As any aspiring musician can tell you, it is damn near impossible to get noticed anymore. Standing out from the hordes of tweens throwing up Garage Band tracks on all-too-similar looking myspace pages is the now almost as tough as getting your demo tape heard by someone at a record label used to be. Every now and then though, a new band is able to break through, and rise above the white noise of everything and everyone else. But it’s still pretty amazing that when viral marketing has jumped the shark, and people aren’t haphazardly clicking on cryptic links like they once were, a previously unknown band from Long Island would end up riding a brilliant wave of unintentional guerilla marketing into the scene spotlight.
While the details remain a bit fuzzy, the story goes something like this. The Republic of Wolves are just getting their wheels turning as a band, and a friend of the group decides to try a little stunt to generate some buzz. He posts some of TROW’s demos on youtube and shrewdly credits them as being demos for the (then) upcoming Brand New album. Our little corner of the internet went all aflutter, and immediately began dissecting a clip of what may or may not have come from Lacey and company. Then, when the smoke cleared, it seemed like everyone instantly knew who The Republic of Wolves were, and wanted to know even more. A volatile situation that could have backfired horrifically ended up putting these guys on the map instead.
Now, while the idea might sound simple in retrospect, it’s not like any hack with a boom mic is going to be able to record something which might be legitimately confused for a Brand New track. Because similarity by itself would not have been enough to make people take note. The song people were hearing gave people something more – it was the direction a lot of listeners were hoping Brand New would be taking. And that is really where any evaluation of His Old Branches begins. As we hear the final versions of the cuts The Republic of Wolves have been working on for the last few months, we quickly realize these guys are a lot more than some lame Brand New cover band. They are quite evidently influenced by BN, but they take their debut EP into artistic territory that stands handily on its own.
From the sparse intro of “Done Haunting Houses” and into the equally moody “Spill,” it is plain to see (hear) that TROW have a keen sense of atmosphere, and corral it with a skill that even Brand New hasn’t so successfully done since Deja Entendu. Tracks like “Spill” and “A Weather Vane” pulse with a gloomy hush that seamlessly explodes into untethered sonic fury, while the group showcases its softer side on the rolling smoothness of “Cardinals” (good luck getting that guitar riff out of your head) and the shimmering beauty of “The Clouds.” Add in the brit-rock majesty of “For His Old Branches” and you have a collection of tunes that is as diverse as it is memorable.
It also bears mentioning that these newcomers don’t just make songs that are well constructed. They really offer up a complete package. The lyrics are smart, artistic, and instantly quotable. The recording is surprisingly crisp and focused, maintaining a level of clarity and polish without ever sounding overproduced. This quality is even more surprising when one learns the EP was recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered at Gregg Andrew’s home studio. Pretty incredible result on so many levels.
Though it has just recently seen the light of day, it is no stretch to say that The Republic of Wolves’ His Old Branches is the best EP to be released in 2009. These guys have gotten me energized about music in a way that few bands have been able to do in the last few years. It will be exciting to see their careers evolve, as they surely won’t stay unsigned for long. And given the right direction, The Republic seem truly capable of making an incredible full length to follow up this brilliant outing.