Slow Runner Says So Long (For Now, At Least)

Devin Grant
Okay, so first it must be said that the band Slow Runner has one of the more amusing band bios out there. No, I'm serious. Go right now to and read it. I'll wait.
See, wasn't that hilarious? Not quite as funny as Iggy Pop's tour rider but much funnier than Axl Rose's fashion sense, which is admittedly a scream. The irreverent tone in which that bio is written perfectly sums up what Slow Runner is about. I could say that no other band sounds like Slow Runner, but to be honest everyone sounds like someone else these days. With eight billion people on the earth it's impossible not to.
Still, while Slow Runner may have a doppelgänger or two out there, I have yet to encounter those copycats, so, ahem... No other band sounds like Slow Runner. Between Michael Flynn's creative keyboard arrangements and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaler's, well, playing of multiple instruments, the two songwriters have created several wonderful albums of music that allow the listener to discover something new with each listen.
It all started back in 2003 when the pair started writing and recording what would eventually become Slow Runner's first album, No Disassemble. By 2005 the buzz around that album had reached even the ears of music mogul Clive Davis, who signed Slow Runner to his label, J Records. That relationship turned out to be short-lived, and is best summed up in that aforementioned band bio.
"What happened to our deal with J Records? Shut up. What happened to your mom, that's the real question. Move along, there's nothing to see here!"
The boys bounced back quickly from that initial taste of major label whatever, and since, they have released some truly amazing work. My favorite Slow Runner song has always been, "The Stakes Were Raised," from the album Mermaids. The song's tempo and synthesizer-induced haziness makes it sound like it belongs on the soundtrack to some unreleased and long-forgotten John Hughes movie. I love hearing that tune played live, and I hope it's on the set list at the band's show this Friday at the Charleston Music Hall.
local live Slow Runner show is always cause for celebration, but Friday night's show will be bittersweet. You see, after a decade of collaborating it seems that Kaler and Flynn have decided to take a break from Slow Runner. I spoke briefly with them both earlier this week to see what was up. Was the band breaking up?
"It's not a breakup," says Flynn, "in fact I think it could end up being the thing that prolongs our existence by giving us both permission to go do other things and having those fresh experiences change how we look at what we do together."
Ok, so Slow Runner fans can breathe a sigh of relief. But still, why the hiatus?
"Even though we've both done other projects we've never taken an album cycle off," says Flynn, "so a certain amount of fatigue was setting in. Kaler was feeling like he had done all he could in Charleston and needed to think bigger. I was writing songs that didn't lend themselves to the traditional Slow Runner collaborative process, so it just felt like now was the perfect time to go exploring."
Flynn has a number of favorite moments during the life of Slow Runner. "Making the album SHIV! And realizing we were going to survive past being dropped by the label," says Flynn, "the Mermaids release show, when it finally felt like we made a record that wasn't just good for a DIY local band. There was the first show we played in Europe, which went shockingly well. It felt like we'd died and gone to band heaven. The first time we had a song on a TV show. The letters and emails we've received from people who survived hard shit with us as their soundtrack."
So what's next for Flynn and Kaler? Kaler is already a busy musician outside of Slow Runner. In addition to running Hello Telescope recording studio with former Jump, Little Children singer Jay Clifford, he tours with acts that include Dar Williams and Butch Walker. Flynn is working on a solo album that he plans to release next year.
When asked to say a few words about each other it is obvious that there is a mutual admiration thing happening between the two artists.
"Kaler is the most talented person I've ever met, musical or otherwise," says Flynn. "He's made me a better musician and songwriter and human being. There's no better feeling in life when someone 'gets you.' They understand you at some indescribable, fundamental level. To truly have that in a creative collaboration is rare."
"Michael Flynn changed my life when I met him in Boston 13 years ago," says Kaler. "Musically speaking, I haven't come across anyone since then that extracts the very best out of me. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished over the years, and I'm optimistic that there will be more things to be proud of in the future."
Friday's show, which includes a standup set by local comedian Dusty Slay and additional music by openers Brave Baby, kicks off at the Charleston Music Hall at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 the day of the show. Come on out and say "so long for now" to one of Charleston's most unique bands.