Founded by New York City natives Delila Paz and Edgey Pires, The Last Internationale quickly forged a reputation for poetic, socially conscious songs and explosive live performances. A recent appearance (August 27) left David Letterman speechless, as they absolutely killed it during their national television debut. You don’t often see that kind of energy on TV these days, in fact you don’t often see bands like this period.
The Last Internationale just released their debut album called We Will Reign and the album displays the freshness and raw and largely untapped energy of a band ready bust this thing wide open. Formed 5 years ago Edgey tells us that Delila was the only person his age that he knew that could sing and that was into the same kind of music that he was into, which was old folk music. She also shared his desire to deliver a message to the world through music and the catalyst for this extremely exciting band was set.
The Last Internationale will be making two stops in the northwest as they head out on the road to promote their fantastic new album. On September 16 they’ll be at El Corazon and the following night in Portland at the Crystal Ballroom. We got a chance to catch up with the guitarist Edgey right before he stepped into the Ed Sullivan Theater for the taping of their Late Night appearance.
How did the band come about?
Edgey Pires: Five years ago, I met Delila; we were mutual friends. She was the only person I knew my age that could really sing and was interested in old folk music, and so we just clicked and started listening to old records and started writing topical and political protest folk music, just playing music at protests, recording home demos and spreading them around, and then evolving into a band, and that was that.
What were some of those old records you were listening to and who are your main influences?
EP: Bob Seger and Bob Dylan were definitely huge influences, as were Rambling Jack Elliott, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Jeff Beck, early Clapton, etc.
Where did the name The Last Internationale come from?
EP: It comes from the umbrella organization, there were the first, the second and third Internationale, and we decided to make our name the Last Internationale.
Tell us about your connection to activist, musician Tom Morello:
EP: He tweeted about us. He heard about us from one of his bandmates, and then he started sharing our band on social networking sites. Afterwards, we reached out to him to let him know we were going to LA and would love to meet and chat with him, and he emailed us back and said “Let me know where you’re playing; I’ll go to one of your shows.” Then he came, and we hung out all night. We became good friends, and he became like a mentor to us. He hooked us up with Brad Wilk(who is now our drummer), so he’s been very helpful for us and our career.
Morello has always used his fame to give a voice to the voiceless. How important is that?
EP: That’s the only thing that matters. This whole band is all about the politics, pretty much. I like to think of our music as channeling working-class frustration and concerns, and we try to do that to the best of our abilities. Of course, music alone can’t change the world, but we try to put our bodies into it. We play these songs at protests, we go to protests and we help organize them whenever we can.
Explain the writing and recording process for the new album.
EP: Most of the songs were written months prior to recording. We rented out an old cabin in Big Bear Lake, California. Maybe two of the songs were ones that we had been playing live two to three years prior to recording. For the recording, we recorded in a whole sitting; we rehearsed with Brad since he joined the band. We rehearsed for about two weeks, then recorded a record in two weeks with producer Brendan O’Brien, who is our favorite record producer. We just love that guy. Getting in the studio with him…..it sounds cheesy but everything just felt like magic. He’s a genius, sort of a mad scientist in the studio. It was recorded live for the most part, with only two or three takes for each song.
What was the first concert you went to?
EP: First concert ever? First memorable concert I’d ever went to, that I actually went on my own bill, had to be Cypress Hill.
When did you realize this is what you wanted to do with your life?
EP: At an Ani DiFranco show. I heard her play the most amazing folk music. I was in the crowd and I thought, “Man, that’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
What do you think is the most important problems plaguing us as a society and/or the human race?
EP: Not any one is more important than the other – they’re all pretty significant – but some of the most obvious and depressing ones, especially in America, is immigration rights; Obama is supporting immigrants more than any other president before him, and I think that’s a huge problem. Poverty – we’re witnessing a large amount of poverty we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. United States Internal-ism, our foreign policy is horrendous. Racism, police brutality, as we’ve seen recently in places like Ferguson and every other place around the country, environmentalism, the destruction of our environment, pollution; there are just a lot of issues that we need to be working hard on.
The militarization of police in places, especially Ferguson, MO has been a hot topic. Are they doing some of this so that we feel more comfortable with seeing cops dressed up like soldiers?
EP: Absolutely. I’ve used analogies before, but a tank rolling out on a block, we’ve seen this in Ferguson, just blatant militarization of our police. Something becomes shocking to you at first – like a tank rolling down your street – if you get to see that on a day to day basis, it becomes normal for you. There’s a lot of things that I witness, particularly in Manhattan, where I am right now, that is just egregious; it’s human rights violations that we witness on a day-to-day level that we just ignore or make fun of or just make excuses for; we become desensitized towards other people. It’s very problematic, and this is one of the biggest obstacles that we need to overcome – people’s lack of concern for others, their lack of compassion for other human beings. One example I could give you is that we have more homeless people on a New York City block than we do in the entire country of France. This is insane to me, it’s a sickness, and I see it every day, I see homeless people every day. People walk past them, step over them, mistreat them, whatever. To me it’s something that, because you see it every day, it becomes normalized.
How do we change this? Just keep talking about it as much as we can?
EP: Yes and no. My opinion is this; History, if you look at history in any part of the world, not just the United States, the minority has always overthrown the status quo. We make leaps and bounds by a minority being very innovative by necessity for the most part, and changing a situation that was no longer tolerable; they reached their breaking point, and a minority changed it, like the Civil Rights Movement. There were a lot of people sympathetic and a lot of people against it. What I do know from history is that with the right strategy and tactics, we could change the world, and it’s human nature, at least in this country, to be very sheep-like. People just go along with the status quo, do what they’re told, and live day to day. If the social movements in this country actually got organized, I mean REALLY organized we could change the world. The stuff that’s going on in Ferguson is great, but there needs to be organization, there needs to be a message, and there needs to be consequences by the actions of the state, like when an officer shoots our own people in the streets in cold blood. Once we organize and do this and utilize different tactics and strategies than what are doing now, because they’re obviously not working. This is the most important part, we need to start disrupting the institutions of power and hit them where it hurts, start doing it as a social movement, then you’d see change begin to start happening. And then one you can shift the paradigm if you will, then the majority of the people would be on board and I think that’s how you change the population. I’ll give you one example: A lot of people in this country were against Martin Luther King at the time, when he was alive. Today it’s very hard to find a person unless they are a blatant racist that is against Martin Luther King and that’s how the tides have shifted. We need to keep doing that.