Slow Gun Runner's got the feeling

Posted: Thursday, April 03, 2008

Niki Skeek holds the microphone with her right hand and moves her left one through the air, her fingers together, making a point. Her eyes are closed. Her feet are a foot apart, one forward, one behind. She throws her head back and belts out the lyrics, "Slow gun runner come up from Mexico, he's got a lot to carry, but he don't know what's in his load."

David Sheakley /Juneau Empire
David Sheakley /Juneau Empire

The song is about a man who ran guns across borders, Skeek said.

"I was intrigued by the lifestyle," Skeek described. "If he tries to fall in love with some girl it's not gonna work out because he's always got to be on the road, he's always got to be moving," she said.

Skeek sings that and other original songs depicting interesting characters and subjects with a group of musicians calling themselves Slow Gun Runner.

Slow Gun Runner opens for local funk group BRAVEmonkey at 7:30 p.m. this Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5, at the Alaskan Hotel & Bar. They also have a slot at the folk festival (without Niki) on Wednesday, April 9. And on Saturday, April 12, they're together again for a show at The Island Pub in Douglas.

Skeek is Slow Gun Runner's lead singer and lyricist. David Pichard plays guitar and leads the musical arrangements. The duo formed the core of the group a year ago under a different name.

The band's current iteration includes Jeff Goetz on bass and Chris Lamb on drums. The four have been playing together since October.

"Niki and I have been the common thread," Pichard said. "The current line-up has come to be because of the progression of time and people coming in and out of our lives."

"It was definitely meant to be," Lamb added. "I had always thought of Dave and Niki in the back of my head, as far as playing music with them, and it's cool that they dragged me into (it)."

Slow Gun Runner defines its music as funk-rock-reggae, Skeek said.

"I don't know any other way to describe it, but it's solid," she said. "Every time I hop on stage I absolutely love every sound that comes out."

In their short time together, the group has opened for BRAVEmonkey and was featured at last month's Sitka Artigras festival, where they performed at the Moose Lodge and later at the Pioneer Bar.

"Sitka gave us a lot of fire," Lamb said. "It felt so good playing there ... They gave us fire and I appreciated the town of Sitka."

Skeek said making up lyrics is one of her passions. She carries stacks of words in a backpack and many more in her head.

"I make up a lot of lyrics off the top of my head. On stage that's how I've always done it. I've done rap. I've done rage. I've done rock. I've done acoustic jams and I've gotten up in a lot of different places," she said.

"Niki's a great front person to have out there," said Goetz. "She's charismatic. She's tight. She has great lyrics and really holds together what we're doing."

Though Skeek is the obvious front person, the individuality and expertise of the players behind her are a major part of the band's driving energy.

Pichard named the importance of the bass and drums in supporting that force.

"When you've got a solid rhythm section, you got something. If you don't have a solid rhythm section, go home, 'cause it ain't happening," he said.

Goetz added, "When you're the bass, you realize that even the simplest of back and forth between two notes is still this fundamental thing that holds it all together."

Band members agree that reggae is a strong influence.

"I'm huge into Bob Marley," Skeek said. "If there is any place that would be killer to play, it would be the Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica."

"That would be the goal of Slow Gun Runner, to be accepted in Jamaica," Goetz said.

Wherever they end up, Slow Gun Runner is going with fervor.

"We've got the love for the music and it just takes over," Skeek said.

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