Saturday, 21 April 2012

Interview with Jonathon Owen from The Last Republic

The Last Republic were the guests on last years Sound And The Fury tour and went down so well they were also invited to appear at The Gathering 20 in January, we catch up with vocalist/guitarist Jonathon Owen as the band ready their second album.

You've been compared to Muse and called "the next big band to come from Wales", how do you deal with statements like these? It must put a lot of pressure on you.
It's like with all bands someone from some magazine or blog will compare a band to someone,they have to, they need to. We call it lazy press but they call it journalism. Muse was just one of many bands we were compared to when we released our debut album "Parade". If I was to write out the list of bands we were compared to you'd be as confused as we were. The fact that we got compared to so many bands to me seems that we were difficult to pigeon hole.

As for the pressure I suppose we are privileged to be compared with such successful bands so the pressure is transformed in to more positivity. It adds to our mission in finding our place.

Islington Academy, London (photo by Joff)
Who would you list as your influences?
There are so many but at the moment I'm listening heavily to Austra, M83, Depeche Mode, New Order, The Cure, Talking Heads, Arcade Fire, The Horrors, The Chameleons, Peter Gabriel....

It's been over a year since the release of "Parade", are you happy with how it was received?
It's very difficult to break through the mainstream nowadays with manufactured music or solo pop music dominating the charts (that's not to say that these sort of acts haven't always been there, because they have). "Parade" got some amazing reviews but very little radio time. We had more radio play as an unsigned band and then in a year when we released the album things had changed rapidly and it has ever since been very difficult for a rock band to get in at radio. The music industry is so fickle it's very difficult to know what you're going to get out of it even if you've had support from major players 12 months previously. This is not to say that we are not proud of "Parade" because we are. We have learned a lot from making the album. I heard someone once say that a debut album is a band's best of as an unsigned band, I couldn't agree more.

How easy was it to make the decision to sign to an Indie while other bigger name labels were showing an interest?
We didn't sign to an Indie, we started our own label "Monnowtone Records". It was named Monnowtone as our HQ has been Monnow Valley studios in East Wales. We had been messed around so much with certain labels and getting ridiculous offers which would have meant them owning pretty much everything (including my dog!). All we wanted to do was get the right people around us and give it a shot ourselves. Our managers got the idea of getting money from a music industry investor company and succeeded. This company gave us the money to start up Monnowtone. The "Parade" campaign was lots of fun but also very exhausting at times because of course we had no office or infrastructure to contact for help when we needed it. We had to get on with whatever it was ourselves. It was difficult in the sense that we had just won the road to V competition and caused a lot of a buzz in and out of the music industry so we wanted to strike while the poker was hot. The labels were taking too long and not offering us a great deal, so we threw caution to the wind and did it ourselves.
We had to make our mark to follow on from the road to V not only to reach personal targets that we had set but because as I previously mentioned bands are forgotten as quickly as the style that is popular in the charts!....and we did it.....just!

How did you come to be part of the "Sound And The Fury" tour?
Photo by Joff
We played at Beautiful days festival a few years back and The Alarm were also on the main stage a few slots later than ours. I heard loads about Mike and The Alarm but had never met him. I was told that we'd get on very well. Soooooo as always at festivals for me it's all about meeting everyone and having a laugh (especially once your work is done there). One of my managers who knows Mike very well introduced us and we just got on and as expected Mike was a good laugh and a top lad. He had just been catching up on sleep as the next day he was flying off to walk up Mt. Fuji. I dropped in conversation that if they ever needed a support act that we'd love to do it, he said that he caught our set as they turned up on their bus about 30 mins before and said that he loved it and offered us what would later become known as the Sound and Fury tour in May of the next year.

Were you fans of The Alarm before the tour?
I had always heard of them but somehow never got in to them. I saw them at Beautiful days festival and really enjoyed their set. Now after a tour I can sing along to almost all the set. So that does make me a fan right? Great band and great guys. My favourite song is "The Stand"

What are your recollections of the "Sound And The Fury" tour?
It reminded us of The Levellers tour in that there were no ego's on board. Just a bunch of guys who love what they do and do it bloody well! We had such an amazing welcome with the guys and had a right giggle with both band and crew. Once again drawing parallels to The Levellers, they are both like family's. The fans were great on the tour too, always coming up to say hi and they took a genuine interest in TLR. We sold a load of CD's so surely that means we went down well and a lot of their fans come to watch us whenever we tour so a success for us all round. My favourite part of any tour are the drunken Rock 'N' Roll tales but I'm afraid to hear these you will have to ask them yourselves!

What were your highlights of the tour? You seemed blown away when Glen Matlock joined The Alarm on stage at the Islington Academy date in London.
To see a Sex Pistol get on stage was unbelievable and at the time I was doing a few tour diary's for magazines and Newspapers back home for which I had a small column each week. So when Glen Matlock got on stage with Mike I had a photo taken of myself at front of stage (with thanks to Andy The Alarm official photographer/Merch.) with Mike and Glen behind me sharing the mic and it was tour diary gold.

Got any embarrassing stories from the tour? (like when you forgot you had your capo in your pocket at Cambridge?)
The Alarm & The Last Republic and crew (photo used with kind permission of Jules Peters)
Ha ha, that was a bit of a nightmare, a lot of the new songs are reliant on capo's so I think I have more nightmares to come! I was whispering to The Alarm guitar techy's (whilst on stage) "Psssst Mark, Psssst - you got a capo?" (hoping the crowd didn't work out what was going on!). The crowd would have seen by now this frantic Welshman fondling all clothes to find the darn thing whilst mumbling and swearing a lot. Of course I had to explain what was going on over the microphone and got a lot of laughs out of the crowd. Mark, The Alarm techy then handed me Mike's capo to which by the time The Alarm went of stage I realised that I didn't give it back. So the capo story didn't end when I got off stage. I almost sabotaged The Alarm set as Mike needed it during his set. I had both capo's in my pocket. So the fun went on and we had to sneak it on stage.....and got the capo to Mike just in time, phew. (Note from In The Poppy Fields - A capo is a device that is used to shorten the playable length of the strings on a guitar thereby raising the pitch)

What have you been up to since the "Sound And The Fury" tour last year?
Photo by Joff
We spent the summer doing festivals such as Download, Godiva, Thetford Forest Commission, Outside/Inside and some London, Bristol and Cardiff support slots and have since been writing and demoing the next album. We wrote around 27 songs between last summer and Xmas only to end up scraping all the songs as it felt like we were writing the same album. In January we went back to the studio to demo new ideas and, with the help of producer Tom Manning, found a new direction and sound which we have been working towards ever since and we are now somewhere in the region of 20 songs towards the new album which we are very excited about. No date or title is ready to be confirmed....

What's next for The Last Republic?
As mentioned we are working on the 2nd album, this is taking up all our time although we are making some appearances at some festivals this summer namely "Truck Fest" to see how the new tunes go down. More news is to be confirmed shortly.

We will keep you posted and hope to review the new album when it is released! Many thanks to Jonnie for taking the time out to talk to us and for Dave Clarke for helping make it happen. We look forward to the new album but if you haven't already got your copy then The Last Republic's debut album "Parade" is still available from all good music sites. Order the MP3 version of the album HERE

Check out The Last Republic web site at

No comments:

Post a Comment