Kenn Jankowski Tames The Republic Tigers

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Marrying soaring guitar pop and dazzling harmonies with electronic atmospherics, The Republic Tigers manages to straddle the contemporary and vintage. And while you might hear glimmers of the Shins or Caribou, this Tigers’ roar is distinctly original.

May’s turning out to be pretty sweet for the Missouri-based Tigers. The band released its first record, Keep Color on Chop Shop Records, a new label from Alex Patsavas, who, as the savvy music supervisor for prime time guilty pleasures Grey’s Anatomy, Gossip Girl and dead-and-buried teen soap the O.C., made indie rock commercially viable.

And, as if that’s not enough, Queerty recently showcased the Tigers’ first single, “Buildings and Mountains.” That is a pretty high honor, yes, but the boys are especially jazzed for their television debut on tonight’s Late Show with David Letterman.

Queerty correspondent and fellow Missouri native Megan Metzger spoke with Kenn Jankowski, the Republic Tigers ringleader, about rock ‘n’ roll in the Heart of America, road life and stealing from Sarah Jessica Parker.

Read all about it – after the jump.

Megan Metzger: “Buildings and Mountains” and “Fight Song” were featured in TV OMFG-fests Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl, respectively. If you had a chance to soundtrack any TV show in the history ever of TV, what would you pick?

Kenn Jankowski: Hmmm…well, Twin Peaks was perfectly soundtracked so I can’t say that. Hmmm…dammit. I’d say Lost. Yup. I’d say Lost. Drop it on the island.

MM: Any dork with a computer can pass as a discerning indie rock critic these days, and a lot of these dorks writing rave reviews of just-released Keep Color geek out over the fact that Kansas City’s Republic Tigers make some pretty sophisticated indie pop for a bunch of Midwestern hayseeds. Of course you and I know this is bollocks, but how do you react to such blatant stereotyping?

KJ: I don’t think “hayseed” applies to any of my friends. A lot of those people probably think Kansas City’s in Kansas, too. KC’s music scene is really diverse and challenging and there’s a ton of great bands, like Ghosty, the Ssion, Roman Numerals, In the Pines. I’d say there’s more great bands in KC than there are in LA. I could be wrong, but the fact that it’s debatable says something. Of course there’s a lot of good bands in New York, too, but it’s huge! There should be.

MM: Speaking of New York, dude, you’re gonna be on Letterman! That’s like the highest honor ever, second to Last Call with Carson Daly, of course. What’s the band doing to psych themselves up for Thursday?

KJ: I think psyching down is the key.

MM: What do you mean?

KJ: I’ll speak for myself. I feel a lot of anxiety, but I’m just doing things I would normally do. Maybe I won’t call it “psyching down.” Maybe just “pretend like everything’s normal until after the fact.” Then we celebrate.
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MM: Do you have anything prepared to say to Mr. Letterman?

KJ: “Hi, Dave.” I want to say hi to Paul Schafer. I want to give him one of those “nod waves.” You know, with a half-smile. Sarah Jessica Parker will be on too, so, we’ll get some moms and wives to watch us play.

MM: Hey, younger chicks like SJP too, you know.

KJ: That’s true. But the really young girls like Gossip Girl. Maybe we can ask Sarah Jessica what she’s gonna say to Dave and then we can steal it!

MM: Brilliant idea. Anyway, the Tigers are about to join Brooklyn’s own Nada Surf for a US Tour. The open road is a lonely bitch, but sometimes she can be a dirty slut. What do you do to keep sane?

KJ: I make sure I have at least 30 minutes to an hour with no human contact a day, if possible. For solitude, meditation, blah-blah-blah. Gotta read books. Watch movies. Play X-box 360 and Atari. Write lyrics. A lot of stuff. Hanging out with Nada Surf is therapeutic on its own. If hanging out with them rubs off on us, we’ll be the nicest guys in the world.

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Catch the Republic Tigers performing “Buildings and Mountains” tonight on David Letterman, and look for their brand spankin’ new full length Keep Color (Chop Shop Records).