Pop goes a new Republic

Guided by their parents’ record collection, The Most Serene Republic conjures a Motown-melodic sound

The recording process for a band like The Most Serene Republic always sounds like the punchline to a lousy joke: What happens when you throw a big group of diverse, classically trained, cosmically minded musicians in a room together? Fortunately, the band (who mostly hail from pastoral Milton, Ontario) has somehow managed to produce a unified front in two previous releases. Its third album, ...And the Ever Expanding Universe, is its most radio-friendly outing, while still maintaining the group's distinctive arty clatter. Sing-er Adrian Jewett says the group listened to their parents' records for inspiration.

"In terms of a Motown-sounding record, we really wanted to explore that era, melody-wise," he says on the phone from Toronto. "We wanted to be more of the body than of the mind this time around, get a bit more grounded."

...And the Ever Expanding Universe also bears a resemblance to another album that has gotten people's hips a-wiggling this year: Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The song "Heavens to Purgatory" has that band's modus operandi figured out to a t---there's the ambient buildup, the sweet yelping vocals and the final stomping release.

"We had to change our mode, our whole thing," says Jewett. "We get bored very easily. We had to make some kind of drastic change." The band looked to super-producer Dave Newfeld to put it all together. Newfeld is no stranger to larger groups, having produced Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It in People and Feel Good Lost. The band relished the warmth in his sound---and attitude.

"Newfeld brought a new way to record," he says. "It was a lot less fun before. He's an intense guy, but this time it felt more like a hanging-out process. We used to be all about the efficiency of a particular line, not the mistakes. But sometimes we like the mistakes."

The song "No One Likes a Nihilist," with its BSS-inspired drum shuffle, features one of these unexpected moments. Jewett and bandmate Emma Ditchburn improvised the chorus on the fly and it features their voices skillfully weaving in and out. Overall, it seems the group has softened, playing with the impromptu and embracing the lovely accidents that emerge from within.

"We all have a built-in capacity for mistakes, that's obvious," Jewett says. "It's more important when you can find the beauty there and make it interesting."

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