For many musicians, alter egos can be a mode of self-expression or even a necessity, as is the case of Guelph, Ontario-born singer Reg Vermue. For the past couple years the indie-rock artist, known primarily by his fans as Gentleman Reg, has been exploring a new identity, donning a dress and heels as Regina the Gentlelady, Vermue’s drag persona.
Described as having the “voice of a shady angel and a body made for breaking hearts,” Regina fronts the Toronto-based electronic band Light Fires, which will perform at Toronto Pride this year alongside acts like Carole Pope and The Cliks.
Light Fires is set to release an album this July, but first, Vermue spoke to us about the evolution of his alter-ago, who pushed him to dress in drag, and what LGBT issue matters to him.
In: Who exactly is Regina?
Reg Vermue: My drag character is Regina the Gentlelady, who fronts a band called Light Fires. Regina has been around a couple of years. She’s branching out into the east end – the Church Street scene. She’s always been a west-end girl. She’s someone I developed out of necessity. I needed to do something different artistically. I had a lot of help in the queer world. All these minds came together and helped me create Regina.
In: Is this the first time you’ve incorporated drag into your music?
RV: It’s the first time I’ve done it seriously. I’ve had friends for years telling me to do drag. A huge influence was [artist/club promoter] Will Munro. He was always trying to get me to do it. It’s something I never thought I’d explore. I didn’t know what I’d bring to it. I sing live and, writing my own music, I came to a conclusion that I could bring something to the art form.
In: Performing in drag isn’t easy.
RV: It’s a lot of work and really expensive. I didn’t know anything about makeup – I had to learn all of that. Luckily I’ve had some great teachers. [Artists] Margo and David Hawe taught me everything. The clothing. The whole dressing like a lady is a lot of work.
In: What about tucking. Do you do it?
RV: The whole tucking thing is a challenge. Not gonna lie. I haven’t figured out a way to do it comfortably. I certainly do not wear body suits. I don’t know how those girls get away with that.
In: How do Gentleman Reg fans react when Regina performs?
RV: It’s totally different because I’m putting out a different type of energy as Regina. It’s intense because it’s all dance music with Light Fires. It’s party music. There’s a lot more audience interaction. Regina actually goes into the audience and banters with people. As Gentleman Reg I’m behind a guitar standing in one place. Whereas with Light Fires I’m all over the stage, dancing the entire time. It has the vibe of a Peaches show. Very raw with some punk rock elements.
In: Tell us about your first Pride.
RV: Before I was in Toronto I lived in Guelph where I did high school and university. I definitely used to come to Toronto for Pride. I was 16 and felt overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. It was a funny time because I wasn’t out. I was into political issues and was going with an activist mind.
In: What LGBT issues are important to you today?
RV: I think its funny when people think the struggle is over. I think it’s sad. Obviously there are so many issues to deal with. Over the years I’ve made friends with many trans people. I’m very aware of other identities and other things I didn’t know about in the past. Transphobia and issues like that are much more apparent in my world at the moment.
Light Fires performs Fri., June 28th on the Bud Light South Stage (Church/Carlton). 8pm. No cover. lightfires.bandcamp.com