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OneRepublic (Drew Brown far left)
OneRepublic (Drew Brown far left)

Interview: OneRepublic

“The first time we were in Hong Kong was absolutely the most mind-blowing experience we’ve ever had”

Written by
Graham Turner

Whenever Colorado based pop-rock outfit OneRepublic take the stage, they quickly remind people just how unique a prospect they are. They’ve achieved an astonishing balancing act of remaining squarely within the mainstream while still delivering what the purists would call ‘real music’ over the course of their 10 years in the business. There’s real care taken to ensure that each member of the band has proper a role as opposed to being just another a frontman-led operation. 

Another surprising thing about them is just how pleasant they are to talk to, even when addressing questions for the umpteenth time. It’s a testament to the dedication of the group and something we certainly appreciate when we catch up with guitarist Drew Brown… 

Hi Drew! How’s the tour going?
It’s really been incredible. It’s been for us, the most exciting tour that we’ve ever been a part of and I feel really excited to, kind of, take what we’ve learned over the past year and the past decade and take it all over the world. This tour has really changed our approach to live production and the whole big band spectacle. I feel like we have been building up to this type of execution for a really long time. It’s funny we’ve been on this tour in America now for about two months. Every show has felt better than almost anything that we’ve done before it. 

How do you think OneRepublic are different now than when you guys came on the scene in 2007?
You know, I feel like the first handful of years, I think a lot of our motivation was trying to prove we were worthy of being in the position we that were in. And then subsequently, I feel like every other time that we went out it was for a specific purpose – promoting an album or trying to gain a little bit of a foothold in different places that we’ve always wanted to exist as a band. Something about this now feels very different because it feels like more of an accumulation of everything that we’ve been working for. It seems like what we’re presenting now is the most realised version of our original goals. Having that broad of an approach to it, feels really exciting versus going out to promote an album. 

I’ve heard [lead singer] Ryan talking about the state of music, in terms of the zeitgeist, staying ahead of the curve, pushing the envelope etc. Considering that, what do you think makes OneRepublic different from other acts?
I think that we are less precious about certain things and way more laser-focused on other things compared to some of the other bands that I know, that are either in our wheelhouse or have been around the amount of time that we have. I think that the bands that we always looked up to are constantly reinventing and taking risks, sometimes at the cost of losing momentum, but always for the sake of trying to something that hasn’t necessarily been done before.  

One thing with OneRepublic is you very much are still a band. Instruments are still a massive focal point. I always think about bands like Maroon 5, if you listen to [Maroon 5’s first album], Songs About Jane, the instruments are very much a focus, but as they’ve went on, the instruments have been pushed back, in favour of samples and electronic melodies. Have you guys ever been put under pressure to do the same, or is it something you feel strongly about as a band, that you know, you need to be a band.
You know, we’ve definitely felt at points that, what are we doing trying to push x, y, or z songs into a format that seems heavily dominated by a very programmed, very sample-based approach to music. And I think like a lot of the experimentation that comes out of that is a lot of what our sound has evolved into. A lot of it is trying to keep the core of five people playing in a room relevant in the face of the computer age. I think that everybody, Maroon 5 included, secretly, is just kind of hoping that there’s going to be some renaissance or some new wave of guitar music that harkens back to the reason why we all got in a room and started making music in the first place. Without sounding too ridiculous or pretentious, we take the weird spot that we’re in, being a band in a lot of formats that aren't dominated necessarily by bands anymore. We take that really seriously, like we’re trying to preserve something.

It’s a difficult position to be in because there seems to be a push for homogenisation in the mainstream. There’s a lot of peaks and troughs in music, a lot of instant gratification with these kinds of melodies, whereas you guys fly in the face of that. There’s a lot more purity in the song writing.
You know, we’re not immune to the effects of those types of instant things that are very prominent in music at the moment. Because at the base of who each one of us is, we’re just big music fans. We’re not immune to the fact that some things are instantly loveable. I think we try to find some type of balance between something that you’re going to get excited about the first time you hear it and something that you’re going to love way more after you live with it for months. That’s kind of always been the goal. To pull somebody in with something intriguing but keep them with something of substance. That’s kind of been our MO forever. And it definitely does, it seems like it’s a strange battle to fight sometimes when you see what’s going on in a lot of charts, in a lot of metrics around the world. But at the end of the day, we’re all a little bit older and we’ve got kids and lives. I think that ultimately, we want to look back on all of what we’ve done and be proud of the entire legacy of it. 

How are you guys feeling about coming over to Hong Kong, it’s the third last date in the tour so I imagine it will be a pretty exciting time for you guys?
We’re so excited. The first time we were in Hong Kong was absolutely the most mind-blowing experience we’ve ever had. We are always eagerly awaiting getting back. It’s very exciting for us. It’s a huge honour that we’ve even get to play in Hong Kong. It’s not taken lightly by any of us.

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