Posted by Christopher Will on 01/26 at 02:37 AM
With such a large and diverse student body, Penn State University flaunts a brilliant local music scene among students, composed of young men and women with innovative minds and exceptional talent. However, very few acts have shown as much promise so early in the game as the indie-rock outfit Runaway Heroes. With singer/songwriter/guitarist Ryan Fox (sophomore – advertising), bassist Collin Edger-Smith (sophomore – engineer), singer/guitarist Zane Matsko (sophomore – English), singer/lead guitarist Nate Spilman (sophomore – business), and drummer Mike Hickman (freshman – economics), Runaway Heroes showcases a novel brand of alternative rock, brimming with musicality and meaning.
Runaway Heroes was birthed in late 2011 from Penn State’s very own Songwriter’s Club. Nate, Ryan and Collin met at a club meeting and found they had a similar love and passion for music. Collin introduced Nate and Ryan to Mike and Zane, and they started meeting in the basement of Atherton Hall to play music and socialize. This recreational jam session evolved quickly into something much more legitimate, and the five creative young men began to form an identity as a band. After spending a considerable amount of time coming up with different band names, they finally found one that stuck. Ryan came up with the title “Runaway Heroes”, explaining, “I was thinking of the concept of taking a group of people like us, who are away from home, which makes us runaways in a sense, and making a name for ourselves, so becoming heroes in a sense.”
The musical chemistry between the five members is not only apparent in their live shows, but also in their procedures for constructing songs. Each member contributes in the songwriting process and the composing process. When Ryan writes a lyric, he takes it to the other band members who each add a lyric or an idea to the general concept of the lyrics. When Nate finds a guitar riff that he thinks might work for a song, he shows it to Mike, Collin, Zane, and Ryan to get a perspective of how the riff will work in conjunction with a potential composition.
Though they play most of their material at live shows, they’ve uploaded a few of their tracks onto their Facebook page through audio and video clips. Though this band may be in it’s infant stages, each track is further proof that it’s already producing music that could rival any other local act in the State College music scene.
“Rebel Cry”, which is featured as a 54 second clip on the band’s Facebook wall, opens with a hook that is impressively catchy, and with lyrics that are exceptionally well-written. Backed by thrumming guitar and bass, the lyrics go “there’s a drum that’s beating in my heart, oh it beats away, but it’s out of time, and the bells are ringing their ugly song, it’s a dirty hymn, it sounds all night.” The song then blossoms into the full band playing before the clip ends, leaving the listener yearning for a chance to hear the full track.
Their most recent record, In The Dark, is a beautifully written love song kissed by several acoustic guitars and driving drumbeats. Ryan’s voice rises and falls gracefully above the rest of the band as he crafts this tale of romance: “and we’re quiet, oh the wind howls your name. Runaway, but the scene stays the same. In your heart, we sang songs to feel alive. In your eyes, I became a different kind.” It’s obvious that the group takes heavy influence from indie-rock gods such as Young The Giant and The Killers, particularly with the way they mash gritty production and original instrumentation with radio-friendly melodies and eccentric songwriting.
Runaway Heroes also posted an acoustic performance of In The Dark on their Facebook wall as a video. Ryan performs the raw track alone with an acoustic guitar, giving added vulnerability and emotion to the already touching ballad. He channels a younger Matt Nathanson with the way he coos softly, complimenting the quiet, sad acoustic riffs. The blatant singer-songwriter feel of the stripped down “In The Dark” shows the versatility of the band’s sound, an incredibly important aspect in garnering a solid fan base.
Head over to the band’s Facebook page to check out these songs, and follow them on Twitter to find information about future shows. Runaway Heroes will perform this coming Thursday at the Songwriter’s Club Two Day Benefit concert for THON along with several other musically talented Penn State students. The show begins at 7 pm and is in 105 Forum on the University Park campus.
Author: Christopher Will
Bio: Christopher Will is a junior studying Communications and English at Penn State. He enjoys scouring the internet for the latest pop music news and gossip, and loves sharing new music with his friends and peers. Some of his favorite artists include Breathe Carolina, Fun., Childish Gambino, Gotye, Yellowcard, and Robyn.
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