Run On: the Wire/Faust/Ubu/Magic Band of the 90's or utterly crass indie-rock corporate merger? Maybe a little of both... rising from the ashes of late 80's NY faves Love Child and Fish and Roses, Run On ditches the weaker points of those outfits (fancy-pants time signatures, nyah-nyah vocalizing, barry tannenbaum's contractual involvement) to concentrate on their innate skills: an unerring yet idiosyncratic pop sensibility, sonic tomfoolery, and cover-tune psychosis. the combination of rick brown's booming drums, Sue Garner's Sweetheart-of-the-Rodeo vocals, Alan Licht's Yoko-is-god guitar eruptions, and the indestructible beat of David Newgarden's cowbell surely matches that of, say Blind Faith (or at least Checquered Past).
But how did this loopy rock conglomerate come together? Here's the basic story: Rick & Sue (the Fleetwood/McVie of the East Village -- for more on their illustrious past please consult Get In the Winnebago: the Rise and Fall of the Mofungo Empire by Ricky Luanda and Andy Schwartz) found themselves at loose ends after Izzy Stradlin quit Fish and Roses. As it happened, Love Child had also broken up amidst internal conflict as to whether to "get funky" or "go metal". Since there was mutual admiration if not overt musical compatibility between Alan, Rick and Sue, they agreed to try playing together. Eventually they got around to learning some tunes, contacted Dr. Janet Axeman Ira Kaplan, and hit the studio, resulting in 1994's "days away" 7" on Ajax. still too inept to attempt live shows, it was decided that a fourth member might be the catalyst the band needed. Alan remembered that his old buddy, former Jad Fair bodyguard David Newgarden, played trumpet and organ to unique effect in the long-defunct mad scene and invited him to join in run on's weekly rehearsals and endless bickering. Soon after, the band was playing clubs with the likes of the 3D's, the Fall, Codeine, Thinking Fellers, Tsunami, Red Crayola, Magic Hour and more. In late `94 they hit the studio again with former DB's/Yo La Tengo bassist gene holder producing to record the On/Off EP (the band is currently interviewing other ex-Yo La Tengo members to produce future releases, with Rick and Sue leaning toward tall boys Steve Michener and Stephan Wichnewski while David and Alan favor "that Willbo dude" or "the guy from the Lyres" -- please call Matador for updates).
The results can remind you of everything from Funkadelic plowing their way through the Bow Wow Wow songbook to the Carpenters locked in Harry Partch's home with only the first Dream Syndicate album for sustenance to the Eno-produced Richard and Linda Thompson LP that Island deemed "too trippy" to release back in `74. besides their obvious musical talents, please bear in mind that Run On are a very well-liked bunch of people, very well connected (Sue used to give Fred Frith guitar lessons and Alan was once married to Lisa Loeb!), at least two of them have good hair, and they can probably recommend some good restaurants when you're in town. So what are you waiting for?
Rick Brown -- drums, vocals
NYC's Run On follow up their way-overpriced Matador debut EP, On/Off, with their first full length offering, Start Packing. The band has been variously described as "avant garde post-rock" (Rolling Stone), "[Matador's] most mainstream act" (NY Press), "a modern day Bow Wow Wow" (Bust), "useless" (Kerrang!) and "a capital S" (Village Voice). Curious, no?
To get newcomers up to speed: Run On formed in '93 or '94. Before that, Rick delivered newspapers to Tom Verlaine, Sue served in Vietnam, Alan headed the Jewish Defense League and David was John Zorn's personal valet (They also played in bands like Love Child, the Shams, Fish & Roses and Mad Scene). After On/Off came out last June, Run On did tours with Yo La Tengo and Tortoise and played shows with luminaries like Dead C, Dirty Three, Fred Frith, Bailter Space and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments.
Somehow, they managed to find time to record and mix Start Packing in four separate locations with the help of four uniquely talented engineers: the spacious Soma Studio in Chicago with John McEntire (of Tortoise, Sea & Cake, Gastr Del Sol and Red Krayola), NYC's Funhouse with Jerry Teel (Chrome Cranks), Greene Street Studio with Rod Hui (and Wharton Tiers' Fun City (he could have stolen that Helmet gold record for all we know). This time everybody gets to sing songs (except the elusive Mr. Newgarden -- but keep those cards and letters coming). It's as definitive as a band that likes to resist definition can get. They'll probably tour behind the LP if the Unabomber doesn't miscalculate and kill them first. In their spare time dept.: Rick and Sue are half of Peach Cobbler, who have a new album out on Ajax. Rick is recording his third Les Batteries album with Guigou Chenevier ("the French Ringo Starr") and contributed a track to Tortoise's remix CD. Sue sings and plays bongos in NYC's famed wedding combo, Six Layer Cake. Alan cemented his reputation as the Evan Dando of Noise by recording LPs with Loren Mazzacane, Keiji Haino & Connie Burg and Max Factory. And David has become Cibo Matto's personal valet.
Start Packing has already been certified gold in Finland and Uruguay.
Run On's second full-length album, No Way, is its first to be recorded in fewer than four studios but it sounds every bit as well-traveled as last year's Start Packing. Made almost entirely at Chicago's Idful Music Corporation with Casey Rice (three songs were mixed with Rod Hui back in New York at Greene Street), No Way drops hints of all those influences you're going to read about in the press kit in such seamless succession they can hardly be identified ‹ trying to pick them out of the mix is kinda like trying to read license plates from the window of a bullet train. But the fact is, if you gaze at the blur of blue and green and brown long enough, it becomes something more than sky, grass and mud.
The band's latest "influence" is Katie Gentile who replaces David Newgarden (and relieves Timber's Mark Howell) as jack-of-all-trades. She plays no trumpet but plenty of organ and a lovely violin (she started at age 3.) Katie also plays in Special Pillow, a group with former Hypno Love Wheeler Dan Cuddy and will apparently spend her days in the van writing her psychology dissertation. The rest of Run On is, as ever, Sue Garner (most lead vocals, Strat, bass), her longtime partner in rhythm and rhyme Rick Brown (big sticks, synth/sequencer, seduction on "Bring Her Blues") and pedal abuser Alan Licht (Les Paul, teenage boy singing on "Anything You Say" and "As Good As New".)
Besides nine new originals, No Way includes a drastic remake of Run On's first single, "Days Away" (Ajax, 1994), and two covers: "Sinnerman," which the band fell in love with after hearing Nina Simone's snake-charming interpretation, and the Nick Drake adult lullaby "Road." Run On will take to the nation's highways again this spring. Anyone who correctly guesses what "Ropa Vieja" refers to gets a free Unabomber t-shirt.
-- Alan Smithee