If you encounter John O’Regan’s onstage alter ego, Diamond Rings, you are guaranteed to do a double take at this twenty-something year old east coast Canuck for his fearless sense of style that mixes touches of glam pop flamboyance with the occasional basketball jersey, and plenty of immaculately applied eye shadow.
With that said, much media attention has latched on to the Diamond Rings/David Bowie comparison, and although it is spoken with the utmost sincerity in praise and endearment, I made it a point to avoid the topic altogether. Despite my best efforts, Bowie inevitably infiltrated our interview.
“It’s okay,” says Diamond Rings. “I have one album. It would be naïve to think I can avoid comparison immediately. It’s actually hilarious. On the way to the show tonight, we passed by this place, I don’t know if we were in New Mexico or Arizona, somewhere in the desert and the town was called Bowie… we had a bit of a Bowie party in the car for about an hour.”
Whether the comparisons are accurate or not, don’t be too quick to brush off Diamond Rings as a gimmick because his musical abilities have certainly proven to be more than just a passing act. The singer-songwriter-musician-artist released his first album Special Affections in 2010 and has been winning over fans ever since, opening for pop superstar Robyn and touring North America with PS I Love You.
The combination of electric guitars and synthesizers against Diamond Rings’ distinctively heavy baritone gives his pop tunes a bit of an unexpected twist. His tendency to work-in specific styles of the nineties and reinvent them makes his music sound vaguely nostalgic, but unpredictably new.
What is even more striking is the sense of vulnerability and aching disenchantment his lyrics display. Diamond Rings says, “It’s just a matter of being able to face up to my own insecurities and uncertainties, and just explore them. That’s what music is about to me; that’s how I want to try to connect to people.”
On the track “Wait and See”, Diamond Rings explains, “I was really scattered and in between a lot of places. I think there’s this sort of pressure for people when they get out of school, whether it’s high school, university or an outing into the real world, what ever that is. There’s a real pressure to feel as though you have everything figured out. That song is about not really subscribing to that idea.”
Diamond Rings’ ability to express sentiment so eloquently in music dates back to his early childhood. “My dad had a copy of Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen on vinyl…I remember copying out the lyrics verbatim from the liner notes and drawing pictures to go along with what I thought they meant.”
He continues, “I remember drawing pictures for the song ‘Jungleland’. It’s the last song on the record and it’s a power ballad about a drug dealer and a romantic encounter, but I’m pretty sure I drew tigers and pumas and stuff. That was the moment I can distinctly remember sitting down and listening to what someone was saying and trying to reinterpret it in my own way. That’s the joy of making and listening to music for me.”
Diamond Rings is definitely in a league of his own, taking it upon himself to boldly make music as he sees fit, rather than letting critics, labels or peers dictate his moves.
“Sonically and lyrically I really want to continue to refine the approach that I am using right now…really develop my own voice, my own singing voice and signature style,” he says. “ I think that’s the goal for a lot of young artists – is to be recognized as a singular entity first and foremost.”
Surely where ever he ends up musically and artistically, Diamond Rings, as his name suggest, will be dazzling.