Introducing Run On

Run On singer Sue Garner.

"Elvis Costello was the one who said, 'You have 20 years to do

your first album, and two months to do your second,'" recounts guitarist Alan

Licht. His group Run On had more like 20 bands in which to record their

first albums.

While Run On's family tree may seem obscure to middle

America, it reads like an all-star team for Village Voice-reading types.

Members have logged time in Fish & Roses, The Shams, Peach Cobbler, V- Effect,

Love Child, Timber, Blue Humans, the Special Pillows, and other projects. These

days, however, Run On is the full time focus for all of the members, who in

addition to Licht include Sue Garner (vocals, guitar, bass), Rick Brown

(drums), and Katie Gentile (violin, organ). The group has just released its

sophomore disc on Matador, No Way.

An excellent pastiche of sounds

and styles, No Way begins with the subtle machine hum of "Something

Sweet," and closes on an urgent, earthy rendition of the traditional

"Sinnerman." Between points A and B, the album makes any number of detours.

Witness the junkyard clang of "As Good As New," or the wide open expanse of

"Bring Her Blues"; the melodic lilt of "Anything You Say" next to the agile

marimba of "Road," beside the plaintive drone of "Days Away." A variety of

textures work within individual songs as well. "Lab Rats," for example,

effortlessly ties feedback and noise to gentle, folksy vocals.

While it's

easy to spot the disparate...



While it's easy to spot the disparate elements within a

song, it's more difficult indeed to account for Run On's cohesiveness. "There's

a certain precedent for that within some of the psychedelic bands of the '60s,"

says Licht. "Like the Byrds, where you would have noisy, experimenting guitar

playing, but also a lot of country, and folk, and rock influences going on on

the same album or the same song."

Licht cites the Who, Pink Floyd, and Led

Zeppelin as other patchwork ground breakers, but has trouble explaining his own

band's success. "I don't know. I guess we know what we're doing."

He notes,

however, that credit is due in particular to Gentile, who, with her violin,

replaced David Newgarden and his trumpet. "Having a third string coheres the

sound more than, say, the trumpet did, although I liked the trumpet. For

instance, the other night we were playing and there was one feedback thing that

was the exact same frequency as something Katie was playing on the violin. It

was really cool. You couldn't tell what was the violin and what was the

guitar."

No Way's music often carries the songs' sentiments (flight,

confinement, longing, among others) more than the words, which are regularly

set back in the mix. "It's not always the singer-- tonight it's the song,"

sings Licht on "Bring Her Blues," reversing Mick Jagger's quotation. But with

Run On, it seems as if the emphasis is never the singer and

always the song. That is, Run On not only layers most vocals just below

the surface, but also gives each instrument a distinct voice within any given

number, creating the sense that the whole will not succeed without each of its

parts. Thus, the band comes off as a humble unit, more true to the material

than any individual who created it.

"That's a reflection of the

personalities involved," says Licht. "Nobody is a limelight seeking type. Even

though Sue is arguably the only one in the band who can sing, she's always the

one who's shying away most from having her vocals up front in the mix."

But

while fidelity to a particular piece is important, in another sense, the band

maintains a certain loyalty to the individual songwriter. For example, just as

Garner keeps her vocals in back, Licht aims his own singing further up in the

mix. "My vocals, I try to make audible, so people know what it is," he says.

Hence, following the artist's lead here is more important than having

consistent vocal placement throughout the album. That willingness among Run

On's members to follow one another, while at the same time maintaining their

individuality, suggests the type of modest confidence that is born only of

mutual respect.

The same respect allows, and perhaps even encourages, Run

On's members to continue working outside the band. Within the next few months,

Licht will have a solo album released by a New Zealand label. Meanwhile, Rick

plays infrequently with Timber, Sue has Peach Cobbler, and Katie rehearses with

Special Pillow.

For now, however, Run On will continue to gather the most

attention from both the media and the band members themselves. "There are

pre-existing relationships and side projects," says Licht, "but none of them

happen on as frequent a basis as Run On."