In the political field, there is the Republican party and the Democrat party. Combine politics with partying and you have Awesome New Republic. Abbreviated as ANR, this is two men by the names of Michael-John Hancock and Brian Robertson. They express their views of the surrounding world through their soulful rock jams. Before playing a show for CMJ, Earmilk spoke briefly to MJ and Brian about the history behind ANR. Peak at the interview below and join the party!
Setting: Six legs crossed, indian style in a corner of the Green Room at the Dominion, NYC.
EARMILK: Can you use the three initials of your band name to describe your music?
MJ: That's a good question! Well other than what it actually stands for, which is Awesome New Republic, and that refers to the kind of things happening internationally, with the kids getting together, fighting for their rights. Let's see…
Brian: ANR. First one is A. What does altruistic mean, do you know?
MJ: [Shakes head]
EM: Maybe; should we move on?
MJ: No no, this is a thought-provoking question.
Brian: … Ant Eating?
EM: But there is no E.
MJ: True, scratch that. Always Never Rest!
Brian: Yeah! [Throws fist in the air]
MJ: It's like, don't-give-up music, try-hard music and have-fun music! [Throws fist in the air]
EM: Love it! I have a friend from Florida who is also a big fan, he mentioned the lyrics to one of your older songs "Going Down", was there a reason why you guys put Obama in that jam? This was before the election.
MJ: Well, that was in like 2003-2004 when we recorded that. He was kind of the breakout star of the Democratic convention in 2000. He gave a very galvanizing speech, I definitely and a lot of other people were paying attention to that. Also, his name rhymes with Osama, Omama… All of our stuff is a mixture of political lyrics and party or sex lyrics. So we took the idea of political parties and parties.
EM: You jived it altogether?
MJ: Yeah, the idea of not being on either side of the fight. Being the third party that parties all night. Well, we grew up. We don't party all night.
EM: Now your band name, it is Awesome New Republic and ANR?
MJ: Yes, I think there has been some confusion in press releases and all that kind of stuff. Like this last album, it was entitled as ANR on the actual record. We always called ourselves ANR and it always meant Awesome New Republic. It was a play on both going against the grain and the major music industry. Like being your own kind of ANR and what it actually stands for, Awesome New Republic. It was in hoping of people getting together, hoping that the majority of people on earth has something in common and help each other out. I think when we started really getting into the band, Bush won again and it was kind of a scary time with the war in Iraq.
EM: How did you meet Brian?
MJ: We went to school together.
Brian: We went to college in Miami, around 2002. We were in another band, kind of a college rock band.
EM: Both in college rock bands?
Brian: Same band, we were both recruited. A mutual friend of ours put us together in this band and it was a great band. It was fun, we would play at a lot of local college bars and had a great time. Then when everyone decided to grow up, graduate and move on. We were the ones left, we didn't want to grow up just yet. So we ended up collaborating, making some recordings and decided to continue on as a duet.
EM: That was in 200-?
Brian: That's when we really started the band. Before, we would write songs for the band and they would always have drum machines through effects pedals, synthesizers and we would learn the songs. It sounded more of a jam rock band and we really liked the demos a lot.
EM: What was this band's name?
Brian: Empirical Mind. You wouldn't recognize them
MJ: There's probably nothing out there. I think we kind of took the demos that we made, like we sat down together and made a song. The direction we took was pretty similar to ANR.
EM: So when performing on stage, is it just the two of you?
MJ: Usually it's been that, two people for the most part. Often, on and off, especially earlier on, we would have another guy or sometimes five piece. For this tour, we have a drummer. It allows me to breathe more because if not, I would have to play the drums and sing.
EM: Your vocals, there's definitely an R&B vibe, where is that from?
MJ: I guess just listening to that kind of music growing up. I know personally, other than The Beach Boys, I didn't listen to much rock or white music until middle/high school. I was mostly listening to Stevie Wonder, Harry Belafonte, and Michael Jackson. He's the same way.
Brian: Pretty much, I grew up listening to a lot of jazz and a little prog rock. That is the whiteness. Those hybrid sounds are our two influences. You know, we are both huge fans of Giorgio Moroder who was the 70s electronic music pioneer. He's one of our inspirations. Also like early German electronic rock Neu!, Cluster, John Carpenter the movie director, Ceelow, Prince, Goodie Mob, Outkast.
EM: I can hear a little Outkast.
Brian : Outkast sampled Giorgio Moroder on "Aquemini", "The Theme From Midnight Express". [Starts humming it aloud]
MJ: Oh yeah! [Joins Brian on the humming]
EM: Any last words?
Brian: Keep the internet free!
MJ: Make the internet more free! Wouldn't it be great if everyone can have free internet? Then, everyone can communicate!
ANR are signed with Miami's 10K Islands. Go on the site for tour dates and buy their latest album Stay Kids.