The Long Distance Runners, comprised of (clockwise) Adam Cardwell, Matt Hender, Dicky Strickland and Chris Picco, will play their next show at Scanlonâs on Water Street in St. Johnâs Oct. 14. â 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 âRepublic of Doyle,â and were one of the top-nominated artists for this yearâs 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 â and good enough â to earn them nominations in the Group of the Year, Rising Star, Album of the Year, Alternative and SOCAN Songwriter of Year categories.
They didnât 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 theyâve received a MusicNL grant, to be released.
âWe 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,â 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 whoâs played double bass with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and on Amelia Curranâs Juno-winning CD âHunter, Hunter,â and guitar/keys player Dicky Strickland, who been playing a number of instruments since he was a child, is a member of The Beach Bâys.
The guys got together after Picco and Hender started hanging out together and realized they had musical chemistry.
âMatt had energy and we hit if off. We started playing some of my songs and he had suggestions and actual opinions,â Picco said.
âWe wrote Black and Blue together.â
Black and Blue is the song, recorded in just two takes, that was chosen for the âRepublic of Doyleâ episode, and for which the group earned their SOCAN nomination.
After auditioning a few drummers without success, Cardwell was recruited â headhunted, really â by the duo, and Strickland came soon afterwards, originally just to tide the band over until they could find another member.
âThe band was supposed to be a five-piece because we wanted two guitars and keyboards in every song,â Cardwell said.
âAfter we found Dicky, and he could play both, it was like, âWhy get someone else?ââ
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.
âFor the lyrics, I do have a problem if theyâre like, âLetâs take out a verse,ââ he said. âIâm a little more precious about the words or the storyline Iâm writing. Arrangements, not so much.
âThereâs originality in the band. I donât come in there and say, âHey Dicky, play this guitar solo.â Dickyâs writing all his own parts. Mattâs coming up with the harmony and arrangements. Without that, I donât think youâd have a great band. I feel like everybodyâs getting the opportunity to play what they want to play.â
âIf something sounded like shit, though, weâd say, âMan, donât do that,ââ Cardwell is quick to add, âbut I think weâre all on the same page.â
âSometimes you feel like youâve come up with a great part and then you get in there and the guys are like, âI donât like that.â Youâve got to stop thinking about your ego and realize whatâs best for the song,â Strickland said.
Recording the record was an emotional experience for the Runners, since Picco was going through a particularly tumultuous time in his life. Thereâs a song on the disc that reminds him of his then-unborn (now a week old) baby boy; another reminds him of his motherâs passing away due to cancer.
âWe were cutting the track âThe Long Distance Runnerâ when (my wife) showed up to tell me Mom had died,â he said. âWhenever I hear that song, I know where I was when I was playing those guitar parts; she was dying that hour. Itâs not a happy memory, but then, I also have happy ones.â
The record is a mix of styles. âNothing But Your Loveâ sounds like it could have been a Beatles track, while âSpider in the Moonlight,â with its organ and psychadelic sounds, is reminiscent of The Doors. There are elements of jazz, classical, old-time country, and good old rock ânâ roll.
In November, the Runners will embark on their first-ever tour of Atlantic Canada, but theyâll be playing gigs around town until then, the next one an intimate show at Scanlonâs on Water Street. Oct. 14. The band is also playing at the MusicNL awards show gala, to be held at the St. Johnâs Convention Centre Oct. 30. Theyâve already recorded a full-length album, which theyâre aiming to release in January.
The Runners are pleased with their nominations, saying it gives them a certain sense of local validation.
âWe didnât 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,â 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.
âI want us to be able to get nominated for a Polaris Award,â Picco said. âI want a cross-country tour. I want to tour Europe. I want to get our names out there. Iâm not looking at making a whole lot of money at it, I just want to keep playing music.â
Long Distance Runnersâ CD is available at Fredâs Records and OâBrienâs Music in St. Johnâs, as well as online at www.thelongdistancerunners.com.