We often mislabel music as an escape. Whether it’s a listener misinterpreting an artist’s intent, or vice versa, music is unquestionably viewed as a distraction. As Blunt Magazine would learn speaking with Australia’s heavy music impresario, Lochlan Watt, his brand new project R U N is moving in the other direction.
Set to the backdrop of his harrowing brush with death, R U N is by both name and nature a tribute to momentum, a vehicle with which its creators can encourage a new paradigm in heavy music, a genre so often caught up in its ways.
The brain child of Watt and creative partner in crime, Mike Deslandes, R U N today takes its first steps into the world with debut single ‘For You’. We were fortunate enough to be privy to the group’s origin story, which began as a solo venture for Watt.
“The sound of this project is the sound that I’ve been wanting to capture for the last five or six years of trying to get a new band of my own creation off the ground”, Watt says of the group’s sonic foundation.
“The original idea was like, “What about Deafhaven with breakdowns and stadium choruses?” We wanted to take the post black metal thing, but mix it with a modern metalcore kind of framework.”
The addition of guitarist/producer Mike Deslandes to flesh out the project was an obvious decision for Watt, given the two had developed what he would call a “musical language” between them. Whether it was to finish off a Nuclear Summer or Colossvs album, or to polish off an audition mix, “I’d always go to Mike”, Watt explains.
“Before we had a name or anything laid out, we sat down together, and we basically built a framework for what we wanted and just really meticulously worked backwards to fill in the pieces. I was just trying to get what was going on in my head out there.”
It was during these war-room discussions about the project that the pair would learn that the universe had conspired for them to collaborate for more reasons than a shared interest in music. “Leading up into the project, we both went through a lot of stuff, a lot of loss”, Watt explains.
“With the cancer, and the brain surgery, and everything that I went through, it’s kind of been strangely serendipitous.”
In July 2019, Watt sensationally announced his departure from The Racket to focus on “nuk[ing] brain cancer” having been diagnosed with diffuse grade III glioma; a brain tumour. All the while Deslandes was also grappling with accepting adversity. Though by this point in time, much of the material was written, the shared experiences of grief within the band would prove to fortify their convictions, which Watt believes “crystallised the lyrics.”
“They weren’t written with as close of a relationship to life and death as I have now, but on the other side of it all, it’s really strange looking back on the record. It all it feels even more important than it was when I wrote it.”
“I think the vibe that best describes the lyrics, if I was to be able to put it in one word, would just be bittersweet. It’s trying to address the dark times and the hardships of life, but also just be like, “Hey, isn’t it still kind of pretty sick that we’re alive?”
Case and point is R U N’s debut single, ‘For You’. A hurricane of blast beats and relentless distortion; “a song born from extreme emotional pain, but also, “a song that looks forward while standing firm”. The track is not only a fearsome first warning shot, but also a clear and concise mission statement encompassing the belief system of R U N. The opening line is, “United on my own front. How will the pages turn?”
“I’m being selfish in many ways with the project in terms of creatively, and just wanting as few people involved in that as possible, and just setting myself up as the boss of my own project in a way, even though it’s very mutual and democratic now. At least at the start it was like, “This is 100% me calling the shots on all this shit.”
Even once fully realised, R U N was not out of the woods yet, as the COVID-19 pandemic laid waste not just to the music industry, but everything. For a band built on the foundation of overcoming adversity, they found a perfect foe with which to prove their point. “It’s not something that we wanted or had obviously even planned for, but it makes total sense for our situation”, Watt says.
“Originally our plans for this year were we had a live lineup essentially locked in, and we had a really sick tour lined up for August, which obviously isn’t happening. But that was going to be our first shows, and when all this shit started going down, we were like, ‘How about we just scrap the plans for being an actual live band for now and we just get this out and try and shape it in a way that can help hopefully influence different ways for the music industry to maybe move forward in some ways.'”
Through the lens of a project aimed at addressing their personal struggles, Watt and Deslandes spied an opportunity to address some of the industry’s struggles, highlighted by the current global crisis. “There’s plenty of stuff about the way the music industry operates that I’ve always been uncomfortable with”, Watt begins, “And so we want to use the band, set it up as a self-sustaining thing for us.”
“We’re not actually going to make any traditional, physical product”, Watt reveals, which in his experience has become “a financial drain for everyone involved, especially new bands.”
“We’ve got no interest in pressing CDs or pressing vinyl. That tied in quite perfectly with the fact that all our imports and production are all on ice or disrupted. Because trying to get records and stuff pressed right now, even if we wanted to do that, would be a nightmare.”
Though they won’t say this themselves, R U N are primed to become a beaming example of “the new normal” that musicians will face in a post-corona world. The traditional systems have failed, and to ever rely on them again would be a mistake. “I think people are going to have to go back to doing a fair bit more themselves”, Watt theorises.
“So many venues are obviously going to close down. So many labels are going to struggle to find a new way forward. The physical product, I don’t think it’s going to die anytime completely, maybe ever. We just want to keep it vital and not really have the physical world dragging things down in a way.”
“We just want to focus on getting more content going. The plan now instead of going out and gigging is to just start writing the next record.”