Rockers are known for profligacy, but the members of Retribution Gospel Choir like to be on an even keel. They're a healthy bunch: The guitarist is a trail runner, the bassist is a long-distance runner, and the drummer is a distance swimmer and Ultimate Frisbee champion. Alan Sparhawk, the guitarist and lead singer, took some time to chat with Outside Online about music and his running habit upon the release of RGC's sophomore album, 2. You can catch them on tour through the summer. And you can let us know who you think is the fittest band ever in the comments section, below.
You've toured with Wilco. Any words of wisdom from them?
Not that I can remember. Most people I know who have been doing music for a long time feel just as clueless as ever. It's a strange business. I did go running with Jeff [Tweedy] a few times. He's good company.
How'd you get into running?
I grew up on a farm in northern Minnesota. I started jogging the dirt roads and tractor trails in junior high. We had a ripping orienteering team at our school, and I loved doing that. After high school, I didn't exercise very much--too busy playing guitar and being cool--but in my early 30s, with the encouragement of some friends, I started up again, most always running on trails. I've found it to be vital to my mental health, and a huge boost to creativity.
I run about every other day, usually four to eight miles, with a goodsauna afterward. On the road, we run whenever we can, but our drummer,Eric, is a water aerobics instructor, so we try to stay where there's apool. Having a frisbee in the van is pretty vital, too.
Favorite places to run?
We've had some great runs on tour--Joshua Tree, Valley of the Gods in Colorado, Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Tel Aviv, Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, anywhere in New Zealand. Our hometown, Duluth, has great trails. My main go-to is Chester Bowl. It's a trail that runs up and down a river that runs into the lake. Plus, you can get on the Lake Superior hiking trail from there, and that's heaven for hiking/trail running. Running in the winter works out great in Duluth, too, as long as I have my old pair of ice-bugs.
My brother Justin, for sure. He did the Boston Marathon this last year. Some runners here in Duluth--Dusty Olson and vetrantriathlete Rod Raymond. Running with those guys wakes you up quick, butit's inspiring. Lots of musicians run--I heard Neil Young runs a mileright before he hits the stage.
Any nutrition tips?
Peanut butter on toast and water. On tour, nutrition is vital. Oatmeal at Starbucks is probably the best thing to happen for traveling DIY bands since the first Ford Econoline.
Running goals this year?
Do a trail marathon. It will have to be late in the fall. I've just read Born to Run, so I have dreams of a 100-miler down the line. I need to slow my pace a bit--smaller steps.
What does running do for your music?
Being healthy makes for better creativity. I've had many ideas for songs come to me while running.