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Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Runarounds make local debut, 9 months after shooting pilot episode with ‘OBX’ creator

The Runarounds — the band featured on “Untitled Band Pilot Project” shot in Wilmington last fall — will take the stage at Bourgie Nights on Sunday. (Photo by Isaiah Pate)

WILMINGTON — An unlikely band, born from a popular streaming series, is holding its first public Wilmington performance at Bourgie Nights on Sunday.

READ MORE: ‘Outer Banks’ season 4 halts production following strike, local permits still active

The Runarounds — consisting of William Lipton, Axel Ellis, Zende Murdock, Jesse Golliher, and Jeremy Yun — formed in 2021 when local filmmaker Jonas Pate put out a call for musicians to perform on “Outer Banks.” The hit Netflix show’s homebase is in Charleston, South Carolina, though Pate lives in Wilmington.

Pate said roughly 5,000 people responded to the casting call.

When they whittled it down to the finalists, and the guys came together to jam for the first time, the director said the chemistry was palpable.

“Within 45 minutes of meeting each other, they were playing and were incredible,” he told Port City Daily on a Zoom call with the band earlier this week. 

The Runarounds show up as the party band for Mike and Anna’s anniversary in season three, episode seven of “Outer Banks,” released in February. However, Pate had a different idea brewing beyond just a group of musicians performing for a background scene: He had begun writing a script about high-school teenagers who start a rock band, make an album, go on tour, and try to succeed.

“Untitled Band Project,” slated to be called “The Runarounds,” shot its pilot in Wilmington last fall. Since, the five-piece has created new music and released a “Live at USC” EP.

Lipton, best known as Cameron Webber on “General Hospital,” attends the University of Southern California in L.A. and is studying at the Thornton School of Music.

The 20-year-old actor also has been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Original Song, “Darling Darling,” for “General Hospital.” Lipton brought The Runarounds to the soap opera’s set to be in an episode earlier this year.

“It was bring-your-band-to-work day,” he quipped.

Lipton has always wanted to be both a musician and actor from a young age. It stemmed from his first fifth-grade theater production, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

“How lucky am I to stumble across this?” he said.

William Lipton has always wanted to be an actor and musician. He plays Cameron Webber on “General Hospital” and is in The Runarounds. Lipton had the original song “Darling, Darling” nominated for a 2023 Emmy, which he wrote for the soap opera. (Courtesy Jonas Pate)

By age 6, Lipton was singing and playing guitar; he met Yun in youth through a “School of Rock-type program.”

“Jeremy and I just had something special and we’ve been in every single band together since, for over a decade now,” Lipton said.

All the members have side projects as well. Ellis, currently studying jazz in Illinois, is part of Ax and the Hatchetmen in the Chicago area. He never really considered another career.

“My dad was always like, ‘Do you want to play music? Because, trust me, this will be really fun,'” Ellis recalled. “I just tried it out — and, now, I can’t believe we get to do this somewhat for a living.”

Murdock started playing drums at age 2, inspired by his father as well. Before he got a drum set for Christmas, Murdock said he would perform air drums with chopsticks. The first time a real set of mallets hit the snare or floor tom, it startled him.

“There’s a funny video of me tapping on the drums, and then I just throw the sticks across the room because I’m afraid of the sound,” Murdock said with a laugh.

Golliher, self-taught, always had a desire “to be the next Kurt Cobain.” 

When “Outer Banks” put out a call to form a band, Golliher was at a girl’s house, his first time meeting her mom. The matriarch was questioning the musician about going to college and getting a job.

“There were some arguments back and forth about what I wanted to do,” he said. “I told her I was sticking to the music. And that day someone sent me the casting call; I was like, ‘You know what? I’ll apply for a job right now.’”

All the bandmates were fans of “Outer Banks” prior to being on the show. For Ellis, he holed up in his room and watched the series at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when it dropped to worldwide acclaim. The first season garnered 34 million hours viewed (season two brought in 27.7 million and three with 99 million hours, Forbes reported).

“It was a bunch of kids on the beach having a good time and it truly made me feel better about what was going on,” Ellis said. 

The Runarounds played multiple songs for the “OBX” anniversary scene: Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” and Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real’s “Find Yourself.” Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” is what ended up in the show.

Axel Ellis reaches out to a fan at one of The Runarounds shows in 2023 at the Troubadour in L.A. (Courtesy Jonas Pate)

“Honestly, it was about giving the guys a chance to be on a set because, other than William, they had not yet acted before,” Pate said. “So I wanted them to get used to being around the cameras and crew. This was a warm up; we did that pretty much a month or two before we shot the pilot.”

By January 2023, after the pilot wrapped, The Runarounds were recording their first EP in Lipton’s frat house. And they had music mastermind Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads help produce it. Lipton called it the greatest night of his life.

“We spent a lot of time rehearsing, to make sure that the songs were locked in and we could really home in when the time came to play them live,” he said. “And the rest is history.”

“I’m still pinching myself,” Yun said.

Harrison produced the album with composer and producer Alex Collier, along with the help of Karl Derfler (Talking Heads, No Doubt, Tom Waits) and Eric Thornton. The band went into the studio after the live show, ready to soak up Harrison’s decades of musical insight.

“He just understood what we wanted to do,” Murdock said. “And he didn’t overtake the process — he allowed us to do our thing but guided it in a very strong way. What a mind-blowing experience to be in the studio with him and watch him go through his process. I was a little bit of a starstruck moment, but it was hella fun and he is our pal now.” 

The session came at a time when the band was still figuring out its sound, an amalgamation of rock, hooked with pop and punk sensibilities. Yun said he always performed hard rock, while Murdock and Golliher have more indie backgrounds, and Ellis leans into jazz and blues.

“Jerry was really great at helping us blend our sound,” Yun said. “And we also have three guitars, and that’s kind of hard sometimes because they can run into each other if you’re not paying attention. But I really feel like we’ve got a good system now — we have various instances where we all can shine. I think it’s really unique and been a fun process to learn from him about how to do that.”

The writing process has been collaborative; when the band isn’t together, the guys still meet remotely. Members are spread out from San Francisco to Boston to Atlanta. They were able to write their first song, “Wild Kids,” in San Francisco in 2021.

“Because we were lucky enough to be together,” Yun said. 

On the road, they’ve churned out at least a double-album’s worth of music. They also have paired up with Madison Love, who co-wrote “Bad Things” by Machine Gun Kelly and “Choose Your Fighter” by Ava, the latter featured on the soundtrack for Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.” 

Pate has known Love since she was a pre-teen, before she attended New York University to become a songwriter. Her work has also been featured with artists Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. 

“She’s been wildly accomplished at a very young age,” Pate said, adding the band writes the majority of its songs, though Love will be a sounding board when needed.

The band has a hard time choosing a favorite to play right now. Yun said the songs all bring forth different emotions. 

“Everyone has parts to shine on,” he added. “I think the beauty of it is when they’re all played together.”

For Pate, watching The Runarounds perform “Senior Year” on set at the end of the pilot shoot last year was a standout. It encapsulated the hardships of growing up, facing the bittersweetness of graduating and moving on, while realizing a chapter of youth was closing.

“They wrote this great, unbelievably cool song that they all chipped in on and traded lyrics on, and finished with this big kind of instrumental flourish,” Pate described. “And it was so much fun to watch them put it together and it was the first time they really did it for the show.”

Lipton said the band’s catalog of music will be divided: some for the band, some going into the series “The Runarounds.”

“The music just totally rips beyond all belief,” Pate told PCD in February. “And we did it backwards. Most of the time you do a show like this, you cast actors and they fake the musicianship. This time we cast musicians.”

The band had the help of acting coach Russ Blackwell leading up to the first day on set. An ice-breaker of a scene helped the youngsters acclimate as the cameras flipped on.

“We were just screaming at each other,” Murdock said. 

The phrase Jonas wrote for the guys: “Rock god mother f**ker!” 

“We were trying to get each other hyped up,” Murdock said. “Jonas was showing me the ‘Show Me the Money,’ scene [from ‘Jerry McGuire’], saying ‘I want it to feel more like this.’ And I was like, ‘OK, this could be fun.’ And we just ad-libbed.”

“It was amazing to watch the guys get better, become more comfortable and loosen the nerves,” Pate said. “People we’ve shown the pilot to can’t believe [except for William] they are not actors.”

Inspiration to do the series came from Pate’s love for Chapel Hill band Dillon Fence from the ‘90s (his brother, Joshua, also a writer on “Outer Banks,” attended UNC-Chapel Hill). It takes courage for teens and 20-somethings to pursue music as a career so young in life, with the cards stacked against them, Pate said.

“You really don’t know what’s going to happen and 99% of the time it fails, right?” he told PCD earlier this year. “It is such a crazy cliff to jump off. So I was like, ‘How come no one’s told that story?’”

CATCH UP: Netflix’s ‘Outer Banks’ features local talent, director talks future, other projects in development

The series “The Runarounds” is in a holding pattern as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists joined the Writers Guild of America strike, stopping productions nationwide.

However, the band keeps playing.

In between tour stops, they were able to catch Talking Heads’ Harrison perform live as well. But, mostly, they’ve been concentrating on their own work. 

This Sunday will be show number 16 this year, likely an hour set. Golliher said the room for growth is vast as the guys continue to find their footing. He’d like to see their live performances evolve as well.

“Almost like building the set so it has a story through it — not just playing songs,” he said. “There’s a way you can build a show and kind of weave it together into an entire experience. And I think that’s something I’d like to navigate.”

Pate anticipates footage from their concerts could wind up in the series, if it takes off. Or at the very least they could be used promotionally.

“There’s all kinds of different ways we’re thinking about doing it,” he said.

The Runarounds will take the Bourgie Nights’ stage on Sunday at 7 p.m. The show is open to all ages; tickets are $12 in advance ($17, under 21) and $15 day of the show ($20, under 21).

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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