It’s normal for a teenager to dream about starting a band with a few friends, signing to a well known label, making it big, heading out on tour and not looking back. Ryan Lenssen and Adrian Jewett were no different.
“We were the really lame ass kids who drove around at night listening to music with the windows down, hand surfing on the wind, dreaming that one day we could make music and have people do that to our music,” said Lenssen.
Lenssen and Jewett took their night cruising dreams in the Milton, Ontario countryside and fleshed it out to become The Most Serene Republic, a seven-piece band that was the first group to sign with Arts & Crafts outside of the Broken Social Scene family.
In 2003 Lenssen and Jewett combined to form Thee Oneironauts as a release from the pressure of school and to simply be creative. “High school was a tough time and you never feel like you matter, or you might feel you matter too much. But it’s in those other moments that you sort of need to feel like you can produce something out of nothing to have self worth,” Lenssen said.
Thee Oneironauts expanded to include Nick Greaves and they continued to play gigs. For Lenssen, the experience could be considered his gateway into being a full-time musician.
Interest in the band grew. Additional musicians were recruited to play with the trio. They adopted a new band name, The Most Serene Republic, and began to look at the possibility of signing with a label. But the thought of signing with indie label Arts & Crafts never crossed Lenssen’s mind.
“When we were shopping around for a label we thought of Arts & Crafts as an unattainable record label. How do you contact them? What would motivate them to sign you? So we never really even thought about it,” admitted Lenssen. “Then the next day you’re getting an e-mail saying you’re wanted for a meeting with Kevin Drew.”
After signing with Arts & Crafts the band began to tour with label mates Stars in support of their first full-length release, Underwater Cinematographer. With the help of Stars, Lenssen quickly had to learn about the trials and pit falls of living on tour. “It was all very lovingly done, sort of like parents trying to ease their kids to ride a bike with training wheels.”
Lenssen admitted spending life on the road for months on end is not an ideal situation for everyone. In fact, The Most Serene Republic has seen a number of changes in their lineup since their conception. “I’d compare touring in a band to be repeatedly punched in the face. Some people say “that’s enough, no more punches,'” said Lenssen. “I understand that, but you really have to be a masochist to be in this lifestyle.”
The Most Serene Republic is now back on tour to support their latest album, … And the Ever Expanding Universe, which was released in July. Lenssen describes the album as “broken but hopeful, beat down, tired and exhausted, but for some reason clinging onto an idea of hope.”
For the first time Lenssen would not be involved in the production process, instead Dave Newfeld would take over as producer. “It was a real treat to work with him but a double treat for me since I got some time off. It was great to leave it in his hands. He would be the only person I could trust with this record.”
The universe may be expanding for The Most Serene Republic, but Lenssen said that doesn’t really matter. “We’re just going to keep trying to do what we can for ourselves and hopefully people will still be listening to it.”