Strawberry Runners Premiere 'Garden Hose' Video, Talk DIY in the Midwest

Scott McCormick
Strawberry Runners

Much has changed since Strawberry Runners, the spirited indie-pop project spearheaded by Emi Night, briefly broke away from the pack and caught the attention of South by Southwest audiences in 2015 with their song "Hatcher Creek."

In the intervening years, Night herself has relocated several times, departing the band's birthplace in Denver to bounce around Connecticut and New York before setting into Philadelphia's emergent music scene. Those moves have made Night the sole core member, a path to creative control she's been setting for herself since immersing herself in Bloomington, Indiana's folk-punk DIY scene as a teenager.

Night has shared with Billboard her self-directed video for the track "Garden Hose." Taken from In the Garden, In the Night, the band's recent EP of shined-up re-recordings from the Strawberry Runners catalog, "Garden Hose" depicts the band roaming the expanses of Idaho Springs, a secluded Colorado spot famous for its therapeutic powers. The reflecting-pool glow on Night's guitar evokes a lackadaisical, unsupervised spirit, contrasting her lyrics that never fail to hint at the responsibilities everyone tries to shake.

Watch the "Garden Hose" video below, and read our interview with Night:

Could you tell me more about how the band's changed since it's set into its formation now?

I think what's changed the most about the band is that I've taken ownership of the band more in the last couple of years than I did at first. I've been defining what I wanted, and I've gotten comfortable with spilling it out, telling people what I want to hear, asking people to do it this way. That was a process for me, learning how to do that.

It sounds like this has been what you've been heading towards since your time in the DIY scenes.

Yeah, it has been. It's all so funny, because it fluctuates. I do really love the collective element of the process. When everyone comes to the table with different skills and backgrounds, they bring something special. I really like to indurate people's strengths. It's a balancing act, trying to find ways to let people do their best work and also being clear about what I want. It's definitely an extension of what started back in Bloomington with my earlier band.

A lot of Midwestern DIY scenes are different from what you might expect. Could you talk about how it was for you when you were first getting involved?

I think I got my first taste of the DIY scene when I was in high school. My friend Daniel, who had been living in Bloomington, set up some of my first shows for me, set up my first tour for me. That folk-punky stuff was kind of inspiring to me in a way, because the content was so different, lyrically, than what I'd heard before. Even in indie music of the time: I listened to a lot of Rilo Kiley and Belle & Sebastian, Bright Eyes and Elliott Smith. That inspired me a lot, but there was something so much more vulnerable about the DIY. Even the folk-punk was alluring -- I don't know, it was a little off-putting, in a way, yet exciting.

There was a lot of creative things happening in Bloomington that's different from other places. I remember when I moved out to Colorado, I was playing music and someone could tell by the way that I was playing that I was from the Ohio River Valley. There's something in the sound of it: ephemeral, kind of beautiful, dark feeling, comparative to the Red House Painters and My Morning Jacket. There's something a little eerie, almost country.

You told another interviewer a few years back that you weren’t sure if pop music was “the appropriate context to talk about domestic abuse, or rape, or loss, or any of these painful, messy, confusing feelings in a meaningful [and] beneficial way.” How do you feel about that now?

I don't know what the best context for that discussion is, to be totally honest. It's a difficult discussion, and I think any way that we can get people talking about it is a good method, as long as it feels inclusive... I don't really feel like there is an answer. I hope that people can feel more comfortable talking about their experiences, and if there's some sort of medium that makes that easier, then that would be nice.

Has it gotten easier for you to explore those themes as you've grown into your bandleader role?

I think, yes. There's been a lot of supplementary stuff that I've done that went into being able to write that music. It wasn't just that I decided I was going to write about my pain and it came out as something helpful. I went back to school, and I spent two years studying early childhood development and how trauma affects childhood development. Doing all I could [outside of music] was a huge part of why I'm able to look at my life now and not turn away from the things that were so difficult when I was a kid.

Do you think your music with Strawberry Runners, up to this point, has been influenced by that location and environment you grew up in?

I think I've played some of the songs so many times that it's like brushing your teeth, But then, on this tour, I played these songs in Bloomington, and I couldn't get through some of the songs. I almost started crying during a couple of them. The longer I'm away, I think the easier it is to play the songs, but whenever I go back, it [gets difficult]. There are even times when I play them away from home where I'll be taken back there. It's so bizarre, but in sharing that with someone who has shared that experience in the song with me, it becomes so much more real than time has made it. I think that having written these songs have gotten what I needed to get out, but as I grow and change, there's always more. I don't know if where I am affects that as much as who I am and what I'm doing.

What do you see yourself writing about now?

I still write a little bit about my family, and over the last couple of years I've been writing a lot about relationships and friendship, finding a sense of home and place. Very recently, in the past few months, I've been writing more about family again. [Laughs.] You can definitely read me like a book. I think the stuff that I write is very much based in what's happening in my life at this moment, and trying to find a way to make sense of it.

In the Garden, In the Night is available now via Salinas Records.

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