RETRO-FUTURE: “I think our blending of indie and classic rock was kind of a blessing and a curse,” says Marc Pinansky (center). “It was something for people to latch onto in the buzzy world.”
As sagas of rock-and-roll near-misses go, there's a cinematic quality to Runner and the Thermodynamics, who in the early 2000s channeled their reverence for '70s arena rock into a power-pop detonation that briefly cracked the glass ceiling of the music biz. Their name alone could qualify them as the hated arch-rivals of Stillwater or Brian Slade, or some other '70s icon that exists only in the movies.
Destiny itself mandated that they reassemble five years after disintegrating for at least one more big honkin' CD-release show, this Friday at T.T. the Bear's Place, where they first caught a break almost a decade ago. "It's kind of cool that we're doing this again," says drummer Roger Knight, who was once described by CMJ New Music Monthly as a cross between Charlie Watts and Animal the Muppet. "For a lot of people who dug us, it was like we were there, and then, gone."
This reunion was born of a setback within Runner's extended musical family. Frontman Marc Pinansky is now better recognized as the dude with the massive beard at the helm of psych-y local darlings Township, who were supposed to headline the gig until drummer Greg Beadle needed surgery to repair a disc in his back.
Displaying an uncanny sensibility for culling opportunity from misfortune, Pinansky phoned Knight, who lives down the Pike in Northampton, and bassist Mike Oor, who moved to Los Angeles in 2008, on the off chance they'd be available to revisit their project of the noughts.
When I get together with Knight and Pinansky, they're holed up in Chelsea, rehearsing in a former Masonic temple that's been converted into a recording studio. From the sidewalk, a garishly decorated candy store outshines its entrance into de facto invisibility. It's the coolest jam space of all time, a suitable forum for the storyline of Runner and the Thermodynamics.
"I think our blending of indie and classic rock was kind of a blessing and a curse," Pinansky muses. "It was something for people to latch onto in the buzzy world. The whole Strokes/White Stripes/Detroit thing was going on, so we kind of got swept up into that and just fell in with the right people."
It wasn't long before Runner were surrounded by suit-and-tie-donning members of the music industry, even getting sandwiched between Dillinger Escape Plan and Ol' Dirty Bastard during a 2003 CMJ show at the Knitting Factory. They opened for the likes of Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy numerous times, and legend has it that their lawyers once shot down an offer from TVT Records without telling the band any such deal was ever on the table.
"Things were moving very quickly," recalls Knight. "Mike left the band at one point. Then we brought in a substitute, because we were doing shows opening for Alice Cooper."
"I was actually kicked out," Oor informs me about a week later, over the phone from the sunnier coast. But the present-day set dresser for big-ticket reality shows blames his own attitude problems for his forced exodus. Post-Runner, he logged in a stint with Bang Camaro, and he formed the BMA-winning SnowLeopards with lady friend Heidi Saperstein before the couple's voluntary departure for West Hollywood.