Together, Emi Night, Eli Saragoussi, Tomas Campos, David Runge, Davy Timm make up Strawberry Runners a “shimmery, gritty, tender-hearted pop” band based in Denver, Colorado. Check them out!
Where did the name Strawberry Runners originate?
Emi: So, the origin of our name is a bit of a mystery. No one can remember who thought of it or when it originally came up, but it’s a name that had been bouncing around in my head for a while, maybe even years. I was talking with a friend about it recently and I immediately thought of one of the first associations I have with strawberries – my mom grew them in the little strip of garden in our back yard. Our garden was pretty pathetic. We tried to grow all sorts of things, but most everything died except for the strawberries, which seemed to come back stronger and bigger every year. I also used to run away a lot as a kid too, from home, from school, from babysitters, from friends…etc. Probably as an adult too, just in new ways, you know. So there are associations all around.
You recently played at South by Southwest music festival. How was that experience?
Emi: South by Southwest was pretty chaotic! We got to see lots of good music though! My favorite show was the Don Giovanni showcase on Friday night. And some of us got to see this unbelievable show with an amazing queen named Christeene the same night. We were hosted by our incredibly hospitable friend Santi from the Austin band, Growl. We all got tattoos and/or piercings that week too…haha! We danced a ton and ate delicious food, made new friends, wore lots of earplugs, saw tons of beautiful people everywhere. Overall it was a bit of a mess, but I’m glad we went!
David: The difference in the shows was pretty surreal. One day would be an empty field, the next would be a packed bar. Other than that, I felt like we got really tight from playing so many shows back to back.
As a band based in Denver, Colorado, do you find the popular music scene there heavily influences you?
Emi: I draw influence from so many musicians and artists here, even though a lot of the music that comes out of Denver is super different from what we make. I’m influenced most by our friends who also make up the bands in our community: Mega Gem, Chase Ambler, Disaster Canyon, Doo Crowder, Cop Circles, Bonnie Gregory of The Horse Latitudes, Stelth Ulvang, Anna Smith, Meeca, Spirits of the Red City, Laura Goldhamer and a couple former Denver bands: Papa Bear and Dovekins
What do you find are your biggest influences?
Emi: Well, usually it starts with a feeling about something. That will make me want to sit down and write for awhile. So feelings… tied to memory, family, friendships, love, stories, and personal myth-making. I’m most influenced by these things. Being able to see my life and what I’m experiencing right now as part of a bigger story can be super empowering. Stories. I love songs that tell stories, especially stories that are a little off-beat with some familiar elements, so some of my biggest musical/story-telling influences are Belle and Sebastian, The Mountain Goats, Joanna Newsom, The Weakerthans, Neutral Milk Hotel and Saintseneca. And one of the biggest influences in making music, and just living + creating in general is my family. My mom and my brothers. We’ve been through a lot together, and right now we live far apart because that’s what works for us, but writing songs helps me to stay close to them. And they always give me something to write about. haha
NPR listed your song “Hatcher Creek” on their mix for SXSW. Did you expect this song to be received so positively? How did the song come about?
Emi: Haha! Well, no actually, not really! We’re a totally unknown band otherwise, almost monastic, even! We sort of just put this out there like, hey NPR, so here’s this… but, well, you know, I actually also gave them a good amount of background information about my writing and this song. I was pretty open and honest about my process and the experiences that led to the writing of this song in particular. Sharing this information with some total strangers sort of made me feel differently about my work. Exposing these vulnerable and sometimes painful roots of my creative process was a choice, and when I made it, I had this sense for some reason that I couldn’t go back. And maybe they saw that too. Or maybe they just heard a catchy pop song! I can’t say! I mean, when you put your heart and soul and sweat into something for a long time, and give it all the love and care you have, I just have to believe that something will come of it. Like, I know this isn’t a stone I’m planting. It’s a seed, and when I care for it, it’ll thrive. Who knows what that looks like? I guess that’s kind of how I think of my work. I just give it my best and hope it survives out there!
If you could play a show for one night with two other bands/musicians, what bands/musicians would you choose and why?
David: Spirits of the Red City and Tune Yards probably. It’d be a weird show, but I love both of those bands like air.
Emi: Ooohhhh, I’d probably want to play with Belle and Sebastian, because they’re my favorite band of all time, and the Music Tapes. Julian Koster creates the most magical show experience I’ve ever, ever had. I have no idea how this show would actually look, honestly. I’m sure it would be totally weird, because I feel like both of those bands stand best alone, with such incredible, engaging performances, that it’s pretty absurd to try to pack in other music experiences around that. So maybe my ideal show would actually be one in which all three of our bands collaborate for one totally freaky, bizarre, and magical performance.
The lyrics of your songs are often very personal. Do you have a particular writing process or ritual?
Emi: Hm. My lyrics are often very personal. My early life was dark and silent. Now, sometimes I write about the abuse and trauma I experienced growing up. As for ritual, I’ve made rituals an integral part of my daily life, but in songwriting, specifically writing about these dark experiences, this is the closest I get to it: I’ve forgotten most of my childhood. It’s a normal reaction to trauma, to forget. But in many ways, my body still remembers. This can be maddening. So when the confusion between these two disparate experiences of my body and my mind becomes overwhelming, I spend time intentionally retrieving memories. If one returns to me it can be powerful – painful. Playing a song – just humming with my guitar can be very soothing in these moments. And as I work through some of the pain of the memory, I try to give voice to the experiences I recall from my childhood through writing. I try to tell the story from a place of empowerment now, rather from the perspective of a victim. Often the only way I can access my memory, without re-traumatization, is through song. Does that make sense? I have to write, because somehow the child I was, her life, little more than a whisper, has a new chance to speak in these moments. It is less a ritual than it is a compulsion which I make space for in my somewhat ritualistic life.
Aside from being members in Strawberry Runners, you all play in other bands as well. How do you manage this? Have you had any interesting experiences with this?
David: It can be tough, but is usually more of a positive influence than a burden. It’s nice to step outside of the Strawberry Runners sound as an exercise.
Emi: Well, nothing too interesting, honestly! Strawberry Runners and Mega Gem have for a long time been very entangled. Davy and Tomas are two main members of both bands, I’ve been an auxiliary member for years, singing harmonies and playing a variety of instruments, Eli has filled in on bass a number of times, and just to keep David in the loop, Mega Gem threw him on glockenspiel for one of their shows at SXSW. I played bass for Mega Gem during their Midwest/east coast tour last summer. I also toured with them, playing Strawberry Runners songs as Moth Mender – the name of my solo project, which has recently been mostly absorbed by Strawberry Runners. For a couple of our shows Mega Gem backed up my set, and that’s actually what influenced me to ask Tomas and Davy to join Strawberry Runners later in the summer.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Not at the moment! Thanks so much for interviewing us, and for patiently awaiting our super late responses!
* Photos and quote via the band’s Facebook page