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Regas-McDonald Embrace Limitations to Find Their New Sound

all images courtesty of Regas-McDonald

Sam Regas and Matt McDonald are trying something new.

Over the past decade or so, the Cleveland, OH cousins have become regionally known for their sharp psych-rock songwriting and stage presence in great projects like The Big Sweet and Rockwell Family Dinner. After playing together in bands for so long, the duo finally decided to form one of their own: the unassumingly-titled but multitude-containing krautrock/psych/baroque-pop band Regas-McDonald.

They released their first album, the excellent Toward Void and Vistas, on UK label Grumpy Records in early 2020. But the COVID-19 global pandemic was soon to follow, and with it came a brand-new approach to the band’s songwriting, arrangements and recording process.

And so, with shows beginning to pop up once again and more acts coming back out of the woodwork, Regas and McDonald are trying something new. Their upcoming sophomore release on the NYC-based Voltage Control Records, Hall of Fame Cities (out Nov 10, 2021), marks a stark departure in sound and style for Regas-McDonald. The band has traded their usual guitars and basses for MIDI string arrangements and classical touches, shifting the atmosphere of their sound from a trippy rock concert to a visually stunning theatrical production.

Most of these compositions were written and subtly tweaked in isolation, giving the duo space to ponder arrangements and craft the exact experience they intend to play through your headphones. They’ve also been working on a music video for standout album cut Bridge and Canasta, which is due out in November as well.

With Hall of Fame Cities to be released in just over two weeks at the time of this writing, I decided to sit down with both Regas and McDonald for an online interview to get the word out. We had an entertaining and insightful conversation about the group’s newfound emphasis on “old-timey” arrangement styles and vocal delivery, the pandemic necessitating changes in their recording process, and the influence of ballet and movement on the new album. (For peak immersion, I highly recommend listening to the record’s advance single For the Vain and Lepered while you read.)

The way the band’s often pitched to people is that you two are not just cousins and cool psych people, but also teachers as well.

Sam Regas: So, we need to amend that a little bit. The last time we put out a record, that was true [for both of us] – I was an Intro to Sociology graduate student.

Matt McDonald: And I was a Latin teacher at a high school.

SR: So now I have a boring desk job that’s very nice, the people are very cool, and I make my crazy music with Matt on the side. And Matt is in law school, so we are now corporate stooges. We’ve really sold out.

MM: This is our sellout record, yeah.

Oh yeah! So this is a whole different throughline on this set of tunes, huh?

SR: I think you can hear it in the production.

MM: (Laughter)

SR: We polished things up a bit, and with that went all the grittiness of our life.

MM: Exactly.

I was gonna say, you guys REALLY went all-out for this one in terms of recording quality. And this is a homespun record, too, so I can tell that this was a major labor of love here – a lot of time spent getting all the pieces in a row.

SR: Thanks, man! Yeah, totally.

MM: Yeah, definitely. Sam spent a lot of time just fiddling with adjustments. Every time he sent me a demo between two different versions, you can tell he spent hours fixing the most minute little differences.

SR: Yeah, I told Matt, “This is the last version, I swear,” and then… another twelve follow or so, you know?

MM: I was like, “Oh wait, is the organ a little too bassy in the outro?”

SR: Exactly.

new single “For the Vain and Lepered”

So a lot of that stuff, then, huh? Just messing with intricacies of layering and placement and things like that?

MM: I think that’s sort of the thing we wanted to focus most on for this record – like, instead of really developing song ideas, per se, more looping effects to focus and build up longer melody sections, and really develop through layers and textures of sound, rather than going to multiple different sections of one song (which we still do).

SR: I think it definitely was a labor of love – and frustration as well, but, I think, hopefully worthwhile. And yeah, I think on this one, we also definitely fell into a bigger interest with – for lack of a better word – old-timey shit. Almost like old film score-y tropes; a lot of harps, a lot of horns, a lot of strings…

MM: Or Mellotrons.

SR: Or Mellotrons if we couldn’t get string players, although we did both in certain cases. So yeah, I think we’re trying to play it a bit like an orchestral record, but with a very sideways spin on it, you know? Sort of a through-the-looking-glass orchestral, if you will.

The first album is awesome, and feels like a rock album, but this record really feels almost like chamber music or a theatrical production. I got community theater or even operatic vibes at points, with any rock sound being in service of composition more so this time around.

SR: Yeah! Matt, you can sort of get your vibe on this, but – I think with this record, we both kinda had a lot of ideas bubbling around. And you know, in some ways, the pandemic was kinda [an influence] – you know, we were gonna go out and play a little run of shows, and were sort of developing live stuff for the first record, and then obviously we couldn’t do that. So we were remotely writing a lot of it, and it was definitely one where our ideas mutually felt less “rock” for sure.

MM: Yeah. And also, I think, just going off that – I think that method of recording and sharing song ideas also influenced it.

The passing back-and-forth of ideas and sharing of sounds?

MM: Yeah, because a lot of the mood and aesthetic of rock music is based on playing at the same time with other musicians and feeding off of each other simultaneously. Whereas this was almost allowing us to take roles as individual composers, and then try to weave our song ideas together, but through an editorial process.

SR: A good example is the third song on the record, Bridge and Canasta. I started with the chorus for it, and I’m like, “I don’t really know what to do with this, I never really liked this bit.” But I pushed it to Matt, and he came up with this melodic section from the middle. And it felt very different, but in a way, if you layered it and brought in common melodic themes from both sections, like, I see how you could kinda link this in a, like Matt said, in a very compositional way more than a jamming-together way. But yeah, that’s one that especially comes to mind as a remote composition exercise. I think we pulled it off well in that case.

MM: And also, the fifth song on the record, [Impressions II:] The Girl Who Tried to Find Her Northern Lights, that’s another one that was almost to the extreme of that, where it is literally us taking different song ideas that we didn’t really have a part B to, and stitching it together almost like a patchwork quilt.

Obviously the pandemic sucks, but I love that this new approach was born out of the necessity of changing your process. It feels very much like the interplay on the first record is you guys in a room hunched over your instruments. And this album feels more like your interplay as writers and composers, bouncing ideas off each other in real time.

SR: Yeah, I agree – I’m glad to hear that translates with you. Like you said, it’s been a tough time for everyone, and the pandemic has sucked in a lot of ways. But there was not much else to do other than listen to a ton of music and write a ton of music. So I think, in some ways, it was a good byproduct at least.

Any given band, there’s gonna be standout moments – but with this set of songs, it feels really difficult to pull one part of a song, or one song, out of this suite. It feels like they’re very much cohesive and connected in a way where you really can’t separate them from one another.

lyric booklet from Toward Void & Vistas

SR: Yeah. I can at least speak to stuff I was listening to – and I think Matt and I were listening to a lot of the same ideas and sort of bouncing things back and forth – but probably some of the records I listened to most were a lot of twentieth-century classical, like the Terry Rileys and Steve Reichs. A lot of these pieces where that’s the overt, to-the-extreme example – 40 minutes, really building on one theme, probably doesn’t even change keys, that kind of idea. But yeah, it did not feel like a record of songs, and I think at first, Matt, we were talking about doing maybe three or four songs, because (laughter) some of the first few were like nine minutes, 14 minutes. I was like, “We could just do a one-song record at this rate, practically,” you know?

I write and home-record myself, but trying to put myself in your shoes compositionally is really difficult. It’s tough to imagine building out a set of songs like this, especially not in a room with people, and making it flow together. How were you guys able to get this wide berth of songs and ideas and lyrics and textures – how did that all come together for you? Was it a very gradual assembly, or did it snap into place at the eleventh hour? What experience did you guys have putting that together?

MM: I think it’s definitely a little bit of both. With a lot of the arranging and deciding what instruments to use, that is stuff that we kinda did more on the spot. When we actually were recording this, we would come together. So those decisions were things like, “This could maybe use something a little bit more high and reedy, so what are some instruments we could patch in here?”

SR: And it is interesting – we were probably only in the same room a good three or four times. I feel like they were very productive sessions. At the time, I still lived in Bloomington. Matt was… you were in Cleveland at the time?

MM: Yeah.

SR: Right, I forgot if you were in Akron still. But yeah, it really was a record where at the outset, we were like “I think this is gonna take a year. Let’s really just, like, buckle down when we meet together.” And then a lot of it is just sharing and talking through parts, and I would do my best to add little textures, little things in post. But it was an interesting process, because the last record was the first one that we recorded on our own. We’d been a studio many times before, and this is definitely not the kind of thing we could have done in a traditional studio, like “We’re gonna record for a couple days” —

MM: Like, with billable hours.

SR: Yeah, it really needed a lot of time to sit – almost like writing.

My bandmate and I call that “slow-cooking.” You gotta slow-cook the record.

MM: Exactly.

SR: It was an absolute simmer, yeah, it really was. But, you know, I feel like we stayed on time with what we wanted to do. It’s almost like that idea, too, when you have a final or a paper, and you’re like, “I need to do this all in two days” under whatever performance-enhancing drugs you can. I really felt like, when we got together, we made it count – and in some ways, that was a good incentive. “I don’t know the next time we can meet up,” and it was kind of weird during COVID, especially.

Right – you have to use your time in a way that you wouldn’t normally be thinking about in a home-recording setting.

MM: Exactly.

SR: Yeah – in some ways, it’s like that idea when you have a constraint, it’s sort of liberating. It’s like a paradox.

Yes! Working within a limitation can bring a lot out of people.

Regas-McDonald

SR: Yeah, I think that was definitely the idea. I think we didn’t – I don’t know, Matt, I think we definitely spent a lot more time on this record in total. But most of it was recorded through Logic, with some new gadgets we got, and plugins and that sort of thing. We had it mastered by our old friend and–

MM: Former producer.

SR: Former producer. He added a little bit of the hi-fi flair, which I thought was just enough icing on the cake.

And it keeps the product in front of someone who, I would think, understands what you guys are going for.

SR: I think he half-understood it – I think he thought we were kinda crazy. (Laughs) But I think he understood it just enough. He was definitely on board.

MM: He was a good sport about it.

That’s a big jump, going from having a dedicated producer to handling the majority of production duties yourself. And I’d imagine that fed back into the writing as well.

SR: Yeah, well, we’re auto-didacts, you know – we don’t want other people to tell us what to do. (Both laugh)

SR: It probably is a little bit of control-freakiness. I think there’s a reason that we’ve made music together through a lot of different projects, and we trust each other a lot with a lot of different ideas. Not that we did [it all ourselves] – there were a lot of other players on the record that were extremely valuable, and they did a really great job. But yeah, I think after a couple times in the studio, you’re like, “I think we can take the reins.”

In the process of recording this yourself – handling the engineering and most of the mixing – did you guys find that any songs seriously changed quite a bit from their original form? Did you have a slightly blurry vision of what you wanted to do, or did you just tread forward and see what would happen?

MM: I don’t really think there’s any that seriously diverged from their final form. When we were talking about our writing process before, and how we’d send each other demos, I think we stayed true to the structure of those demos for the most part. Even a lot of the smaller instrumental ideas that we would add to those demos, it was more like… I don’t think anything necessarily changed drastically as much as it was a lot of adding detail and finer elements.

SR: Yeah. I will say, there were a couple points, maybe on… Matt referenced the song The Girl Who Tried to Find Her Northern Lights. That was one that we knew would be really long, and we definitely had a couple parts in mind. I think we met for like the first or second time together, and… I think it was the last day. The night before, we’d kinda pulled an all-nighter and were running through something else entirely. And then when we got to what would be the second and third sections of the song, I felt completely sleep-deprived and kinda arrived at this weird little Mellotron, Burt Bacharach-sounding thing, where it almost sounds lounge-y. And we’re like, “Oh, yeah, that’s totally it.” So that was one of those good [moments where] we were running on two hours of sleep, and [there was] some magic juice or something like that. But that’s one in particular that I feel like we were like, “We’ll see what happens when we get there.”

With psych rock, it feels like there’s a really delicate balance between pieces sounding intricate and labored-over vs. sounding intuitive and exploratory. What was walking that line like for you guys?

SR: Yeah, I think that’s right on the money. Like Matt said, we definitely had some firm ideas, but I think that’s where a lot of the trust comes in. Sometimes it calls for a little off-the-cuff fucking around, you know. I feel like we probably did a lot more of that on the first record, and I liked how it turned out, I thought it was cool. I think this definitely was… I think the concept was probably a little more firm, for better or for worse at first. But yeah, I think the trust in leaving some spaces open for… I don’t know if jamming is the right word, but… almost like, “We gotta make a split-second decision here, we’re not gonna meet again for weeks or months, so let’s roll with whatever happens.” And I think in a lot of ways we pretty much did.

MM: Yeah. I think another part of that, too, one of the benefits of MIDI recording is for a lot of these parts, if we both had ideas we wanted to improvise over in certain areas, we could play both parts at the same time together, and figure out what works and what doesn’t. So it kinda gives you that room for improvising and jamming with each other in the moment, and really being able to edit what you want out of that jam. So I think in that way, the spirit of improvisation and exploration of psychedelic music, you still get that – and in a lot of ways, more so than you normally would. You don’t have to worry about playing over each other, because you can rectify anything that doesn’t sound good.

SR: And I think this probably was the first time – just from a writing, in-the-loop theory thing – but the first time where it felt like we were really looking at music, as much as if not more than playing the music. So, like Matt said, we would try several different renditions of somewhat improvising on a loose idea, but then really looking together at the patches, looking at the note sequences compositionally. Like, “OK, if we move the third up there to a major seventh, how would that impact the whole thing?” So it really was a lot of tinkering while looking at notes, really even more than playing them, I feel like.

That’s a whole different perspective on the arrangement of sounds.

Toward Void & Vistas

MM: Yeah.

SR: At least for us, I think that’s the first time I felt like we really, really went in the weeds to the extent that we did.

MM: I mean, neither Sam [nor I] can read music all too well. So I think that it almost is that way – it makes you feel like a classical composer, where you can look at the MIDI map and say “Oh, well, this note coordinates to this, and I can kinda see in my head what it’s gonna sound like and what could be interesting.” So, in a way, it’s kinda like a modern, new way of reading music and writing music, which I think opens a lot of cool possibilities.

SR: Yeah, we’re like illiterates trying to write a novel. (Laughs) But yeah, we truly cannot read music, despite having a mild grasp, I think, on some theory.

I’m the same way with reading music. That’s gotta be wild when you’re arranging for things like strings and horns – just right into the thick of it.

SR: Yeah. It’s kinda funny, because I can’t say that we listened to a ton of really current music, in terms of our inspirations and trying to evoke a certain idea or part. But it was a very modern recording process, between the capital-M MIDI usage, so many instrumental passages through Logic or Kontakt or what have you. And then, this is the first time, too, that we used Fiverr. We really leaned on quite a few performers who are way more musically literate and technically seasoned than us. But it’s very easy to assemble it, and then we’d send it off, and they would play these certain individual parts in some contexts. It kinda worked out really easy, honestly.

So most of the guest artists on the record were Fiverr collaborations?

MM: I don’t know if most. About 50-50, maybe.

SR: Yeah, probably 50-50. We would take a handful of friends that could either play or mildly play a trumpet, a trombone, and most of them were very good. In fact, my now-wife Juli, she took a lot of convincing, because she used to play violin, and we really wanted [a] violin in one part.

That’s her on the second track, right?

SR: Yeah, you nailed it. So she was like, “I really don’t know if I can do this.” I’m like, “I think you’ll be fine.” And, yeah, it turned out great.

MM: And that’s kind of, like, a little hint into some of our recording technique, but… we’ve done this for our own instruments, instruments we know how to play, we’ll kind of do a cheat code where we get a couple sounds of it, and then use those sounds to just build parts off of, cut-and-paste-wise.

SR: I think our grand idea for this was that Matt and I are, I think, pretty good guitarists and bassists. And I guess [we] decided to make a record where we don’t play guitar or bass pretty much at all (laughs), and see how it turns out.

Yeah, kind of a Pet Sounds, Phil Spector sort of thing.

MM: Yeah. (Laughs)

SR: Way better, though. (Laughs)

Yeah, not killing people, yeah. Killing ‘em with kindness, maybe.

SR: Killed ‘em with kindness! No, no, that’s extremely kind of you, though – we definitely listened to a ton of Pet Sounds and Phil Spector.

Hall of Fame Cities, available November 10th

I was really struck by the use of ballet as an accompaniment to the music, both on the album cover and in an upcoming music video. It totally tracked, listening to the music, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. How do these ideas of ballet, dancing and movement inform this piece?

SR: This, I think, was Matt’s brainchild, so take it away, Matt.

MM: We talked about how this sort of has this theatrical feel, kind of like you mentioned, a middle-school production. And that’s how we kind of felt about it going forward: this is something that’s low-budget, but also really meaningful to us, kind of like people who do community theater or whatnot. So there’s sort of that shared ethos, almost. And then, obviously, the connection between music and dance – they go hand in hand. So I think, to us, it just seemed like a natural connection of this really passionate but low-budget [style], but also in a way well-produced, at least given what we had to go for and what we were trying to achieve, kind of like a community theater production. I think especially, the song Bridge and Canasta has a lot of flowing string parts and harps that I think translate to ballet really well.

I think a lot of stringed instruments are used to convey that sense of flowing motion, and I felt that very much listening to the piece.

SR: Yeah, it’s funny, because that was the song we did a music video for – which should be ready for the public’s eye hopefully in a couple weeks here. And the recording felt great – I can’t speak to what the overall product will look like once the editors are done. But the dancer we got, Rachel Hunter, she was great, as was Steve Mers, the guy that filmed it and did a lot of the lighting and so forth. But it was funny, because Matt and I know nothing about ballet, by the way, and we were like “Yeah, this really feels like a balletic piece, you know, a nice waltz.” And she comes on the first day–

MM: The second we get there. Yeah.

SR: –she’s like “I hate dancing to waltz, it’s so tough in dance.” We’re like, “ohhhh.”

MM: “It’s so hard to count 3/4 in ballet.” (Laughs)

SR: We thought it was perfect! (Laughs)

Interesting! You would never think so, based on every cliche about ballet I’m familiar with.

SR: You would think! Again, we have a very, uh–

MM: I think it really exposed how lowbrow our understanding of ballet is.

SR: Yeah, exactly.

MM: We’re like, “Oh yeah, it’s all the stuff that has orchestras – that’s ballet, right?” (Laughs)

SR: It definitely felt – again, highlighting our lack of education here, but – like something like old Vienna-style turn-of-the-century music, and it did feel like ballet was an accompanying hand there.

Almost like a Ziegfeld Follies old-school revue kind of feel.

SR: Yeah, yeah, exactly! That was sort of the idea. But it is funny – I think, on our first record, I don’t think there’s anything on there that really has that feel at all, you know? I think we definitely went a different direction there, and I think the ballet is a good example of a sharp right turn on this one.

I wanted to ask you about the lyrics as well. I revisited the first record before hearing this one, and I noticed the lyrics and vocal delivery a lot more on the new album. What were some of your touchpoints or references when you penned lyrics for this record?

SR: Yeah. I can try to take some of this away, We shared a lot of the music about 50-50, and I did most of the lyrics and all the lead vocals, although we shared other vocals on it. To speak to the first part of your question, I think the delivery was definitely something I felt very conscious about doing differently this time. I feel like that’s always been far and away my weak point musically in our other projects and on our other records.

Interesting! Between projects like The Big Sweet or Rockwell Family Dinner, I always thought of the vocals as a pretty central part of that.

lyric booklet from Toward Void & Vistas

SR: Thank you! No, I feel like we’ve always had a good handle on melody in comparison to the actual vocal delivery. I think the vocals were always more in service of that than the latter. But this time it felt like there were a lot of influences circling really consciously; listening to a bunch of Scott Walker – that’s a guy whose work I was drilling for a good couple years. I think a lot of the people in his influence – Bowie, Morrissey, Kate Bush, a lot of those very theatrical singing styles. I think that was definitely something that was rumbling around in my head.

And even though I guess some of those artists are tangentially rock, the stuff I’ve always really liked by those artists and many others like them is their baroque-y, almost “trying to sound like Sinatra” stuff more than anything. So I think that was a big element in the vocal presentation. I don’t know the degree to which a lot of the lyrics are overly personal, exactly; I don’t know if I write lyrics particularly well in that way. But even if the lyrics were a little abstract – and I think Terribly American is a good case – I wanted it to feel very emotionally powerful, definitely. I go through phases of reading and all that. I’m trying to think offhand what writers I really looked to, but… yeah, I think the lyrics probably did follow, but there was definitely a conscious effort to change the vocal style and the sort of over-the-top theatrics of it.

I’d imagine that change in presentation would subtly tweak the way you use your writing voice as well.

SR: I think so, yeah. We definitely didn’t want them to feel buried this time, not that we ever did. This time around I really wanted the vocals to stand out.

That’s a cliche of psych music, right? Burying the vocals under a bunch of processing. That was why I noticed it so much: a newfound emphasis on what’s being said and how it’s being represented in the sounds.

SR: Yeah! And we love shit like My Bloody Valentine – musically, I don’t think it would surprise people that we really like stuff like that. But there’s not a lot of low end on this record; there’s not a lot of drums, even. So it was very textural, stringy music – the vocal melody’s really gotta carry it, then, you know what I mean? You’re not gonna have the rhythmic bone structure to it as much. I think that was also very much part of the contract here; we’ve got to make sure that’s standing on its own.

I’m glad you brought up the lack of drums and low-end knocking on this record – for a few reasons, actually. For one thing, I got the shit scared out of me when I listened to the end of For the Vain and Lepered – at the end of the song, you guys do three drum hits, and it sounds like someone tapping at the window or knocking at the door.

SR & MM: (Laughter)

And there were multiple times where I would run the track back and go “Oh!”  – I’d freak out because I had headphones on!

All: (Laughter)

MM: Hell yeah.

But I have noticed, though – I do have a point, I swear – there are a lot more records these days where there’s less emphasis on drumming and driving beats. I wonder why that might be – do you have any thoughts on that?

MM: I can only theorize, but I think there’s gotta be so many different factors. One is that, especially these days with small and independent recording being so prevalent, mic’ing up and setting up a drum is just hard. (Laughs)

It’s a whole thing!

MM: It’s maybe not feasible – for us, it definitely wasn’t. We brought a floor tom and a snare and a hi-hat around with us when we recorded, but there was no way we could do a full drum set. I think at least for our process, we really wanted to focus so much on melody and layering different instrument sounds that the drums would either overpower those or get buried into redundancy. So it was more like we used it judiciously, where we really thought we needed a hard hit or a driving rhythm.

SR: Matt and I were blessed to have past projects with really interesting drummers – and Matt and I are both very much not good drummers. Despite whatever strengths we may have, that would not be one. But, again, I think it was in service of the idea that was more overtly orchestral music, or in some cases just flat out noisy, pitchy stuff. It seemed possible to do that vision without a lot of drumming, and probably preferable. There’s a lot of low concert-bass rumblings we tried to do, and triangles and shit like that. It felt more feasible to lean into our not being able to play drums for this one.

Another embrace of the limitations!

SR: Mm-hmm.

I remember you mentioned authors earlier – I wanted to ask if you’ve read anything lately, and if that’s fed back into your work or perspective.

SR: Once we got started – I will say on my end, I definitely went through a spell when I wasn’t reading – but when I was writing the lyrics I probably was. I don’t think I’m the most hip reader. I’ve read a lot of the classics; I know I was reading a lot of Dostoyevsky and old stuff like that. Pale Fire by Nabokov I really liked. As far as novels [go], stuff like that. But I try to read up on musicians and what writers they like – I know Lou Reed and Dylan really liked Rimbaud and Baudelaire, and Patti Smith would talk incessantly about those poets. I read a lot of that. Maybe some of the philosophers they liked, too, as far as I understand. So there were some of those ideas rumbling around.

MM: Most of the lyrics are from Sam’s end, so as far as literature or other stuff I was reading, I don’t think it had much impact on the record. I mean, just in general, I’m not reading as much as I should be right now, at least for personal enjoyment.

SR: Matt’s reading a lot of copyright law right now.

MM: Pretty much. (Laughs)

Well, hey, that’s the important stuff – especially if you’re gonna become a big corporate band, right?

MM: (Laughs) Exactly.

So what is next for Regas-McDonald? Where do we go after this record?

new merchandise will be available at upcoming shows

MM: We’ve started writing again. We’ve got a couple songs in the works that are different from our last album. I think that these are songs that evolved from us being able to play together again, so a little bit more of that jamming in time. We’re getting more accustomed to working with digital instruments and playing them live, so I think that’s gonna influence our songwriting a bit. That’s something we’ve sort of had to adjust to rehearsing these last couple of weeks – how to translate these songs from our recording process to a performance process.

SR: A lot of it we flat-out just can’t do, unless we try to put together a 10-piece band. But I think we’ve been pretty emphatic that we just wanna make it a live duo. I think some stuff like [Impressions I:] The Mother, live, is one of the stronger experiments we’ve been working on.

MM: Probably closest, yeah.

SR: But we’ve been leaning into the krautrock-y, almost “DJs doing orchestral” music or something like that – that’s kind of our pitch. We are getting a live set together and tossing around some very early writing ideas, which I’m sure we’ll dig more into in 2022. We have a little release show coming up in Cleveland on November 20th. Like I said, we have a music video that is in the process of wrapping up right now, and we’ll probably show that at our little release, and then we’ll start digging back into the Ohio scene. You always like the new stuff, you know, I’m sure any artist does. But I really think we did as good as we could do on this one, so it’s interesting that we have to now finally do it live – it was all born out of [being] very cerebral and apart and not in front of people. So it’ll be a very interesting exercise to go back into the wild and play it in front of people.

MM: I guess that – to return to how this process, through the pandemic, changed – in our past projects like Big Sweet and Rockwell Family Dinner, we always performed music before we recorded it, and played it live in some context. So we always had some feedback or ways of giving people awareness of our musical development. And this has been a bit more… guarded. So it’s kind of exciting to get to release it out there.

To finally let people in and show them what you’ve been working on.

MM: Exactly.

SR: Exactly, yeah.

One final question, out of left field. What’s something that keeps you guys up at night, keeps the gears turning, keeps you thinking about the next thing?

SR: The Cleveland Browns season right now. 

Real shit! I’m terrified!

SR: Yeah, that’s…

MM: Yeah. (Exhales)

SR: That’s high on my list. (Laughs)

Case, PLEASE!

SR: We’ll see. We’ll see tonight.

Yeah, will we ever! Oh, boy.

SR: I think that’s my honest answer.

MM That’s a good one. I won’t steal Sam’s, so I’ll have to come up with my own. As far as things that keep me up at night, or at least keep me interested… I’m gonna kinda take the easy answer and say that, with this whole re-entry from the pandemic, just the excitement of going back into live music and re-adjusting in that sense. I think that’s something that’s kinda scary but also really exciting, and it’s got good possibilities for us.

(Interviewer’s note: Case Keenum did an excellent job at the Browns game later that evening. Thank goodness.)

You can find Regas-McDonald on Facebook and Twitter. They are currently signed to Voltage Control Records

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