Noah Weinman aims to find home on his newest album Always Repeating. Fueled by introspective lyrics about memories, isolation, and musings about the past, the album feels like it floats from place to place, location to location. For Weinman, Runnner is primarily a solo-endeavor and this newest release sees the songwriter retreating inward. Read our interview below with Runnner as we talk about the album, his influences, and favorite Sufjan Stevens album.
Tell me a little bit about Always Repeating.
Noah Weinman: The album is a compilation. So, it’s five songs that first appeared on a record from 2017 and then five songs from an EP in 2020. So it’s kind of this like circle around what I consider like the first chapter of Runnner because there’s the first record which was called Awash, and then there’s an EP called Fan On that’s not included in this. And then there’s the EP One of One. So they kind of bookend that first chapter. It kind of came together because I liked those songs from the first record, but I didn’t love the way I produced them.
It was like the first thing I had ever produced and like I was just excited to be making something. But I mixed it in my garage on like a single P.A. speaker. And so, those songs are still special to me. And like those versions I left on Bandcamp because I didn’t want to delete them forever, but I wanted, like, a second shot at it. And then last summer when I started talking to Run for Cover, we’re thinking about ways to have a release come out sooner, kind of mid pandemic and stuff, and then push the proper debut album to a little bit later. I kind of like made that the decision because I really wanted to redo those songs. So, it’s like, oh, here’s an idea and here’s a chance for me to do this thing that I’ve always really wanted to do.
I really, really love the record, and one thing I know about just researching online is you’re a big fan of Bon Iver. What the record really reminded me a lot of the self-titled Bon Iver era. So, tell me a little bit about how Justin’s music has affected you personally.
Weinman: Yeah, I mean, that era especially, I don’t think it’s on YouTube anymore, but there used to be like the full length Bon Iver, Austin City Limits 2012 show. And I used to watch that a lot and that was kind of the gateway for me to get really into his music. I always kind of listen to the records, but seeing it live like that with the amount of power, it’s two drummers and like a horn section. And I was just like, that’s what I want to do.
Hearing somebody put brass and stuff into folk music was very inspiring to me, like I could be like, oh, I could do that. As I got more into production, I really started to see all the ways that he takes a simple idea, but then in production does something kind of unexpected. And, you know, I’m recording at home with limited resources, kind of intentionally so because I think it makes me think more that way. So I definitely try to get into that mindset of when I don’t have the exact instrument that I’m hearing, it’s like, oh, how can I replicate it or do something similar in an interesting way with what I have here.
I love when artists are able to improvise or intentionally just create something that’s not what we think it is. Fiona Apple’s last album was full of that last year, just the full encompassing like DIY aesthetic of Fetch the Bolt Cutters , which is it felt so applicable to the time. And I loved about Always Repeating and it’s similar to how Bon Iver writes his music is that feels very present and feels very poignant. And I was listening to the record just a couple of days ago. And one of the lines that really stuck with me was from “Monochrome”.
And it was and I’m a bum living at home/ getting fired from all my friends, sliding slowly/ I woke up dead inside of my bed and I did this. It took me back to those to those first couple of weeks in quarantine when I was back home from college. I couldn’t leave the house like that, felt very, very powerful.
What was that writing experience like because this was this is an old song?
Weinman: Yeah, I wrote that song in the winter of 2016 into 2017. And it is you know, I think given everybody’s experience last year, mine included, the parallels were really there. I was like, I feel like I’ve done this before. And that’s you know, that’s kind of like the the irony of the the title is that like it’s a compilation, but it’s also like a reflection of how relevant those songs still feel to me.
I’m from Los Angeles and I always had like a really kind of like a mixed relationship with it. And I went to college in Ohio. And when I was getting ready to leave college, I knew I wanted to pursue music. But I thought that I would do it in like a smaller city, like I have this, like, little list that I kept in my head of like Providence, Detroit, Cincinnati, New Orleans, just like cities that I thought would be more affordable and like just like a smaller community. I didn’t really see myself getting, like, all swept up in Los Angeles the way that I have.
I came home because it was easier for me to live with my parents for a little bit than to do anything else. But I just felt like so alienated from this place and everyone that I had come to love over the past few years was not there. And it started to feel like they never existed at all. So I think that song was really just like kind of the pit of it feeling. Just really far away and not even sure, like how to even begin like reaching back out.
The record really feels like its defined by transience. I’m a very nomadic person myself. Like you said is when you move around a lot, things don’t feel real sometimes. I have memories that I that I think I lived through when I was a kid. And I don’t remember them very well. And the album reminded me, and the album streaming visuals reflect this, of the VHS era to me. My dad moved up here just a couple of weeks ago. He came by my apartment with a big box of VHS tapes. And I was like, “why do you have that? You can’t even watch them anymore.” And he was like, “just for the memories. Just for the memories.” And the record feels like you’re putting on the computer watching like a memory play out on screen.
Weinman: Yeah, I think I was definitely going for that. That’s usually try the number one topic that I write about, too, like every song in a way is about memory or just like trying to remember, because it’s kind of like my journal. I can listen to a song and remember where I was when I wrote it. And then ironically, that’s probably the most like, tangible, real thing. When you’re passing through places, everybody, everything can seem like, you know. We’re like a movie that you’re watching and something that you’re actually living.
And a lot of the times, you tie memory to location. For me, DC is this place that felt like the future. And I never thought that I could come to Ohio where it’s so much different and everything. Was it like that for you? Was L.A. this place that didn’t feel like real sometimes?
Weinman: Oh, yeah, definitely. I think, like, it was especially weird when I came back after college. I was 22 and in my mind, I was, oh yeah, like I’m 16 or 17, like I’m like in my childhood bedroom. And it didn’t necessarily feel real. I would walk through all these places and go to these spots that I had been to when I was younger. It just made me feel like everything, everything was over. Everything that had happened was going to happen, and now I’m just kind of like in this like epilogue stage. And then it took me a couple of years, but I was able to bring in a lot of newness to my life. Since then, it’s felt different, but there was this kind of like museum feeling in the beginning.
I resonate with that. The album feels and sounds a lot like an emo record and you’ve probably that heard before. It has a small town feeling to it like I’m listening to Charmer or Marietta. It feels very like homely to me. Was that your your goal in writing it?
Weinman: Yeah, I think so, you know. That was that was something that, like, made Runnner different from other projects that I had been in. When I was in college, that was the first place that I had started writing music. And I was so painfully aware that everybody who heard the songs that I would be writing at that point, were just people that knew me personally and that kind of prevented me from being as vulnerable in the songs as I wanted to because I love, like that emotive stuff.
I think one of my first one of the first bands that I truly loved was Death Cab for Cutie. And I think, like from there, it just like it went deeper and they’re not like, you know, stereotypically emo but definitely a gateway emo band. Yeah, but I think coming back to L.A. and feeling a little bit more anonymous helped me tap into something that felt more honest but also more vulnerable and maybe more frightening to put out. But I wanted to push myself. To do that,
In a way, it’s kind of funny because obviously when they were active, Run for Cover had Modern Baseball as part of their roster. Run for Cover has one of my favorite artist rosters in general. Obviously, we have you, American Pleasure Club, Another Michael and Camp Cope. What was it like talking with them and trying to get the record to the label?
Weinman: Pretty surreal. Run for Cover was one of the only labels that I knew about. I didn’t really know a lot about record labels and stuff, but like I had multiple records by different artists on that label, so I was like, that’s a cool label. And then last year I started working with this new manager and he told me “You fit in with these bands on Run for Cover, do you want me to reach out to them?” And I was like, that’s all right. Sure. Like, whatever, send an email. What’s what’s the harm?
I think it was like a combination of my manager emailing at the right time and then like my booking agent also like books a lot of bands on that label and like has connections with them. So it wasn’t the first time they had heard of me. And then it just came together very quickly, like, I think that we started talking in July and then we had signed in September.
It was like it was so quick. It didn’t feel real and I still haven’t met anybody.
They’re based in Boston, correct?
Weinman: Yeah. I have a show in New York next month, and I think that will be the first time that I meet most of them. If you’d asked me like four years ago, what if you had to be with the record label, which one would you go with? Like I would have said that one. [
One of the things I really love about the album is that it reminded me a lot of Phil Elverum’s music. And Microphones in 2020 was one of the best albums of last year, possibly of the decade arguably in my opinion. So tell me a little bit about about Phil’s music. And are you a big fan of Mount Eerie and how has his writing style reflected in your work?
Weinman: I really love everything that he makes. More so than like any other project he has had the most palpable influence on me. I think about him a lot when I’m working because I think a lot about the idea of The Microphones as a project about how he was like trying to just like let the recordings become themselves. And I think that is big for me, like maybe not recording something in the right way, because I don’t really know a lot about engineering. But finding some sort of tone or timbre that comes out of just like the recording process that you end up just leaning into to make the song. So many different things that he does that I have kind of taken as my own things like the way that he layers the acoustic guitars on each other kind of endlessly to make this really lush texture. Yeah, I thought Microphones in 2020 was incredible.[
That album was so great because he did what I thought was really impossible to do. Phil made a record about eulogizing himself and his career and it wasn’t pretentious at all. It felt so personal so beautiful.
Weinman: There was so much that I identified with on that album. He has that one line about feeling like his whole career has been writing the same song. That’s something that I get afraid of. I have my bulletin board with all the songs that I’m working on. So I keep looking at them. I’m like, damn, like those songs are actually kind of all the same song. But yeah, maybe that’s OK. You’re just trying to to really, like, get out that one idea that’s like just on your mind always. And for him to say that in that song, I found some reassurance.
When I look back on like the indie music of yesteryear, I think of artists like Mount Eerie, Sufjan [Stevens], and Fleet Foxes. And there was a profile of Pitchfork comparing Sufjan’s last album to Shore. They’re so different. I look at where Robin Pecknold is now versus when Helplessness Blues came out. Where do you think Runnner will be 8-10 years from now? Do you see of having a Shore type moment where it’s like “I found myself and I’m here?”
Weinman: That’s a good question. Assurance is an interesting thing. I think that obviously I strive for that, but I don’t know if I accept it in my life, even when it’s there. So, you know, the optimist in me would like to think that I’d be assured, but the worrier in me thinks in eight years I’m going to be like in my early 30s. Can I still sing about 20 something existential malaise in my early 30s? I’m going to have to, like, find other shit to sing about.
I really love the fact that the album feels present. I know it’ll be three, four or five years from now, because the world, even though it changes a lot, it’s still very much doing the same things. I know it’s very, very poignant what you’re saying. And the album was recorded in a bit of a it was recorded on a mobile setup, right?
Weinman: Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of a misnomer in ways. It’s true that it’s a mobile setup, but it’s also the same as my regular setup. It’s just-
Weinman: Yeah. It’s like the preamp and the interface and then and then that’s it. And then like a couple of mikes obviously now it’s a little nice because I got this piano off the internet. Yeah, that’s cool It’s pretty much all the same gear. It was recorded in four different spaces.
What was it like as were your recording those those original tracks and what was it like going back to that? Did it feel you’re revisiting those old memories? That’s what right now we’re seeing with Taylor Swift re-recording her classics.
Weinman: Yeah. And it was interesting, like, you know, I started all of these new recordings by, like opening up the old one and seeing, like all the production stuff that I used to do with it. And I think, you know, it was really it was hard sometimes to, like, take something away from the song that had felt so important to me in that original version. But just like wasn’t serving the song in the new version. But then, you know, I was definitely struck by how relevant they still felt to me and I never really stopped playing these songs like these were like kind of like the backbone of the live set for years.
So they had always, like, stayed with me, especially like the five that I chose versus like the five that did get rerecorded, like the five that I chose are definitely the ones that I had been playing the most. So they stayed with me kind of throughout. But that’s really where the first thought of where, like, the record title came from, which is like, wow, I just totally feel like thrown back in the same cycle.
How many tracks were on the the cutting room floor for Always Repeating? Will there be an Always Repeating follow-up with demos and song sketches?
Weinman: There are five left and then there was like one bonus track thing that didn’t make it. I also like dug up recently and I listen to and that one, like, I’m really glad I cut that one. The production is out of control, but I might revisit it.
Yeah, it’ll be kind of cool to see that play out. I love what Car Seat Headrest did with Twisted Fantasy as well. Will put out it again with Matador, but I’ll always love the DIY version on Bandcamp. That version feels so essential to to my teenage self.
Weinman: You know. I’m interested in doing some live recordings. Thankfully, we live in a time where that’s very accessible in a way like, you know, hopefully I get to do like an Audiotree. So I hope that that’s coming. And I hope. That is a good enough performance that it can, like, embody those songs in their own way.
What have you been listening to in your spare time when you’re out and about?
Weinman: I think, you know, it’s funny, I’ve been revisiting some older stuff lately, like I went back to the first Julien Baker record for the first time in a long time.
Yeah, I love that record.
Weinman: That’s the record for me. It’s just like it’s so raw and vulnerable and it changed the way that I like, write, play guitar and do all these things.
Weinman: You know, Microphones in 2020, I still put on and like, it’s funny that we talked about that. It’s like that’s all I recommend to people, but it’s such a hard thing to. It’s like, oh, do you have forty five minutes to sit and watch a movie and like, feel really sad.
I saw that you were on Run for Cover’s Record Selection show. Is that as fun as it looks? I really, really love those videos. And the first record you picked was Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker.” I loved that track so much.
Weinman: It was pretty fun. It was also very nerve wracking because, like we’re just walking into the record store and you don’t know what’s going to be there, so it’s not like, you know, you’re asking me like, what are your favorite records? I could just talk about it. Like, I can only talk about a record that I find. So I’m like, shit, I’m not going to find anything that I like. And I definitely like for a while there, I’m like, I’m not trying to be because I’m also like, you know, we’re trying to just like get the video done. I’m not trying to like, linger around the record store for hours. And so I was really nervous about, like, flipping records and like trying to pull out something that I thought was like, interesting.
And then I was also really scared of, like pulling out a record and saying something and then having, like, somebody in the YouTube comments for like actually like that’s wrong. I like this person. And thankfully, that hasn’t happened. So, like, looking back on it, it was definitely more fun than I was, like, ready to have. And if I could just, like, relax a little bit more, I think. Yeah. Like that want. But it’s still really fun. And like Alex, the guy who makes those videos, we’ve made like two more and he’s super nice and it’s really fun to make them with them.
They had The Avalanche record even I’ve never seen that vinyl before. It looks super beautiful.
Weinman: It was so funny because it’s like I get to the second section like, Cool I can hear some records that are important to me and I could talk about and you only have the one that I’ve never listened to .
Would you prefer Illinois or Michigan?
Weinman: I think my favorite is Seven Swans, really? Yeah, and then probably like Illinois and Carrie and Lowell and Michigan, and then I recently listened to Age of Adz and I was like, honestly, this record is really so good.
Runnner’s new album Always Repeating is available for purchase or streaming on their Bandcamp page.