The Chicago noise-punk band plays this Friday at Mickey’s Tavern.
Chicago band Running plays savagely gratifying punk songs that invariably become enveloped in leaking feedback and bassist Matthew Hord’s reverb-laced vocal spew. The band functions a bit like a vehicle that’s been stripped down to a bare chassis and engine block: It can operate just fine, but everything noxious and bilious and caustic about it is exposed and unfiltered, in this case to powerful effect. The band’s most recent album was 2013’s Vaguely Ethnic, released on Castle Face Records, a label co-run by Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer. (The label has also recently put out records by some other worthy Midwestern acts, including Madison’s own Trin-Tran and Minneapolis’ The Blind Shake.) The band’s personality has fuck-off silliness written all over it, from its hysterically low-rent website to delectably ridiculous song titles (“Thanks For The Input,” “Why Can’t You Be In Running,” “Controversial PR,” and so forth). Drummer Alejandro (he doesn’t like to give his last name) helps to shape the chaos into a driving and even suspenseful and surprisingly catchy sense of order. He spoke with us ahead of Running’s show this Friday at Mickey’s Tavern.
Tone Madison: Was there anything you were trying to do differently on Vaguely Ethnic?
Alejandro: Not really. Running is a band that tries to emulate the live vibe on record, and it’s tough because a record doesn’t move. It just sits on your shelf if you don’t play it. Most likely you don’t because you’re playing MP3s. So just make the music that sounds like the live experience for those that are not willing to take the trip to the Running show, wherever it might happen. We’re pretty lazy, too, so we might be, like a destination band. People will be like, “OK, Running, I just have to go to Chicago to see them.”
Tone Madison: How did you end up covering a Cave song (“Raven’s Hash,” re-titled “Raven’s Ca$h” here) on the album?
Alejandro: I think we did that because we were recording with Cooper Crane from Cave, and we just wanted to piss him off, so we took the riff from the song, we gave it the Running treatment, which is kind of like we barely learned how to play it, and then we recorded it all in a matter of minutes. We were having fun with him, you know, but it’s not like we really planned to cover Cave. It just happened. They are pretty sweet guys. They took Running on tour a couple of times. They’re the father and we’re the son. They might have played that song during the tour, and the riff is easy enough that Jeff sounds super proficient doing it. We really like Cave and we just wanted to throw a curveball at Cooper and see what he did. It’s funny, too, because when we were recording, I see the guy singing behind, I’m inside the booth, whatever it is, and I just see their expressions, and they were really trying to see this song. THey were singing together in unison with the same microphone. It was kinda cute.
Tone Madison: Maybe on the next record you could escalate things with him and try to play a Bitchin’ Bajas song.
Alejandro: That would be difficult.
Tone Madison: Your Running treatment of one of their 18-minute drone tracks.
Alejandro: That would be insane and difficult. Their music is so fast you don’t even hear the drums or anything. It’s like a hum, like a drone, where shit is going berserk. Running doesn’t play as fast as Bitchin’ Bajas.
Tone Madison: What’s the song on the album where you’re most proud of your drumming?
Alejandro: The one that really catered to my sensibilities is “Controversial PR.” It’s the song before the Cave song, right? Before the Cave song, there’s a song that doesn’t have any lyrics. We don’t have much to say, anyway, but this song really doesn’t have any lyrics. I really like the sounds in it. I like the drums because I don’t sweat much when I’m playing that kind of drums. Maybe there weren’t lyrics to that song. Who knows? The guitar kind of takes care of that… making you forget that there’s no message.
Tone Madison: Every song title is either funny or seems to point to a weird in-joke. How does a song title like “Why Can’t You Be In Running” come about?
Alejandro: Those are pretty self-referential, but I think it comes down to our demeanors when it comes to music. I think we are not exactly trying to create a mood, we just have moments where we think that people are saying something and we misinterpret it and it comes like that in the music. It’s like listening to a conversation in the room next door and you just hear the mumbling, and then all of a sudden you have an idea out of the mumbling, because it sounded to you like this or like that. “Why Can’t You Be In Running,” maybe it was like, I don’t know, we were at a show, and we heard some girlfriend scolding her boyfriend, “Why can’t you be in Running?”
Tone Madison: Will you be playing any new songs when you’re in Madison?
Alejandro: We have some new material that we’d like to play to audiences… we’ll play some of the classics, but there will be some head-scratchers, too.
Tone Madison: Meaning what?
Alejandro: That when you listen to them, you start thinking about, what are they talking about? Are they really talking about something? And then really end up with no idea because we are very vague about everything that we talk about. But it is because we have very important lives, and leaking out a lot of details about our lives can affect us at the workplace. It is a lot of money that we deal with on a daily basis. We don’t compromise the integrity of our careers based on simply music.
Tone Madison: You’re playing a couple of shows with The Blind Shake after you play Madison. Do you know them well?
Alejandro: They come to Chicago every now and then and they’re pretty awesome. They’re the backing band for Michael Yonkers, that’s how I got into them. They’re pretty sweet guys. We haven’t played with them before, but we’re all part of the same family. We’re all the sons of John Dwyer. So there’s some camaraderie. They’re a few hours away. They don’t come here very often, but that connection is pretty nice. Whenever we see them it’s like the blink of an eye.
Tone Madison: They also play really short sets, but in a really fun and intense way.
Alejandro: Short shows, I think that’s where it’s at, because attention spans are shrinking, and you have other stuff to do, you know. So you go there to the show, you take care of your desires, get the fuck out of there quick, move on with your life, play the record, the MP3, if you want to keep on feeling good. But yeah, good things come to an end and they’re pretty short.
Tone Madison: You had one member in common with Heavy Times, right?
Alejandro: Not anymore, thank god. Put that on the record. They broke up onstage for a very good reason. Because Matthew should have been Running. His creativity down the drain with Heavy Times–put that on the record. They love to troll the Internet, so eventually they’ll call me and tell me, “what the fuck?” But it’s all good, we’re all friends. That’s just an excuse for me to borrow their moped and drive around town and it’s cool. I love our bass player, but I don’t want him to leave us for another band that doesn’t even have tunes that are cool. You might like them, but I don’t know. I’m bitter about this.
Tone Madison: What are you doing next in terms of touring or recording?
Alejandro: At the moment we are coming together with new ideas, new sounds, dynamics. We’re just exploring new fields for Running, new markets in which we can expand. That can happen with different sounds. We’re very versatile. Tonight we’ll be listening to the radio. We’re going to the practice space to listen to the radio for a while, but talk radio, and then the juices flow, we come up with some recording that I won’t likely record on my phone, forget about it in a week.
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