While researching for my interview with local dance and electronic powerhouse Running Touch (Matthew Victor Kopp), I give his most recent Insta posts a look-over.
I already know that he’s in Los Angeles – our Zoom call is at 7am for myself, and 2pm for him – where he’s preparing to play Coachella with Hayden James. A post of his, however, catches my eye: one where he touches on probably the biggest hurdle for a Melburnian in the States.
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So, naturally, my first question for the local dance, electronic and pop legend is about how he was finding the quality of American coffee. He smilingly responds: “How do you think? It’s no good, I don’t know – I wish I had describing words to give to you.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but someone’s got to make a change.”
And who better to dictate change than Running Touch? After founding the Australian nu-metal band Ocean Grove, he made the switch to a solo career that exploded onto the Aussie music scene with his 2017 EP A Body Slow. Blending grunge, nu metalcore and hardcore punk, Running Touch’s vocal, keys and sample work characterise Ocean Grove’s studio production. The singer, songwriter and record producer has been producing steadily for other artists ever since, including being a featured artist in tracks for Adult Art Club, Verboten Berlin and Hayden James. So far, it’s paid dividends, he’s racked up 130 million streams and is – at the time of our interview – preparing to jump on stage to perform the Hayden James song ‘Better Together’, which he features on, at arguably the world’s most coveted festival before his debut album Carmine drops.
“I’m very grateful, very excited [for Coachella], obviously,” he says. “The two things I’m really excited about are: one, it’s not my show so I don’t have to bear the burden of playing one of, if not the, best festivals in the world. Two, being a solo act, I don’t really get to share many moments with other people because it’s just me, but it’s Hayden’s set, and it’s his first Coachella so it’ll be really cool to share a moment and a milestone with him. It’s fun, feels like you’re part of the group.
“The majority of my time here has just been purely studio-based and recording. [The sessions are] incredible,” he explains. “I spent the start of 2022 preparing for this trip, refining workflow, knowledge, and practice. It’s different to the way I’ve done studio sessions in the past, so recording heaps of music and hopefully we see some of it.”
There’s a five-year gap between A Body Slow and Carmine, and fans have been eagerly awaiting more music from the man behind bops like ‘Aubrey’ and ‘When I’m Around You’. He tells me that he had studio time booked in at the start of 2020, but Covid ground his album to a halt alongside the wider world. He considers it a blessing in disguise.
“It took a fuckin’ minute, that’s for sure,” he says. “It took maybe a year, year-and-a-half to make, because of Covid it was pretty stop-start.
“Man, I’m super happy I didn’t release it. It’s one of those things that I’m really grateful for, it happened very fluidly, it wasn’t rushed. My shit’s already all over the place because I’m more of a producer than an artist now, I have no fucking idea how I could’ve done it.”
That doesn’t mean that he’s entirely satisfied with how the album rollout has gone. In the lead-up to Carmine, no less than six singles have been released, double an average album cycle. And with all six singles featuring on the 13-track album, Running Touch shares his anxiety over how this abnormal approach has become a source of anxiety for him: “Because of Covid we were just like ‘Oh fuck what are we going to do, do we have to write more songs?’ It really made it… interesting is maybe the right word. Strange.”
Equal parts glittery and glamorous, Carmine features soaring choruses, heavy reverb and reflective verses that capture a nostalgic electronic sound. In describing the vibe of the album and what it means to him, Running Touch shares a somewhat paradoxical overlook: simple and complex all at once. The artist is known for his trail-blazingly unique blend of styles, influenced by the textures of tech-house, pop, indie rock and hardcore stylings. Within his tracks, the multi-dimensional Melbourne musician constantly pushes past the boundaries of the expected within his work. Tracks in Carmine will be moodily electronic with hints of funky guitar and pop vocals, although according to Running Touch, staying focused with his impressive ability to meld genres proved a “real challenge” for him.
“It’s hard not to chase those things and follow your ambition … and you’ve got a bit of ego there as well, in terms of knowing you can do something. Going into this I was very worried that it wasn’t going to be cohesive – I still don’t know if it is, I don’t know if people are just being nice to me and just fucking bullshitting me,” he laughs.
But on the artwork (the work of Darren Oorloff, a former Melburnian now in LA) and the title of the album (carmine is a dark shade of red that represents lust and violence), he presents a refreshingly straightforward vision: “I really liked the colour red and I was like ‘Fuck it, I’m not doing any of those grand concepts, I’m going to do just the most basic shit I can and have fun with it,’ and just picked a colour and I ran with it. So that might be a bit simple but, honestly, that’s all it is. It just really helped, it felt more honest. I’m not trying to push anything, I’m a simple man. It’s like I’m in grade three and red’s my favourite colour.”
So what does Running Touch listen to in his downtime? He surprises himself with his answer, as his favourite new song was found on TikTok.
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“This sounds really rude, but I’ve never heard a good song on TikTok, I just haven’t. I’ve heard stuff that’s really well done, but it’s nothing special. [Then] I found a band on TikTok, and I was like ‘Oh this is actually really good’ and it’s fucking incredible. They’re called Quarters of Change, and the song is called ‘T Love’. I was just listening to it when I was going for a walk, and I was like this is really fucking good. Last night it was just on repeat for me. Shout out to Quarters of Change.”
We finish our interview and hang up. It’s 7.45AM and I need a coffee. Thank God I’m not in LA.
Carmine is out now through Island Records Australia. He’ll be playing The Forum on May 21, tickets on sale now.