Published on September 25th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Slow Runner’s Michael Flynn and Josh Kaler Won’t Say Good-Bye
Earlier this summer, when veteran Charleston pop/rock project Slow Runner announced their show at the Charleston Music Hall on Fri. Sept. 27, word spread that it might actually be their official farewell show. Anchored by singer/keyboardist Michael Flynn and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaler, Slow Runner has only occasionally performed concerts around town in recent years, so some fans assumed that they were gradually slowing down to calm stop.
The rumors and assumptions aren’t true, according to Flynn. He considers this to be a pivotal point in the band’s musical career — the end of one era and the beginning of a very different one to come.
“We’re trying to just not have any expectations about what happens next,” Flynn says. “Kaler and I [he calls his bandmate by his last name] felt like we kind of maxed out on the last record with what we can do with both of us in Charleston and the basic musical template.”
Released in 2011, Flynn and Kaler’s most recent studio collection is the cleverly produced, atmospheric, modern-tinged full-length Damage Points. They released a handful of new tunes as digital singles posted online for free last fall and winter.
“Working on new material this year, for the first time, it felt a little more like an obligation than an inspiration,” Flynn says. “You know, we hadn’t put out a record since 2011, and we started feeling like we had to put something out. With a musical career, it’s so momentum-based where you’re constantly building on the last thing you did, and you feel like you have to keep yourself fresh in people’s minds.”
In recent years, the heaviest pressure for Flynn and Kaler had been of the self-imposed creative kind. They eagerly pushed themselves to write, record, and experiment, inspired by new melodic and rhythmic ideas. Since the release of Damage Points, however, both musicians have become more wrapped up in outside studio projects, family matters, and various collaborations.
Kaler’s work as a studio producer at his downtown facility Hello Telescope and elsewhere and as a musical sideman on tours with songwriters William Fitzsimmons and Dar Williams has pulled him out of town quite a bit as well. Kaler is already working on the road as a member of former Marvelous 3 frontman Butch Walker’s current band.
“All these things came together at once,” Flynn says. “Kaler started feeling a little constrained by being in Charleston. I think he adores Charleston and the music community here, but at the same time, he wants to do more than produce local records and play gigs around town. I think he kind of hit his ceiling here, so he’s reaching out to other friends of ours to see what options are out there. That’s how his recent collaboration with Butch Walker came together.”
Despite the detours, distractions, and tricky schedules, Flynn and Kaler have been able to bounce new song ideas around this year. Flynn admits that many of his latest compositions and song sketches will likely end up as a solo project, though.
“I’ve been working on a new batch of songs that are a logical progression from Damage Points, but they’re aiming in a direction away from the stuff that Kaler brings to the table — the organic instruments and dynamics and stuff,” Flynn says. “It’s moving toward a more electronic thing with more hypnotic repetition and less loud chorus/quiet verse arrangements. All these things aligned. It seemed like a good time for us to kind of mix it up, cleanse the palate, and each do some new things for a year or so, just see where things take us.
“At this point, we need to rebel against ourselves a little bit — kind of like how each one of our albums was a rebellion against the previous one,” he adds. “We need to avoid stagnation and try new things. I think the next Slow Runner album, whenever it happens, will take shape in an entirely different way. If Kaler gets established in a new studio somewhere, it’ll probably lead to us making the first album we’ve made outside of our home studio. It’ll be a new experience.”
This week, Flynn and Kaler have assembled most of their usual crew for the show at the Charleston Music Hall. They’ve enlisted a few extra special guests as well. The lineup will feature drummer Jack Burg, percussionist Ron Wiltrout (on marimba, shakers, tambourine), and bassist/guitarist Jonathan Gray. Trumpeters Clay White and Nathan Koci will join in, Guitarist Bobby Plexico (formerly of early-2000s Charleston indie band Big Foam Finger and Flynn’s “personal musical hero in high school”) and bassist Donnie Hummel (also of Big Foam Finger) will step on stage as well.
“I feel excited and I’m not stressed at all,” Flynn says about the show and the next steps ahead. “I’m not worried. I feel pretty certain that Kaler and I will collaborate again. The story of Slow Runner will continue, assuming we’re both feelin’ it. We’ll probably keep making records together until we’re really old, but at the same time, there is an element of this chapter ending — the period of from No Disassemble through today and the arc of the record deal and publishing deal and touring heavily. We’re entering a new period of our lives. Hopefully, after this hiatus, we’ll start the next era. I hope it will be just as fruitful and interesting.”
Slow Runner will share the stage at the Charleston Music Hall with local band Brave Baby and local comedian Dusty Slay on Fri. Sept 27. Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $18 ($15 in advance). Visit slowrunnermusic.com and charlestonmusichall.com for more.
“Strange Ways” from the album Damage Points:
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