The Long Distance Runners, comprised of (clockwise) Adam Cardwell, Matt Hender, Dicky Strickland and Chris Picco, will play their next show at Scanlon‚Äôs on Water Street in St. John‚Äôs Oct. 14. ‚ÄĒ Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram
The Long Distance Runners, it seems, came out of nowhere. Together for less than two years, and with only five released songs under their belts, the Runners have been enjoying considerable airplay, have been featured on the soundtrack of CBC TVs ‚ÄúRepublic of Doyle,‚ÄĚ and were one of the top-nominated artists for this year‚Äôs MusicNL awards, tying Hey Rosetta! with five nominations.
Their self-titled album is actually just an EP; the handful of songs on it made the disc long enough ‚ÄĒ and good enough ‚ÄĒ to earn them nominations in the Group of the Year, Rising Star, Album of the Year, Alternative and SOCAN Songwriter of Year categories.
They didn‚Äôt even do much promotion of the record, apart from various live shows around town, deciding instead to wait for their upcoming full-length CD, for which they‚Äôve received a MusicNL grant, to be released.
‚ÄúWe knew we had the album grant and we wanted to get our feet wet first. We wanted to find a studio and find the right songs. It just turned out a lot better than we thought,‚ÄĚ said drummer Adam Cardwell.
Each of the band members is a longtime musician: Cardwell played drums with Kujo and a few blues bands; singer/songwriter Chris Picco had a solo career here and in Toronto; bassist Matt Hender is a MUN Music School graduate who‚Äôs played double bass with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and on Amelia Curran‚Äôs Juno-winning CD ‚ÄúHunter, Hunter,‚ÄĚ and guitar/keys player Dicky Strickland, who been playing a number of instruments since he was a child, is a member of The Beach B‚Äôys.
The guys got together after Picco and Hender started hanging out together and realized they had musical chemistry.
‚ÄúMatt had energy and we hit if off. We started playing some of my songs and he had suggestions and actual opinions,‚ÄĚ Picco said.
‚ÄúWe wrote Black and Blue together.‚ÄĚ
Black and Blue is the song, recorded in just two takes, that was chosen for the ‚ÄúRepublic of Doyle‚ÄĚ episode, and for which the group earned their SOCAN nomination.
After auditioning a few drummers without success, Cardwell was recruited ‚ÄĒ headhunted, really ‚ÄĒ by the duo, and Strickland came soon afterwards, originally just to tide the band over until they could find another member.
‚ÄúThe band was supposed to be a five-piece because we wanted two guitars and keyboards in every song,‚ÄĚ Cardwell said.
‚ÄúAfter we found Dicky, and he could play both, it was like, ‚ÄėWhy get someone else?‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Strickland often alternates between the two instruments in the one song, the guys explained.
Picco is the main songwriter of the band, coming up with most of the basic ideas, while the other guys help flesh them out. Though there have been some heated moments while working on songs together, neither Picco nor the others take any criticism between them personally, unless, perhaps when it comes to the lyrics.
‚ÄúFor the lyrics, I do have a problem if they‚Äôre like, ‚ÄėLet‚Äôs take out a verse,‚Äô‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm a little more precious about the words or the storyline I‚Äôm writing. Arrangements, not so much.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs originality in the band. I don‚Äôt come in there and say, ‚ÄėHey Dicky, play this guitar solo.‚Äô Dicky‚Äôs writing all his own parts. Matt‚Äôs coming up with the harmony and arrangements. Without that, I don‚Äôt think you‚Äôd have a great band. I feel like everybody‚Äôs getting the opportunity to play what they want to play.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIf something sounded like shit, though, we‚Äôd say, ‚ÄėMan, don‚Äôt do that,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Cardwell is quick to add, ‚Äúbut I think we‚Äôre all on the same page.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúSometimes you feel like you‚Äôve come up with a great part and then you get in there and the guys are like, ‚ÄėI don‚Äôt like that.‚Äô You‚Äôve got to stop thinking about your ego and realize what‚Äôs best for the song,‚ÄĚ Strickland said.
Recording the record was an emotional experience for the Runners, since Picco was going through a particularly tumultuous time in his life. There‚Äôs a song on the disc that reminds him of his then-unborn (now a week old) baby boy; another reminds him of his mother‚Äôs passing away due to cancer.
‚ÄúWe were cutting the track ‚ÄėThe Long Distance Runner‚Äô when (my wife) showed up to tell me Mom had died,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWhenever I hear that song, I know where I was when I was playing those guitar parts; she was dying that hour. It‚Äôs not a happy memory, but then, I also have happy ones.‚ÄĚ
The record is a mix of styles. ‚ÄúNothing But Your Love‚ÄĚ sounds like it could have been a Beatles track, while ‚ÄúSpider in the Moonlight,‚ÄĚ with its organ and psychadelic sounds, is reminiscent of The Doors. There are elements of jazz, classical, old-time country, and good old rock ‚Äėn‚Äô roll.
In November, the Runners will embark on their first-ever tour of Atlantic Canada, but they‚Äôll be playing gigs around town until then, the next one an intimate show at Scanlon‚Äôs on Water Street. Oct. 14. The band is also playing at the MusicNL awards show gala, to be held at the St. John‚Äôs Convention Centre Oct. 30. They‚Äôve already recorded a full-length album, which they‚Äôre aiming to release in January.
The Runners are pleased with their nominations, saying it gives them a certain sense of local validation.
‚ÄúWe didn‚Äôt have a following of fans at first, but the thing we did get right away was the respect of other local musicians. They thought there was something special when they saw us play, and we appreciate that,‚ÄĚ Hender said.
While the guys are hoping for success with the awards, they see them as a stepping stone to something even bigger. The plan is to tour, make more albums, and eventually, Hender joked, take over the world.
‚ÄúI want us to be able to get nominated for a Polaris Award,‚ÄĚ Picco said. ‚ÄúI want a cross-country tour. I want to tour Europe. I want to get our names out there. I‚Äôm not looking at making a whole lot of money at it, I just want to keep playing music.‚ÄĚ
Long Distance Runners‚Äô CD is available at Fred‚Äôs Records and O‚ÄôBrien‚Äôs Music in St. John‚Äôs, as well as online at www.thelongdistancerunners.com.