It’s hard not to be completely enamored with this smorgasbord of talent and glam known as Diamond Rings. His candy-coloured ensemble and unique baritone makes his shows so much more than just a concert. It’s a spectacle that dares to find beauty in the most unconventional of ways. He embodies the potential greatness behind each person, as if we’re all just diamonds in the rough, waiting to become full-fledged diamond rings.
Now that you have gotten a chance to tour your album a little bit, has anything changed in the way you perceive it?
I’m more aware of what I’m doing – actually know what I’m doing as an artist right now. It’s about staying on it and always trying to find ways to improve what I do as a live performer – little tweaks and subtle adjustments I can make that go a long way.
Among audiences, have you noticed any one particular song that gets the most attention when you’re performing?
The show itself moves through very distinct phases. I like that each song gets attention, but in completely different ways. If I open a set in a place where I’ve never played before or with “Play By Heart”, one of the slower songs, it kind of puts people in a certain mood or sets a certain atmosphere, kind of raises some eyebrows…one of the great things about music and live performances is the ability to not only have each work stand on its own, but it could be shaped contextually by whatever you choose to place around it.
You’ve said that writing lyrics helps you face up to your own insecurities. Have you discovered anything new about yourself while on the road?
You can’t set out to wake up and say, “Here I am in Georgia and I’m going to learn something.” I think a lot of times it just comes from living and being in the moment, and figuring it out later, after the fact. Probably after the tour, I’ll be like, “Oh my God. Now I know what that was all about.” I’m always having those moments, but never in the moment.
Fans love you not only for your music, but your look, your persona, the whole Diamond Rings package. Where did you find the courage to express yourself so honestly?
Part of the story is that I got really sick a few years ago. When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s [disease], I’d just move to Toronto, just finished art school, just moved to the city. I was just ready to start my life as an artist and had this big set back. I think in hindsight again, speaking to that idea of learning about things and learning about yourself after the fact, in hindsight that was what gave me the time and the space to really think about who I was and who I was becoming, who I wanted to be and how I wanted to express myself to the world.
Do you have a favourite accessory or make-up that always completes your transformation into Diamond Rings?
The big thing for this tour is trying to craft each outfit as best we can to suit the look or the feel of a city that we’re playing in…In Atlanta is was a more hip-hop inspired kind of outfit I was rocking. When we were in New Jersey, we totally tried to pull off a Bruce Springsteen thing – the only time anyone would ever see me in Chuck Taylor’s on stage. That’s just another exciting part of doing what I do – being able to try to speak the language of people who live in the city I’m performing in and try to connect with them visually as well as through the music.
When you finish writing and recording a song like “Pre-owned Heart”, a song that sounds like it derived from such a painful situation, do you feel a sense of closure?
I spend a lot of time on lyrics and it’s really, it’s kind of like an imperfect and imprecise process. I can’t say when a song is done necessarily other than somewhere along the line I sort of grasp or understand what I’m trying to address in each piece and I know when it’s done. I work and work and work, and when it’s done, there’s nothing left to do.
Are there any songs that are, or that were at one time difficult to perform because of the emotions behind it?
I should stress that difficult, or having difficulties with writing a song or doing anything is not a bad thing. I think trying to write a great three and a half minute pop song is one of the hardest things in the world to do, and it’s okay that it’s hard. It’s hard because you want it to be good and if it is good, it sounds easy…When I was in art school I used to do a lot of sculpture and installation work, I find that ironically enough, the closer something came towards completion, the easier it feels and the easier it looks. It’s almost like the work that went into it sort of disappears and evaporates into thin air. So by the time it’s done, it comes out like second nature, like breathing.
What were your aims when you first set out to re-imagine different tracks as part of the Remix Rainbow Series?
I’d just come back from ten weeks straight of touring…and just really burned out on hearing my own music, but I’m a musician, this is my job and I have to stay busy or I go crazy. For me it was just about wanting to teach myself some stuff, wanting to learn how to produce a track and make something without having to worry about investing so much of myself into it. The songs are already done. It’s just about having fun with someone else’s hard work.
What do you foresee for Diamond Rings in the near future?
I’m pretty deep into my next record right now and I’m really excited by some of the direction. It’s sounding pretty cool. With this one, again I’m trying not to limit myself in any way. I haven’t really figured out what kind of artist I want to be other than I want to make pop music and I want to connect with my species, and do something real and honest. Right now that’s kind of manifesting in all these really interesting ways.