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Living the Leisure Life with Toronto’s Gentleman Reg

By Trevor Pritchard on November 29, 2012

Gentleman Reg knows how to write a good chorus.

Eight years ago, on his third album Darby and Joan, the Toronto indie rock troubadour brewed up “The Boyfriend Song,” an insanely catchy tune about missing money and nonexistent boyfriends that—I’d like to think—was equally irresistible to Canadian music lovers straight and gay. It’s a highlight in a recording career that stretches all the way back to 2000, and given the quality of some of the songs that Reg Vermue—as he’s known to friends and family—has come up with, it’s always surprised me that he’s not a bigger name in the national music scene.

But maybe that’s about to change? Because I’m pretty happy to report that Vermue hits similarly catchy heights on his recently-released fifth album, Leisure Life, particularly with the standout leadoff track “Waiting Around For Gold.” Boasting another huge chorus, wrapped in muscular keyboards and electric guitars, the song’s so great I couldn’t help gushing about it to Vermue when we chatted last week, in advance of his Dec. 1 show at Pressed. (To which we’re giving away tickets, by the way! See below for deets.)

Editor’s note: the following interview has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the complete interview here.

I can’t get the track “Waiting Around for Gold” out of my head. It’s completely stuck in there.

Thank you! Hopefully it’s not driving you crazy.

No! It’s a really good craziness.

Fantastic. I’m really happy with that song, actually.

Why did you decide to call the album Leisure Life?

There’s a bunch of things. I really like album titles that are not just a song on the record, but more a title that everything that can fit under. Like my last [album] Jet Black, and Darby and Joan. It just sort of encapsulated the feeling of a lot of the songs. I was really going for this west coast, California, new wave rock thing. I mean, I had many different titles, but when that one popped up, it just sort of all made sense to me.

You initially released the album as three separate EPs. Why?

It was sort of out of necessity, in a way. I decided really last minute to put the album out myself, and I wanted to put some songs out in the summer. The first part came out in July. It just seemed like a really manageable way to start getting music out, I guess. Because the EPs were all digitial. So there’s not near the amount of work that goes into it. And when I decided to put the album out on my own, we weren’t really ready to tour. There were no videos, or anything like that. So this was also sort of, like, a gradual way to get other things done while the music was still coming out.

Leisure Life is released on Heavy Head/Outside Music, while your previous album, Jet Black, was on Arts and Crafts. Why did you decide to part ways with them?

That was sort of a mutual decision. We had a really good time working together on Jet Black, and the relationship just sort of ended. It’s hard to describe exactly why. I mean, there’s lots of factors. Almost nobody who worked on my album is still with the label. There’s been a huge staff turnover in the past four years.

You know, we talked about this new record. But if you’re not working with people who are as passionate as you are about your own work, the balance is off. And it’s my fifth record, and I thought, you know, I can actually do this myself.

The album does sound a bit poppier, a bit more orchestral than Jet Black. Did that consciously come out of not being with Arts and Crafts?

That had nothing to do with label stuff. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about anyone or anything when we were making this record, other than the music. Partly because my contract with them was open-ended, so there was no deadline to make another record, right? It was just [about] making a different sounding record, more polished—you know, just a bigger, less indie-sounding affair. I had a recording budget for the first time ever, and that actually really freed me up to go in this bigger direction. In the past, [we] were always stressed out in the studio and [were] scrambling to get as much done in as little time as possible. But with this, it was slightly more luxurious.

You’ve been recording music since at least 2000. How do you look back on some of your earlier releases?

I have a record that I put out in 2000 called The Theoretical Girl. That one, you know, I don’t listen to that. But all my other records, I’m totally proud of and stand behind. The first couple, in a sense, I was learning how to make records. So they weren’t just about, you know, the songs. It was learning how to record and learning how to record my voice. So now, I mean, with experience and time I can focus more on, you know, how do I want these songs to sound? In the past it was, like, a lot of accidental stuff. And I think my writing has just changed. There was definitely a lot more arty, quirky pop.

And with this record, I had a lot of benchmarks I was looking at—like, a bunch of albums by The Cars, The Police, Gary Numan, Eurythmics. I was looking at these really classic records and trying to dissect them, figure out what it was I loved about them. And yeah, I was just in that mindset when I was making [Leisure Life].

Contest time! As you might know, Gentleman Reg isn’t Vermue’s only musical identity: he also performs in drag with Ohbijou’s James Bunton as indie-electronic act Light Fires. What’s the name of his gender-bending alter-ego? Send your answers to apartment613 [at] gmail [dot] com; the first person to get it right wins a pair of tickets to the show.

Gentleman Reg plays Pressed with Yellow Jacket Avenger on Saturday, Dec. 1st at 9 p.m. Tickets available at the venue; $8 advanced, $10 at the door.

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