By Travis PersaudGentleman Reg is back. It's been over three years since his last album, Jet Black, was released on Arts and Crafts. During that time, Reg started a new band, Light Fires, with James Bunton from Ohbijou, and ended his short stint with the Toronto-based indie label known for establishing its bands. A curious move for an artist such as Reg, who seems like an ideal fit for Arts & Crafts, with the potential of reaching that "next level." Listening to his latest album, Leisure Life, however, reveals that he's made it there on his own. The 12-song record is a bit of a departure from his previous work. Big, synth-driven pop-rock songs dominate from top to bottom. And they're good — really good. Reg has found the perfect poppy backdrop to showcase his charming voice, which draws you in like any good conversationalist. He has hit his high note on Leisure Life.
You released Leisure Life in three EP instalments beforethe final full-length. What made you decide to do that? That was a necessity. I decided to put the record out myself. Once I did that, I realized how much work was involved. I really wanted to put something out this summer — there's a real summer vibe to the songs and production. Being digital, it was easy to put something out quickly. Once the first song was up, I was really into the idea because I wasn't fully ready: we hadn't shot a video yet, we hadn't worked through all the songs with the band. You know, all the stuff you need to do before a record comes out. So that time gives me a chance to work on all those things.
Why did you want to put something out in the summer? The album has a big rock side to it. I can picture driving to this record; it has a West coast, California vibe to it. I could have probably worked with a label and put it out next year. That was not appealing though. My last album, Jet Black, was on Arts and Crafts and that was great, but it sat on the shelf totally finished for a year. When you're a small independent artist, what are you supposed to do? A year is a long time. Plus, it's 2012 and the last record was out in 2009, so it's been long enough.
Does releasing the album on your own remind you of your time working with Three Gut Records? Yes, it does very much. In fact, I've been booking my own shows. It's really gone back to that era, which is interesting. I didn't necessarily imagine doing it, but outside of Canada it's all DIY. Anytime I go to Europe, it's DIY; I've never had a European label. So it's not so foreign. I've been here before; it's cool.
Did you know you wanted to make a bright rock album when you started writing? Not initially, I just wanted to write good songs. I was writing and demoing from my apartment. That was a great process; I've never treated songwriting like a day job before. I surprised myself with over 20 songs in three months. I felt pretty proud of myself. As I fleshed them out I decided I wanted the big rock songs. As we started doing that I started to latch onto different records I wanted to reference. "Waiting Around For Gold" was a big reference to Celebrity Skin by Hole, which is one of my favourite records. It just occurred to me that this song needed to sound like that record. We got the big guitars out and I was really pleased with how we achieved all the reference points.
This is the first record you've made with a consistent band. What difference did that make? It made a difference during the recording of the album. I did have a consistent band for about a year, but then my drummer couldn't commit to making an album. So then I got Jamie [Bunton] from Ohbijou. That band were to record the album, and then Kelly [McMichael] and Jon [Hynes] had been touring with me. For the making of the record, it was the four of us. On Jet Black, it was just my drummer and me. I write a lot of the keyboard parts, but Kelly played them, so it was really collaborative in a way I haven't done it before.
How difficult was it to give up some of the control during the recording process? That was a huge ego check, for sure. In the past, I wanted to do everything; I thought I had something to prove. Now, it's about making the best songs. So if we have to change the arrangements, then that's fine. I was very open to that this time. Once I realized what kind of record this was going to be, I knew things would have to change.
What does the title mean to you? I really enjoy album titles that sit on their own. A strong, interesting statement that the songs can sit under, opposed to one of the titles of a song — I always think that puts too much pressure on a particular song. The title is always the last thing that comes to me. Leisure Life is a nice sentiment; it's something people think about having. I'm big fan of Sheila E. and she has the Glamorous Life album, and I really like that title. It's hard to say exactly where it came from; it just sort of fit the whole new wave rock vibe of the record.