward,” he says. “Not terribly, but there’s a weird kind of contrast between my personality with one on one conversations – I can be quite confident in that regard but when I’m out there in a group I find it a little bit confusing sometimes exactly what to do. And it doesn’t really help if you’re surrounded by people who are experts. Like, Benjamin (Ely) is a profoundly good socialiser, always has been.”
It was something Yeomans felt he couldn’t compete with when he was younger.
“I left it to him, basically, and he was the social lubrication that made our band connected in the scene a lot more, I feel,” he says. “Whereas if it had been left to me, I’d still be playing in my basement with my mum shouting at me from upstairs.”
Yeomans doubts Regurgitator would have enjoyed the same level of success they have had since starting their career in the 1990s – which has included gold status for ‘Polyester Girl’ and seven ARIAs – but says if he had grown up like the youth of today, primarily online, “maybe” they would have stood a chance.
“Maybe there’s enough hooks there that were original enough to drag people in for a look, at least, for five minutes,” he laughs. “I don’t know if we could have made a career out of it. And it would have had a different aesthetic to it, I’m sure.”
Yeomans recalls Regurgitator’s tour in support of Red Hot Chili Peppers with his own fond nostalgia.
“I remember getting up on stage at these entertainment centres and the vacuum of the space and the crowd that didn’t really know who you were, mostly,” he explains. “And we were wearing terrible costumes with terrible wigs, and you just gave it your all; you didn’t give a fuck.”
Back then, Yeomans says, they didn’t really care if anyone was paying too much attention.
“Like you’re just doing it because you love it, and you’re just doing it because you want to make a racket and you’ve got something to prove to someone,” he adds. “You’ve got this energy that you want to share, and this idea that you want to share with as many people as you can.”
At the time, Yeomans couldn’t believe what was happening – “it just seemed like some incredible streak of luck when it was going on.”
The band has also performed to their fair share of empty rooms.
“I remember the first big tour support we got was with Pansy Division, that queercore band – they were awesome,” Yeomans says. “We played to no one. Like, bar staff. That’s all we played to. There was no one there at most of those shows for us, but I just didn’t give a fuck.
“It was just so much fun. And to be able to have that experience, like, just to play in all those different venues, and just introducing yourself to the lifestyle and seeing if that’s what you want to do – it’s a really important thing.”
Now, Regurgitator enjoy introducing new and different bands to their audiences as their supports.
“We want our crowd to be exposed to interesting acts as well, that’s why we’ve done some really strange supports – the young choir groups and Indonesian duos that play like crazy hand-made instruments and stuff like that,” Yeomans says. “In the past, people have not known what to expect, and they’ve always been amazed and excited by how different some of the stuff is that has been on before us, and I think that’s a really really fun thing to be able to do.”
Yeomans says although there is a lot of talent in music today, there is “a niche for everything,” and everyone has their own time to shine.
“You’ve got to be thankful if it happens once in your life and you can sustain something for this long on it,” he says. “I feel like music does what it’s meant to do, in a lot of ways. And it’s all about these strange connections that occur, whether you make it big or not. There’s a lot of chaos and luck involved.”
REGURGITATOR 2022 SHOWS
Friday 11 November – Magnums, Airlie Beach (with Vipersnatch and Transparent Sex Booth)
Saturday 12 November – Dalrymple, Townsville (with Party Dozen and Trash Meow)
Sunday 13 November – Edge Hill Hotel, Cairns (with Party Dozen and The Zephyrbees)
Friday 25 November – Badlands, Perth (with Party Dozen and Community Chest)
Saturday 26 November – The Gov, Adelaide (with Party Dozen and Thunder Speaks)
Sunday 27 November – The Basement, Canberra (with Party Dozen and Sketch Method)
Friday 2 December – Good Things, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Saturday 3 December – Good Things, Centennial Park, Sydney
Sunday 4 December – Good Things, Brisbane Showgrounds
Tickets available now from the venues and authorised retailers
North Queensland ticket links here