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The City and I push punk boundaries and reach out to a more diverse audience

November 1, 2018

Punk Like Me

Text by Hannah Kubik. Image by Julia Leiby.

You might recognize The City and I’s Colin Regisford as the bassist for punk/pop Philadelphia-based band Mannequin Pussy. And if you do, you probably know him as Bear, a nickname that stuck after a single day as a high school mascot.

According to Ben Roth, a friend of over a decade who helped record and co-produce tracks for The City and I, Regisford’s solo career is a natural progression.

“Since I’ve known Bear, he has lived and breathed through the writing and performing of his art,” Roth says, adding that he loves Regisford’s songwriting because it does not follow traditional structure. “The songs are [both] linear and tangential, like a guided tour through the strange funhouse that is Bear’s brain. I believe Bear is on the forefront of a movement that is reimagining what punk music is.”

Regisford started writing songs as a teenager while living in the Poconos. As a fan of bands like Blink-182 and Green Day, he gravitated toward the punk rock scene, but, as a black male, he found himself to be a minority. Often a minority of one.

“I used to have to trick people to let me play with them and would literally just show up at their doorstep and push my way inside,” Regisford says. “They would look at me and didn’t see a kid who could play bass and like punk.”

Eventually he encountered someone who recognized his talents. This someone was Casey Weissbuch from Diarrhea Planet, a Nashville-based garage punk band. While touring with Colleen Green, Regisford met Weissbuch, and Weissbach asked if Regisford knew anyone with a new sound. There was no hesitation.

“I played him some songs I wrote, and Weissbuch was like, ‘I need you to send me every single song. I want to put this out for you because this is really cool, and I think people should hear this,’” Regisford recalls.

In 2015, Regisford released Downer, his first The City And I album. While the seven-song release has a song or two that might betray his punk rock roots, the music is stoner hazy, sprinkled with snippets of conversation, with melodies that can be haunting and quite beautiful.

The good news is that there’s more on the way. Regisford shared a few singles with us that he plans to drop soon, including the doomy “Cecilia” and “ADD,” a super catchy rocker that devolves into a nightmarish chaos.

It all makes sense when you consider that Regisford claims the purpose of The City and I, is “to really destroy all of the old ways of people who were making punk music.”

And that is all rooted in the alienation he felt as a teen, an outsider looking in. Along the way, Regisford befriended someone who fully understands the loneliness of being a Black punk: Ruben Polo of Soul Glo, a Philly afro-punk band that uses lyrics to protest white power structures in punk and beyond. Both Regisford and Polo imagine a future where they see more diversity in the mosh pits.

Regisford says, “One day we won’t be showboating for a sea of cream.”

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