Branching into children’s music was perhaps never the obvious choice for former Brisbane punk-adjacent band Regurgitator, but it was a remarkably good fit for the trio.
Ben Ely, Quan Yeomans and Peter Kostic were joined by Jerico Wallace, AKA Koko, for the project, which initially began with a few off the cuff songs written by Ely with his children.
“Ben writes a lot of it,” Wallace says. “He has a few kids and they would just sing little songs together in the car and make up stuff – him and I think Dee Dee saw some guy down the street with his butt hanging out and they created “Mr Butt” from that.”
The rest came quite organically, Wallace explains.
“We got together and wrote the Pogogo theme tune, and I wrote “Best Friends Forever” for the album as well, and we just jammed it out,” she says. “We literally just got into a big studio room and just wrote some things down; it was very easy.”
Wallace was living in her native Perth when her band Boys Boys Boys! supported Regurgitator on a local show.
“We were a very ridiculously pop, synchronised dancing band,” she laughs. “Gurge came over and we played with them once and we had heaps of fun, so we became friends that way. Then I moved to Melbourne six years ago and obviously had kept in touch with Ben and Quan and Pete, and Ben just called me one day and was like, ‘Hey Koko, we’re at Quan’s house,’ – Quan lives in Melbourne – ‘And we’re kind of making these really silly kid’s songs… Do you want to come and sing on some?’”
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When Wallace enquired what the band was writing about, Ely replied, “Oh, we’ve got a song about farts…” and the rest, she says, is history.
“I just went to Quan’s house, where he has a little studio in his backyard, and we just sat in there for a few hours and wrote some songs and recorded some stuff, and it was ridiculously silly and fun,” she laughs. “And then it sort of became a real thing.”
So real, in fact, that Regurgitator’s Pogo Show’s 2019 debut album, The Really Really Really Really Boring Album, was nominated for an ARIA Award for Best Children’s Album, pitting them against The Wiggles and ultimate winner, Dan Sultan.
“My dream in life was to go to the ARIAs, and obviously being nominated was even better, but I just wanted to go since I was like seven years old so for me that was literally probably the best day of my life, ever,” Wallace laughs. “I had so much fun just getting to meet heaps of people, and walking the red carpet was a hoot with Ben, we just had such a fun day together.”
Wallace says she didn’t get to achieve the one goal she set out for herself on the day – meeting The Veronicas “Apparently they were behind me on the red carpet and I didn’t see them,” she laments. “I was so devastated!”
Although Regurgitator has been busy touring for their 25th anniversary of Unit and working in the studio recording new material, Wallace says the band has been grabbing time for Pogogo Show where they can. That included a memorable show at Melbourne Recital Centre this week as part of Music Play 2023, an interactive festival that immersed children and adults alike in music over the school holidays.
“We did a couple of shows last year, which were really fun, and these shows in Melbourne, and we’ve been trying to work on some new songs a little bit on the side, but it’s been mainly kind of me at the moment,” Wallace laughs.
“I think we’ll probably try and do some more shows; I know the boys are super busy with Gurge and they’re constantly touring and writing and stuff, so this is just a side thing for them a guess, but I love it so much so I’m going to keep trying to write new songs.”
With the band members all living in different states – Yeomans and Wallace are the only two based in Melbourne – the band gets little time together to work on new material or even rehearse for shows, which is often done the day before.
“Because we have so much fun together it’s literally just us meeting up, hanging out, kind of going through the songs, but we sort of just ad lib it a lot live anyway, so it’s literally just the boys need to make sure they have the chords and then we just sort of fluff about on stage, to be honest,” Wallace says. “When they get together they’re just like giggly boys, basically, and I am a big giggler as well, so it just works.”
While Pogogo Show gigs are basically a big party, Wallace says Yeomans often quips that kids are almost scarier to play for than adults.
“Because with adults you kind of know what you’re going to get – they know the songs, you know they’re going to stand there and headbang a bit,” she explains. “But with kids, they’re so unpredictable, you know? The stuff they can come out with sometimes can really shock you – in a good way!”
Sometimes, the kids feel like they’re judging the performance far harsher than adult audiences, as well.
“Sometimes you’ll see a kid not vibing out there, and you’re like, ‘Ooh, okay! Where are we doing wrong that this little kid is like, nup, not feeling it?’” she laughs. “But they also let loose more sometimes – like, seeing a kid absolutely losing it at the front and almost getting aggressive is so exciting.”
The band has a very DIY-approach to their costumes and props. The Mr Butt costume was papier-mâchéd by Ely, while Wallace made the Ghost Cat costume by sewing some ears onto a sheet. It doesn’t stop their tiny fans from fighting each other over the costumes and sets, though.
“We do this thing where we make these cardboard robots out of cardboard boxes and at the end of the song the boys take them off and kind of just ditch them off to the side of the stage, and sometimes the kids will try and grab the boxes and will really fight each other to get these robot costumes,” Wallace says. “It’s hilarious, you’ll see them savagely rip them into pieces and it’s just like, wow… it’s surprisingly aggressive!”
Regurgitator’s Pogogo Show is not just for the children, though. Wallace says that a number of adult fans will come along purely out of curiosity, although it’s great to see parents bringing their children to enjoy live music together.
“We play a few Gurge songs in the set as well, that we rework – like we play “I Sucked a Lollipop to Get Where I Am” instead of you-know-what, and the parents will always look a bit scared at first, then once we drop the ‘lollipop’ word they’re like, oh, thank god,” she laughs. “So they always enjoy themselves too, which is good, because they’re not just standing there looking bored and waiting for the show to end. They always have a huge smile on their face, and I think seeing the boys play as well with their kids is just a really lovely thing to do together as a family.”