Local Artist Spotlight: Runaway Skyline

In a music scene so saturated with young bands trying to recreate that indie folk/rock sound, it’s refreshing to hear Runaway Skyline’s discerning lack of ukulele, handclaps and tweed, and a distinct abundance of sweatpant wearing. “I don’t think we’ve played a gig where we haven’t been wearing sweatpants”, notes lead vocalist Ben Loewenstein.

Instead, the duo has carved a wonderfully distinctive niche combining spacey pop melodies with synthy, ambient electronica, which they helpfully term “progressive pop”. If you take a listen to their songs you’ll see there are many more musical ideas bubbling away under the surface but Foster Nihill, RS’s other half, makes the point, rather deprecatingly, of not wanting to “be one of those bands who spout bullshit like ‘We don’t want to be pigeonholed because our music is genre defying”.

For two guys who’ve been performing together for a relatively short time, there is a striking clarity and confidence in their sound. It’s a unifying thread through all eight songs on their debut EP, A Lighter Blue. But it was never intentional, says Foster: “We use pop structures; we like hooks and melodies. But our style of music is a function of the song writing. We didn’t have a sound in our head before we started or think about what was trending at the moment”.

Ben passionately remarks that “A lot of young, undiscovered so-called ‘indie bands’ sound like they’re trying to make something that permits them to wear the clothes they’re wearing… you’re just not sure the songs they wrote are their first priority”.

Runaway Skyline’s song writing and lyrical delivery reaches at something far more personal and raw without being emotionally indulgent. “This album was written in the wake of a pretty shit year for both of us. Lyrically, it’s about coming out of a bad thing with a little bit of hope,” explains Foster.

Putting the EP together was itself a labour of love that took eight months to complete. Though their first two songs, “Always Me” and “Into Place”, remarkably came together in one afternoon many months ago, they feel “the gradual process has helped us understand the songs and made us really think about what we could change”.

It’s clear they have a deep appreciation for the construction of sounds. Both are inspired by artists who haven’t been shy to explore different genres, from The Cure’s forays into New Wave and Post Punk and melodic pop to John Frusciante whose albums span the length of electronic, rock and synth-pop. So is a dub-step record next on the cards? “Absolutely”, they respond enthusiastically.

Their rather unique musical backgrounds also hint at the talents so clearly on display in A Lighter Blue. “I auditioned for an acapella barbershop group in high school called ‘The Croonivores’, which was the first time anyone heard me sing seriously”, Ben sheepishly admits (and rightly so). So that explains the phenomenal vocals on the record. And those elegantly crafted guitar melodies? It emerges that Foster used to play guitar in a heavy metal band called, fittingly enough, A Burnt Memory. “That was really not my world. It’s great to be playing music where people can hear the singing and there are actually girls at the gigs”, he says.

“We’ve spent so much time recording, nitpicking and getting our music ready that it’ll be nice to finally get out there and perform them live,” Ben says with some relief.

Here’s hoping some girls also get along to see them.