We're used to thinking of indie rock as a wallflower's game, a place for dudes who would rather slave over tracks in a cramped basement than get up in the spotlight. John O'Regan has a different agenda. Imagewise, the tall, sharp-cheekboned Toronto native—who records as Diamond Rings—has more in common with pop stars like Ke$ha, harking back to Bowie-ish glam while embracing an "I just raided a costume closet" goofiness. Check out that rainbow eyepaint and sculptural new-wave coif: he knows we're looking, and he likes it.
Even as Diamond Rings invites attention, the project courts confusion. With their big beats and sad, often sinister lyrics, O'Regan's songs are the kind you could mistake for 80s relics, maybe the work of a would-be Depeche Mode or Duran Duran. Diamond Rings also flaunts a finely honed sense of retro kitsch, which finds its fullest realization in the video for "Show Me Your Stuff." Set in a smoke-filled basketball gym. The clip features O'Regan alternately leading a choreographed dance routine and driving the lane.
O'Regan got his start in the mid-aughts fronting the D'Urbervilles, a Guelph, Ontario band that also mined the 80s but focused on crisp post-punk rather than dance-ey pop. Strangely, the songwriter dreamt up his more theatrical solo persona in 2008, when, as he once described it, he "[spent] an entire summer indoors on an IV drip," being treated for Crohn's disease. A charmingly deadpan single and video, "All Yr Love," emerged the next year, and the blogs jumped on board. By 2011, Diamond Rings had landed an opening slot on Robyn's tour. Even though the project started out DIY, you could always tell from the facepaint that it was only a matter of time.