City Of Origin: Claremont
Members: Thom Fuhrmann (bass, trombone, keyboard, vocals); Greg Grunke (guitar, bass, dulcimer, drums); Ethan Port (guitar, percussion, metal horn, vocals); Alan Waddington (drums)
Recent Release: 1938 (Neurot Records)
Kindred Spirits: NON, The Birthday Party, Joy Division, Einstrüzende Neubauten, Tangerine Dream, Wire, Godspeed! You Black Emperor
Around the same time that Einstrüzende Neubauten began banging out their dadaistic musical strategies against architecture on scrap metal and anything else they could find, a group of four UCLA sculpture students were told that, as part of an art project, they were to go into the quad and make as much noise as possible. So they did, and they made it loud, and they made it rhythmic. Amidst the backdrop of the burgeoning 1980’s Los Angeles punk scene, something about the band seemed to fit. The earliest incarnation of the Savage Republic took the proto-industrial and post-punk sounds of the musical zeitgeist to craft mechanized, brooding tunes awash in noise and texture and thundering bass. They pounded out beats on whatever was handy, but 55-gallon metal oil drums and sheet metal were staples.
Savage Republic’s lineup was about as stable as a teetering third-world government, and the four founding members gradually drifted away from the project. Nevertheless, a newer version eventually made it’s way to Claremont. By ’83, the band had undergone an almost complete line-up change, but the new members continued on in the spirit of Savage Republic with a few updates. For instance, they dropped a lot of the vocals and focused instead on seemingly formless, wandering soundscapes that were rich with texture, tribal drumming and tension without losing the dark feel that the original members pulled off so well. The conversation here was about aural substance and experimentation paired with world music tuning, a little surf guitar, and Middle Eastern sounds—a part of the world the band has always claimed a fascination with—and the band continued it until its climactic breakup in 1989.
That might have been the end of the band, but they had a chance encounter with Scott Kelly of Neurosis at a San Francisco festival in 2001, and he urged the band to reunite to play his fest the following year. They played five other shows. Reinvigorated, the Savage Republic picked up where it left off, released a new album, and even has some rare live appearances planned for later this year. Stay tuned!