The Republic of Wolves - His Old Branches (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Republic of Wolves

His Old Branches (2009)

self-released/Vintage Hustle

The Republic of Wolves were the benefactors of some genius viral marketing last year. The Long Island act quietly formed in the summer of 2009, a collaboration of largely unknown local and solo projects coming together to write and record some songs. After cutting a few rough but incredibly promising demos, a friend took the tracks and leaked clips of them onto YouTube under the guise they were demos from Brand New's then-upcoming Daisy. These songs sounded so similar both vocally and musically to what Brand New had been up to since the leak of their own demos in January 2006, it was easy to mistake them just as they were labeled. By the time the band sheepishly admitted it was really them (although denying they'd instructed the friend to set up the hoax), the "damage" was done: The videos currently have about 24,000-40,000 hits apiece; the barely year-old act has over 1,000 listeners by's account; and subsequent offers from big-name labels both major and independent have been considered. Needless to say, their debut EP here, His Old Branches, was hotly anticipated.

Why does the band, then, get a pass for wearing such an influence so unabashedly? Probably because the actual songs at hand are devastatingly dynamic, captivating and moody compositions with tasteful applications of all those risky elements apparent in this style of music: heady, God-fearing lyrics that always take the nervous, observant route over the preachy one; murmured lead vocals; keyboards adding a distressed layer; and harsh screams.

When those tactics are used simultaneously, they combine in varying and wholeheartedly effective ways. "Spill" shows the band flexing its expertise as far as dynamics go, with tense verses quickly giving way to a chorus laid forth by both searing and screamed vocals, the latter on the part of young'un keyboardist/auxiliary percussionist Billy Duprey. It's sequenced smartly, as its equally afflicted twin, "A Weather Vane" finds itself placed at the EP's symmetrical, penultimate end. Think Brand New's "Cleanser" (untitled 05), and you have an idea of the route they go with these songs--albeit a much more immediate one.

The sparkling "Cardinals" opens gorgeously, with main vocalist/guitarist Mason Maggio breathily delivering more aching musings on life, death and the beliefs that dictate 'em before a slightly moodier vibe pervades the song. Branches' middle isn't to be ignored, though--"For His Old Branches" bears plenty of pulsating disquiet and a rhythmically pounding, budding bridge, while guitarist/vocalist Gregg Andrew Dellarocca takes the reigns on "The Clouds," a more reflective and optimistic break for the disc with a few chilling moments of vocal harmonizing and twinkling riffs.

The entire EP was self-recorded, mixed and mastered by Dellarocca, but without even taking that DIY method into account, the EP sounds fantastic--better than most professional studios, in fact. While the splashy drums often sound a little fake (especially on "Spill" and "Cardinals"), the whole thing is still astonishingly sharp and crisp for a home recording.

His Old Branches easily cements the Republic of Wolves as one of the best new bands in anyone's scene. Despite the hometown love the band clearly exhibit, plenty of moments on here are all theirs and the songwriting is realized enough to overcome any derivations that might otherwise surface. And with a full-length in the works, hopefully there's plenty of development that remains to be witnessed--I'm sure it'll be much more than just a brand new album.

The Clouds
A Weather Vane

His Old Branches was digitally self-released by the band back in December 2009, but released on compact disc just this past month on Vintage Hustle.