Runner and the Thermodynamics
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Runner and the Thermodynamics

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The best kept secret in music

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"RUNNER AND THE THERMODYNAMICS: Artist Spotlight"

Their drummer could be the next Keith Moon, and that's not even the most exciting thing about Runner And The Thermodynamics.

October 25, 2003 — The quiet morning at CMJ Music Marathon HQ is ripped open promptly at noon, courtesy of Runner And The Thermodynamics. While many of the festival's attendees are still off in bed somewhere sleeping off Friday night's indulgences, the goodsized crowd that has gathered here is definitely in for a treat.

From the CMJ booth on the other side of the room, the band sounds pretty good as it starts ripping through its short set. Then something interesting starts to happen: one by one, marathoners are coming up to the booth and insisting that the CMJ staff go over and see Runner play.

True, they sound great, but it's been a long, loud weekend, and through our tequila-clogged ears, any band would sound a lot better from a distance — or so we think. A few of us drag our asses over to the Day Stage, however, where, upon first glance, it looks like there's a hippie singing and playing guitar (frontman Marc Pinansky), some kind of goth/new wave guy plucking away on the bass (Mike Oor), and what can only be described as a circus sideshow star hovering over the drums like a hyperactive child that either has ants in his pants, or has to take a piss.

Decked out in a little Fidel Castro-style military cap, Roger Knight is the dictator of his kit, ruling with a set of graceful, fluttering, iron fists. Imagine a drummer that combines the calm nonchalance of Charlie Watts and the combustible wild-eyed spaghetti-armed style of the Muppets' Animal— graceful and attentive to the rest of the band, Knight looks like he's conducting some kind of rock symphony. Simply put, he's a hell of a lot of fun to watch.He flaps his arms like wings, he stands, he leers in every direction and, at some points, it seems like he might just run off the stage and tackle a member of the audience.

But Knight doesn't steal the show; he feeds it, like shoveling coal into a furnace.

The group plays its set in a truly inspired fashion, gliding through songs from its forthcoming self-titled debut album, with no qualms about being what it is — a Rock 'N' Roll band — nothing more, and not a note fucking less.

The Day Stage performance caps off a pretty incredible week for the band, which included a gig on Long Island, a performance at the Thin Lizzy reunion show in Cleveland, an opening slot for Alice Cooper, a hometown gig in its native Boston, and three appearances at the CMJ Marathon — one with Mando Diao and The Hiss at the Coral Room, another opening up for Dillinger Escape Plan and ODB, and the last right here at the Hilton.

"That whole week was amazing," exclaims Marc Pinansky. "That's been the highlight for us so far." It's two months later, and Runner And The Thermodynamics (note: there is no one actually called "Runner" in the band, in case you were wondering) are back in the Big Apple to team up with CMJ once again — this time for one of our monthly showcases. Before the gig, the band sat down with us for a few cocktails at a meatpacking district watering hole. When it comes up that the group's set on the Day Stage — and especially Knight's drumming — is a major reason that we've decided to write about it, Pinansky turns to the drummer and jokes,"Weren't you eating an apple during the middle of a song?"

Knight, wearing a Keith Moon t-shirt, shrugs his shoulders and deadpans, "I didn't eat breakfast that morning."

A round of drinks later, CMJ goes straight to the obligatory question: "So, how did you come up with the name?"

"'Runner' was the name I attached to my solo stuff," responds Pinansky. "It's just what I called some demos I made while I was still in a band called the Zips. It came from the movie The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner. It's the story of an angry young man, so I liked that. The 'Thermodynamics' just came along because I liked the idea of chaos theory. It's this one force that you have no control over, and everything is heading towards chaos at one rate. In some kind of hippy-ish way, it's the one tangible thing that links everything together."

Pinansky says all this, apparently without realizing the irony of placing a name that insinuates chaos and lack of control on a band that's deeply immersed in the classic rock structure, featuring a drummer like Knight, who may look like he's out of control, but knows exactly what he's doing.

Runner And The Thermodynamics were born out of two bands:While Pinansky was still playing guitar in the Zips, he started moonlighting in Statue Factor, just for the chance to play with Knight. "After seeing Roger play for one second, I knew there was somebody who gets it," says Pinansky. "When the opportunity came to join Statue Factor, I took it. I didn't have an agenda; I just thought it would be great to play with him."

When both bands started to dissolve, however, the two became eager to strike out on their own. An L.A. transplant, Oor was a guitar player kicking around the Boston scene for a couple of years,looking for the right musicians to play with. In fact, he was all but ready to take his ball and go back home when Marc and Roger decided to shitcan their first bass player and find somebody with more of an appreciation of the finer things in rock; Thin Lizzy, The Who,Grand Funk Railroad, Rush and Led Zeppelin — but who also possessed a modern sensibility. "Initially, I was going to steal Roger from Marc," jokes Oor."But when Marc told me that they were going to be looking for a new bass player, I instantly said I'd do it." Oor made the switch to bass, and the band's current lineup was born. Maybe a little before it's time, Runner made its debut about two years ago at an Irish bar in, of all places, Boston's Chinatown. (Man, they'd stick an Irish bar in a church in Boston, if they could.) That first show had its setbacks, of course, and at one point, the makeshift stage opened up and Knight fell into the gap.He's not the kind of drummer that should be playing on a makeshift anything.

"It was terrible," says Pinansky of the gig."But I was also looking to make a clean break from the band we were and the band we were becoming, so we were working on a lot of new ideas."

After making it through a brief set that may or may not have had the plug pulled on it for excessive noise, the band decided to get serious. "We went back and practiced and got comfortable being a band," says Pinansky. "In a couple of months, we played a show and tried to play pretty much by the book."

Not to be overshadowed by Knight's virtuoso style, Pinansky is a pretty accomplished musician in his own right. Raised on classics like ZZ Top and Dan Folgelberg by his musician father, he started off on the drums, but then became bored (a comment Knight shrugs off with a sneer), after which he picked up the guitar and started following in his dad's classic rock cover band footsteps for a while. Eventually, though, he branched out, and even kicked around in a ska band for a bit. Pinansky still plays drums occasionally, and will even sometimes join his dad, like when he kept time at his old man's 30-year college reunion show. Knight got an early start, too. "I've been playing an actual drum set since I was 13," he remembers. "I saw the Monterey Pop Festival on PBS, and after The Who's set, I said, 'That's what I want to do.'Keith Moon played with such abandon.Disregard for the rules — I wanted to play just like that." "But Keith played with a music sense," adds Pinansky. "Which is what Roger adopted. Keith followed everything as the song warranted.He didn't just follow the bass; he would follow the vocals, or he would follow the guitar. And that's how Roger plays." "I don't really think about stuff like that," admits Knight. "I don't think about how good my equipment should be. I don't care if there are cracks in my cymbals. I just want to play." So, after all the evolution, just what does the band think it sounds like right now?

"Grand Funk '71," Pinansky quickly quips.

"Grand Funk '71," follows Knight dryly, knowing it'll draw a response from Oor.

"I disagree,"Oor says, with a laugh. "I like Grand Funk, but not as much as these guys. Sometimes I think we're The Who minus [Roger] Daltrey — but early Who, because we have a lot of different sounds. We could be three different bands, with everything we've recorded so far." Later that night, at New York's Knitting Factory, the band tears through songs from its upcoming self-released album, due out on March 20. Garage rock anthems like "So Sorry," "Damsels In Denim," and the giant "Mechanical Heart" dominate the room. Towards the end of the set, Knight's drum kit starts to disintegrate into a pile on the floor; but as his world crashes around him, the beat remains constant and the band draws from his frantic energy.

Organized chaos in action. - CMJ - Brad Maybe


"Runner and the Thermodynamics"

January 20, 2004

Runner and the Thermodynamics are one of those bands you accidentally hear one night and then spend every week there after fumbling through the pages of Time Out New York and the Village Voice to see when you might be able to catch them again. Hailing from Boston, Runner have been compared to the Who and Big Star as they manage to bring everything noteworthy of '70s classic rock into an era where electronic mastering often surpasses the thrill of a truly great live show and great musicianship. Luckily, Jasper Coolidge quenched everyone’s cravings with Runner’s appearance on the bill for VICIOUS, his monthly shindig at Sin-é. At first glance they look like your typical hipster-esque band with their low-riding jeans, shaggy hair, and awkward good looks. Then lead singer/guitarist Marc Pinansky hits that first chord and you know you’ve stumbled upon something special.

Runner started this powerhouse show with “So Sorry,” which Marc introduces with a smirk on his face -- leading you to think there is one person this song really hits home to. While first focus is given to Marc, drummer Roger Knight immediately steals the show. He starts out relatively tame but by the middle of the song he’s bouncing off his seat and pounding the cymbals while his face contorts into claymation-type poses. The trio continues ripping songs from their self-titled album to be released in March -- each one sung with Marc’s raspy growl. “Damsels in Denim” introduces a tambourine during the opening measures which Marc later tosses across the stage with a confident flick of the wrist you’d expect from legends like Mick Jagger. Bassist Mike Oor goes relatively unnoticed until it is announced that it is his twenty-seventh birthday. For some strange reason, a show always seems a bit more special when someone’s birthday is involved.

“Powerlines” and “Mechanical Heart” are both songs that make your feet tap along with the beat -- not only because it seems like what you should be doing at a show but also because it’s an uncontrollable action. When the end of the set comes, Marc’s hair is plastered across his forehead with sweat, Roger’s drum kit has been smashed apart and put back together again countless times, and Mike has had a memorable birthday show. “Bypass” closes the night with one last hail to the classic rock of yesteryear. Marc raises his guitar to the drum kit, but pulls back and seems to realize he might want to wait for that major label deal before letting it fall on the mangled cymbals and snares.

Runner’s driving melodies are carried more noticeably by Mike’s bass than the usual guitar and Roger is undeniably one of the most noteworthy drummers in recent years. Runner and the Thermodynamics are not the type of band you see live and expect to get the same powerful feeling from listening to their album. But, they are the type of band that makes you want to be a rock star when you grow up. - Earlash.com: Sin-é, NYC - By Jill Smith


Discography

Self-titled album on Ace Fu Records
Live album available on E-Music
3 exclusive tracks on "Crisp" by E-Music

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

This band is and has always been about recapturing the lost passion and melody of rock n' roll from the sixties and seventies. This is what we grew up on, this is what we love, and this is what we strive to breath new life into. "Classic Rock" is an art form as beautiful as any other, and this is the medium within which we work. The audience deserves more from their bands these days - real excitement and real songs, played by real players.
Influences may include: Thin Lizzy, Grand Funk, James Gang, Big Star, Free, CCR, Tom Petty, Deep Purple, Small Faces, The Who, Captain Beyond, Sir Lord Baltimore, ZZ Top, Yes, Flying Burrito Brothers/Gram Parsons, Budgie, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Ten Years After, Neil Young...