Smile Politely

Exit 182 Festival Preview: The Young Republic

Next week, over a thousand performers will descend upon Austin, Texas. These musicians, comedians, artists, and filmmakers will be joined by around ten thousand fans for a week of innovation, creativity and really killer music. Meanwhile, I will be here in Urbana, analyzing mouse brains and jonesing for a week away from work spent wrapped up in the best in indie music.

While most of us probably can’t afford to take a week off work and make it to South By Southwest, this year C-U has the opportunity to get a taste of the talent headed down to Austin (or, for you lucky bastards who are headed to the festival, a preview). Mike n’ Molly’s will be playing host to four SXSW bands this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, as part if their first ever Exit 182 Festival.

The festival kicks off on Thursday with The Young Republic, supported by locals Heyokas, Kilroy, et. al. and Roses and Saké. On Friday, Chicago SXSWers Jared Grabb will be playing alongside Tina Sparkle, Laarks, and Mayhew the Traitor and on Saturday Pet Lions and Mittens on Strings will play before heading down to Austin, with Jet W. Lee and The Fantastic Plastics supporting.

While many of the bands playing in the mini-festival will be new to my ears, there’s one I can’t wait to see: The Young Republic. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I have a previous relationship with The Young Republic. Although we didn’t meet until five years ago, the band went to school across the street from my alma mater in Nashville, and when they were looking to expand their tour dates in the Midwest, I pointed them toward Mike n’ Molly’s. While I wouldn’t say we were friends, the band was a mainstay in my little piece of the Nashville music scene, and having them play in Champaign feels just about like having an old friend come visit.

The Young Republic is the creative outlet of Julian Saporiti, who grew up in Nashville and recruited a handful of talented friends from his high school, the University School of Nashville, which is well known for churning out smart, motivated and creative students. The Young Republic were no exception. Julian and the band were prolific and assertive, handing out home-burnt CDs at shows and cramming into our tiny radio station to promote their local gigs. I remember them as friendly, enthusiastic, surprisingly savvy to the hurdles they faced as musicians. They headed to Berklee College of Music but have remained Nashvillians at heart, coming back in town to play shows at their high school and in local coffee shops and venues.

Having been a listener of theirs for so long, I am thrilled by the growth The Young Republic has embraced throughout these recent years. When I first met them in Nashville, the band wrote earnest, orchestral songs ranging from smooth pop to sweeping ballads, relying heavily on sweeping strings and airy acoustic guitars. Their first (apparently unofficial) releases, which I imagine can now only be heard on old music blogs or directly from the band, give The Young Republic a very distinct identity as articulate and thoughtful pop musicians.

Their new full-length, Balletesque, (which seems to be being promoted as The Young Republic’s “debut”) presents an entirely new sound for the band. Balletesque sees the band taking on new characters apart from the wide-eyed dreamers of their previous work. In place of youthful optimism is a shrewd and playful dark side (The Young Republic curse? Who knew?!). They’ve picked up a few new tricks in their time together, as their careful strings now mix with electric guitar riffs and energetic drumming. For a Young Republic fan, Balletesque is full of surprises. “Rose Parade” is a song I never would have dreamt the band was capable of—at times aggressive and racy, full of passion and vigor, yet still rich with the imagery I’ve come to expect from the band. And yes, I’m aware that most of you are probably not active Young Republic fans like myself, but it’s my hope that all that will soon change. Past the talent of Balletesque, the album offers an even greater indication of The Young Republic’s chances for success: a readiness to embrace different influences and styles combined with a talent for trying on different musical personas and blending them into a seamless storyline.

Much of the band’s lineup has changed since they left Berklee, but Julian remains at the heart of the band’s writing and decision-making, and with all the shifts in style they still feel like The Young Republic. They retain the characteristic style that makes them stand out—the careful layering of sounds, Julian’s smooth, adaptable voice, and an artfulness that makes them not so much storytellers as mood-makers, drawing me into their energy and exuberance.

You can stream all of Balletesque on The Young Republic’s website, or swing by and let their Mike n’ Molly’s show convince you. I’m calling it now: The Young Republic are a band we’re going to be hearing from ten years down the road. They may not sound the same, but you’re going to wish you had seen them here first.


Day 1: Thursday, March 11 @ 9:00 PM

The Young Republic
Kilroy, et al.
Roses & Saké

Day 2: Friday, March 12 @ 10:00 PM
Tina Sparkle
Mayhew the Traitor
Jared Grabb

Day 3: Saturday, March 13 @ 10:00 PM
Pet Lions
Mittens on Strings
Jet W. Lee
The Fantastic Plastics

Check out more Exit 182 coverage tomorrow morning

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