Unorthodox and ‘Underwater’

Ben Breier

Canadian band plays trombones, records with sleeping bags and creates unique sound

Fans of Canadian indie rock are invited to get their “serene” on at the Grog Shop on Saturday.

Credit: Ben Breier

Ryan Lenssen, keyboardist for The Most Serene Republic, has a lot of musical influences, and that’s putting it mildly.

Lenssen goes to great lengths to make sure some of his biggest inspirations shine through in his music, including Radiohead and John Coltrane. On the band’s debut record, Underwater Cinematographer, Lenssen pays a direct tribute to Sigur Ros, an ambient, cloud-sounding band from Iceland with “In Places, Empty Spaces.”

“It’s my take on what Sigur Ros would sound like if I produced them,” Lenssen said in a recent phone interview.

Even classical composer Stravinsky manages to inspire Lenssen as he crafts his post-modern pop music efforts.

“He’s one of my biggest influences,” Lenssen said. “I actually made most of my song structures on the way he wrote ‘Rite of Spring.'”

The Most Serene Republic got its beginnings when Lenssen began to collaborate with singer/songwriter Adrian Jewett and guitarist Nick Greaves. The group decided to explore a couple of different options and record some demos before The Most Serene Republic was green-lighted to record Underwater Cinematographer.

“It got picked up. We called it quits on all of our other projects and gave The Most Serene Republic a chance,” Lenssen said.

The band was then signed to Arts & Crafts, which is commonly known throughout the independent music community as the house that Broken Social Scene built. The vast majority of the bands on the label have members who also do time with BSS.

“The stigma placed on Arts & Crafts was that if you weren’t related to Broken Social Scene, you weren’t getting on the label,” Lenssen joked. “Arts & Crafts was at the top of our list. I made it quite clear we wouldn’t be sacrificing any stupid or brilliant ideas for the sake of selling more records, and it was never an issue.”

The Most Serene Republic is currently on tour with Metric, a band that also is composed of a pair of key Broken Social Scene members, Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw. Despite the fact that the band doesn’t share a record label with Metric, they feel a certain closeness with the group. MSR and Metric have sold out a pair of shows, both in New York City, during the tour.

“Metric is a part of our extended family,” Lenssen said.

A few members of the Most Serene Republic have a couple of hidden talents. Adrian Jewett broke out his trombone for a couple of songs when the band opened for Stars at the Grog Shop this summer, which typically isn’t seen on stage. However, Jewett isn’t the only one with a hidden talent.

“It (Adrian’s trombone) was a last minute thing. We decided to add it right before the tour because the new material has a lot of trombone in it,” Lenssen said. “I play French horn and oboe, Nick plays banjo, and Adam plays the vibraphone.”

The Most Serene Republic has been recording some new material for Phages, an upcoming EP. However, the band certainly didn’t go about doing it in a typical way.

“I took the band to a cottage I have up north in Canada, and we found an old barn, filled it with sleeping bags and blankets and made a makeshift studio and recorded nine songs,” Lenssen said. “It’s our crutch so we can do another year of touring and then get back into the studio with fresh new thoughts.”

Those who are intrigued by fresh new music and unorthodox methods could do much worse than to attend the band’s show at the Grog Shop on Saturday – just don’t forget your sleeping bag.

Contact ALL correspondent Ben Breier at [email protected].