Lost In The Grey Period With Most Serene Republic

Is an obsession with websites like MySpace and Facebook ruining our culture? Most Serene Republic's Ryan Lenssen seems to think so. "I think what has happened is that it's much worse. This is the grey period in which everyone is lost. People talk about the '60s and '70s as the lost periods, but through being lost they found identity."

- Dara Hakimzadeh
Photos by Sheila Busteed

posted October 26, 2007

Lost In The Grey Period With Most Serene Republic

     While puffing away on a cigarette and sitting on the ground, surrounded by Canadian geese and mere yards away from one of the stages at the Virgin Festival in Toronto, Ryan Lenssen, one of the founding members of The Most Serene Republic, seemed to be in a very philosophical mood.

     “The record is really about our relationship with humanity more than it is just about Milton,” he says about the band’s latest album, Population, an album that he produced and that was released recently through Arts & Crafts. Milton is a town in southern Ontario where the band was formed.

     “The marketing people probably thought that people are really going to grab the concept of the record if we put some suburbs on the cover and then say, ‘It’s about where they grew up.’ But I think that’s a really simplified version of what we’re trying to talk about because, no matter where you grow up, it’s the same shit, different pile,” he continues.     

     “A lot of people say the first few songs on the record are really happy. They’re really not; they’re hopeful. It’s the fantasy; it’s what we wish humanity could be. It’s the complete mask of everything we wanted our lives to be, what every moment could have been. And slowly, overtime, you realize, ‘On my God! We are just the fifth-grade ape and nobody really knows it,’” he says.

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     Lenssen compares this continuum of feelings on the album to the elevated high of a new relationship where that person means the world to you and eventually those intense feelings diminish and the realization that they’re just like everyone else takes over.

     “It’s kind of depressing and that’s what the record is about,” he says.

     The album, which was recorded three times and took over a year to complete, concludes with the song “Neurasthenia," a term described as a condition of tiredness, headache, and irritability, typically ascribed to emotional disturbance.

     “None of the great writers could have imaged what we’ve become,” says Lenssen, referring to such books as Orwell’s 1984, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Huxley’s Brave New World. “I think what has happened is that it’s much worse. This is the grey period in which everyone is lost. People talk about the ’60s and ’70s as the lost periods, but through being lost they found identity,” he says.

     “What’s the difference between us and these ducks? Well, we live longer and we have a complete superiority complex,” he says.

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     Some authors tend to romanticize the past, but Lenssen says he thinks they won’t have much to write about in the future.

     “Who is going to romanticize this [period in time]? What’s special? MySpace, Facebook – is that our fucking legacy? No thanks! For the first time ever, with the Internet, we’ve become more like the Borg rather than the Federation,” says Lenssen, a self-confessed Trekkie who recently attended a convention hosted by William Shatner.

     “TNG (The Next Generation) was the apex but there are lessons to be learned in Deep Space Nine; Voyager had its moments. And Enterprise we just disregard; it’s like the bastard child. It’s sort of like Ayn Rand’s Anthem. We don’t talk about it but it is genius,” he says about the various shoot-offs from the original series. “Star Trek, for a fact, will be the Greek mythology of this time.”

     “This is the grey period,” he reiterates, “but hopefully a few key things will be remembered. Back then, only the best shit was recorded because they didn’t have the unlimited resources we have. Now everyone and their fucking dog can make a CD.”

     Musicians use to tell stories and help people through their lives and now certain themes, such as love, have been milked to death, he says.

     “What we do isn’t easy. The music we write isn’t fun; it’s hard. We do it because it’s hard,” says Lenssen. “We don’t just go up there and wank away at three chords. It pushes us and it may not be what’s going to change the world but it’s definitely pushing us.”