Bio: At the rate they’re going, whether they mean to or not, the Most Serene Republic will alter the way in which people appreciate rock music. It might sound like ... (more)
Bio: At the rate they’re going, whether they mean to or not, the Most Serene Republic will alter the way in which people appreciate rock music. It might sound like a lofty achievement for an unlikely band of 20-somethings bred in the Toronto suburb of Milton, Ontario but if you pay close attention to their discography—particularly 2007’s Population—you’ll hear something entirely unique. Don’t disregard their dense art-pop breakthrough Underwater Cinematographer (A&C 2005) or the transitional tour E.P. Phages (A&C 2006) completely; these are the keys to understanding how the Most Serene Republic came to form the masterful achievement that is Population, which might seem superficially sugary if it weren’t for the poison lurking under its remarkable layers of sound.
“Population is our dystopian novel record,” producer and keyboard player Ryan Lenssen explains. “It is The Empire Strikes Back; it’s the one that starts out with all the action and then leaves you hanging, makes you wait for The Return of the Jedi. It really is the anti-record, the one in between that celebrates the negatives of everything.”
When Lenssen and vocalist Adrian Jewett started the Most Serene Republic in 2003, the band served as an escape from the rigidity of the arts degrees they were pursuing at university. Frustrated with stifling curriculums, the two put all of their expression into making music together. Though more fulfilled, with their passions running high these days, there’s a lingering sense of bitterness and rage in the songs on Population.
“The juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics is just so grand,” Lenssen says. “The music itself sounds almost—almost—happy. People will look at the cover and see all the beautiful graphics but then they’re going to get into the philosophy of the record and that is much, much darker.”
“If people were to truly understand what we were really saying and all of the musical choices and why they were there…this is way more calculated. This is murder in the first degree. This is malicious, unbridled anger and I think we’re sort of a little insane because of the way we present it. We are that scary clown. We are stabbing you in the front and smiling, brushing your cheek, saying ‘Isn’t it lovely? Isn’t it lovely?’”
Indeed, it’s difficult not to be swept up in the musical fray produced by the Most Serene Republic, which has undergone recent changes. In 2006, a brand new rhythm section comprised of bassist Simon Lukasewich and drummer Tony Nesbitt-Larking joined Jewett, Lenssen, vocalist/guitarist Emma Ditchburn, and guitarists Nick Greaves and Sean Woolven. Fans of the band will note that Population boasts a familiar bubbling sonic landscape with raucous, arty, pop structures and walls of ambient noise but the band are even heavier and mightier rhythmically than in the past. “I think we sound far more professional and the ideas started to meld,” Lenssen says. “The level of musicianship and the desire to be the best we can possibly be at any given moment started to happen in the last year.”
Furthermore, there’s the addition of vocalist Ditchburn to the mix. On Underwater Cinematographer, Jewett’s high voice was a pretty, wondrous thing, floating beautifully over the dynamic musical shifts and voices that surrounded him. Live, he and the band unleashed themselves on audiences with manic energy and force, holding their own on tours with the Strokes, Metric, Stars, and Broken Social Scene. On Population, Jewett shares the microphone with Ditchburn’s comparably deep and sensual voice, and the sophisticated intermingling creates a whole new instrument for the Most Serene Republic.
“On Phages, we experimented with Adrian and Emma’s voices,” Lenssen recalls. “We have a lot of experience listening to vocal duets and we thought, ‘We could do that, or invent a whole brand new thing.’ So, we decided to go with the latter and people either love it or hate it I’m sure but it is, at least, its own thing.”
In challenging themselves to make music that is wholly unique yet spirited and engaging, the Most Serene Republic are far away from award shows and prizes. Population isn’t easy, it’s art—a musical call to arms for people to choose whether they’re passive patrons or sincerely down with having their minds blown. As such, like all great albums, Population isn’t going to come to you, you’re going to have to go to it.
“I want people to put on the record and I want them to stop what they’re doing and just listen to it,” Lenssen says. “If they listen to it once a year, I’m happy. If they listen to it once in their lifetime in that dedicated kind of way, I’ll be happy. But I do honestly think that if you spend time with it, it reveals truths with each listen. Every word and note is so placed to be the most biting it could be.”