Interview: Zach Filkins of OneRepublic Talks ‘Native’ and The Heartbeats Project
Colorado's radio-smash golden boys OneRepublic are gearing up to release their third album Native in the coming months, and have passed their time off the road between studio sessions with an incredible life-saving charity initiative.
The band's latest single "Feel Again" was inspired by The Heartbeats Project, the online initiative from ad agency BBDO began when production company Rabbit Content recorded heartbeats of healthy children in Malawi and Guatemala. With every paid iTunes download of “Feel Again” putting money into the crucial movement, the band are taking a motivated role in helping to prevent the death of infants and children across the globe.
CraveOnline recently caught up with OneRepublic lead guitarist Zach Filkins to discuss the band's new album and their maniacally dedicated fans, as well as their impact on the world through charitable causes such as The Heartbeats Project.
CraveOnline: Just found a crazy Tumblr account dedicated to pics and gifs of you – how do you roll with that at this point in the game?
Zach Filkins: I have no idea. I usually roll with it pretty well, as long as the pictures aren't extremely incriminating. It's really strange to have high school friends who obviously don't take me seriously and know it's just me. And they'll text me every once in a while and ask if I've googled my name lately. I'm like 'Of course not, I'm not that narcissistic.' But every so often the weirdest stuff will pop up that I never knew existed, probably like this Tumblr account. For the most part it's cool, there are a couple pictures out there that I wish didn't exist… but whatever. (laughs)
With the kind of dedication that fans bring with OneRepublic, that lends itself to the various efforts and projects you're working on, such as your part in the initiative benefiting Save the Children and Ad Council’s “Every Beat Matters” campaign.
Definitely. Yes. When it comes to charities and our connection wth Save The Children it is very much about us relating and agreeing with a charity like that, because we feel such a need to participate with them.
You take a song like "Feel Again," and what's going on with The Heartbeats Project, it takes a certain kind of band and also a certain kind of fanbase to get that off the ground and really make an impact. Inevitably you're dealing with a lot of digital cynicism, where the "good news" stories don't always float to the surface.
Definitely. And it's not a publicity stunt or for us to gain more popularity – it's just us connecting with them because we believe in what they do, and we hope that the network of fans that keeps an eye on us will pay attention. And it's a powerful thing, it becomes like a spider-web or a snowball effect into something really positive.
Completely. So is the new album finished?
We are really close. It's tough because we can't totally commit to a release date at the moment but we can say that this winter it will come out. Native is by far going to be the most exciting and uptempo album we've had thus far. So we want to make sure that it's right, we don't want to rush any aspect of it. So I would say it's about 90% done. Most of the songs are fleshed out. It's just a game of how satisfied we can get with these before we let them go. Y'know? That's never easy. So that's kind of where we are right now, tightening the screws and getting it as close to what we want it to be as possible. Then you let your kid walk away and go to college. (laughs)
You've dropped a bunch of updates through Twitter and Facebook that you were working on the album in Greece, Paris and beyond… What's out there to influence the record?
We've done recording in Ryan's studio in Denver, as well as studios in Greece, Paris, London… The interesting thing about these studios is that it's always kind of cool to test out whatever studio you're in, because sometimes those things can really speak to you whether it be by location or just the vibe that's in that studio. We've been in studios that are just ice cold and nothing happens there, and then we've been in studios where you almost write an entire song right there because it's just… something is there. So we worked a little bit in Paris, as well as in Santorini, which is this really beautiful island off the coast of Greece. We went there for an actual band vacation, something we hadn't done in a long time. But there's this studio in Santorini that's super beautiful, and it was a really laid back experience to have a studio available to us in such an amazing setting.
Most of all, we're chasing inspiration. And you can't always find the inspiration you need from one studio or one location.
I imagine that informed the creative experience a little as well, being in some beautiful tropical isle somewhere…
Oh yeah, definitely, definitely. Being in Greece, we were working on a particular song where we thought it might be cool to have a local musician come in. So we found this woman who plays accordion and harp and sings traditional Greek music, and we had her come in to lend a hand. You can't find that in Denver, you know? (laughs) It was really cool what she came in and contributed. And you can't plan for those things. You can't expect those things ahead of time.
It's been three years since Waking Up… what's changed for you guys creatively?
Oh man… I think the best way for me to answer that is that each one of us have to leave our musical convictions at the door. On drums, for example, Eddie has been forced to leave his traditional views of going into a studio, setting up mics and playing drums. It's a lot more than just that anymore. Back in the day it was just that but now drums have to be more innovative and different, and they have to hit harder, etcetera. So you have to program a bit more, and you have to be a little more creative.
It's like that with each one of us. We all have to leave our traditional convictions at the door musically and really learn how to reinvent every single aspect of the entire frequency range of the song.
The tides of popular music are always shifting…
Some of that has to do with what's current, but a lot of it has to do with what will stand out, what we're feeling in the moment. We have a lot of keyboard and synths on this third album, and there's a resurgence of that 80s synth sound these days – but we don't want to use that like a trend. That's not who we are. We want to use that as another aspect to musical production and songwriting.
For more on OneRepublic, visit the band's official website at onerepublic.net.