Crack. World domination. More crack.
These are The Sound Republic’s self-described plans starting Sept. 2. And while the crack part is most likely a product of their offbeat and mostly off-color humor, this DJ duo from Chicago seems to already be on the path towards domination of the world of house music.
Within the past year, John Mork and Frankie J. Monacella have made a name for themselves in the underground house world as The Sound Republic. They released several singles, remixed tracks for established figures in the house world, hosted club nights in Chicago, and played across the country. Yet for all the success, the focal point for these longtime friends has always been about fun.
“Some people get really seriously deep with their house music,” Monacella said. “We want to make it fun again and bring things people forgot and make them have a good time.”
When The Sound Republic gets behind the decks, the emphasis again goes back to having a good time but also on keeping things fresh.
“We like to play a lot of new music, including things that haven’t even been officially released yet,” Monacella said.
“It isn’t all about upfront music though,” Mork said. “We do play a lot of stuff that isn’t out yet, but we also drop in classic tracks that hook people in.”
Planning may go into the preparation, but actually playing finds The Sound Republic in a mental groove.
“We focus on working a room,” Mork said. “Usually I’m not thinking about anything specific-except maybe ‘This is why I do this’-and then I am worrying about what I am going to play next to keep people moving.”
And The Sound Republic sound definitely has kept people moving, not only by playing other people’s music, but by creating their own. The Sound Republic’s records have sold all over the world and received heavy play from DJ superstars such as Mark Farina, Heather, Joey Youngman and The Swirl People. Their music has also found fans in Champaign, especially from local DJs.
“Their music makes you want to jump up and down,” said
J Phlip, who usually plays two or three The Sound Republic songs in her weekly sets.
The song that really got crowds going, and jump started The Sound Republic’s production career was a bootleg remix of Irfane’s “Just A Little Lovin.” They called their version “Just a Little Oven” and gave
themselves the fake names of Francis Jilla and Johnny Drama because they did not clear the original Sarah Vaughn sample. The track, with its waltz tempo breakdown, became an instant hit.
“Oven” was relentlessly played and often referred to as the best song of the 2005 Winter Music Conference, the largest dance music event in the world. The Sound Republic’s reaction to the response for their “little” tune?
“Shock and awe,” Mork said.
“It really was the beginning for us and opened a lot of doors for us,” Monacella said.
Since “Oven,” The Sound Republic has been able to release their first EP (The Scrambles McSuperstuff EP) which was a top seller online and flew out of nearly all American house record shops. The duo has also done remixes for Natural Rhythm, Eastbound and Bryan Jones.
The Sound Republic cuts are usually frantic, jam-packed with drum fills, odd sounds and funky basslines. They write their tracks solely with software and the process is always collaborative.
“We take a folder full of samples and crap and then work on
coming up with a beat. Sometimes it is really wack,” Monacella said.
“It is trial and error with bringing samples into our
framework,” Mork said. “Once we get it where we like it, we
polish and tweak the track.”
Most Sound Republic tracks and remixes revolve around one theme, and that theme often can be unusual. The “Government Cheese” remix of Chris Grant’s “Jimmy Jam” contains bizarre spoken samples about food. Other remixes and tracks such as “Up The Council” and the “Love Glove Dub” remix of Natural Rhythm’s “Dancefloor Jazz” bring in sophomoric but charming humor related to sex. This is all by design according to the duo.
While their humor may be base, their tunes are regarded with high esteem by DJs.
“The production value and creativity on Sound Republic records is higher than 95 percent of the records I own,” Mertz said. “Every cut also has great sound quality.”
Mork and Monacella are no strangers to central Illinois. They met when they were both students at Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, Ill.
“I was friends with some raver kids in Bloomington that knew Frankie,” Mork said. “I wanted to learn how to spin hip hop and drum ‘n’ bass so I got in touch with Frankie. That was in 1998.”
Monacella had already been doing live performances of house music and spinning drum ‘n’ bass. Soon Mork picked up enough skills to start playing out. But early on, both Monacella and Mork didn’t have much of a scene to play to.
“People were only casually going to raves. There might have been only been about 15 people at the start, but it grew more and more each year,” Mork stated.
The duo joined with other Bloomington DJs to form the Central Illinois Alliance (CIA). In a few short years CIA turned Bloomington into the hottest spot for raves and electronic music in central Illinois.
“Near the end we stood back and saw how we turned all these college kids into face-chewing raver kids,” Mork said with a laugh. “It was kinda scary.”
Over those years, Monacella changed his sounds between drum ‘n’ bass, two step, breaks before eventually returning to house. And while each has the talent and experience to stake out in the DJ world on their own, they both realize the benefits of working as a duo.
“It is really hard to do this thing by yourself,” Monacella said. “There is a lot more to it than playing records. There is handshaking and being a part of a scene.”
“Two are better than one for accomplishing all of that. I don’t understand how people do it all by themselves.”
In addition to performing their own music, The Sound Republic is hosting a monthly night in Chicago at Lava that has hosted big names in house such as Swirl People and Jonene. Called Grizzled, it has a definite sweaty house party feel where average club goers can share a seat next to the bar with worldwide stars like Derrick Carter and Justin Long.
Despite the jokes, the sweaty nights and the party atmosphere, Mertz expects The Sound Republic to be a perfect fit at Soma’s posh settings. Even with Thursday night being an extra special white party where guests are encouraged to wear white.
“They’re going to cover the ‘party’ part of the white party and I suspect make a lot of fans in Champaign,” Mertz said.
Humorous to the end, Mork offers fashion advice to those would be fans on how to dress in white.
“Wear polar bear suits,” Mork said.
Maybe that crack thing isn’t a joke after all.
The Sound Republic will appear at Soma Sept.1 with DJs Mertz and J-Phlip