Before they were The Most Serene Republic, Adrian Jewett (vocals, trombone), Ryan Lenssen (piano, backup vocals) and Nick Greaves (guitar, EBow, banjo) were three teenagers who thought it’d be fun to take a crack at making their own music. Recording a handful of songs under the moniker Thee Oneironauts, the trio self-released an EP that eventually prompted their first label deal and a name change to The Most Serene Republic. After three LPs, four EPs and several lineup changes, Adrian, Ryan and Nick – now joined by Sean Woolven (guitar, backup vocals), Simon Lukasewich (bass, violin) and Adam Balsam (drums) – felt the time was right to dust off their earliest recordings and share Thee Oneironauts’ music with the world.
Why release Pre-Serene: Thee Oneironauts now?
People in the press would talk about Thee Oneironauts and a few of the songs were floating around the Internet – so we thought, ‘Why not put it out there and give our fans something else to listen to?’ We thought it would be something cool for our fans.
Tell me what was going on when this recording was made.
A lot of people don’t realize it, but we’ve known each other since we were eight years old. We were all pretty into the arts at school and we’d make films together and play in talent shows together; we started working on this right after we graduated. We were kids hanging out in the ‘burbs who liked to listen to cool music. This album was another creative outlet.
Who were you listening to at the time?
Well, as you can probably hear in a lot of the songs: Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, Hey Mercedes, Braids; a lot of early Polyvinyl bands.
Another artist suggested to me that people start bands because they’re looking to recreate the joy they feel when listening to their favorite music. Do you agree?
Oh definitely. When I’m listening to other people’s music, I think that’s where I get most inspired. I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I love this and I want to do something like this!’ I think it’s pretty common for most artists.
Do you hear inexperience on this record?
There’s definitely a huge innocence to it. There was no thought of this record going anywhere when we made it. We just wanted to create and have fun – and I think you can hear that.
How have you evolved since Thee Oneironauts?
Our songwriting in general – and the fact that we’ve become a lot more progressive and we play with time signatures. You can hear a huge advancement from our first EP, Phages – and even our first LP, Underwater Cinematographer.
Do you have a favorite track?
I have two: Zoltar Speaks and Home of the Rebels. We started our own label with that name too.
I actually wanted to ask about the significance of that name.
The song Home of the Rebels goes back to where we first started and that’s what we want to do with our label; it’s the idea of doing things the way we want to do them and creating art in the way we want to create it.
A Pitchfork review for this album said: “It sounds like it was made by teenagers who play immoderate amounts of Zelda [and] like to write songs about 1980s movies that they think are really awesome…”
(Laughs) They nailed it. It was totally spot on. We were teenagers just… creating… and expressing as teenagers would. That review wasn’t great, but I was actually really flattered that they took time out of their day to review it.
How do you handle less than glowing reviews?
You have to try to take everything with a grain of salt and realize that not everybody is going to love you. It was really hard when we first started. We were thrown into the mix in our early 20s and still developing as people while being judged. It was weird to become adults publicly.
The songs sound spacey and there’s a robot on the cover – are you outer space enthusiasts?
Oh, yeah. Actually, there’s a clip of Adrian and Ryan dressed in their Star Trek uniforms on YouTube. They’re about to attend a convention in Philadelphia and they did an interview with MTV decked out like that.
And what are you working on now?
A few of us are going back to school – and we’re recording a new record. It’ll be out around this time next year. We want to make sure that we’re really taking the time to relax while we work on it because want it to be our best record yet.