Republic of Loose bassist Benjamin Loose speaks to Sally Hayden about a decade with his bandmates, involvement in mental health charities and democracies
2001 was the year that changed global politics forever; the first cloned monkey was born, George Harrison died, Ireland didn’t win the Eurovision and (luckily for the compilation of this sort of unsystematic list) Wikipedia was launched on the internet. It was also the year that “a huge metaphysical overturning” of Mick Pyro’s value system provided the catalyst for a young troop of fortune hunters to become united with the aim of creating beautiful, funky music.
Ten years later and Republic of Loose are still very much together. Bono has called them “trailblazing sophisticated soul bootboys”, and Gary Lightbody, “the best band in the country.” Sinead O’Connor asked could she abandon her solo career to become a member, and Irvine Welsh said ‘Comeback Girl’ was “one of the greatest songs ever recorded”. With four albums and fifteen singles behind them, their fervour shows no sign of abating. However, it would be easy to see why, perhaps, a decade without properly progressing beyond the Irish market might create some level of despondency amongst the band.
“The hustle never stops”, as Benjamin Loose puts it to Otwo. “I think we’re going to release ‘Comeback Girl’ in the States in November and we’re looking to release another single around February and then to go over around Paddy’s Day and tour the east coast.” In addition to these plans, they’re soon creating a compilation album, to be available worldwide online and physically in France and Germany, along with recording several new songs in Ireland with the aim of releasing another single here in October.
Grand designs aside, the band are also currently promoting their involvement in the First Fortnight Student Tour, which has been organised by First Fortnight, a non-profit charity aiming to challenge mental health prejudice and discrimination through the arts. Loose doesn’t claim that the band are in any way experts in the area of mental health, but emphasises that their support for the cause is sincere.
“Well it was an exciting idea to play a bunch of colleges in a short period of time. And it is a good cause, so it’s something to be involved with. It’s not something that we know a whole lot about but it’s a crazy world we live in so anything that wants to give help to people or give solace to people has got to be a good thing.”
Their gig at the Student Bar next week marks a regular return for the lead singer to his alma mater. “Mick and one of our guitar players both went to UCD for years. Mick did a Masters in Renaissance Literature and, I think, English and Spanish”. Loose, however, studied theology in Trinity. “I try not to mention that too much.”
With competing ideas, growing egos and close quarters, many musicians fail to find the perfect working relationship within their bands, leading to tumultuous public break-ups that can put Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston to shame. “We hate each other,” Loose laughs. “I’m only kidding, we’re pretty tight. It’s kind of like a family. You get so used to each other that you don’t even need to do the usual things that friends usually do, you know each other that well.”
Loose also admits that the State of Loose isn’t always a democratic republic but then again, democracy isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. “We know when someone’s got a vision for something, whether it’s a song, or a gig, or an idea for a link in a live set. Sometimes democracies don’t work. Sometimes you need visions and sometimes visions can’t be compromised and can’t accommodate another opinion. I remember reading an interview with your man from Bell X1 saying that their band is very democratic and as a result he feels that an idea can be compromised. Sometimes things need to be unadulterated and seen through to their bloody end whether for good or for bad.”
Internal politics notwithstanding, is there life outside of funk-rock for this musician? “If I wasn’t making music, I’d be in trouble,” Loose declares emphatically. And Otwo has to agree; if you have someone to listen, there are certainly worse ways to spend ten years than playing in a band, whether your location be Belfield, Paris or Miami.
Wherever the next decade takes them (Loose thinks a duet with Cee Lo Green would be cool), Mick, Ben and their confusingly assorted associates will always be counted among our own, but hopefully they’ll have more of a chance to escape their poor meteorological luck once they’re abroad. “Usually when we play outdoors it rains, it’s the ‘Curse of the Loose’. It’s happened to us in every country.” Sounds more like the curse of the Irish to Otwo.
Republic of Loose play the Student Bar on October 10th as part of the First Fortnight Student Tour, which aims to challenge mental health prejudice and discrimination. For more information see Firstfortnight.com