Five Questions With… Run Coyote's Sam Allen
The Toronto indie rock band has released a sophomore album In Shadowlands. Here its singer/guitarist describes its mandate, his love of film noir, major life changes, and the group's Prairie Oyster connection.
By Jason Schneider
Toronto’s Run Coyote, comprised of brothers Sam and Jake Allen, Amanda Grant, and Jeremy Ramos-Foley, recently released their second full-length album In Shadowlands via So Sorry Records, and it shows the band refining its garage-rock approach through a myriad of new influences.
We spoke with singer/guitarist and principal songwriter Sam Allen just after Run Coyote returned from a quick tour of eastern Canada about how the new record came together and the band’s overall progress. Their next show is June 27 at the Burdock Music Hall in Toronto. Get more info at runcoyotemusic.com
What makes In Shadowlands different from your past work?
We wanted to create a project with a consistent theme that was carried through the songs, recordings, artwork, and promotional videos. We aimed to marry our love of film noir, spaghetti westerns, and late night rock and roll. We’ve created a whole world, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. Our first album was more varied stylistically, without a specific concept driving the creative process.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
At the moment, I’d say “Late Night Lovers” and “Private Eye.” I think “Late Night Lovers” has a really cool groove and mood, and it’s the best sounding recording on the album. Everything fits so well; I love how the bass and guitar lock together in the second verse. “Private Eye” is more of a songwriting accomplishment for me. I’m happy with how I fit the two different sides of the narrative together, along with the various musical parts. Through these contrasts, this track serves as the theme song for the two conflicting characters on the album. Each is distinctive but complement one another. Plus I love the energy in the ending—it’s so fun to play live, and I feel that translated into the recording, which I sometimes find challenging in the studio.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
I’ve slowly realized my strengths as a songwriter and have become more focused. On our last album, I was trying a lot of things, but on this record I feel like we’ve found a more distinctive sound. I’m a visual learner and thinker, so I’ve embraced that with my songwriting—describing how scenes look and capturing images within the songs. I’ve also found that committing to a theme and style helps to inspire me, fuelling the creative process. I see each song as a mini-movie.
What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
Just over a year ago my wife and I had a baby. Having a child has made everything more valuable to me because time is more valuable, in the best way. Everything I give time to, from being with my family to touring with the band, has become more precious, so I’m more engaged and motivated.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
I grew up in a musical family, so there was always music at family gatherings. My uncle is John P. Allen of Prairie Oyster. He’s also played with Sylvia Tyson, the Good Brothers, and others. He’s toured all over the world, but the music played at the family farm with my aunts and uncles and my Grandpa always seemed the most special. My fondest memories are from Christmases at the family farm as a kid. All the instruments are out—fiddle, banjo, double bass—with my Grandpa as the ringleader at the piano, calling out the songs while everyone sang along. It had an impromptu feel, with the songs falling together as they remembered their parts. Grandpa would joke, “I’ve always said it doesn’t matter how it starts as long as we all end together.” That experience of working together, creating together really inspired me to enjoy playing music. Now I get to have that year round with my brother and wife in Run Coyote.