‘Spit’ is Runaway Nuns’ sophomore album. The album is an aggressive and confident garage rock firestorm. The band felt that it was time to do what they do best which is to dive head first into the raucous music they grew up listening to. True to this ethos most of the songs on this project barely run over three minutes and pulse with energy of five possessed humans on a mission.
Kayleigh Anne Kirsten
The eleven tracks were recorded in July 2019, high in the mountains of Tulbagh, Western Cape, at Fisaasbos Studios. Singer and songwriter, Sean Baron turned 25 during the recording of the album and the band drank for seven days straight to combat the freezing weather and resulting flu. The aggressively performed takes were recorded without click, allowing the band to adjust to the natural grooves in each of the song’s passages. The result is that these tracks capture what it’s like to be at a Runaway Nuns live show; and that, is a good thing.
‘Spit’ finds songwriter Sean Baron focussing his lyrics internally, with darker and more honest results. Many of the tracks are written as if he’s having a conversation with himself, probing, doubting, and questioning previously held beliefs and ideas. These are conversations that listeners are invited and encouraged to take part in, which is what sets this songwriting apart from much of the band’s earlier work.
A FEW WORDS WITH SEAN BARON
The Sophomore album curse has been a make or break for many artists, did you feel any pressure coming off the back of your first record, how does the song writing differ from Holy Collusion?
I think that as well received as Holy Collusion was, we always felt that the record only showed about half of our potential. We have always prided ourselves on having one of the most high energy sets around and, with that in mind, we wanted to get back to what made us Nuns.
For this record I was definitely looking for something rawer and closer to the bone. Writing this album was a great kind of catharsis for me, I just went into my thoughts and pulled out what was most immediate and real, and I held myself back from censoring lyrics and thoughts that would have previously been too uncomfortable for me to write about.
When I started showing demoes to the band it was clear we were on the exact same page, and when PJ said, “We should just call it something siff like ‘Spit’”, well that was when ‘Spit’ was born.
‘Spit’ was recorded over a week in Winter 2019. Fisaasbos Studio is not your average location to record a punk record, why did you venture out to Tulbagh for these sessions?
As I said earlier we wanted ‘Spit’ to capture our energy and attitude when playing live, and we didn’t want to be too rushed. Holy Collusion was all recorded in about two days, which was brutal. This time we wanted to be able to sit with our thoughts and craft something more mature and, to be frank, awesome.
When Tulbagh came up as an option we were all keen. A whole week together drinking dop and making music with your best friends is very hard to say no to. The studio itself carries an incredible room sound that really just put the cherry on top of our punk cake.
And I suppose it is weird that we chose such a beautiful place to record such an aggressive album. Maybe it’s just me but beautiful views and tranquility actually make me uncomfortable to a degree, so recording in that setting only fueled the fire.
The album artwork is incredibly striking and captivating. It feels very serious and touches on a very sensitive topic in South Africa. Can you elaborate on the concept and art direction for the cover?
The idea for the album artwork was very simple. We initially just wanted a band member spitting to be the artwork. When we spoke about it we wanted Sihle to do it because we feel he could carry the attitude of the album on camera. We got the incredible Joshua Stein involved and had a very informal photoshoot at Sihle’s place. We were just spitballing random ideas for a couple options and decided that getting another hand in the shot might be cool.
Fast forward to a few weeks later and we’re looking through the photos and that one just popped out to us. It had the rawness and uncomfortableness of the album. It was only at this point that we actually realised that it does comment on race and especially in South Africa.
Obviously we knew it might cause a stir but the only important thing for us as a band was that it was an authentic photo not done for shock value and that Sihle was comfortable with the image being used. If the photo makes anyone uncomfortable we would like them to ask themselves why.
The approach to this album has a far more ‘in your face’ punk attitude, do you feel the bands’ musical identity shifting into a harder sound, is this the beginning of a new phase for Runaway Nuns or is it the same band wearing a different hat? Where do you see the band developing from here?
I think we have always been a punk band even when we’ve tried really hard to sound like seasoned musos to be honest. And despite the different sounds we’ve gone for in previous releases our live show has remained ferocious. We just wanted to get back to who we really are, and make music that is both of its time and ours. This is the first record where we can truly say, “That’s Runaway Nuns.”
The lyrical content seems to come from a place of self reflection, do you think you’ve worked through some of those demons? Are you talking to your inner voice a little less now or are there still battles raging inside?
Aw man if it were that simple I could’ve stopped writing songs a few years ago! I mean, it probably helped to shout some of those things into a microphone instead of at myself but I don’t think any of those demons are going anywhere soon. There aren’t enough loud amps and things to break in the world.
How has the current pandemic and lockdown affected the release of the record? What is your outlook on the current state and future of the world as a collective mind? Do you see us plunging into darker times?
Our album release has been affected pretty massively. We were supposed to do a 3 week Europe tour in June that we’ve obviously had to postpone, as well as the local tour we had planned for the album. Now we are just doing everything we can to push the album online and beyond from the comfort of our homes.
Fuck dude, I have no clue. I was already on the boat of “this world is a shithole” long before COVID-19 came along. I guess right now I’m holding out a sliver of positivity that communities might grow closer when all is said and done, but who knows.
I do know one thing though: our live scene will survive. And the reason I say that is most of us do this for passion anyway. And most of us have been broke from doing this for a few years. So yes, we’ve been hit hard (and my heart goes out to all the full time musicians are bearing the real brunt of it) but I have a lot of faith in our scene.