Melbourne-based pop, rockers Running Young have recently released a vibrant new single, ‘Not The Same’ off their soon to be released second EP You Better Run Son. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips spoke to singer, songwriter, producer and bassist Joel Famularo about the band’s intriguing back story and bright looking future.
Aortic Rupture. A fine name for a hardcore punk band but not two words Joel Famularo, singer, songwriter, bassist and producer of Melbourne band pop/rock Running Young wants to dwell on for too long, as at the age of just 25, that’s exactly what happened to him. Luckily he not only survived the trauma but came out of it with a renewed lust for life, music and a desire to form a band. It’s not your average band beginning story but certainly one of the most profound. “I had a near death experience,” he says quite bluntly. “Beforehand, I hadn’t been doing music for quite some time. I had my heart broken with my previous band when I was 19 or 20. I hadn’t touched music for a couple of years. I was doing acting but then I had open heart surgery and nearly died a couple of times. I came out of it and just thought I just really want to write music again and I have to start band. I recognised that in acting I was saying other people’s lines and wanted to write my own. But also I just missed it. I grew up with music. I didn’t know any musicians in Melbourne, so I started putting demos online and invited people to audition. Over two or so years the band members fell into place.”
It wasn’t just a yearning to play music that Joel experienced while recovering from surgery many years ago, it was also an epiphany about the kind of music he wanted to write and play live. Previously he’d been into throwaway pop of bands like Bloc Party, The Killers, and Franz Ferdinand but post-surgery he was seeking something more meaningful.
“While I was in hospital I was listening to music that was giving me hope. I found that I kept returning to bands like U2. I was heavily inspired by them. I realised that to write music that powerful would be an amazing thing. I had never written music like before. It’s a bit soul baring and a lot of people think it’s not cool but it’s what I wanted to do. I’m also a huge fan of the Beach Boys too, which is a funny combination I know but I’m a massive fan of their harmonies.”
Running Young released their debut EP, ‘We Are The Sons’ in 2015 and word spread that this was a band to keep an eye on. ‘Out Of Time’, a single off the EP found its way onto the soundtrack of American black comedy ‘Shameless, starring William H. Macy. Additionally, a sold out launch at the Ding Dong lounge further fuelled the buzz. Fast forward to mid 2016 and a new infectious single, ‘Not The Same’ off their soon to be released second EP is creating a stir too, aided by a cheerful dance-like-no-one-is-watching style video. Since forming Running Young, Joel’s hunger for knowledge and his eagerness to constantly improve and develop has never waned. You get the feeling that any move Running Young make is more likely to be a step forward rather than a repeat of anything that has gone before. It’s why there are many differences in the way Joel is approaching the second EP, as opposed to the way We Are Sons was produced.
“I had always written songs individually,” says Joel of his approach to the debut EP. “The second one was more like … I am writing an EP. I had a bunch of songs half written and I picked out five as an EP. I had never done that before. There are so many elements to it and it’s hard to be good at everything. I write and produce. I am always trying to grow as a producer and a writer and grow as an arranger and going back to the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson inspires me in that way. But Brian was never a huge lyricist, he worked closely with other writers such as Mike Love or Tony Asher, the guy he did Pet Sounds with. So I am really trying to grow as a lyricist and I have identified that to some people, lyrics can mean a lot. I was one that was more into sounds and energy and melody but as I am getting older, lyrics have such a major affect on a song. A really good lyric can really hook you more than a melody sometimes. Apart from some sonic and production differences, I am trying to be more brave in my lyrics, being more personal with them on this one.”
Joel belongs to that rare club of musicians who sing while playing bass on stage. It is actually quite an art and one that requires picking spaces between notes to sing and often dictates the kind of music a singer/bassist creates.
“Totally,” Joel says in response. “It does play a part and to be honest, every now and then, if you ever see us play live, you’ll see that occasionally I will get our rhythm guitarist to play bass. There are 1 or 2 songs where I don’t play an instrument and that is part of it. It’s like, you know what, I cannot play bass on this song but I love the melody and love the bass line so I work around it.” Joel plays a 3/4 size Musicmaster Fender bass, an instrument which is dear to his heart. It was handed to him by a family friend who was dying of cancer and it means so much to him and sounds so good, that he has never seen the need to acquire another. He plays through a Markbass Little Mark III and a Laney quad box.
Both Running Young recordings to date have been self-produced by Joel. He acquired his skills through trial and error, picking up tips from YouTube. “To be honest I just taught myself,” he tells me. “We live in the age of YouTube and you can learn a lot on YouTube. I started with drum machine and just kept upgrading and kept learning. I record with a a Blue Yeti condensor mic and Sennheiser dynamic mic. In terms of software, it is embarrassing. I have had some software since I was 18 and its called Cool Edit Pro. They got bought out and turned into the forerunner to Adobe Audition. It is still versatile and has a lot of effects and it has lasted me this long but I will be upgrading after this EP and I’d like to play around with MIDI and different sounds, get more plug-ins etc.”
The Running Young plan is firstly to begin working on a full length album once the second EP is released. The long term goal for Joel, Ben, Benjamin, Shahn and John is more ambitious.
“Ultimately we’d like to get as big an audience as possible,” says Joel. “We all understand that to achieve that goal we may need to move to the UK or America but we are not shy about that. We want the music to make as big an impact as possible … you know …100,000 people in a stadium singing our lyrics back to us! I like this band. I like the people I have been lucky enough to recruit. I will never take it for granted. Bands we have played with say you must have grown up together yeah? We have an amazing chemistry and I’d like to take this as far as we can.”
Running Young play next at the Golden Vine Bendigo on Friday September 2