The Most Serene Republic

Friday, 27 November 2009

As any band that has ever played before a crowd of people can admit, there are few moments more disconcerting than that one when, at the end of what everyone in the band considered a particularly incendiary performance, the players look out at the assembled mass and are struck by… nothing. Sure – there might be some noises of appreciation radiating from the crowd, but every member of the audience is standing stalk still and simply gazing at the performers. Some might take it as a sign that the audience simply recognizes they've just witnessed something great – they got their money's worth – and are just taking a moment to soak it all in but, when it happens again and then song-after-song, it can be a worrisome prospect; the group may begin to wonder if they're making any impression at all. As singer/lyricist Adrian Jewett lamentably admits, this was once a recurring nightmare for he and his band, The Most Serene Republic, and it's both very easy and incredibly difficult to understand why; on their records as well as onstage, The Most Serene Republic produces an epic, dense and solid wall of sound – it would stop anyone in their tracks to take notice. The problem is that, if such an event happens often enough, it ceases to look like giving pause to appreciate, and more like a legion of deer caught in headlights. Either way, some performers would take that information home and say it was a good night – they captivated their audience – but Jewett is the first to admit that he and the assembled members of The Most Serene Republic were not so easily satisfied. Mute awe is, after all, a sort of affection that is only tolerable so often before a band begins to question their faculties to relate – so they elected to take steps to remedy the problem when they began writing and recording their newest album, …And The Ever Expanding Universe. “We used to get a lot of people just viewing us at our shows,” explains Jewett when asked about the marked and obvious differences between his band's newest album and their previous work. “It was kind of difficult to see when it happened and that's what we wanted to change for this album. When we finished recording it, we listened back to it and agreed that it sounded a little more organic which is what we wanted; we were trying for a more textural sound – a sort of meeting place between analog and digital – and that has really made a difference.

“There are a lot more people moving in the throngs so it has been really good,” continues the singer. “It's done exactly what we'd hoped it would, which was get more people moving and responding to what we give out instead of standing and analyzing it.

“I don't think anyone really likes doing that, they just do it because they don't know what else to do. That has been the biggest change we've noticed since we've started playing the new songs live. There's more movement and it's great; it's healthy.”

In listening to the record itself, it's easy to understand why such a dynamic change has occurred in the way that the audience conducts itself at The Most Serene Republic's shows. Songs like “Bubble Reputation,” “Heavens To Purgatory” and “Catharsis Boo” are all as large and breathtaking as any of those on TMSR's previous albums, but the focus has shifted to more acoustic instrumentation instead of dominating synths and that change reveals airier spaces in the mixes for listeners to crawl into and inhabit rather than risk being run over by an irresistible wall of sound. It manifests in the way that the mixes accommodate both Jewett and singer/guitarist Emma Ditchburn too; no longer seeming as if they might be swallowed whole by the staggering designs of the band, both singers relish in the freedom that the more open and genuinely slippery mixes allow; injecting more personality and style into their melodies without fear of being aurally sideswiped by the band. The revamped designs prove to be revelatory as they really have achieved a far more organic design that's more hypnotic and engaging. No one – not fans, critics or passive listeners – could have expected it but, three albums in, The Most Serene Republic have discovered a new way to present their music without losing one iota of themselves; now comfortable and stable in what they're doing, they've simultaneously produced their first mature work, lived up to the tranquil implications of the name they chose for themselves five years ago and offered their audience an album to love – rather than one to just respect. “The sessions and the reception for this album have both been really gratifying because, while we were making the album and as we perform it now, we realize that these songs are more acoustically sound. We've always had a rule that, if it sounds good on acoustic guitar, then it's a song so, with this one, we really stuck to that which also gave us more room to breathe – more than we were used to – and it was nice; it was like a breath of fresh air when we realized we liked the songs the way they were and they were as clean as we could get them without the test of trying to get one part over all the others that were just stacked and layered on top of each other.

“That's definitely how we do things, but it was interesting and good to explore different avenues,” continues the singer, implying that this way of working will likely be the band's ongoing modus operandi. “We're definitely going to work with Dave again in the future because it proved to be really healthy for us; we liked the environment and we liked the craziness and what the end product turned out to be.

According to Jewett, the sessions for and response to …And The Ever Expanding Universe have emboldened The Most Serene Republic and proved to be inspiring. Plans and writing are already underway to release another EPs-worth of material in the early New Year [the singer estimates that the EP will appear around February 2010 –ed] and, following that release, The Most Serene Republic is anxious to get back on tour again to turn more people on to this new side of the band. “The Ever Expanding Universe was more of an emotional release than our other albums have been and it's felt really good to bring it to people,” says Jewett, explaining what the album has meant to the band, emotionally. “I've said before that our first album, Underwater Cinematographer, was all about denial because we had no idea what was out there – we were young and full of ideals and dreams – then Population [the follow-up to Underwater Cinematographer –ed] was about anger because we felt like those dreams were being tested severely and then morphed and diluted and refined to a more reasonable dream, and now the third one is definitely about acceptance; that's one of the reasons it feels so good, but it isn't the only one. There's definitely going to be an EP out next year, probably around February, and then we're going to start recording again next summer, but I don't think anyone in the band has any idea what that's going to be about yet.

“For the EP, we're going to do things a little differently. It's going to be a standalone release and I think we're going to do it ourselves, but we haven't exactly decided what shape everything is going to take yet. We have a list of things that we want to do [laughing] and it's only a matter of which we want to do first. We avoid stagnation at all costs and there are so many possibilities.”



The Most Serene Republic – "Heavens To Purgatory" – …AndThe Ever Expanding Universe


…And The Ever Expanding Universe
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