I FIRST MET J.R. Reyne when I was 17 years old. I remember that chilly winter’s night clearly. Without a car or license or penny to my name (and totally underage), I asked my Dad to drive me two hours from Melbourne, on a school night, to see Reyne perform in his then rock band, Rushcutter. My friend, whose cousin was the lead guitarist, introduced me to the band, and as soon as I heard Reyne’s iconic howl — a sound not too dissimilar to that of his rock star father James Reyne, of Australian Crawl fame — I was hooked.
Let’s call it what it was: I was a Rushcutter groupie. A wide-eye kid totally starstruck by these up and coming rockstars.
J.R. had a presence fit for his frontman role. He oozed cool, his talents were extraordinary and I loved his style – a double-denim warrior with a distinctive Akubra is what I can remember from the time. Thirteen years on, not a lot has changed for the rugged Aussie star. Resembling a bearded Sam Claflin (of the ‘Billy Dunne’ in Daisy Jones & the Six kind) he’s still out there writing and performing music — Reyne told me of recent tour supporting Don McClean — baring his soul to the world and creating that musical spark that’s rare to find.
It was a pleasure to reconnect with Reyne to discuss all the things keeping him busy in 2023 – of course, wearing some stellar fits in the process. And if you look closely, Audemars Piguet joined in on the fun for this one with some otherworldly timepieces.
Below, Reyne also explains his immense distaste for ankle socks, what three albums he’s bringing to a deserted island, and the icons that shaped his musical (and fashion) choices growing up.
Music fans, this one’s a goodie.
J.R.! Thanks for joining us mate. Let’s kick it off: where did you grow up?
I grew up in Albert Park, a suburb in Melbourne. It’s a great spot, I was very lucky. Lots of running around, mucking about on bikes, jumping off the pier at the local beach, sleeping under restaurant tables when the parents had a late one (laughs).
Whenever I’m in Melbourne, I always try to visit or stay around Albert Park or in Fitzroy, where I was born. The people in the area are a little different now to when I was brought up there; back in the day it wasn’t as gentrified and it was a place where a lot of artists, musicians and writers gravitated to. But, it really does look and feel pretty much the same – it has this quaint village atmosphere to it!
So Melbourne in 1985… what was considered ‘stylish’ or ‘cool’ back then?
I feel like the 80’s get somewhat of a bad wrap on the style-front, but if you look back and dig past the homogenised ‘neon-leg-warmer’ era, I actually think it’s one of my favourite times for fashion and style. And not the cliche, generic idea of 80’s style, but the Bryan Ferry version, you know?
When I look back at photos from then, my Mum and my Godmother (who were both in the fashion industry), were always quite understated and monochromatic in how they dressed.
Can you remember when and how you first fell in love with music, J.R.?
I do and I can tell you the exact moment; it was around ’89 and Fine Young Cannibals “She Drives Me Crazy” came on whatever the morning music video show was at the moment (they used to have those). And I just remember completely losing it – I became obsessed with that song and that was it; I knew that whatever THAT was, was for me.
I was also obsessed with the song “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When that came out, I taped it off the TV and just watched it over and over and over again. I studied it. And then, once I knew every move made, slow-mo and all, it became my performance staple at six years old. Whenever my family had a party, everyone had to watch at least one rendition of me impersonating the music video, whether they liked it or not! I remember Mum having these big dinner parties and everyone getting summoned, on their fifth wines or so, to watch this kid run in slow-mo like Anthony Kiedis.
Do you think your love and passion for music in any way informs your fashion choices today?
I wouldn’t say my love for music informs my fashion choices today, but it definitely did growing up and well into my 20’s. If you look back at old photos, I can tell you exactly what I was listening to just by what I was wearing. I mean, I thought I was Gram Parsons for most of my 20’s (laughs), as I was pretty much only listening to alternative country-rock.
I find it a bit of a bummer these days that kids don’t have that association or connection with music and fashion; they’ll just wear a t-shirt of a band or artist that they may never have heard of…I think it says a lot about modern culture right now.
Did you have any style icons growing up?
In primary school it was without a doubt Axl Rose, Kurt Cobain, Flea, Eddie Vedder, Scott Weiland… As I started high-school, I started getting into The Police (and Sting), and then it was the Stone Roses — so it shifted to more baggy Ian Brown-vibes. Really, it always depended on what I was listening to at the time.
This might be a tough one but how about music icons growing up? Who/what were they?
Too many to mention… but definitely Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Rage Against The Machine, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam.
’Grunge’ was my first love of music that was my own and not handed down from family, if you know what I mean.
What does “work” look like for you, J.R.?
I’d say, I’m an opportunist (laughs). No, I’m a proud slashie – I love performing and making music, I love acting, I love doing voice over work. I’ve just finished writing a new show, which is exciting as it’s a first for me; the unknown. So, to see where it goes will be interesting!
You’re now Sydney-based. What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is different but right, here’s how my Wednesday is looking…I’ll get up and go for a surf at Bronte or Tamarama. I’ll then head into ABC studios to record voice overs for promos. I’ll then pick up the doggos for a run in the park, and then it’s back to the office to write. After that, I’ll hit the gym if I can be assed, and my day usually ends down at the local pub for dinner and a few beers.
As a multi-faceted artist, where do you draw your inspiration and creativity from?
This might be a crappy answer but I’m mostly inspired by the music I love to listen to, the things I read, and the films and TV I watch. You start out as a nerdy fan, and you still stay that way hopefully no matter how your career progresses.
I don’t actively seek inspiration, but when I love something, I really love something, and then, like a subconscious sponge, the things that really resonate and connect with you hopefully come through in your own creations and performances.
You’ve kicked some pretty big goals in your career. Do you have a proudest moment to date?
Honestly – I guess I’m most proud that I’ve been able to continue in this industry, and to keep going. It’s a crazy, fickle world and I suppose I’m proud to keep on. The best and worst thing about what I do is that you don’t know what’s around the corner…
Touring on the road… you’re bound to have some crazy stories, right?
I don’t know if this constitutes crazy… but singing “Horses” with Daryl Braithwaite & Jimmy Barnes this year at The State Theatre in Sydney was a pretty wild experience.
How would you describe your own style?
Ah, man, I can’t be self-objective like that! And if I answer it, I’ll sound like a bit of a wanker (laughs)! All I’ll say is… anyone that knows me well gives me a bit a grief for it, but I have a decent collection of gilet’s…specifically, of the tactical, camping kind. I’m into them because I’m not a bag-carrying guy, and it’s got a bunch of pockets for all my crap, AND they keep you warm but your arms can roam free!
And is there anything you’re currently on the hunt for?
I’m always looking out for great vintage suits. I’m more of a double-breasted guy, so if I see something special in that realm, I’m stoked. Sounds silly, but I’m also looking for really good socks – you know, the one’s you’d see Steve McQueen or Paul Newman wearing with canvas sneakers. Chunky, loose, white tube crew socks. I can’t stand this ankle sock/sockette rubbish I see men wearing these days. It reminds me of the skin-tight jean trend that happened and you saw all these grown men squishing into jeggings and it was impossible to get a pair of 501’s – I’m finding that with socks now.
Who or what are you wearing at the moment? Any favourite fashion labels?
I don’t really get into ‘brands’ as such. I just like what I like, and what’s most important to me is the fabric and cut of the garment…and it not being a mass-produced piece of crap that falls a part in a week and ends up in landfill.
I will say that during [Covid] lockdown, I did get pretty geeky with leisure-wear stuff, and was really into digging deep on tracksuits, hoodies – my favourite lockdown-labels were Satta, Museum of Peace & Quiet, Advisory Board Crystals; the cosy kind.
I’m also proper – unbiased – fan of my mate Dylan Best’s label, ‘Best Jumpers‘; the best Melbourne-designed, Japanese cotton leisure wear you can get. Straight-up.
Who are you currently listening to, J.R.? Any cool musical finds of late?
My Spotify says ‘Turnstile’ for this month (laughs)! I love Turnstile. I really need to dig deeper with them – I’m still a ‘hits fan’, but last year, their track “Underwater Boi” came on my discover weekly and I was in. “Holiday”, “Mystery” – these are the tunes on high-rotation right now.
So you’re stuck on an island and can only bring with you three records… what are they?
Ok, so this is a fun question to answer but also one of the toughest… off the top of my head, I’m going to say:
- Sade – Love Deluxe
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu
- Roxy Music – Avalon
What’s the most sentimental item you own and why is it special?
A very old Moroccan horse ornament that I’ve loved since forever. I was always drawn to it for some reason as a kid, and wanted to play with it, but wasn’t allowed to. It’s so beautifully hand-painted and very detailed. It belonged to a very close family member, and I inherited it when they passed away. It’s beyond special to me, and I’d never let go of it.
Check back for another edition of ‘Five Fits With’ next week.
See more of Esquire Australia’s style coverage here.