Zach Filkins of OneRepublic Talks Greece, Touring + Team Adam
OneRepublic are one of those bands that you hear absolutely everywhere. From near-constant radio airplay to commercial licensing (‘Good Life’ is a pretty perfect ditty for a Disney vacay, isn’t it?), the band are an inescapable staple of pop. And we’re not sure why anyone would want to escape them, because all of their songs are exceptionally crafted.
The Colorado-based band, whose breakout hit ‘Apologize’ sent them soaring into superstardom, are hard at work on their third record, ‘Native.’ Though their perfection of pop ballads on ‘Dreaming Out Loud’ and ‘Waking Up’ is what landed them on the map, OneRepublic are eager and excited to test some new waters with ‘Native,’ and are already sending tongues wagging and heads bopping with their lead single, ‘Feel Again.’
“We’re in a time when there aren’t really many bands anymore,” frontman Ryan Tedder said. “It’s all dance music and pop. So in a way we almost feel a sense of duty to push this thing forward with actual instruments and somehow find our place in the world on a bigger scale than what we’ve ever done.”
PopCrush caught up with founding member, lead guitarist Zach Filkins, on what’s next for OneRepublic in terms of touring, traveling, sights, sounds — and who they’re rooting for on this season of ‘The Voice!’
How are you today?
I’m good! I’m actually trying to get out of a parking garage right now. I’m at home in Chicago and grabbed some lunch with my wife, and this machine isn’t working. I think I’m going to start parking on the street from now on.
You were traveling pretty recently — your Twitter mentioned London and Greece. Which was your favorite destination?
We were just in L.A., and we went to Greece and London too. Greece was definitely my favorite. There’s this music studio in Santorini, this island off Athens, and it was sort of both an inspiration and a vacation for us. We hadn’t had time for the five of us to just really bond and spend time together in a while, and Santorini is just incredibly laid back — there’s just not a lot of rules. In the U.S., which is awesome, they’re sort of like, “Okay, welcome to paradise! But you can’t do this, this or this.” But over there, you could pretty much climb and hike wherever you wanted. They even let you rent four-wheelers and drive them on the main streets with cars, so each of us rented a four-wheeler and everyday we explored a diff part of the island.
How awesome was it to perform on ‘Ellen?’ She seems like so much fun!
She’s just so cool. It was our third or fourth time on ‘Ellen,’ and she’s incredible. You can learn a lot about someone based on the environment of [their] office or studio and the people in it, and her aura just sort of transcends to everyone she works with. She’s always so much fun, and she always gives hugs and chats for a bit after the show. We’d love to be actual guests to sit down and talk with her, too, because she’s hilarious. And she always smells amazing.
Watch OneRepublic Perform ‘Feel Again’ on ‘Ellen’
You’ve said ‘Native’ is about your evolution. What changes to your sound can we expect to hear on this record?
We’re keeping most of songs upbeat and uptempo on this one. We almost notoriously kept a lot of our songs slower, heavier and a little melancholy before. These new songs still have gravity to them, but with a refreshing, uptempo gospel influence. There’s an evolution of speed of the songs, but also instrumentally, we’re each experimenting and learning about different things, too. It’s fun.
When can we expect ‘Native’ to drop?
We’re not quite finished, but we’re really close. There’s always record label stuff that can come up to interfere with a release date too, but we’re working on a November to January timeline — definitely this winter. We’re putting the finishing touches on to make sure it’s everything we want it to be, and I really think it’s the best album we’ve ever done!
‘Feel Again’ has almost a church-like vibe to it. Were you guys going for that sound deliberately, or did it just come together that way organically?
It definitely happened organically. We didn’t sit down and talk about doing more church-sounding songs, you know? ‘Feel Again’ is the first single, and that’s usually the song that lights the way for the rest of the record. We started experimenting and seeing what demos excited us and comparing them to the demos that excited people around us the most. ‘Feel Again’ started as a chorus in a demo and it turned into a song really quickly. It was almost like the song wrote itself and we just went along for the ride, and it was bringing to us a gospel kind of sound. Some of us were brought up in the church, so it’s certainly a music style that’s really moving.
Have you been performing your new songs for ‘Native’ live?
We’ve been performing ‘Feel Again’ a lot lately, and another song called ‘Life in Color’ that we wrote a while ago. We do it more for us to start playing something new so it doesn’t feel stagnant and we don’t get bored! ‘Life in Color’ isn’t fitting in really well with the other songs we’ve recorded for ‘Native’ so far, so it might be a B-side. It’s not by any means a sub par song, but it just doesn’t quite fit with the tone of the rest of the songs on the record. But we’re recording it differently — when we do it live, it’s this big, epic song with a huge chorus, but we’re going to chill it out a little.
What are your favorite songs to perform live?
I really personally like playing ‘Apologize,’ which is very strange, because by now we should all be sick of it, but we’re not — so I think it’s a testament to that song. Covers are a favorite, and we’ve been playing a lot the same. We like to take two or three songs that don’t make any sense and put them together. Buffalo Springfield for ‘What It’s Worth’ is really fun to play but we’re not sure why, and we did a lot of ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ for a while. We’re thinking of experimenting, and maybe asking fans on Twitter what they want to hear.
Watch the One Republic ‘Feel Again’ Video
Was it more intimidating or awesome to open for Bon Jovi? Because, well, it’s Bon Jovi.
Haha! He is Mr. Rock n’ Roll. It wasn’t necessarily scary, but here’s the thing — it’s an awesome opportunity to open up for [Jon Bon Jovi] and to open for U2. The scariest thing, after you get over the excitement, the scariest thing is when you get onstage, “Is anyone going to care?” A lot of times the opening act is really just there to pass the time, so it’s like, “Are we playing for people who aren’t really paying attention?” We’re way more nervous for playing for four people than for 60,000, because you can’t even wrap your head around a number that big, so it’s less intimidating. U2 fans in Europe were really engaging, too. That was a lot of fun.
Do you have any touring plans for 2012?
Everything’s beginning to slowly come together. We’re doing a lot of radio station shows across the U.S., promo to raise awareness of the album, but probably no major tours until 2013. We’ll be flying back and forth from Europe to the U.S. on some legit tours and probably going to Canada for about a week this year. The challenge for us is always, “Where do we go? And how do we make the whole thing strategic?” It’s all about what country to go to and when. Hopefully, though, we’ll be at everyone’s front door in 2013.
Lastly, you toured with Maroon 5 — since you probably know him well, would you really choose Team Adam on ‘The Voice?’
Haha! Good question! I would probably choose Team Adam or Team Blake — he’s got a solid lineup this season. But I think I’d take either Team Adam or [even] Team Christina. But anything can happen! Anything can change at any time.