An Interview With Runnner

BY CLAIRE LANTHIER//

I got the opportunity yesterday to talk to Noah Weinman, the face behind Runnner. He describes his music on Spotify as “bandcamp music for soundcloud kids” and his music is known to tear at the heartstrings (or more specifically, in my case, make me cry every time I listen to his songs). We are lucky to have Runnner in DC TONIGHT at DC9, and speaking with him told me all I needed to know about why his shows and this tour are so special. Come out tonight to hear some excellent vocals and memorable lyrics, and read our interview below to get ready for an awesome show.


WRGW: Hi! Nice to talk to you, thank you for talking to me today

Runnner: Yeah, of course!

WRGW: Um, we’re really excited for you to come to DC. Is this the first part of your tour? Have you been touring for a while? 

Runnner: Don’t worry about it. That’s fine. It’s the first day.

WRGW: Oh my gosh, yeah. Congrats. That’s exciting. Yeah. Um, have you toured really at all in 2021 so far?

Runnner: Um, briefly, like, nothing more than, like, a couple of shows here and there.

WRGW: Oh, that’s exciting. So this is your first tour since COVID, right?

Runnner: Yeah!

WRGW: Wow, that’s so exciting. How does that feel to be kind of getting back into it?

Runnner: A little strange, but mostly I’m excited. Like it’s probably gonna feel a lot shorter than it does right now, like, it’s only five shows. I feel like I’m gonna blink and then it’s done. But it’s gonna feel pretty surreal to just like, be in a different city every day.

WRGW: Yeah, that is really, that is strange and exciting. Um, I’ve really been enjoying going back to shows this kind of semester since everything’s reopened. So I’m really excited. Have you played in DC before? 

Runnner: No, this tour is gonna be in two cities that I’ve never played before. 

WRGW: Oh, cool. What’s the other one?

Runnner:  Philadelphia. 

WRGW: Awesome. Oh, my gosh. Yeah. Well, we’re really excited to have you. I love DC. Um, I’ve been listening to some of your music, too. I love it, I’m really excited. “Your name on a grain of rice” is my favorite just for just some point of reference. And that’s from your 2021 album, I’m curious a little bit about the process for that and how that album came about?

Runnner: Yeah, that album is kind of piecemealed. It’s kind of a collection of songs, dating all the way back to like, I think the oldest song I wrote in 2015. And then the back half of the album was its own EP of songs that I wrote in 2019 and put up in 2020. So like “your name on a grain of rice” was part of that batch. And the first five songs were songs that I had written in 2017 and earlier that were part of like the original Runnner releases. But after like two years of having that album on streaming services, I took it down because I wanted to re-record them. So then, last year, when I started talking about putting out some records,I mentioned that there were these older songs that I really wanted to re-record. And we all kind of agreed that would be a good place to start. So then I got to spend, like, part of the pandemic, just revisiting those old songs and making new recordings of that.

WRGW: Yeah, that’s really cool. Do you think that being in a pandemic kind of inspired some of that? Or did that give you an opportunity to do some of the things you might not have been able to do? 

Runnner: I think it was definitely nice to have a break. Where I felt like I had time to go back and record older songs. Sometimes it can be hard to make time for that. And I feel like I always have to be like recording the new stuff.And then I also found that, like, you know, I get a lot of my inspiration for music through conversations and interactions. And without that, I found that I really wasn’t writing that much. Yeah.So it was nice to still have stuff to work on even if I wasn’t writing a lot.

WRGW: Yeah, that is true. Yeah, I didn’t really think too much about how being in your house can sometimes I guess hinder  inspiration for songs. I’m kind of curious about your concerts. I want to ask what  your favorite thing about playing for a live audience is and what your favorite thing about your fans are the people who like your music.

Runnner: Um, I think my favorite thing about playing concerts is just kind of that feeling of, I guess, I knew I wanted to try and make music my career in my life because it was the only thing that I felt like, occupied my whole brain. And whether I’m recording or performing on stage, it’s like, the only time that I’m not really thinking about anything else. And that feels very special to me. And I’m trying to create more of those moments in my life. But right now, music is the primary way that I do that. And then what I think I like about my fans the most is you know, from what I’ve gathered from meeting them, a lot of them really take the time to, like, learn the lyrics, and, you know, people are seeing along and a lot of the shows, and you know, I spend a lot of time doing the lyrics, probably more than any other aspect of the music, and I really appreciate it, when I feel like someone who’s listening also really gives a lot of themself to the song and engages with the lyrics in that way.

WRGW: That’s awesome. Yeah, I mean, your lyrics are really meaningful in all the songs I listened to. So that’s great that a lot of the fans kind of relate to it that same way. I am also kind of curious – you wrote about living in between a few different places and how that kind of inspired some of your work. And I’m wondering if you could maybe expand on that a little bit? Like, how did that impact your writing and your songs?

Runnner: Yeah. So for this compilation that came out, earlier this year, it was like, most of the songs were coming out of big transitional moments for me geographically. The first batch was when I finished college in Ohio. And then I went back to LA for a little while. And that was, you know, a difficult transition for me and I found myself writing a lot during that time and then I left LA to move to Rhode Island for a little bit. And then I left Rhode Island back to LA. That kind of, you know, transient living for a few years really made me feel untethered in a way that part of me was uncomfortable with and part of me was, you know, kind of enjoying the freedom of that. Yeah. I think that a lot of those songs really draw on that mixed emotion whether it’s like me and the place or my relationships with other people just kind of like coming together and separating the flows.

WRGW: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s really cool to get more of an insight into. I’m also kind of curious if or how growing up in LA affected your path to becoming a singer or affected some of how you sing or anything along those lines, since it is such a big music city?

Runnner: Um, I would say growing up, didn’t really feel like it had an impact on me. I didn’t like growing up in LA much I have to say, really. Yeah, I don’t know. I just never felt connected with maybe like the personality of the city or like what I perceived the personality of the city being a teenager. And then I didn’t really, I didn’t write songs. I didn’t play music outside of school activities, like I played in like the jazz band at school. But when I got to college, that all really influenced me. And that’s when I started writing songs. The way that I write songs now, it’s like the frustration with growing up in a place that made me kind of nomadic in a way. And that influenced me more than actually growing up in LA.

WRGW: Yeah, I could never live in LA. Yeah, it’s just like the celebrity culture, I think kind of isn’t for me personally.

Runnner: It takes a while to find pockets that are as much like that. Yeah. I don’t know. It’s complicated.

WRGW: No, that makes sense. I’m also kind of curious, who would you say, speaking about influences, like musically who would you say are some of your biggest influences that you’ve had?

Runnner: I think, like, the big turning points for me musically have been, you know, early on when I was just starting out with Runnner stuff, the first Julien Baker album was on heavy rotation for me. And that was when I started listening to all the Phil Elverum projects like the microphones and Mount Airy. And those were definitely big for me. And then I think within the past few years, I’ve been listening to a lot more kinds of ambient music and electronic music. 

WRGW: Cool. I love Julien Baker. I especially love Boygenius, that’s like my favorite thing ever. Her, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers – I love it. And I’m also kind of curious. Would you mind telling me what a day in your touring life kind of looks like? Like when you get to a city or stuff like that? I’m kind of curious. Yeah.

Runnner: Well, most of the days driving, so I guess that’s always like the biggest variable. ‘ Do you have time to wake up and have breakfast when you have woken up?’  Or ‘do you need to just get something and eat it in the car, on your way to the next city?’ And, you know, you get to the next city. By now I’m usually nervous enough that I’m not really hungry. So maybe eat a Clif Bar or something in the car as we like load in for soundcheck. And then hopefully the soundcheck goes well, and then I’m feeling good about the show. And then I’ll try to walk around the town near the venue. I’m usually too nervous to drive farther away and risk getting stuck somewhere. Yeah. But I’m always curious about where I am, especially if it’s a place that I haven’t spent a lot of time in. And yeah, sometimes I’ll make pitiful attempts to read in the green room. But that can be hard to do if you’re feeling pretty anxious. And then when the show comes, after I’ve played, I feel so much better, like I get hungry again and then have a good night. A lot of you know, a lot of the day of touring is driving and feeling anxious.

WRGW: Yeah, that really makes sense. Every time I see someone play, I’m like, I could never do this. Like, no matter how big the crowd is, I think I just be way too nervous. Um, but I also will say that you know, you’re playing at DC nine and it’s iin a really cool area. There’s a lot of stuff you can see just walking around. It’s like a fun street and a pretty cool street too. 

Runnner: Do you know a good place to get dinner?

WRGW: Dinner. Oh, gosh, I can’t think off the top of my head.

Runnner: I can ask somebody at the venue!

WRGW: Yeah, they’ll definitely know. I think they serve food there downstairs, actually. Yeah, it’s a really great place. I love it there. It’s right, like off of U Street. Um, well, if you are looking for a good bar, ‘Service Bar’ is really good. It’s right next to it. And, oh, it’s near Jenis!. So that’s really good ice cream. Those are the only two places right around there that I I know, off the top of my head, are really good. But the people there will definitely know.

And knd of another question would be like, is there a way that you want people to leave your show feeling? 

Runnner: Ideally, I guess, you know, I hope that people leave the show feeling some sort of like, community, because I think the songs can be a little bit sad, a little bit insular. And, you know, part of the reason that I write them and perform them is to, you know, foster connections and reach out in a way. And I hope that, you know, if people come because they have emotional attachments to the song that they can feel like part of something by being at the show.

WRGW: Yeah, that’s great. Then I think, kind of my last question is really like, what song are you (if you can spoil it for us) the most excited to play tomorrow and on your tours?

Runnner: There’s a new song that I wrote, like a month ago. I kind of use these solo acoustic shows is like a way to test out some new material and just see how it goes. So there’s a new song that’s called “Running in place at the edge of the map.” And I’m excited. It’s kind of about video games.

WRGW: Cool. excited to hear it. Um, well, I guess I do have one more question then, because you mentioned a new song. So what else can we expect kind of after the tour is over? Is there anything up next for you?

Runnner: After the tour is over, we’ll go back home… Hopefully I’ll finish recording a record; if I can finish it quickly enough it will hopefully come out next year.

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Catch Runnner at DC9 tonight via this link, and see more from him on his website linked here.

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