Interview: Dave NeSmith and Drew Ringo of Regents


Though the emo, punk and hardcore scenes in the aught-teens have a lot of considerable players and talents, few have the punk pedigree offered by Regents, a band that contains some of the most influential musicians of the ‘90s and ‘00s.  With collective credits that are enough to stagger any 90’s hardcore, punk and emo fan, these dudes (Dave NeSmith, Drew Ringo, Lukas Previn and Jason Hamacher) cut their teeth in Frodus, Battery, Sleepytime Trio, Maximillian Colby, Men’s Recovery Project, Rah Bras, Bats and Mice, Thursday, Combat Wounded Veteran and more.

Drawing inspiration from years of shows in basements, squats and living rooms, Regents crafts fierce, heavy music that harkens to those earlier days.  The band already recorded a 7” record for Lovitt with Joseph Mitra (Police and Thieves, Trapped Under Ice), before teaming up with J. Robbins for their full-length Antietam After Party.  The album, which drops on November 20 on Lovitt Records, follows a helluva year, which has included tours with Retox (ex-Locust) Planes Mistaken For Stars and Converge, and postures the band to rule in 2013.
Ghettoblaster caught up with NeSmith and Ringo recently to discuss Antietam After Party, working with J. Robbins, the good ‘ole days, and more.  Here is what they had to say…
You guys have been spending some time on the road with Planes Mistaken For Stars, Converge and Retox, who are all bands with members that I imagine you’ve played and worked with over the course of the years.  Was it nice to come full circle with them in that way all these years later?
Dave NeSmith:  Oh boy, can’t really say exactly how amazing it is to see friends out at shows or playing with us.  Rah Bras used to tour with Locust so it was so great to reconnect with JP again.  And he is always putting out great stuff.
Drew Ringo: We have been really lucky to play shows with lots of great bands this year.  Colosseum, Fucked-Up, Ladder Devils, Torche, Converge, Heks Orkest, Pissed Jeans to name (drop) a few.  For me, after living on the west coast for 10 years, its been an amazing home coming.
Though we didn’t have previous relationships with all of the bands mentioned, its fantastic how music serves as vehicle for meeting folks new and old.  I think it’s a big reason why we do it.  It’s an honor really, I’d be lining up for these shows as a fan if we weren’t already playing them.  It’s not just the band members though, its really about re/connecting with the entire community of folks that support this music.  On top of that, touring is the best way to get exposed to new music.
It feels like I’m coming full circle too as my old webzine Bettawreckonize interviewed Dave Nesmith about Bats and Mice and I interviewed Ben Davis over a decade ago.  What ever happened to Rah Bras and Bats and Mice?
Dave:  Yeah!  I totally remember that.  So, Rah Bras played our last show in 2007.   Bats & Mice is still going.  We recorded a full-length record with Brian McTernan that still needs to have vocals put on it.  But with my moving away to Alabama and Ben having his third child, we have been too busy to finish it.  I am going to Chapel Hill next month to work on it.
Is Ben Davis still involved in this band in any official capacity?
Dave:  No, not right now.  But you know how Lovitt is…we are basically all one big band.
Drew:  Ben played on the Colosseum tour from KY down to “the Fest” in Fla.  It was amazing to get to share the stage with him again.  We have been friends for over 20 years, and of course played in Sleepytime together, but without the tour we wouldn’t have more than one or two times a year to catch-up, and usually only for an evening.  It was such a great opportunity to have real/van time together again.
And J Robbins played bass on this album as well as engineering it, right?
Dave:  Yep!  That was incredible!  We walked into the studio right after our original bass player quit.  J. starting recording the tracks and just jumped right in.  He was beyond amazing.
Drew: I was not present at the first session when Jason and Dave laid down the foundation tracks.  At that time J. had explained that he would not have time to take over bass duties on the record.  I am told that hearing the tracks changed his mind and influenced him to jump right in.  He worked on the tracks in his off-time between other recording sessions, and would send them to us via email.  It was like getting Christmas presents…totally amazing and mind-blowing.
When did you begin writing and rehearsing for the album?  Was there a lot of preproduction or was a lot of it done in the studio?
Dave:  A little bit of both.  We came up with a lot ideas, some of them fully formed and then we actually wrote a lot in the studio.
Drew: David moved to Alabama, and we lost Dan (previous bass player) in the middle of writing the record.  We had been practicing in Baltimore as much as possible, but then shifted to sharing ideas via dropbox (online).  While I did write a few of the core ideas, for the most part Dave and Jason worked on the core structure of the songs.  I would sit and listen over and over to the tracks; taking tons of notes, de/constructing and arranging. I overlayed my guitars and vocals last.
The other guys like to joke that they are the farmers, and I am the chef.  David is very prolific, where as I spend a dreadful amount of time in my basement figuring out my parts.  In the long run, I think the different approaches benefits the songs. That said, we would probably be on our third album if it wasn’t for me being so finicky and slow.
In what way did the American Civil War inspire the record?
Dace:  Well we were just throwing out ideas for the album name and Jason said “Lacrosse After Party” and I was thinking about Antietam because I was reading a book about it since my great great grandfather on my mom’s side fought for New Hampshire and my great great grandfather on my dad’s side fought for Georgia.   They both met on opposite sides of Burnside’s bridge at Antietam.  How could they know that some day their offspring would be playing guitar in a punk band?  So what happened after Antietam?  The Antietam After Party.
Drew: We were trying to figure out the album name.  Jason was pretty amped on Lacrosse After Party, a reference to an incident in Charlottesville, VA.  As David mentioned, he was reading about the Civil War and mentioned Antietam.  I stuck the two ideas together.  Again, they have all of the good ideas, its amazing to play with them.
I was reading an article by this probability specialist that said the U.S. is due for a civil war soon, and what seems to complicate this is that the Southern Poverty Law Center has seen a very significant rise in right wing hate groups over the last four years.  Do you think that is a possibility?
Dave: Shoot I hope not.  I can’t tell you how NICE people are in Alabama.  Some of the nicest people I have ever met.  I think there is a problem with our news organizations and Congress.  They really are pushing us apart and its easier for them to get elected by yelling at the other person instead of actually getting stuff done.
I have a theory that if you really talked to a right winger you will see there are tons of things you both agree on and our Congress could spend the next 20 years working on those things.  Like money in politics.  No one likes that!  Except lobbyists.  There are so many things we have in common.
My neighbor down the street and I have a beer every now and then.  He is a Republican.  I am far left of the Democrats.   But we talk all the time about how health care should be universal.   I think if we had a chance to really talk with each other we would work this stuff out.
Was Lovitt always the first choice to release these records, or did you ever consider approaching another label for the output?
Dave:  Yep!  We are Lovitt folks.  We might be doing a few 7?s elsewhere… but that talk is so not even worth talking about right now.
Those of us who grew up with the Lovitt catalog, Sleepytime Trio, Frodus, Maximillian Colby, get this and perhaps get a little nostalgic about those basement shows we grew up going to.  Do you all still have romantic memories of all those years playing squats and living rooms?
Dave:  How can I forget!  Some of those shows were so insane.  One of my favorite memories is playing a garage in Northern California.  It was right off the PCH.  We were just thrashing around as we normally do… and the whole crowd was singing along.  And the last song finished and the garage door opened right as the Sun was setting over the water.  Everyone walked out together and watched it sink.
We’ve seen a lot of bands from the ‘90s regrouping as of late, and I remember Frodus doing a reunion run too. I’m wondering if there’s a possibility for a Sleepytime Trio or Maximillan Colby reunion in the future?
Dave:  Well Sleepytime played SXSW this year.  It was a lot of fun.  And we played the Fest in Gainesville last year.   No more plans at the moment.