L-R: Dan (bass), Bret (drums), Denny (vox/guitar), Sam (guitar)
As much as I love going to shows, it’s not often I drag my lazy ass out of bed on a Sunday night to go to one; that is, unless I’m legitimately excited about the band. For two Sundays this month, that band was Roomrunner, a Baltimore-based group led by Denny Bowen (of Double Dagger, Dan Deacon, etc), that plays favorably to DIY venue-hoppers on the lookout for the next best grunge-punk revivalist. For those on the lookout, do trust – Roomrunner delivers a heavy dose of it in pummeling fashion. They put out a great tape on Fan Death a few months back – you should probably just press that little play button below.
And these guys are hilarious, too. I recently caught up with them to talk jobs, and they gave me the low-down on the not so glamorous life of a musician living week to week, doing “goofy, menial shit,” as Denny puts it. But they do it with a sense of humor, as they compare being in a band to playing a video game – just waiting to level up.
NOISEY: Hey, Roomrunner. What do you guys do for a living?
Denny: I used to do sound at a club in Baltimore. I haven’t gone back since cause I was also playing drums with Dan Deacon on tour. I’m glad – it’s kind of soul sucking in a way. I’m not really doing anything besides the band.
That usually means you made it, right?
Denny: In a way…
Sam: Well, it’s extremely profitable. It makes a lot of sense to just be doing this band.
Denny: Yeah, my estate worth is skyrocketing.
Bret: It’s really unbelievable how quickly we rose, to be able to pay our rent with this band.
[Laughs] How do the rest of you guys make rent?
Dan: I have a recording studio in Baltimore where I record bands – lots of noisy rock stuff and whatever my friends are playing.
Bret: Everybody else is way cool. They do stuff with music for their day jobs.
Dan: Everybody else lives week to week.
Sam: Everybody else is stressed out. It’s fucking sad.
Bret: I detail cars and do body work during the day. It’s kind of fun.
That’s way cooler than doing sound.
Bret: The people that I work with are under the impression that I’m about to become huge… a huge rockstar.
Sam: Cause you play shows [laughs].
For a second I thought you were going to say they’re under the impression that you’re about to become huge in the body shop community.
Sam: [Laughs] Yeah, he’s about to really get big.
Bret: Actually, I’m gonna quit this band and open up my own body shop. I’m gonna call it “Bret’s Body.”
Are your co-workers old? They sound like they’re proud of you in a parental kind of way.
No, they’re like these crazy ghetto dudes and I’m the only white guy there. They’re like, “Oh yeah man you take that day off and go play the drums. Play the drums!” They’re super excited about it. I actually just told them I was going to quit because we’re about to go on a long tour and they’re like “No man, you go on the tour and you come back, you work part time, it’s cool.” They’re insanely supportive and I don’t even know if they’ve heard us yet. So yeah, that’s what I do. I’m not as cool as these musicians here.
Do you do sound stuff as well, Sam?
Sam: I do freelance guitar and composition work.
Denny: Like he’s doing right now.
Sam: Effectively, this is my job. I recently scored a world beat track.
Sam: I’m not involved with Spider-Man.
Are you scoring Spider-Man?
Denny: He’s the guitar understudy for the Spider-Man on Broadway.
Oh, so you’re Bono’s understudy [laughs].
Denny: He would be The Edge’s understudy, were that true.
Dan: He’s The Edge’s delay pedal tech. His job is to tweak the delay settings between each U2 song. He’s ashamed of it.
Denny: Sam was the electric bass understudy for the Book of Mormon.
Ha! What’s your favorite U2 song?
Sam: I can’t answer that.
Denny: I feel weird because we do goofy, menial shit. We try to piece together…
Dan: …our lives.
Sam: We fill the void.
Denny: I think Bret’s job is probably the most interesting. He’s got the most variety.
Bret: All the fumes make it fun.
Sam: I think doing something tangible is a bit more satisfying than working in the ether world of music.
Is it not concrete enough for you?
Yeah, music is great but it’s intangible. What Bret does, he has this awesome advantage of doing something that he can actually achieve. He can arrive at the end of the project.
Bret: But I have to quit! You guys are ruining my steady life.
What are some of the worst jobs you’ve had in the past?
Sam: So there’s this gas station, Shell…
Yes, I’m quite familiar.
Well, specifically 40 West Shell, where Denny and I and a lot of other people from Baltimore worked. For me it was a great job in many ways but it was also a really fucking awful job.
What’d you guys do there?
We worked overnights at a fucking gas station. So you get a weird class of people that come by at 3:30 in the morning.
And the smell I’m sure was also pretty bad.
Bret: I worked at a Subway when I was 17. It was in a gas station too – a gas station and Subway in one.
Sam: What was the address of that?
Bret: I don’t know. I once got an old man threatening to kick my ass and he came behind the counter.
Why, you didn’t give him his footlong or something?
Because I didn’t give him chicken pieces. I gave him a chicken breast patty instead. He wanted the pieces and he got really upset so he came behind the counter.
Dan: What? [laughs]
Bret: Yeah, he just walked around. I had to calm him down by giving him a free soda.
Denny: I like being threatened to be beat up at work.
Bret: Well it was an old guy so I just kind of laughed. I thought he was fucking with me but turns out he wasn’t.
Sam: Old men get seriously pissed.
Bret: That was probably the best part of his day and I ruined it. I put the wrong chicken on his sub.
Subway’s kind of a guilty pleasure of mine, to be honest.
Honestly I think I ate it every day, multiple meals a day, for about three years and I still go there.
Sam: I saw you gobble that shit up just a few weeks ago.
Bret: Hell yeah!
And it smells so nice and bready when you walk by it.
We once had a guy make our subs after he had cut half his finger off on the tomato cutter the day before.
Denny: “Uh I just cut my finger off, let me make the subs.”
Holy crap. Anyone else ever get threatened by an old dude at a day job?
Denny: Old people were the best people at Sonar when I was doing sound because if their son’s band was playing, they’d tip me 20 bucks and be like, “Make ‘em sound good.” I’m like, ‘I don’t give a fuck. I don’t even know which one’s your son. Is he playing the trumpet?’
Sam: [Laughs] “Is he playing the trumpet?”
Denny: People would threaten to beat me up. There were parties where dudes would ask for six mics and I would just give them three, and they’d be like “We know you got some more mics in there!” I didn’t have anything else. It was weird. They would shine a big light in my face. And I’d be like “What the fuck are you doing? Why are threatening to beat me up before your show – so I can’t work?”
Dan: I’ve done a bunch of stuff. I’ve cleaned carpets before. I’ve been a stock boy in a home appliance store, for like two days. I also worked at hotels.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve cleaned off of a carpet?
I don’t know, this job didn’t really involve too much work. It was in the Capitol building and the senate office building. We’d clean between sessions. We’d just wander around, pretend to clean the carpets, and take naps in the hallways. We also looked for hidden cameras in the Capitol. There’s a shitload!
Bret: Don’t put that part in the interview.
Denny: No, highlight that part. That’s the story!
Dan: This was in 2003, post 9/11. We were sub-contracted and I was paid under the table. In the Capitol building, we had no badges or uniforms or anything but we could just wander around. It was crazy.
Sam: See, this is the kind of shit that VICE is looking for.
Dan: Secrets exposed!
Well, we also want sex scandals with politicians.
I didn’t discovery any. I mean, I guess there could have been cum stains all over the carpets.
Denny: I’m trying to think if anybody had sex at any of the jobs I worked at. I’d have to go all the way back to Friendly’s when I was in high school.
It’s a really great, high quality, family restaurant [laughs]. No, that was terrible. It’s just one of those jobs where everything’s hilarious because it’s your first job and anything you do to buck a thirty is the most hilarious thing.
How old were you?
Like 16, and one of the dudes called me Edward Scissorhands because I had dyed black hair.
If you guys weren’t doing music what do you think you’d be doing?
Sam: Feeling financially comfortable.
Bret: I’d open up Bret’s Body.
Denny: I’d apply for some more credit cards.
Sam: Go back to Shell.
Dan: I’d be in less debt… maybe.
Denny: I’d spend a lot more time on eBay, just selling all my shit. I already do that anyway. I’m on the internet all the time with this shit. Being in a band is like playing a video game – you just gotta look at the screen, level up, get some achievements!
Dan: I’d be a powerful, highly paid chef and tell everybody what to do.
Sam: Extreme amount of power.
Denny: We’re fucked. Music is the only skill set we got.
Previously - "Jason Scmidt" From Graf Orlock
Oh, also, check out Roomrunner on tour over the next month:
FRI APR 27 - WASHINGTON, DC @ COMET PING PONG W/ DAN DEACON
SAT APR 28 - ST MARY’S, MD @ HILL HAUS
SUN APR 29 - RALEIGH, NC @ SLIM’S
MON APR 30 - CHARLOTTE, NC @ SNUG HARBOR
TUE MAY 01 - TBD
WED MAY 02 - ASHEVILLE, NC @ THE GET DOWN
THU MAY 03 - ATHENS, GA @ CALEDONIA LOUNGE
FRI MAY 04 - ATLANTA, GA @ 529
SAT MAY 05 - KNOXVILLE, TN @ GROUNDSWELL
SUN MAY 06 - LEXINGTON, KY @ AL’S BAR
MON MAY 07 - ST. LOUIS @ EL LENADOR
TUE MAY 08 - IOWA CITY, IA @ TBA
WED MAY 09 - CHICAGO, IL @ HOSTEL EARPHORIA
THU MAY 10 - HAMTRAMCK, MI @ THE NEW DODGE LOUNGE
FRI MAY 11 - CANADA
SAT MAY 12 - MONTREAL, QC @ SILVER DOOR
SUN MAY 13 - TBD
SAY MAY 19 - BALTIMORE, MD - 2X RECORD RELEASE SHOW @ COWARD SHOE W/ DOPE BODY, HUME
SUN MAY 20 - BROOKLYN, NY @ SHEA STADIUM W/ VAZ