Interview: Slow Runner

Slow Runner - Photo courtesy of Slow Runner

Slow Runner - Photo courtesy of Slow Runner

Although South Carolina’s Slow Runner evokes a certain complacent lethargy in its moniker, for members Michael Flynn and Josh Kaler, this year has been anything but slow.

The month of March saw the release of the band’s fourth album, “Damage Points,”
and a week later, the group hit the road with William Fitzsimmons, in whose company they spent the majority of 2011.

The Fitzsimmons connection came about as the result of having the same managers in the past; the two acts first toured together in 2008 when Fitzsimmons’ album, “The Sparrow and the Crow,” came out, which coincided with Slow Runner’s third album “Mermaids.” Both put out albums this year, and so touring together once again made sense.

What began at a 10-week journey across the United States and a summer stint in Europe is now being rounded out with a fall/winter leg in Europe, the final date of which is tonight. And although the band has been to its fair share of countries, Flynn admitted that Germany is the country which he most enjoys.

“All the gigs in Germany smoke all the other towns we’ve played,” he said. “This is far and away the best place I’ve ever played music.”

Of course, because much of the year since the release of the album has been spent on the road promoting it live, Flynn admitted that he and Kaler haven’t spent too much time writing new songs.

In the past, Flynn has been the primary songwriter, first making demos and then giving them to Kaler to help flesh out. However, although the arrangements have always been collaborative, “It’s Back” (track 4 on “Damage Points”) was the first song the two have actually co-written.

“Right now I’m envisioning what will come next,” Flynn said, sharing that a repeat of something similar to “Damage Points” is the last thing anyone should expect. “I feel like that was the fullest extent we can push this sort of video game-y pop songs about girls.”

Still, both Flynn and Kaler are proud of it. Whereas “Shiv!” was louder than the debut (“No Disassemble”) and “Mermaids” was more somber, the two view “Damage Points” as a sequel of sorts to the first full-length.

“The first record that we put out is more like the new record than any of the other records. The sound is still there. It’s just more, you know, it’s probably more focused in this record as opposed to the first record,” Kaler said. “[But] the new album is definitely a more mature Slow Runner. We’re older and wiser and we know more about how to record our own music.”

In spite of all they’ve learned in the eight years of playing together, Flynn did admit that he’s never quite satisfied with how the records turn out, which is probably a good thing, because it gives him something to keep striving for.

“I never stop wishing it were better,” he said, referring to the hindsight of every album he’s recorded. “But I do feel like, as far as the different phases that we’ve gone through, the different styles, [“Damage Points”] feels like the best, our best attempt yet to sort of take all these things that have influenced us through our lives. And this is sort of the quintessential sounding thing.”

Once Slow Runner returns to the U.S., the next task will be discovering what direction the band’s sound will take Flynn and Kaler in, something which even the two of them don’t know. But ultimately, the future isn’t as important to Slow Runner as right now is; the members are taking their time breathing in the sights and sounds of the present.

“I blew past my expectations like years ago, so even though I don’t feel like Slow Runner has ever gotten as successful as maybe, like, it could have, or in a just world, should have, I still feel like we’ve had an awesome life doing this and it’s taken us to amazing places,” Flynn said. “[And] it’s been an awesome year. We’re just in a state of perpetual gratitude at this point.”

Slow Runner plays the second of two shows supporting William Fitzsimmons tonight at Heimathafen Neukölln in Berlin. The show begins at 21.00.

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