Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Slow Runner Interview with Michael Flynn and Josh Kaler

Photos by Laura Means
Currently on tour with William Fitzsimmons, Slow Runner has recieved rave reviews for their live shows as well as their latest release Damage Points. I had a chance to speak with Michael Flynn and Josh Kaler about their current tour, the new album and of course manly facial hair. For more info on Slow Runner and a list of their upcoming shows, check out their facebook page!/slowrunnermusic?sk=info&closeTheater=1
How has the tour been thus far?
 Flynn: It has been awesome! We are on week three or four, of about ten weeks total. The shows have been awesome, with several of them selling out and every night there has been a good healthy crowd. Sometimes we get that and sometimes we don't, this has been nice to have a tour where we know that at least somebody is going to be there.
 Kaler: I has been really productive to say the least. A lot of shows!
What can people expect when they come to see your live show?
 Flynn: Well, they are going to be able to gawk at our ridiculous facial hair, except for Kaler(laughs).
 Kaler: Well, actually the best is yet to come.
 Flynn: Yes, I would like to plug the fact that the West Coast shows will probably feature a spectacular mullet. He's growing it now, and I think that we are going to be ready in time.
Sounds like you lost a bet?
 Kaler: Nope
 Flynn: No, Kaler has long been a champion of the mullet. When we were going to school in Boston, it was a six month commitment of growing his hair out and planning it. I went with him to the barber, I video taped it happening and then video him walking down the street with this glorious plumage(laughs). People driving by were honking their horns yelling "nice mullet!"
 Kaler: It was crazy, the immediate adoration just two seconds out of the door(laughs).
 Flynn: I have had this (points to his mustache) since December, and for some reason this area comes correct and the rest comes in "baby." I have noticed that the correlation between women who are repulsed by this, and men who give me the "nod of respect," is directly proportional. I am now getting the "nod of respect," that I have never experienced, but at the same time a lot of people find me totally creepy looking.
 Laura Means: No, not creepy...
 Kaler: Ah, but there is something underneath that(laughs).
 Flynn: "Not creepy, just disgusting." I'm going for the Sam Elliot look, the full Texan.
With such layered songs on the new record "Damage Points," do you find that it is a challenge bringing it to the live performance?
 Flynn: Totally.
Do you like the challenge?
 Flynn: I like not worrying about it, when we are making the record. When we are working on it, we
When we are working on it, sometimes we will occasionally joke "how the heck we are going to do this live." But we have never let that dictate what we do on the record.
 Kaler: Yeah, we keep them as separate things.
 Flynn: I think we have played pretty much every song live, in some form at one time or another. Some of the translate really easy, and some of them have to be re-invented. With the trio, like we have on this tour, there is a lot of re-inventing involved. When we are working, we can't really help ourselves. We like to have thick sounds, lots of melodies and other stuff going on...
 Kaler: Recording shouldn't be limited. If it sounds good, then do it. There shouldn't be limits.
Do you figure out how it is going to translate live, before you go on the road? Or kind of figure it out as you go along?
 Kaler: I think for the most part, we have had an idea on how it was going to work. Of course there is some trial and error, where there have been show where it didn't go as well as we thought. In those case, we will try something new.
The new record, "Damage Points," does such a great job of combining organic sounds with modern sounds. Was that something you decided on before you started writing/recording the record? Or is that just how it came out?
 Flynn: Well part of it. There is definitely some overlapl and a lot of things that we each have done, normally I do most of the electronic stuff and Kaler is the naturalist. Kaler has done some electronic stuff on this record, but by in large, especially with the making of this record I am trying to sort of drag us into uncomfortable situations and Kaler is trying to make it sound legit.
 Kaler: I do enjoy the ride though. I think we both challenge each other in that regard.
 Flynn: Most everything I do is programming and stuff like that...
 Kaler: He has his own studio in his home, so if he is going to get a song down, he doesn't have actual drums to use in the track. There are many parts on the record that are played by me, that he wrote or created through a drum loop. He doesn't really have access to drums or anything...
 Flynn: Nor skill(laughs). Luckily he has a surplus of both.
How did the writing for the record pan out?
 Flynn: Most of it I wrote in the summer of 2009, and another chunk of it was written this past fall. I think that "Damage Points" was the last song, and I wrote that in December. "It's Back" was a co-write, where Kaler had written the main loop of the song. He was working on something for a solo project, and I tried to write something for that, and it went through a zillion changes.
 Kaler: That's probably the oldest song on the record.
 Flynn: That was the first one written, and was done late Spring of 2009. Post "Mermaids(last full-length)" I went through a one year period where I only wrote one song. There were a lot of changes going on in my life, and I don't know why but nothing would come out. Writing that song got a lot off of my chest creatively, so then a bunch of stuff came out. Some of that ended up being the "Ghost Renditions" Ep we put out last year. Other songs made up a good chuck of this record("Damage Points"). There are still some songs from that period that will eventually find the light of day.
How did you guys decide what would go on "Ghost Rendition" versus holding out for "Damage Points?"
 Kaler: We didn't have a huge amount of songs at that point...
 Flynn: Right. With the EP it was more like the one where we would play around with string arrangements. So we basically picked three songs that fit that mold. "Ghost Rendition" the instrumental didn't have real strings on it, but the other two songs had real strings that we recorded and arranged. That was sort of an experiment for us, and it felt good to just do an EP of just three songs. A lot of the times when you start going "orchestral," it can easily become this bloated, melancholy thing. It is a lot less pretentious if it is just three songs, you can stuff everything into those three songs and it still feel miniature.
 Kaler: We wanted people to also press play again after listening to the three songs. I think it was only nine minutes long too, and after "Ghost Rendition" it goes into "Rainy Face" really well. I think that artistically, and aesthetically it was just a choice to do the three song experiment and nothing else.
How did "Auto Happy" come together? It is just so catchy!
 Flynn: Thanks! The lyrical inspiration came from a random girl's blog that I happened upon where she was talking about Captain Crunch, stating "Oh, this cereal makes me Auto-happy!" Somebody on a blog used that phrase and I was like "oh, that could be a cool song!" I had been kicking around this phrase "singing to the house plants," for a long time. A singer-songwriter friend of mine used that in describing playing music for nobody, not being famous sort of. Those things just came together and the rest was just fun and games, just wordplay.
So the lyrics and concept came first?
 Flynn: Yeah. I will write different ways, but usually the more cohesive songs come when I think "that's a good idea for a song," and then build it from there. Usually a phrase or a title.
With "Damage Points," what do you want people to kind of take away from the record?
 Kaler: I think that this album embodies what our sound is now, currently. Obviously its goal is to gain more fans, but at the same time it is artistic and authentic album thus far. We did everything ourselves this time around. It is what it is. We spent about three months in the studio working on this in the end. Hopefully people think it's fun, and has a little bit of darkness in there. I hope people latch on to the instrumentation also.
 Flynn: I totally agree with that. Lyrically, I think that it is about wrestling with baggage. As you go through life you pull this trail of crap with you, things collect in a shadow that is unavoidable.
Pefect day windows down, driving in your car, what are you listening to?
 Flynn: "Walking on Sunshine?" Too obvious(laughs)? I think it depends on the moment, because sometimes I would want to hear a good film soundtrack. Something off of the "Road To Perdition" soundtrack. Something beautiful like that, not something that you have to pump your fist to. By default I would say some Tom Petty.
 Kaler: Sam Cooke, something authentic and innocent.
 Flynn: I want to change my answer to Andrew W.K. (laughs).

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