The Republic of Wolves broke onto the scene a little over a year ago with their debut EP, His Old Branches. They bridged this year and last with their debut full-length and another EP. With the success of it all, they still haven't gone out on a full scale tour outside the Northeast region they're from. Primarily doing everything on their own and with the help of close friends, the band are possibly leading a new way of making it in this industry. I shot the guys a few questions via e-mail to talk about their career so far, and as a band, this is what they sent back.
Most of us know that The Republic of Wolves started as sort of a side project, but it seems like this is a full blown force of a band now. What about The Republic of Wolves do you think connects to fans? What about its delivery and lyrics do you think most listeners connect with?
That's a tough question, because it probably depends on the listener. We definitely offer a pretty wide range of elements, and different people tend to connect with different aspects of our songs. There are some people who really like the darker, more abrasive stuff and others who enjoy the acoustic/folky stuff more. The fact that we have multiple vocalists also means more variation, and we think that's an important key to our originality as a band. As far as lyrics go, a lot of people can connect to the metaphorical style because it leaves a lot of room for personal interpretation.
In its short time, the band has released two EPs and one full length album. The way you guys have gone about it, purely out of your own pocket and time, it may be admirable to some, but others may think that lack of touring and use of things like Kickstarter and limited merchandise may be a cheap way out. What do you think of both sides of that argument and about the success of the model so far?
Well we've never used Kickstarter or anything like that, and the limited merchandise is usually just due to the fact that we often don't have the budget for large quantities. We've had trouble getting into touring because most of us are still in school, and it's tough to plan stuff around that. It's unfortunate that some people may see that as a "cheap way out," but we're doing all we can to get our music out there. That being said, if people like or dislike the fact that we're purely independent then that's fine, but we try not to define ourselves by that. We hope that people would listen to our music the same way they'd listen to any other band, signed or unsigned. We may take personal pride in the fact that we're doing this ourselves, but we certainly don't feel like that entitles us to any special treatment or anything like that. The music is what's important.
Enough about business, let's talk music. Coming off His Old Branches, what did you guys hope to do with the writing of Varuna. Anyone can tell there's certainly a reoccurring theme throughout the album, was that important in its delivery as a debut LP?
We definitely set out to make a more cohesive piece when we started working on the LP. By that time we had started feeling comfortable as a band, and we definitely all had a similar vision for where we wanted to go with a full-length album. We wrote the first handful of songs with a similar mindset, and lyrically they revolved around a lot of the same concepts and images. The rest of the songs kind of grew out of that original theme, and it just naturally progressed and followed a fairly consistent story line. So it was intentional but also very organic, and the cohesion is definitely something that defines the final product.
What are some of the themes that run deep throughout Varuna? How are those themes similar or different from that of the band's debut EP and The Cartographer EP?
A: The themes that recur throughout the full-length are mostly questions about faith and free will and death. The consistent nautical imagery is kind of an abstract visual manifestation of that, with the sea serving as a metaphor for that uncertainty. The Cartographer EP is more concretely conceptual but really keeps the same general themes (with more of emphasis on things like family and personal identity). There's a much more strict narrative binding everything together, which in some ways obscures the underlying messages but also makes the lyrics a bit more accessible. The debut EP was kind of all over the place lyrically, but there were definitely recurring themes of things like fear and morality. It was definitely a more chaotic collection of songs than either of our recent releases, though.
What separated The Cartographer EP from Varuna, even though they were written around the same time, correct?
Well all of the songs were originally written to be a part of the same project, but pretty early on there was an obvious division in the way the songs were developing. The most notable difference is that the "Varuna" songs were written primarily by Mason and the "Cartographer" songs were written mostly by Gregg (the lead vocalist generally depends on who wrote the song). The reasons for dividing the songs into two releases was more about lyrical and thematic differences though, since "The Cartographer" obviously tells its own story which is distinct from the full-length, for the most part. The more theatrical production style also makes the EP its own unique piece of work as well.
Do you guys find yourselves writing with intent of putting together a full story or theme, or is more building upon a few songs that come together within the writing process? Maybe binding together short stories in essence.
There's really no one specific method that we use when we're writing, and it tends to vary from song to song and especially from album to album. Obviously we had some kind of final vision in mind when we were writing for both of our recent releases, but it was certainly more planned for "The Cartographer." That's not to say that it was forced at all, but the songs were definitely written as part of a larger story that bound them all together right from the start. For "Varuna" we kind of let the ideas take their own course and once we had a general theme in mind we just allowed that to permeate all the rest of the stuff we were writing.
How important is it for the band to continue to create textures versus traditional songwriting? Upon the first few listens of Varuna, the tracking didn't sink up at first, but it left room for individual songs to stand out as well in their own colors. Where do the themes and mood meet the music, before or after the words?
Well for the most part our songs all start as very bare, folky acoustic songs, since that's just how we tend to put together our ideas. Once there's a general structure for a song we work a lot on developing an atmosphere for the song that reflects the lyrics or the overall meaning in some way. So a lot of times we'll start tracking instruments for a song before the song is even totally written, because that in turn helps to develop the ideas. So the textures and sound effects often become fundamental parts of the song as a whole. Even when that's not the case, we always put a lot of emphasis on layering the instrumentals of a song to make sure there's a proper atmosphere that complements the song perfectly.
Where does The Republic of Wolves go from here? Will we see a tour in 2011? South by Southwest? Another EP before the end of the year?
There's no definitive answer just yet. There will definitely be shows, most likely fitting into some kind of touring over the summer (no guarantees on a coast-to-coast tour just yet, but definitely out of state). We're not sure what our plans are beyond that. But we're constantly writing new material, and some of that will definitely get released at some point this year. All we can really say for sure is that we don't plan on slowing down any time soon.
Great band. I find it refreshing to have a band focused on releasing material. They're whole independent approach feels very honest and refreshing. I can't wait to hear more music from The Republic of Wolves/Tigers on Trains. The sooner the better. They also seem to have a great self awareness as a young band, recognizing that fans enjoy the variety of sounds and vocalists in the band.