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Regurgitator’s Ben Ely remembers his past in Queensland on his new solo record

At the beginning of 2016 Regurgitator’s Ben Ely moved home to Brisbane after spending 16 years living in Melbourne and Sydney. When he returned it was a surreal experience.

“The weather was getting to me in Melbourne and I just went, ‘I’m gonna move back. I ended up packing up and selling all my stuff and moving up to Brisbane. It was quite weird when I got back there. It was like this weird memory of myself, like it was me but it wasn’t me.
“I remembered this time of my life but it felt like it wasn’t. It was a completely different version of me. Going around the city to different locations I was recalling all of these feelings and instances that happened to me when I was younger. The feelings were really strong and these ideas were coming into my songs.”
 
These memories and feelings are the catalyst behind Ely’s new album Strange Tales Of Drugs & Lost Love. Moody and reflective the album is a departure from the sound of Regurgitator, the bulk of tracks only featuring one guitar and Ely’s vocals.
 
The stories he tells on the album take place around the time Ely finished high school and his formative years outside formal education, just before the formation of Regurgitator.
 
“I think back in the time of the late ‘80s, early ‘90s was a very, very different time for music and culture and the political landscape of South East Queensland, with the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era.
 
“I remember the time being quite violent and quite aggressive at concerts. There was a lot of violence, skinheads would just turn up to a venue and start beating people.
 
“I remember Quan was playing in a band, Zooerastia at the 4ZZZ market day and the skinheads would jump on stage and sieg heil him. It was a pretty intense time, I remember it being quite scary being in the music scene. Or being a person that stood out in South East Queensland at the time, you’re a target for the police and searches. I think I got searched by the cops at least twice a week where I lived.”
 
Ely focuses on the strangest events that occurred to him. “Some of the stories are just so bizarre, you can’t make that shit up. Like my first girlfriend on the song Amada’s Lost It. I went to Melbourne to visit my Grandmother for the holidays and came back. She was this bright, shiny, surfy girl and then she turned into a goth. She dyed a wedding dress black and she said she was possessed by the devil and the devil was talking to her through a Stevie Nicks cassette tape that she was playing. Stevie Nicks was talking to her through this old antique picture she had of this old woman that lived in Tasmania in the 1800s.
 
“Then she got possessed and got a knife and tried to stab me and then she ran into the forest and she said that ‘the hell hounds are chasing me, the daemons are chasing me.’ I had to chase after her and tell her everything was ok and she wouldn’t buy it. I eventually got her home and I took the Stevie Nicks tape and the picture away and said, ‘I’m taking the devil out of your house now,’ and she was like ‘Ok,’ and she still wouldn’t buy it. I had to break up with her after that.” 
 
For Ely his solo project is very personal. “I think I do my solothing because I like the process of making music.” For him the project is an important contrast to the party vibes of Regurgitator, creating something mellow and introverted is his way of experiencing a different side of music. “It’s nice to experience music in different ways,” he says.
 
Ely says that he probably won’t just limit the project to one album. “There are so many stories I could probably make four or five volumes of Strange Tales. There are a lot of weird stories.”

Ben Ely will perform at The Grace Darling on Friday September 22 with Steve Tyssen and Kelly Day and Karova Lounge on Saturday September 23 with Shonen Knife and Parsnip. Strange Tales Of Drugs & Lost Love is out Friday September 15.