A Loose definition of the rock 'n' roll life
WHEN I first saw Republic of Loose performthere were only about 10 people in the audience. Four years on they have had a string of hits and acquired an army of loyal fans. But despite all this their feet have remained on the ground.
Jokingly describing themselves as "the biggest rhythm and blues experience in the universe", Mick, Dave and Bres insist that their lives are anything but glamorous and that they are just as broke as they were four years ago.
The reason for this is that most of the band's expenses are paid for out of their own back pockets. And it's all for their fans. The band want to give the audience the best show they can, hence they have quite a crew. In the end, the pennies add up. Their last album, Aaagh!, cost a whopping ?70,000 to make, but they think it's worth it. The band appreciate the support from their fans, and think it has been a great year on the back of that album. Their first record, This Is the Tomb of the Juice, received mixed reviews. While it certainly defines Republic of Loose's infectious mix of blues, funk, rock and pop, their latest offering packs more of a punch. The tracks are tighter, with many bizarre images. Their biggest hits are Break!, You Know, Shame, and the chart-topping Comeback Girl. Many of the songs are related to the band's own experiences, including The Idiots, which is about Mick's former girlfriend, who also sings on the track.
Mick muses, "You take reality, fictionalise it and twist it around. A lot of songs are based on real experience. The last album was a bit more autobiographical. The third will be even more so."
Having Aaagh! as a title is an odd but significant choice. It is the first track on the album, hand-picked at the last minute, but highly appropriate. This exclamation represents the hard work and sheer frustration that comes with making an album. Mick explains that it is a release of pent-up energy.
"A lot of the album is born out of that frustration. It was like a big release from that. We go all around the country and there's people going nuts. That mayhem has been unleashed and there's a huge sigh of relief and a deep lifting of all sorts of repression."
The boys have lots of support from their families, who share their love of music. Bres's father also plays guitar, and Mick used to write songs for his kid sister's former band, the Chicks.
And love? When I ask about groupies I see cheeky grins spread across their faces. Mick quips that they are nothing to do with him, but certainly other members of the band "seem to run through them at a very high rate".
However, for most of the group those days are long gone, for they are now settled in steady relationships. But as much as the band deny they have glamorous lives, one cannot help wondering if they have been wary of hidden agendas and hangers-on who want a piece of their success.
Bres comments, "There are a few people going around saying they're related to me, which is a bit weird."
"There are a lot of whack-jobs around," adds Mick. "Some women just want to be seen talking to guys in bands."
Republic of Loose will be playing a rare all-ages concert at the end of the month. They have performed for younger audiences before, but not enough in Bres's opinion. After many requests from young fans on their Bebo message board, the band has granted their wish.
Another market the band is trying to crack is overseas. They have already toured all the major cities in the UK, where they have a good following, doing especially well in London. The band plans to go back there at the start of the summer.
The USA is another story, though they have a decent fan base in New York, where Dave says all their shows have been full. Republic of Loose also gets a substantial amount of airplay on an LA radio station. US fans differ from the Irish in thatthey pay more attention to the lyrics and sing along.
"You say something witty and they start laughing. They seem to get all the references in our music. We have a great time there," says Mick.
However, while the boys always enjoy themselves Stateside, they can't imagine leaving Ireland even if they do succeed over there. Until then the band will be focusing on conquering the UK and promoting their next album.
It's clear that Republic of Loose don't realise just how much of an impact they have made on their fans and how well they have represented us abroad. (Hats off to them for escaping the ridicule that some other Irish exports, such as cheesy boy bands, endure.) Perhaps that is part of their charm. The highlight of their career so far? For Mick it was playing the Oxegen rock festival. For Dave it was goingto Nice for a week to play one gig and then soak up the sunshine.
Republic of Loose play the Village, Dublin, April 27 and 28