It’s an absolute treat when a band shows up in the Depth inbox and their music is incredible. This was the case with Regionals; a Sydney based five piece who refer to themselves as ‘punk/emo/indie’, and consist of Aaron Costello (guitar), Brett Islaub (vocals), Adam Millar (bass), Tim Nash (guitar) and Lachlan Gray (drums).
Forming in 2016, the quintet have a self-titled two track release as well as the amusingly named single “Gatorade Saxophone”. In fact, creative titles seem to be Regionals’ thing. With a nice little titular play on fond nostalgia + mental health, Sentimental Health was recorded with Clayton Segelov of The Brain Studios (Corpus, Endless Heights, sleepmakeswaves), before mixed and mastered by UK based Lewis Johns at The Ranch Production House (Funeral for a Friend, Muncie Girls, Gnarwolves). Regionals released their debut EP Sentimental Health earlier this month, and it didn’t take much convincing for me to take some time with it.
The EP’s opener “Slow Down Moneghetti” is inviting with its sweet clear/clean-ness of sound. Gentle and warm melodic guitar grows with drums, building a sense of fullness which sets a stage for the vocals to join in. Coming across as beckoning, the vocals soon become progressively buried by layers of sound, akin to overwhelm, which is reinforced by irregular rhythms.
With a gear shift and a pace change, we sit in distortion and the protagonist seems lost and left behind in a static pool of sound. Instrumental interludes seem purpose built for thinking about next steps, and draw attention to the tenderness and sweetness of the vocals. Though I’m not entirely sure what the track is about lyrically, the repeated lyric and the building from all elements of the band into a big finish is stunning. I’m left feeling in love with the bass as the track comes to a close (though honestly, when don’t I love bass?).
“I feel so superimposed”
An unabashed Australian accent is easily noticeable on Sentimental Health, including second track “Fears for Spears”. This genuine voice sharing confessional takes of life, such as the ‘silent battles’, coupled with a circular riff is endearing. The repeated lyric structure of the verses leaves its mark, seeming to reflect the ongoing struggle that they can never quite break free of. Regionals impactfully take us into the thick of this with them.
It’s a beautiful combination of being happy about something, while also aware of how much they’ve wanted it, and that that could potentially crush it. Overthinkers will relate strongly to the inner tug-of-war with the self that has been captured here. I find myself intrigued by overlayed vocals and the repetition of “I’ve been moving away from what I want”, which creates a multilayered sense of realisation and frustration. When it drops into an instrumental openness, the feeling of freedom and possibility is emotionally moving. The same circular and stop-start vibe remains, but gorgeously soaring guitar feels stronger, and it gives a sense of hope of breaking out of old patterns.
Third track “T2” is sweet and surrendered at its introduction (giving me glimmers of Dear Seattle “Afterthought”) before plunging into denser and more serious territory. The song feels liked wading through rapidly moving waters that want to sweep you in another direction that’s not where you’re wanting to head. While taking this in, I wondered with the title of ‘Sentimental Health‘ if Regionals are focusing on the idea of moving forward for one’s own benefit, while simultaneously being haunted by the past which keeps a tight grip.
A wall of sound at the chorus (‘You’ve been talking in your sleep’) is aggressively full, as are the layered confrontational vocals, feeling like overwhelm in a nutshell, even though they trails off into thought. I’m a fan of the fight that oozes from the guitar, just before a dreamier moment where bass gets a turn to ‘sing’. This is far more nostalgic and sweet than the fight, and again I see this ‘silent battle’ concept in action. It comes across as really enjoyable and not a place I’m wanting to leave. The track comes across like a Jeckyll and Hyde experience of ‘what gives?!’ and ‘I love you’, and so could effectively relate its title to either/both Terminator 2 or a nice cup of tea!
“Gatorade Saxophone” has fierce and hooking guitar tone and riffs from the beginning, and moves into a more thoughtful pocket created by gentle looped riffs and bass waves. We hear honesty about having a hard time and existing zoned out into a zombie state of unfeeling (presumably induced via the ‘gatorade saxophone’). The fairly infectious track teeters on the line between pushing oneself to face reality and being honest, and escaping into the cocoon of a numbed state. I felt that this made for a very genuine piece of music.
“I can’t believe in everything, so please just go away”
I was quietened by the ethereal layers of (reversed?) guitar from the introduction of “Modern Pentathlon”, which created a lovely gentle fall atmosphere. A grooving bass was an unexpected treat, as was something so feelgood and tumbling in a tentative state of self-awareness.
This fifth track was so ‘wow’ to me for reasons that aren’t fully understood, touching on something I needed to hear. With the repeated “Pull yourself up out of the ground” lyric, “Modern Pentathlon” seemed to fit with the idea of effort needed in getting oneself back on their emotional and mental feet again, as well as the continuation or aftermath of the zombie state of the previous track.
Probably my favourite of the EP because of its turning point vibe and how it felt, I loved where this track went instrumentally. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a guitar that feels like it bleeds as it climbs, but it thumped and also worked very well as a reality-facing chapter of a story that continues beyond numbness and into trying to get some grounding. Feeling like compassionate and careful learning by two together, it also carried a ‘now or never’ weight of a need to change or perish in sameness.
“I guess I feel alright but I just can’t bring back the light”
I was of course curious whether “Informal Schmoozing” would offer a conclusion. Instead of coming across as a neatly tied up ending to the EP, the track speaks with honesty about the inner experience that doesn’t necessarily get shared with anyone else except the person suffering experiencing it.
“Informal Schmoozing” includes a quote from the movie Jaws, which captures the vulnerability and fear of being in the water and prone to sharks and hoping for the best that you don’t get attacked. This snapshot of black lifeless eyes, coupled with a climactic and searching sound, as well as the rest of the EP’s themes in mind created for me a fairly savage perspective on life and surviving. Is it hopeful? Not necessarily, but it’s honest and heart-stirring in its instrumentation, warmth, and seeking vibe. And maybe we’ll be one of the ones who are able to get out alive.
Sentimental Health was cool! It was an EP that I enjoyed discovering my way through; both getting to know the band as well as understanding what they’re sharing. The EP is chock full of stunning instrumentation from all band members as well as some no-frills genuine sharing of the not so pretty parts of life. If Regionals keep creating music with their own creative (unpredictable) flare, I think they’ll become a firm fixture in favourite playlists for appreciators of emotive music with stirring instrumental experiences.
The Aussie drawl might be too much for some listeners. I wanted to understand where the inspiration came from for the titles to connect the (truly meaningful) music with the somewhat comical title - it could potentially come across as dismissive of what they're saying.
Great use of instrumentation and voice to express really relatable experiences of life. Structure of the lyrics made it really easy to feel like you already know these songs. But not at all predictable by way of song structure, which to me was clear they value their creativity and are thoughtful in their choices. The appearance of Modern Pentathlon in the track order worked well to lift the listener up out of this to-and-fro state into something else.