Diamond Rings – the ex-jock anti-hero dolling up Toronto’s plaid apocalypse
The party-stained carpets of this loft apartment – overlooking the leafy Roncesvalles neighbourhood of Toronto – are littered with records. Janet Jackson obscures Arthur Russell and Lou Barlow peers out from behind the gaudy sleeve of Culture Beat’s 1993 Eurodance smash ‘Mr Vain’.
The colours of the sleeves clash with the strewn pink and turquoise eye-shadow compacts, the ruby lipstick and the blusher pots, all of which John O’Regan will daub on to perform as Diamond Rings later this evening.
John gets dressed up pretty when he goes out, because he is a fucking star. And all the better a one for not having always known it; he was raised a “full-on jock” in a “small industrial town” called Oshawa. “They make cars there,” John says. “My parents wanted me to work in the factory one summer… Chose a different path, I suppose.”
Watch his video for ‘Wait & See’ and witness the birth of a real underground hero. Real because O’Regan, 24, is such an perplexing tower of contradiction that he can only be authentic. Scraping 7ft, he’s built like a mechanic. But here he is covered in make-up, leading clunking choreographed dance routines in the middle of the street. Ever seen a man in nail varnish and zebra-print leggings slam-dunk mid-chorus?
Androgyny’s easy for wet lads. John O’Regan moves and shrugs like the coyest girl at secondary school, but sings like Ian McCulloch. He’s got presence. Ever get heckled, John? “It can be high-fives one minute, then idiots yelling ‘Nice tights!’ depending what block I’m on,” he laughs. “It comes with the territory, doesn’t it? I’m doing this to stand out.”
Close your eyes and John’s contradictions remain. ‘Wait & See’ is forged from post-punk guitars, but is intrinsically POP! Since moving to Toronto, he’s avoided the “plaid-wearing, self-deprecating” hipsters deifying local bores such as Broken Social Scene. “I’m ‘Diamond Rings’ because I wanted it to be glam, fun, poppy, shiny – everything music from Toronto isn’t,” he smiles nervously. Joyfully self-aware, John O’Regan shines. But Diamond Rings is the star.
Need To Know
• John O’Regan aka Diamond Rings’ keyboard is borrowed from his friend’s mother
• ‘Nasty Boys’ by Janet Jackson is his favourite song of all time
• He’s “handy with a saw” and recently built himself a new bed