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Disregarding appearances, Dublin, Ireland's Republic of Loose could be mistaken for an American hip-hop collective. With a 12-strong roster, seven core members, and five "associates," the group has done little to play down the association. Like the Rolling Stones (an admitted influence) before them, Republic of Loose's key influences are unashamedly contemporary and unashamedly American, their music a curious blend of gangster rap, smooth popular soul and classic funk, with a healthy dose of the surreal thrown in for good measure. Yet, as ridiculous as seven Irishmen sporting cute pseudonyms and masquerading as gang-bangers may appear, Republic of Loose have the musical chops to pull the illusion off. Republic of Loose began as Johnny Pyro & the Rock Coma, an informal arrangement of musicians under the direction of singer Mick Pyro (real name Michael Tierney) and guitarist Dave Pyro (Dave Haughton). Dave had previously been a member of indie rock group Sportsman, while Mick had briefly glimpsed success as a songwriter for his sister's band Chicks, who were signed to Dreamworks in 1998 and unceremoniously dropped not long afterward. In 2001, "the Pyros" renamed the band Republic of Loose and made three quick additions to their ranks: guitarist Brez Breslin, bassist Benjamin Loose and drummer Coz Noleon. Over the two years that followed, the band built up a reputation as a live act of note, and in 2003 they were signed to Big Cat Records, once the U.K. home of Jeff Buckley and Pavement. In late 2003, Republic of Loose issued their first single in Ireland, the smooth soul number "Girl I'm Gonna Fuck You Up." In 2004, they released their first full-length album. This Is the Tomb of the Juice with the assistance of producers Gareth Mannix (Angels of Mons, Delorentos) and Paul Thomas (U2). Keyboardist Deco (Declan Quinn) contributed to the majority of the album's tracks, and was rewarded with full membership shortly afterwards. The group was presented with the Hope For 2004 Award at 2004's Meteor Irish Music Awards. Two further Irish singles followed, "Hold Up" and "Tell More Lies," before the group decided to discontinue their relationship with Big Cat. 2006's Aaagh!, released in-house by Loaded Dice Records, was preceded by the hit single "Comeback Girl" and the addition of another new member, drummer and percussionist Barnes, as well as three backing singers: Orla La, Emily Rose, and Eve Ill Jones. In July 2007, Aaagh! was issued in the U.K., followed by the group's first U.K. single, "Break!," a month later. The single, a duet with Chicks singer Isabel Reyes-Feeney, had reached the Top 40 of the South African singles chart in July, but sales had declined when one of the country's leading radio stations banned the song, claiming it promoted unprotected sex, a sensitive issue in a country devastated by the AIDS crisis. ~ Dave Donnelly