Gino DePinto, AOL
The balance between these two elements is reflected in the music he makes: Songs jam-packed with glitzy synths are tempered with spatial, glassy arrangements, both of which are contrasted with heart-pricking lyrics. But his latest release, Free Dimensional, out this October, is a far cry from the bedroom release of his first album, 2010's Special Affections. The "All Yr Songs" singer revealed that he has been able to stay fiercer than ever with the extra support of a major label -- and lots of sleep.
"To stay fierce? Get lots of rest [laughs]. I think it's as much a reminder for myself as much as anyone. It's not easy every day to just be on and bring it," he says. "And I'm lucky that I have a really great team to help me, a really great band, a really great record label really great fans. I do this for them as much as I do it for myself. And you know, ultimately, getting to play music and perform is like the best feeling ever. You gotta be tough, but it's worth it for what I get out of it."
The fierceness does ooze from John, even in his relaxed offstage persona. He wears his white hot blonde hair in a sort of fauxhawk, buzzed close at the bottom, slicked to an angle on top. His signature -- at shows he's known to do a full rainbow stripe around his eyes -- use of makeup is toned down to matte red lips and high pink on his cheeks.
Diamond Rings is an artist who plays with gender, and his heavy use of fashion and visual aesthetic has often evoked comparisons to David Bowie. And like the Thin White Duke, he refuses to be kept in a box.
"In the same way that I never want to make a record that sounds like a carbon copy of another thing, another record I made, I can't imagine ever dressing or presenting myself in the same way. Reinventing who I am sonically and aesthetically is all part of what I think is really fun about getting to perform. It's just another way to communicate. What you wear or how you dress, whether you're wearing makeup, your haircut, does say something about who you are as a person, and a lot of people, I think, listen with their eyes still. "
Performing, of course, means traveling, which is one of the toughest things for O'Regan, but his eyes light up even as he talks about the work of touring. He's an artist willing to put the work in, and seems to realize that being a musician is just as much a job as any other.
"Touring is a lot of work, a lot of monotonous work and a lot of pushing oneself to the brink of exhaustion, all for that hour that you get to be onstage. And that feeling that I get from performing in front of an audience and from playing with my band, that outweighs every other aspect of what a tour is."
Sheer exhaustion is a constant element in the life of a musician that most fans don't consider at shows, especially one as dance-inspiring as Diamond Rings.
"For a lot of fans or people who aren't musicians and don't tour, it's easy to forget that there's still like another 23 hours to my day and a lot of that time is just really driving on highways, sleeping in motels and being away from people that you care about."
There's one track specifically that seems to speak to this feeling on his forthcoming record, album closer "Day & Night." It's the song he played last at the previous night's show, despite cries for an encore. John explains that this song was meant to re-energize his whole team at the end of the day.
"You just can't follow it up with anything. When I was writing that song, I was away in Montreal recording the record. I'd been there for several weeks and it was the middle of January and it was cold and snowy and bleak. And I really wanted to write a song that would hopefully give my whole team a big boost at the end of the night.
"Let's write a song that you play at the very end of the show that is about being on the road, being away but sucking it up, because you know that you're ultimately going to come back to something, something meaningful and important. There's something great about being away, but like anything, there's a downside. And I think, if anything, that song kind of tries to celebrate that about it, a celebration of the sort of monotony that is the touring life."
Diamond Rings is kicking off a tour as the support act for Stars tonight, and in the past he's had some other big treks, including a 2010 stint opening for Swedish pop wildfire sensation Robyn just months after his first album was released.
"Doing a tour with Robyn was obviously great just because the more I look back on it, the more surreal it is than I gave it credit for when it was happening. When things are happening you're just kind of doing them, you're not really thinking about them. Or if you start to think about them, it becomes really difficult," the singer admits.
On the subject of celebrity, Diamond Rings admits that Ryan Gosling movies are a favorite for both him and his creative director while on the road. He has a perspective on the idea of fame that is much more faceted than most.
"The person that people see and the person who lives inside of me are very different. And I think there's something about celebrity and the mystique of celebrity that I would almost prefer to just leave as it is. You know, you see someone in a film or on a stage and they're perfect the way they are and that's part of what draws people to celebrity."
Mystique or not, Diamond Rings will be drawing plenty of new fans when Free Dimensional is released on Oct. 23.