The Last Internationale’s latest album, Soul on Fire, opens with a call to arms like a conductor demanding you to board a train as you stand on the platform questioning your next destination. The next 42 minutes that follow are a ripping concoction of soul, blues, gospel, and huge rock.
Not to be restricted by any of your previous misconceptions regarding politically infused music, the band navigates its dance like a perfectly choreographed presentation of emotions on high. There is always a new story to be felt and heard upon each subsequent listen.
With its beginnings in New York City in the late 2000’s, guitarist Edgey Pires, and bassist/vocalist Delila Paz formed the band while Pires was studying for a degree in political science. Releasing their first Ep in 2013 they were joined by drummer Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine / Audioslave - through 2015) and started touring on a larger scale opening for acts such as Robert Plant and The Who supporting their 2014 release We Will Reign.
2019’s Soul on Fire was completely independently produced and funded through the bands Pledge Music campaign, allowing them the freedom to assemble the material as they saw fit.You can hear the satisfaction in its expression. The guitars are huge, the vocal delivery is like a sonic downpour and the grooves offered allow you to find the rhythm with an instant smile.
GPBH: Sonically I feel like you’ve created the sound of ‘struggle’ in both melody and lyric. It’s like a delicate balance of defeat and defiance. What first motivated you to express your views through music in this way?
TLI: There's much more struggle on this record than the first one, mainly because we've been going through a lot more struggles in our personal lives and career. Soul On Fire is a lot more personal. We've been particularly inspired by soul artists such as Al Green, Otis Redding, Ann Peebles, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and many more. We injected that element into our rock and roll not just because it's something that's severely lacking in rock, but because it allows for far greater expression and groove. Rock is arguably the least creative and lyrically relevant genre today. What better way to change that than with a little inspiration from our soul brothers and sisters?
GPBH: There is a beautiful grittiness to the guitars on Soul on Fire, what amps were used in the tracking of the album and do you have a different set up for live performance?
TLI: We are very happy with the guitar and bass sounds on Soul On Fire. We were going for something a little different from the mainstream or typical distorted Marshall sound. To be honest, so many different amps were used in the studio and we can't even remember half of them. We didn't really give it much thought. We just plugged into whatever amps were available in the studio and went with whichever one sounded the best. The playing, engineering, and mixing were the most important factors. It's all about THE TEAM. We'd try any and all ideas anybody came up with, no matter how dumb or crazy it sounded. We remember coming up with so many different weird pedal combinations just to get a sound that was in somebody's head. In the end, it would be a group effort and nobody would take more credit than anyone else. We couldn't imagine working in any other way.
Live, it's completely different. There is no thinking involved. We just plug in and unleash the chaos.
GPBH: Having opened for legendary acts like Robert Plant and The Who (just to mention a few) has there ever been a particular ‘How in the hell is this my real life’ moment in your interactions with musicians of this caliber?
TLI: Yes, there have been many moments like that on tour. Like when Pete Townsend casually hung out in our dressing room or Robert Plant inviting us into his. Or when a very shy Slash knocked on your dressing room door and kindly asked for permission to enter and then says he jams along to our band while we're on stage. That was certainly surreal. But we think the weirdest moment was the night we opened for The Who in Paris. The show happened during a heat wave and the arena had no AC. When our set finished, as we were stepping off stage, someone from Roger Daltrey's crew approached Delila and said Roger would like to meet her. They then took her upstairs. As the rest of the band made its way backstage, we saw Delila in the doorway of Roger's dressing room and Roger was speaking to her about the shows. All excited, we walked over to introduce ourselves. All we remember was that he had no shirt on and was covered in sweat. We approached him and said, "hi Roger, great to meet you" or something like that. We saw the mood instantly change. A second later he says goodbye and closes the door in our faces.
We have dozens of these stories. Like when Gene Simmons tried hooking Delila up with Joey Fatone. Or when Bill Murray gave Delila $50 to put towards a new bass. But we'll save those for another day.
GPBH: You left Epic records in 2014 after releasing We Will Reign, were you able to regain your rights to that album, or does it still exist as part of their catalog? Do you feel that if you were allowed more creative control you would have continued on with a major label?
TLI: We left Epic probably in late 2015. We don't have the rights to that album. We don't think about that part of our past because we're focused on the future of TLI. We have all the creative freedom we want and the songs are much better because of it.
GPBH: One thing that I think can be easily overlooked is the presence of optimism and love in a band that is perceived as predominantly political, how do you view the importance of both with regards to the emotions you want to convey?
TLI: TLI is driven by feelings of love and optimisms. It is love for humanity that makes an artist dangerous. It is considered a very dangerous and unforgivable act by the powers that be. The last thing the industry wants are artists that speak up for the downtrodden. They can't afford another Woody Guthrie or Gil Scott-Heron. They want us divided and dumb with a perverted sense of love. They want us to value commercial success and artificial things over our own communities or the causes we are supposed to be championing. What they are willing to tolerate, and often encourage, are a few politically vague slogans to make a band seem "genuine" or "rebellious" to the public. We see a lot of rock bands doing that nowadays and we can't understand how so many people can be misled. All we can do is keep pushing ahead with the optimism that rock as a genre will once again be dangerous.
GPBH: Finally, what are three albums by other artists someone who is just learning about you should listen to in order to have a better understanding of your material?
Sam Cooke ‘Live At The Harlem Club’
Buffy Sainte ‘It’s My Way’
Bruce Springsteen ‘High Hopes’
Patti Smith ‘Horses’
Gil Scott-Heron ‘Pieces of Man’
Howlin Wolf (all albums)
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