Regulate: Sebastian Paba on "Regulate," Cultural Pride, and Connecting to Hardcore on a Genuine Level

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

In every generation of hardcore, there’s always a few bands that you can tell are going to be memorable for years to come. With hundreds of new bands come out every year, it can take a lot to stand out. In my opinion - Regulate has had that spark from the beginning.

The band’s newest self-titled record, released in September on Flatspot Records, is their most creative effort yet. A lot of hardcore acts try to experiment with their sound - and, often, it results in some folks falling off with that band. On Regulate, the band has found a way to try new things and keep it fresh in a way that still feels genuine and honest to the band’s original sound. Sebastian Paba’s more traditional, aggressive vocal style betrays the anger behind his words - and, on other songs, he sings impassioned choruses that serve to add emphasis to lyrics that he wants the listener to take in clearly. These words are backed by a skilled musical team that takes inspiration from Latin American music, all the way to emo and alternative rock. Whether you dig Regulate or not, you can’t call any of this record boring or generic. 

My interview with Sebastian might be one of my favorites I’ve ever done. Of course, we discussed the release of Regulate and Sebastian’s writing process. 

As the conversation went on, we discussed the song “Hair,” and the intersection of accepting one’s physical appearance with accepting one’s culture. Finally, we discussed the future of hardcore, and our mutual hope that the new kids coming in are making the connection we’ve both felt so strongly to hardcore - as both a genre of music and beyond.

(Photo credit: Ryan Johnson)

AA: Introduce yourself with your name, what you do in Regulate,  and a fact about yourself.

SP: My name’s Sebastian, I’m the lead singer for Regulate. A fact about myself… I’m the best whistler in North America.

AA: Who played your first hardcore show? What impact did that have on keeping you involved in hardcore?

SP: Wow, good question. My first hardcore show was Backtrack, Foundation, Terror, Rhinoceros, maybe? And maybe Bottom Out, I forget. It was my first time seeing hardcore in a real, live setting. I had seen a bunch of videos before that, listened to the music for a bit before that, and I already knew it was something I wanted to be a part of, but seeing it live had the effect that I think it has on most people when you first start out. Like, “Wow, this shit is really happening right in front of me.” 

You don’t really see that type of controlled chaos truly anywhere, in any facet of life, and I think the fact that it was controlled chaos is what made me wanna stick around. I was definitely scared for my life - I went to that show alone, my mom dropped me off, and when it was done, she picked me up. I didn’t have any friends there, I didn’t speak or say a word the whole show. I was kinda just chillin’ in the back, off to the side, whatever. And even though I was fearful for my safety, I was definitely having a great time, and that’s what I wanted out of it - being that close to the band, being that close to the pit, all that stuff. 

I think the thrill of it kept me coming around in the early days, and I think the controlled aspect of it, the camaraderie behind it and the togetherness in that room, is another thing that kept me there. 

AA: That’s cool. You know, it’s funny, I end up interviewing a lot of people who sort of “accidentally” end up at a hardcore show, and I think there’s something special about, like - you already know what the music is, and now you’re ready to seek out this other part of it. 

SP: Right, right. Nah, I had been waiting for that show for months, and definitely made it a point to get out there.

AA: One of the strongest parts of Regulate as a whole is the lyrical content - you’re a great storyteller, and it makes the songs really immersive to listen to. What inspires you as a lyricist?

SP: Thank you. I try to write my lyrics usually in the thick of whatever emotion I’m feeling at the time. Obviously, some songs pull more from emotion and others pull more from experience, you know what I’m saying? So, if I’m reflecting on something, and I feel compelled to write lyrics, I pull out my phone or my notepad, whatever. But sometimes, when I’m fuckin’ having a good cry, or feeling really, really blissful or joyous, [or] really, really upset and down - I pull out the phone, even if I kinda don’t want to. Even if I just wanna fuckin’ sit there with the moment, whether it be good or bad, I push myself to write about it, because that’s when you’re gonna get the most visceral lyrics, the most instinctual emotions you could possibly get. Whether the lyrics are the best in that moment is irrelevant. You can always go back and fine-tune when you’re not feeling so emotional. 

But I think the reason people can relate to my lyrics, the reason people appreciate my lyrics - which I’m very grateful for - is because I think the emotion and the perspective on the experiences that I’m writing about, I think that shines through the words. You know what I mean? I think it comes across powerful, because it is. I’m writing from a very personal standpoint. I’ve never really been one to make a lot of… My lyrics aren’t cryptic. They’re pretty literal, I would say. I’m not spoonfeeding you anything, but it doesn’t take much to hear a song and hear what I’m trying to get across. I think that’s another reason why the lyrics are a big component of the band.

AA: In general, the new album sees you guys experiment a lot as a band. What new things did you aim to do with this record?

SP: Honestly, I don’t know if I have an answer for that. Anytime we put out new music, I just want it to have as big of an audience as possible. I want a million people to hear it. And that’s the goal for this one, too. I would say, if you want to write good music, you want people to hear it - but I’m not sure if there was any real, concrete goal we had for it. There’s nothing I had in mind, other than just make music, move on with the tour, play some shows here and there. But the music is out for people to hear, and that’s really all that matters to me. I just want people to hear it. Whatever may come from that, I’m open to - but going into it, I didn’t really have many expectations.

(Photo credit: Gian Buchapi)

AA: What was the recording process like?

SP: We recorded on a farm, there was animals. Definitely a different type of recording process than I’m used to. We lived there for a bit. It was cool to just fully immerse myself, I didn’t really have anything else going on. It was just… Wake up, if it’s your day to record, it’s your day to record, if not, you’re just hanging out all day. Go home at the end of the week, work a couple of shifts, come back, and do the whole thing again, you know? It was the first time I really felt like I was 100% there. Because, in the past, I was in college when the records were being done. So I’d have schoolwork to do, or I’d have whatever bullshit… I’ve since graduated, thank god

I just did it, and when it was a guitar day or drum day, I was just kinda sitting around playing Nintendo 64, or sitting at a coffee place… Just hanging out. It was cool to just be totally focused on what we’re working on.

AA: For sure. And did you already have it in mind that you were going to put it out on Flatspot, or were you just generally writing with the intention of having something to put out?

SP: I’ll go back a little bit. For our first LP, we spoke to Ricky from Flatspot about doing it with him, and it just didn’t work out. Time went on, and we didn’t really know when we were gonna put out the next record. We decided to do demos and stuff like that in 2020. I don’t perfectly remember, but I think Ricky just hit me up and asked if I’d be down to put out whatever Regulate was doing with him. At this point, we had a few demos done, and we knew we weren’t going to do it with Edgewood - we had already spoken to them about that. We considered a couple other labels and talked to them about it, and we weren’t really stressed about it, because at that point, like everyone else on the rest of the planet, we didn’t know what the state of the world would be in a month or a year, you know? So finding a label wasn’t of the utmost importance at the time, we were just trying to get the music out. When Ricky hit me up, I talked to the rest of the guys about it, we went over the rest of the logistics of it, all the numbers and shit like that, and it worked out. 

So, yeah, when we started writing for this record, we didn’t have Flatspot in mind - we didn’t have anybody in mind, we were just writing. I think it was probably around maybe early 2021, maybe a little after, that we started being like, “Alright, Flatspot, that’s where we’re gonna go, let’s figure out when we’re gonna record - let’s write these songs.”

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

AA: “Hair” is one of the most unique songs on the record, and in my opinion, it has a really powerful message. Can you tell us a bit about the meaning and inspiration behind the song?

SP: The song is about people embracing the look that they were born with. And, coming from my perspective, as a black person, as a Native person - our physical characteristics are often either a novelty or a joke to people. They’re commodified as some unique, exotic being, or we’re put down for having features that aren’t desirable, that don’t align with the status quo of what beauty is. But, as time is going on, day by day, I think all physical characteristics are being appreciated more and more. So, I wrote that song about myself and about anybody who was born with characteristics that are not, like I said, globally, generally desirable, due to… I mean, what it is, you know? White supremacy, and Eurocentrism, stuff like that takes people who don’t align with the beauty standard and puts us down. It’s a song to inspire people to say, “Fuck it, you know what? This is what I got. I’m knockin’ with it, I’m happy with it.” 

Hair is such a big part of the black community, Native community, Latin community - of all communities, really, but I gotta speak from my own perspective. I haven’t gotten a haircut in about two years, my hair is pretty long. Sometimes I think about cutting it, sometimes I don’t. It’s a powerful thing. A lot of indigenous people, we don’t cut our hair our whole lives. Or we go years and years and years without cutting our hair. Or we wear our hair in different styles to show different rankings in society, stuff like that. That’s a thing that’s spread in all indigenous cultures around the world - even cultures who don’t have hair. Having a bald head is also a way to show position and rank in some indigenous cultures. There’s just a lot to it, and there’s a lot to unpack with it. 

When I wrote that song, the lyrics came pretty easy to me. I had an idea to write a song like that for a while. I’m glad that sonically, it came out the way it did. That’s not really a song I want to scream, you know? I want you to hear the words, I want you to hear the lyrics, and I want you to hear the emotion that comes along with it.

AA: Awesome answer. I mean, obviously, being white, I experience issues with self image a lot differently than someone who isn't - but I often see people write off issues with appearance as something kind of superficial and silly to worry about. And, in a lot of ways, especially as it relates to culture - it is really important. 

SP: Yeah! The superficialness of it… You could look at it in that respect, but you have to think about how it’s one thing to be like, “Oh man, I don’t like the way my nose is,” and it’s another thing to be like, “These people are telling me that I have an ugly nose. So now I don’t like how my nose is.” It’s totally different. Like, you’re born with your nose, you know? It is what it is. You’re born with your hair, you’re born with your lips - you’re born with these things. And then you have people knocking you down over it - of course it’s gonna build fuckin’ complexes inside of you, it’s gonna build insecurities. No one thinks they’re ugly because they just think they’re ugly one day. No, you’re told you’re ugly, and you’re told you’re different, and told that you don’t fit in because of how you look, and that does a number on you.

Album art

AA: What’s your favorite song off Regulate and why?

SP: I like playing “You and I” a lot. We played it a lot on the tour we did with Vein, Candy, and Living Weapon over the summer. It got a really good reaction every night, I love the lyrics of that song - it’s a hard ass song, you know? I also really like “Work,” excited to start playing that one. 

I think the interlude [“Ugata”] is an incredible song, too. I have an interesting view on that one, because, you know, obviously, it’s instrumental, it has no vocals on it. I gave the guys my vision as far as what I wanted it to sound like - what I wanted it it to feel like, rather - and they just ran with it. So, I feel like that song, I hear that just as a fan, you know? I truly didn’t have that much influence on it. The guys just kind of came up with it, they ran off my idea, but they really put it together themselves. So that one is really fun for me to hear, just because I’m on a kind of outsider perspective - I’m just another fan enjoying it. 

AA: Regulate have played all across the US, as well as in countries all over the world - what are some of your favorite places you’ve played shows?

SP: I really liked playing New Zealand, that was one of the last places we got to play before the world shut down. Southeast Asia is an incredible place to play, it’s really unlike any other place in the world. We did a full tour in Colombia with Raw Brigade and Life’s Question last year, that was incredible. We’re actually playing a fest that Carlos from Raw Brigade is putting on in December, I’m excited for that. Japan is another… Tokyo is one of my top five places to play in the world, it’s an incredible place. We’re going to be back there in January with No Pressure. There’s a lot of different places that I’d love to pack up right now and play a show at. 

(Photo credit: Hiro Itou)

AA: What would you like to see more of in hardcore in the future?

SP: … Interesting. I don’t really look so far into the future with hardcore, because it’s such a time and place, right now, type of thing - and the attention spans are wavering as time goes on. … I’d like to see more hardcore tours, where it’s just hardcore bands. And that’s not to negate mixed bill tours - everything has a place, and I fully support that. But I don’t know! I would love to see more of a Terror, Foundation, Backtrack tour nowadays, instead of, like… Hardcore band and a rapper and a fuckin’... Weird…

AA: Pop punk band? [laughs]

SP: Yeah! [laughs]

AA: No diss to anyone who toured with them, but, you know… I don’t really wanna see that, personally. [laughs]

SP: Nahhh, those bands… That’s not music for me, it never will be. And if you’re touring with them, fuckin’... Go for it, get your money up, I’m never gonna hold down a hardcore band for that. We work hard, so we deserve to reap the benefits every now and then.

AA: Yeah, it’s just such a difference in the environment. I get what you mean. Those tours that used to happen every year, Life & Death… That was really cool, because it would bring hardcore bands that don’t really get a chance to tour around to come to areas that they wouldn’t normally end up in, with other hardcore bands, in a room full of hardcore kids. But the “hardcore band + artist of another genre” thing… The whole environment, the whole vibe in the room is different.

SP: Right, yeah. I don’t know what’s up with Life & Death, it hasn’t happened for a couple years, obviously, you know, probably at least partially due to the pandemic… But I want to see bands doing more weekends and stuff with each other. I just want to see more bands touring. And I’m kind of a hypocrite when I say that, because Regulate will never be a full-time touring band, but we tour when we can. And I understand a lot of people are in that position, but I hope as the scene gets younger - and it definitely is getting younger - that people start picking up instruments, booking shows, finding new venues in their respective scenes, and we have a resurgence.

Because hardcore is not having a resurgence in the typical sense where things are on the up & up for us. It’s like, people on the outside are up in hardcore, you know what I mean? With TikTok and the internet, you can’t talk about hardcore with someone without mentioning TikTok now, it seems like. “Oh, yeah, TikTok and all these new kids, blah blah blah.” However you may feel about the sudden influx of “outsiders” into hardcore, you can’t negate the obvious effects that the internet has had on hardcore in the last two years. It has its negatives and its positives, you know, you’ve got young people… If fuckin’ a half of them, a quarter of them, stick around and become actual hardcore kids, that’s fuckin’ sick. That’s great. But a lot of them, I would say most of them, are in it just for the novelty. They just like being able to go to a show and jump around and push people and stuff. And, you know, you gotta start somewhere, but I go to these shows, I see these little gremlins going around and being weird, and I can tell they’re having a good time, and I really don’t wanna take that away from people - I’m too old to see people and go, “Aww, man, they’re having too much fun,” [laughs] You know what I mean? I’m not trying to be like that. 

But you can kind of just tell when someone’s there because they’re like, “I get to do this. I get to jump around and I get to jump off stage and this and that.” And it’s like, yeah, you don’t need to be going to the show because you know every single word from every single band and you love hardcore so much… Like, you can go to have a good time. But it’s easy for me, for you, for real hardcore kids, to see people like that and be like, “You’re just here because this is… You’re free on a Friday night, and…”

AA: And you wanted to come down here and hit some people. [laughs]

SP: Right. It’s just something for you to do. And, I don’t know, not to sound like a fuckin’ inspirational hardcore quote, but like… This is not just something we do. This is not just because I have free time, you know what I’m saying? This is what I do. That’s what I know to do, go to shows. It’s just a part of the lifestyle, I guess, and for a lot of these people, it’s not a lifestyle, it’s just kind of a hobby - and that’s really weird to me. It’s really weird. … So, I hope that the kids, they do stick around and make it more than just a hobby, more than just a weekend plan.

(Photo credit: Ryan Johnson)

AA: Yeah. Exactly. ‘Cause that’s the thing, like you said, as far as “real” hardcore kids go, the ones who have stuck around… We’ve all had our moments when we first came in when we were a little cringe or didn’t know what was going on. And, you know, that’s the thing, like you said, there’s positives too. But the new generation and stuff… Not to sound corny, but I just hope that they’re making the connection to hardcore too, and not just thinking, “This is an acceptable way for me to go hit somebody.” [laughs]

SP: Exactly. Nah, you can’t be coming here like, “I’m gonna get my aggression out.” That’s not what this is. … You make a very good point, it’s the connection. You need to have the connection. There needs to be something… You need to leave the show with the feeling of, “Holy fuck, man. I can’t wait to fuckin’ do this again.” It needs to stick with you, it shouldn’t be, “Guess what I did this weekend, blah blah blah…” You know what I mean?

[I did ask Sebastian whether Regulate had any upcoming plans, but shit got in the way on my end and this didn’t go up until after all those plans happened. My bad, I hope the release show, Shore Style Punk Night, the fest in Colombia, and touring Asia were awesome.]

AA: Anything else you’d like to add?

SP: Nah, that’s it! Great interview, great questions, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

It was a pleasure speaking with Sebastian, and it’s been awesome to watch the reception this record has gotten. You can keep up with Regulate via the platforms below:

Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Bandcamp

Listen to Regulate via Spotify below:


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