Talking to the two founding members of The Last Internationale, it quickly becomes clear that they are much more than just a band. Formed “a few years ago” by guitarist Edgey Pires and vocalist/bassist Delila Paz over a mutual love of folk and blues (“We were the only two people we knew who were listening to music like Woody Guthrie and Blues music,” says Paz), the New York band have a message and a mission that extends way beyond just making music. They’re as much about activism as they are about art.
“We think that’s something that’s lacking today,” says Pires. “Our favourite bands – ones we like from the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s – most of them were ingrained in social movements. What people don’t really realise today is that it was the people pressuring the bands to take a stance. And today there isn’t that culture anymore, so musicians don’t feel pressure anymore. They don’t feel a moral imperative to stand up against injustice. They choose rather to ignore it and they choose rather to go along with the system. Our stance is that if you see injustice, if you see something is wrong, you have a moral obligation as an artist to point out injustice and expose it and fight it. To do anything otherwise, to me, is criminal.”
That’s something the band have been doing since their formation, both in terms of their music and their actions outside of it. One of the band’s most fervent campaigns is seeking justice for Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist for whom the pair wrote the rollicking bluesy rock song Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Indian Blood.
“That fight’s been going on for over 40 years,” says Paz, “since before we were even born, and people are still fighting for it. I’ve always wanted to use my voice to its greatest capacity. I love music and song and melody, but I want it to mean something and I want it to stir something inside of you and awaken something.”
That song appears on last year’s debut album, We Will Reign, which was released on Epic. Not that there’s any love lost between the band and the music industry. Clearly riled by their experiences, The Last Internationale are now in the process of releasing their own bootleg and moving forward on their own terms, so as to ensure their principles remain intact.
“I knew this industry was corrupt,” says Peres, “but I did not think it was this bad. Almost every fucking person you meet is a fucking snake and someone’s always trying to fuck you over. We don’t even own our first record. The industry is so fucked up and this is the shit we have to deal with. Delila said it best – the only time she feels sane is when she’s on stage or in the studio or interacting with fans. Everything outside of that just kind of feels surreal, like you’re in a constant state of war and you have to keep defending yourself and fighting for something just to do the other part of what you’re meant to do, which is art. You have to fight for it to preserve it, just to prevent it being fucking killed.”
He’s not wrong, but you get the sense that The Last Internationale thrive, and will continue to do so, from that conflict and their fight against it. They’ve already made waves in terms of the social justice campaigns they support – in December last year, in fact, Pires was honoured by the Portuguese-Brazilian Awards at the United Nations Head Office in New York for his artistic contributions and political activism – so if anyone can change the evil mechanisms music industry, we think it could be them. Here’s to the future!