Gentleman Reg Gets Tough

Gentleman Reg Gets Tough
If Reginald Vermue went to your grade school you would certainly have noticed the striking-looking shy kid, but you might not have known he was routinely getting into trouble for singing show tunes in class. Throughout his life, and the many configurations of Gentleman Reg, Vermue has used music to push himself beyond what his introverted nature would allow. Though 2002's Make Me Pretty became the choice make-out record for many "two boys in love," Vermue's been restless ever since to make a more boisterous record: more varied stylistically and reflecting his increased musical confidence.

Enter Darby & Joan. "It's definitely more exploratory," he says. "It's more frank. I knew from the beginning there were a bunch of rock songs there." After conscripting the Constantines' Wil Kidman and Bry Webb to play live, he was pushed to record when circumstances threatened to abscond with half his band. "They were getting ready to tour Shine A Light, and I knew they were going to be busy for the next year."

Brash and unrestrained, the new album is a revelation, especially to those who've followed Gentleman Reg since its earliest incarnation — which in 1996 included the Unicorns' Jaime Thompson and Arcade Fire's Tim Kingsbury. "[I've had] this realisation that, you know, you can change your life. And that's what I'm doing." More exuberant and musically complex than anything that came before, it captures his tougher, self-assured live presence — and leaves a space at the table for the sweet longing of earlier songs.

"It all relates to Darby and Joan, this romantic ideal. It originally comes from an 18th century song, used to represent this old couple who live out their lives together." It's an idea he revived after it long lay dormant in the literary sense — though it had currency in Britain for 200 years. His wistful tone, however, suggests that it's probably more than mere literary homage. "Well, maybe it's not all fictional," he laughs. "I do like the idea of falling in love. But in the meantime, there's lots of fun to be had."