Run On Sentence is Dustin Hamman’s musical outlet. Sometimes it’s a full, swinging band—oftentimes it’s him and drummer Dan Galucki writing songs and touring as a duo. Hamman is kissed with an insatiable itch for movement. Maybe it’s the gypsy in him, maybe it’s the punk—but there is nothing that satisfies him more than packing up for a tour and seeing what happens along the way. Folk is, by definition, the carrying of culture. Hamman instinctively understands this—whether he’s at a hot springs ranch or a film festival, he internalizes experiences to translate into his music. His storytelling is second nature—it drips off his tongue in words that are wise and rapturous.
Influenced by The Violent Femmes and Fugazi, Hamman plays folk music that is as much Gogol Bordello as it is Billy Bragg. It’s hearty and stirring, and it’s completely without pretense. In the song “Run To You,” he sings, “Surrender all you know/let go of what’s unspoken.” Letting go is something that has recently become important and defining to Hamman. As he was writing his new album, simply and thoughtfully titled Feelings, he consciously set free any calculations or expectations that he might have had. “I’ve always overthought things and been really attached to words, but I was in a place where I wanted to explore emotions more fully and think as little as possible.” As a result, both Hamman and his audiences are given a sense of liberation to see, hear and experience the music in a true blue, no bullshit way. The title track of “Feelings” says it best: “I just want to feel/god damn, that’s what feelings are for.”
As much as Run On Sentence enjoys new cities and towns across the U.S., they owe a certain gratitude to their hometown. “Portland is a very special place,” says Hamman. “There is a specific sound that comes from the region, and there’s a crew of support that makes it thrive.” Bands such as Horse Feathers, Laura Gibson, and The Decemberists are part of the community that is a mecca of sorts for folk musicians, creating a nurturing and stimulating environment. When Run On Sentence makes it back to PDX, they put on a show that serves as a tribute to the place that was so good to them. The revolving cast of friends and former bandmates come together with horns and strings and play songs they know by heart, made special by the miles and miles in between.
“The first time I wrote a song was to prove a poetry teacher wrong,” Hamman laughs. “He told me that song lyrics and poetry could never be the same thing, and that made me mad.” In the decade or so since then, Hamman has continued to demonstrate that lyricism and poetry can be one and the same. His songs are both vivid and gritty; romantic and realistic. In recent years, Hamman has adopted a more relaxed, detached relationship with his words. By removing emphasis on lyrics, he hopes to evoke emotion more fully and richly through sound alone. Despite this process, Hamman says, “I came from writing words and I’ll always be pretty picky about the ones I use.” The songs that have been created in this mindset are clear and unhinged. In “Albion,” Hamman sings, “Please don’t worry/I will meet you in that tall grass growing out near Albion/and the breeze’ll be blowing.”
As storytellers in a digital age, Run On Sentence face crowds full of glowing iPhone screens. This disconnect doesn’t discourage Hamman—he tries to embrace it. “If I see someone texting, I imagine they’re texting someone about how awesome the show is.” Hamman has a personal belief in taking time to enjoy things, and he hopes his music invites people to put down the technology and have a genuine experience. “I want people to come to a show and take whatever they need from it.”
Hamman and Galucki have capitalized on the freedom to live as full-time musicians. “We don’t have day jobs,” says Galucki. This allows for writing, shows and tours to come as an organic process without the pressure of structure. Right now, they’re focusing on the latest album and scheming the next road trip. As Hamman says, “I know that come November, I’ll be working on a ton of new music, even though, right now it’s just working itself out in the back of my brain. I’m planting seeds for winter.” That being said, time frames aren’t much of a concern for the duo. “I’ll be playing drums for the rest of my life. I’ll be that old dude playing in Jimmy Buffett cover bands,” says Galucki. Likewise, Hamman is committed to traveling, learning, writing and playing. Catch Run On Sentence as they pass through Salt Lake on Sept. 2 at Diabolical Records, where they’ll play with Seattle’s The Exquisites and Salt Lake’s own Wing & Claw. To check out their music and stay updated, head over to ther Facebook and runonsentencemusic.com.