Interview: The Last Republic

By on Wednesday, 15th December 2010 at 12:00 pm

Welsh band the Last Republic are emerging as one of the next big acts in the UK, being compared to the likes of Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers. Impressive, right? Take a listen to their latest album ‘CCTV’ and you’ll understand why such comparisons are more than valid. Lucky for us, fame hasn’t gone to the band members’ heads, as lead singer Jonnie Owen was very kind enough to answer my questions below.

First off, many have tipped your band off as the next big band to emerge from Wales. How does it feel to be possibly mentioned in the same breath as the Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, etc?
It would be a privilege to be mentioned amongst such great Welsh bands to be honest. We are a very hard-working band and when the press say such great things it makes us very happy and want to work harder towards achieving just that. We grew up listening to the bands mentioned and they came from very similar areas with the same big ambitions. They too worked very hard to achieve their place on the global music scene. We are very confident that the music we are writing and off the strength of our live shows will get us a place on that list.

Now, to the album itself. Can you recall the point in time when you wanted to focus on what many consider the ‘bigger issues’ in life? That being ‘CCTV’ and, even more so, the political/social issues tagged with it. What made you want to do an album address such issues?

It wasn’t on purpose, we never sat down and thought, “hmmm these issues need to be addressed”. I was born in the ’80s and since then I have witnessed and been affected by many National and International issues that as an artist I have found hard to ignore. My songs are about people rather than politics but it’s very difficult to distinguish what is and what is not politics. I’m not having a rant and trying to change the world, my songs are observational, I’m planting seeds, i want people to think when hearing the words and music, all music should take you to a place. The songs are based on snippets of my life compressed in to accessible visual stories and ideas that people will hopefully relate to and share those emotions. ‘CCTV’, the song you have mentioned, is about the amount of surveillance and security that is being pushed on us in the UK. When will it stop, when have the government gone too far, hence, “your home is not a safe place, in the next 100 years they’ll take our feelings too”. It is a concern for the future generations that we will be bringing in to this world. The UK has one of the highest rate of surveillance cameras in the world. ID cards have been a high topic of conversation for many years. Identification fraud rates are rising. Can you really trust people who live near you,that they won’t go through your dustbins and take your information from letters or bills? Other songs on the album such as The Fear discusses how much we underestimate technology and asks how much do we really know about it. ‘(C’mon) Flood The Gates’ is about my memories of the miners strike as a kid and how the closing of the mines have left a scar on my community and the people to this day. There’s a limited edition lyrics booklet available for the first lucky buyers.

What were some of your favorite parts of recording the new album? What songs are you particularly partial to?
There are so many, to be honest I loved every part of it. ‘Control’ was a lot of fun though, Dave was doing his parts on a grand piano which sounded incredible. I did my vocal parts with a megaphone through my guitar pick up with some tape delay and finally through a vintage VOX AC30 amplifier, and it just sounded so sinister for all the vocal distorted bits and the vocal howling at the end. It was a lot of fun. We also did some vocals down by the river just outside the recording room of Monnow Valley Studio. So there we were on a cold November night with a bottle of rum and lots of wires, microphones, laptops, lights singing by the river. (Hear ‘When the Crows Come Calling’ bonus track for this.)

For first time listeners, what can people expect from the Last Republic, both on the upcoming album and in a live setting?
I think we offer something different to the usual tripe that’s being forced down our necks on most radio and tv channels. It’s probably a good time to bid you to buy the album and come and see us live for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Can you give some background on how the band formed? Are all band members from the Neath area in Wales?
Dafydd and I met through being in bands on the circuit. Both bands split up and we met Aron and Joey in a musician and muzo hangout in Neath called The Duke. Dave replied to an add at a shop in Swansea when he went to get his keyboard fixed and the Last Republic were formed. We’re all pretty much from the Neath/Swansea valleys area, apart from Dave who is from Narberth in South West Wales.

Finally, what are your plans from the time your new album comes out to the end of the year?
We are currently on tour. We are 7 dates in and plan to stay on the road and gig and do as much promo as possible for the album. Live is where we love to be, so as long as it doesn’t get much colder we’ll be stopping by a town near you soon in our new splitter van.

Emmy reviewed the band’s album ‘Parade’, and you can read her review here. For tour dates, free tracks and more, visit the band’s official Web site.

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