Last Internationale revives protest music 

click to enlarge The Last Internationale
  • COURTESY PHOTO
  • From left, Brad Wilk, Delila Paz and Edgey Pires make up The Last Internationale.
Is there room in today’s pop-R&B-dominated music market for a good old-fashioned protest group? Fortunately for Woody-Guthrie-inspired New York trio The Last Internationale, a lot of powerful people think so.

After hearing its emotive cover of Guthrie’s vintage “Deportees” — tracked for Bono’s “Agit8” compilation last year — Epic Records honcho L.A. Reid signed the band on the spot. “He’d heard more of our songs, but that was the song that really hit him, the one that made him go, ‘I’ve got to have these guys! No one else is doing this!’” says still-stunned TLI frontwoman Delila Paz.

Reid was the first of many surprising boosters, and understandably so. There is an in irresistible passion to blues-rockers such as “1968,” “Wanted Man” and “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Indian Blood” — material from the debut album “We Will Reign” the outfit will play in The City this weekend.

The socially-conscious metaphors are open to interpretation. “Killing Fields” — featured on the soundtrack for the FX Network’s “Justified” — isn’t talking about Cambodia in the lyrics “You think that flower power will make them stop/ Bang! Bang! Bang! Baby, here come the cops/ Power is power, love, no matter who’s on top.”

Things are moving fast for the band. Paz and her boyfriend- bandmate, guitarist Edgey Pires, already have opened for Neil Young, signed on to Robert Plant’s upcoming UK tour and had Thanksgiving dinner with fellow iconoclast Tom Morello, who introduced the couple to their third member, his former Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk. Wilk joined the very next day.

Springsteen alum Brendan O’Brien, the group’s top choice for producer, initially tentatively produced a couple of TLI tracks. But, after two and a half weeks, Paz says, “We had the whole album. It was pretty crazy.”

Paz, who was a shy child, pushed herself onstage with spelling bees and gradeschool musicals to gain confidence. She was working as a musical therapist with nursing-home dementia patients when she discovered early folk recordings through co-workers, then became obsessed: “I felt like I had found something that was missing from my life,” she says.

Once she met like-minded Pires, their future was set.

For inspiration, they open a newspaper or turn on CNN. “There are so many stories — it’s a never-ending battle,” she says. “But we don’t want to be preachy. We just want to write music that reflects the working-class struggle.”

IF YOU GO

The Last Internationale

Where: DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., S.F.

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $12 to $15

Contact: (415) 626-1409, www.dnalounge.com

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Tom Lanham

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