Rock against injustice: The Last Internationale marks a return to political rock

The Last Internationale, from left, guitarist Edgey Pires, lead vocalist Delila Paz and drumer Brad Wilk (also of Rage Against the Machine) BB Gun Press

The Last Internationale, from left, guitarist Edgey Pires, lead vocalist Delila Paz and drumer Brad Wilk (also of Rage Against the Machine)
BB Gun Press

Race riots in the summer. Natural disasters. An endless war that keeps sucking us in. Political turmoil. While the state of the world has a late ’60s/early ’70s vibe to it, what’s missing in this comparison is the music. Where’s the rock and pop to match the times? Where’s our Sly Stone or our Marvin Gaye? Is it just about being “Happy” like Pharrell Williams says?

That is what makes The Last Internationale stand out in a field of abstract or commodity-based lyrics, and they are set to rock Velvet Jones this Tuesday. That title — the name of the French left-wing anthem — should give away their political stance and when they took the stage last month at “Late Night with David Letterman” they brought tasty licks from guitarist Edgey Pires, solid beats from Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine), and the growling, authoritative vocals of Delila Paz. The song was “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Indian Blood” the lead song of their debut album “We Will Reign.”

It was surreal,” Ms. Paz says. “I’ve grown up watching that show my entire life, but to be on set playing to Dave and Paul Schafer and his band … it was great.”

But this isn’t plodding didactic music — the band entertains first, then throws down its message. It’s a blend that’s currently working out for them, unlike many political groups.

The band has taken off so fast it’s dizzying. They just landed a spot opening for Robert Plant on his UK tour. (Mr. Plant heard the band and loved them. If anything, the band has a great manager.)

Delila Paz was writing her own folky protest songs when she met guitarist Mr. Pires, and soon the band was changing its sound. But the politics stayed the same. Ms. Paz grew up surrounded by political activism in her home in Manhattan and her father spent more time camping at Occupy Wall Street than Delila did, and he’s very proud of the direction she’s taken.

“It was both folk/acoustic and bluesy,” Ms. Paz says of their first EP in 2013, “New York, I Do Mind Dying.”

“We were listening to a lot of Howlin’ Wolf at the time,” she adds. There’s plenty of the blues growl in her voice, and she lists influences as far-ranging as Mahalia Jackson, Elmore James, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Joan Baez. But even though the album vocals rock, nothing compares to Ms. Paz’s vocals live, prompting fans to come up after shows to tell her that, wow, they had no idea how different she sounds.

“I guess I’m a little more primal sounding, live,” she admits.

The band wrote the majority of the songs on the album, except the opening track on side two, a cover of “Baby It’s You,” which replaces its familiar format with a bluesy, funky riff that completely works and transforms the song. Producer Brendan O’Brien came into the band’s rehearsal just before they cut the record and after listening told the band that he’d been wanting to do the song for about 20 years, but hadn’t found the band to do it.

“We listened to it and loved it and we went into the studio and recorded it live. I just love it. It was his idea, but we just love it.”

For the upcoming year, the band is looking to keep touring, but there’s also more to record.

“We have so many songs that didn’t make it on the album. I don’t know if we’re going to record them sporadically, or just wait and record a whole album. But we need to get on the road, that’s what we’re really excited about, getting out and playing to people.”

The Last Internationale
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Velvet Jones, 423 State St.
Cost: $13
Information: www.velvet-jones.com or 965-8676

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