50 Reasons to Love Toronto: No.42, John O’Regan is bringing glam rock back
John O’Regan, the 25-year-old bespectacled frontman of the post-punk band the D’Urbervilles, enjoyed some modest success among indie music fans but not enough to let him quit his day job as a cashier at Value Village. Then he bought an acid-wash jean jacket, borrowed a pair of his mom’s tights and asked his cousin to douse him with rainbow eyeshadow. Presto chango—faster than you can say Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, a glam-rock star was born.
O’Regan named his glitzed-out alter ego Diamond Rings. He sings catchy-as-hell pop songs—simple laptop-made beats with huge choruses that he delivers in a world-weary baritone. The music video for his debut single, “All Yr Songs”—an unabashedly campy collection of green-screen images that has the lanky singer vamping and moonwalking past the CN Tower—was immediately embraced by indie music tastemakers. Last April, Diamond Rings was signed to a major U.S. music label.
The transformation from indie rocker to glam diva is a tough conjuring act for anyone, but it may be particularly difficult in a city that’s often suspicious of flagrantly theatrical performers. We tend to find pop personas somehow embarrassing or inauthentic, preferring our singers folk-music earnest and as scruffy as the members of Broken Social Scene. Diamond Rings has become the new, eyeshadow-smeared face of Toronto music—a pop star who can deliver honest, heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics, and proof that music that starts in Toronto’s bedrooms and basements doesn’t have to be self-effacing or aggressively casual. That baritone croon over a sea of retro synths is the sound of a city confident enough to be freaky, fabulous, and a little bit goofy.