The Runts Vocalist Nicolas Carabajal on Illegal Shows, Being Hispanic in the HC Scene

Photo: Kenny Laubbacher

The Runts is a hardcore punk band based out of Los Angeles, CA. Forming back in 2005, after a long, glorious run they went on a hiatus in 2012. Fast forward to 2020, they’ve emerged from the pits of LA to get the band back together to continue wreaking their conscious havoc across the land.

I got a chance to chop it up with their vocalist, Nicolas Carabajal, about the origins of the band, imperfections as a person, being Hispanic in the punk scene, the importance of the DIY ethos, along with much, much more! 

Before we blast off, introduce yourself and let ‘em know what The Runts is all about.

My name is Nicolas Carabajal and I do vocals for The Runts. It was something that started as kids in 2005 or 2006 with my brother and two friends. After several years we took a hiatus in 2012. I guess I had some kinda quarter life crisis last year and decided to spin the band back up. I’m the only original member but this lineup is amazing.

I’ve actually never been asked what The Runts is about. So hopefully this doesn’t come across as cheesy but honestly, we don’t care if there is 1 person in the crowd or 1000. Our passion is making music and if people like it, it’s a big plus. Over the last year the experience of playing in front of people has greatly humbled us. Things are going really well, and it’s been an amazing time.

That’s rad, man. Sometimes you just need to step away for a little to gain a fresh perspective. Regarding the lineup, you were talking about, I noticed that this current roster is different than in the past. How'd you guys all meet?

Definitely. I find myself taking a step back a lot more often these days. Well, when I decided to get the band back together, I asked all the original members and one of them said yes. Charles the bass player. We have a mutual friend (Brian) who we asked to play drums. All we needed was a guitarist and so we decided to post and ask people to come try out. That’s how we met Cameron. He came in last to try out and absolutely killed it. He even asked if he could sing, and he knew the fucking words! That’s when we knew he was it. From there we did have a couple changes.

COVID impacted Charles so he took off to Utah and trained Fred who now is our bassist and very good friend of mine for the last 15 years. Brian had to deal with personal issues on the day of a show, so we reached out to Eddie who practiced with us two hours before the show and for the most part he played all the songs like the recordings. I didn’t know at that time if he was that good or our shit is basic [laughs]. He’s really good.

So now we have Fred on bass, Cameron on guitar, and Eddie on drums, and me on vocals.

Photo: Kenny Laubbacher

Maintaining a band is definitely hard work so kudos for you sticking to it and making it happen because now look at you guys! I noticed guys do a lot of street shows—picking random spots around LA to let out the havoc—what about these shows fulfills you the most?

The generator shows have been an absolute blast. It has gotten harder to do in LA since the cops follow a lot of the bands who have done so including us. As things opened up the city started caring more. It’s why the last one we had moved three times in a few hours. What I love most is that it allows people from different genres of music to come together.

Admittedly, some were there to party and others for the music. What it did do is capture an audience I didn’t know existed for punk. Rappers, ravers, freaks, and geeks all show up to these shows to let their rage out. A few occasions there have been fights but nothing too bad. COVID fucked up a lot of people and they needed to let out their frustration. We gave them a free experience to do so and I love that.

Yeah, I saw that going down on Instagram I was glad you guys found some skatepark to finally play. Did you guys just set up shop and start shredding?

Yeah, that day was insane. Even after going from Northeast LA to South Central then back to the Northeast there were maybe 700 people there at GPark. I gotta give up to the GPark Locs. I thought the evening was over after South Central but someone in the crowd yelled GPark and then they started chanting it.

I had the generator in the truck and messaged all the bands and said whoever wants to continue let’s run it. Barrage and RISK made it and between us three we shared all the equipment. It took us 15 minutes to set it up. 

We wanted to play before the cops closed it out. They brought the ghetto bird and had the park surrounded but there were too many people there already. The recipe for success with a DIY show like that is to pack it as fast of possible so a few pigs can’t close it out. At that point they need to organize and come up with an eviction strategy.

That's so rad, kudos to you guys for keeping the show going no matter what obstacle came in your way. It looked like a kick ass show. What is the craziest show memory that you have so far?

Always push forward. It’s our motto. That’s a tough question. Crazy is relative and I know there have been crazy ones. When we were younger, we didn’t give a fuck about anything. Most teenagers have an overly active ego and it’s only as we get older, we can learn to remove it.

I remember playing a show in San Bernardino and after we played, I was hooking up with someone in my truck just outside the show. Her brother came looking for her and with my pants down at my ankles opened the door to kick my ass. I sped off with this dude hanging onto the door. He finally let go and saw him roll around on the street.

Stories like that won’t gain us fans but we’re definitely different these days.

Photo: Martin Meza

My craziest show memory was more recent since I have a terrible memory. We were playing at Lafayette Park and in the pit, I saw Wyatt Shears from The Garden. A person I have looked up to for years. That’s when things in my head clicked and I realized we’ve been doing well. One of my favorite musicians of all time was at our show. He and his brother sell out The Fonda months before and he came to check us out. It’s a dream. I’m truly honored and humbled by that.

Of course, I have seen fights, stabbings, shootings, fires, pipe bombs, etc. I’ve been shot at by an ex’s boyfriend. The bullet went through our guitar cab. Those aren’t crazy to me though. Those are sad. Imperfections we need to fix in society.

Wow! That's the life of a rockstar right there. At least you've grown and realized the importance of life and to cherish it. That's what really matters—growth. We're all humans who aren't perfect, what are some imperfections you currently face today?

[Laughs] Not a rockstar. A dumb ass. Definitely have grown and that’s exactly why I can’t wait to record our new stuff. You can tell in our new music we have grown. It took me so long to finally accept a song from the new line up. We gotta sound better than the old shit. I think we’ve achieved that.

One of my worst imperfections is saying yes to everyone. It’s one of the main reasons why my fiancé left me. I couldn’t prioritize what was important because I had no time and discipline. Because of that I started seeing a therapist because life sucked which was foreign to me. I

love life. I’ve learned a lot about myself and one of the best quotes that has helped me. “Overly empathetic people cause their own self destruction." I’m learning to say yes to what’s important.

That’s inspiring, man. It takes a lot to be vulnerable and talk about the real shit. I’m sure many can relate to always saying yes even if it isn’t benefiting them. Kudos to you for being able to realize your faults before it was far too late and applying that change. Never give up hope!

What would you say to the kids out there going through a similar situation?

I’m just being honest. Something I had to really learn to do recently. If you met me 10 years ago, you’d think I was a piece of shit. I was. I still am sometimes but it’s gotten a lot better.

We live in a society that embraces tough masculine men who can’t show their emotions. It’s especially frustrating in the Hispanic community. I am Hispanic by the way. Everyone always thinks I’m white. I just have to make that clear in case anyone reads this and thinks I’m dissing.

One of my best friends shot himself a couple years ago. It was one of the very first times I’ve experienced pain like that. I felt especially terrible because we spoke a few days before and I didn’t pay attention to the signs. 

Now, when I see messages like “your music saved me” or “thank you for making life enjoyable." I reach out every fucking time. No matter what I will make time for you. That is something I can’t say no to. I want people to know that their troubles are valid, but everything can be fixed. We spend on average 75 years on this earth if we’re lucky. We gotta make the best of it.

Regardless of if you have a faith you practice, no one here can tell us for sure where we really came from or what is next. It could just go dark, it could be some kind of heaven, or it can be worse.

Photo: Ruben Aguilar 

Solid advice from a solid guy. I respect it because that’s all some real shit. Keep promoting that, man—life is what we make it. How has being Hispanic influenced your music and style in particular?

Thank you. Appreciate that very much. When we wrote a majority of our songs, we were 16-20 years old. At that time in my life, I wasn’t exactly tuned into my heritage. My family certainly taught me the importance of being Hispanic and shared its culture. More specifically Argentine and Colombian culture. I guess it’s not something I really cared about at that point. It certainly helped shaped who I am though.

Bald head Hispanic in Highland Park Los Angeles can be mistake for many things. Mostly gang affiliated. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been pulled over for not doing anything wrong. It certainly has more influence in our current music we’re writing.

Photo: Ruben Aguilar 

I feel you. Normally when we're younger we don't really appreciate our roots as much as should. You guys put the weight of the world on your shoulders from curating your own merchandise to putting on your own shows. What is it about the DIY ethos that you think is undervalued?

Yeah, it’s something we need to educate our youth more on. I believe that the younger generation is understanding culture and it’s worth sooner. The internet has sped up the sharing of ideas, beliefs, customs. For good or for bad. DIY can be overwhelming sometimes. Most days when we have a DIY show, I wake up with an insane amount of anxiety. It’s almost easier to quit the band at times.

1000 things have to go right for the day to be successful and all it takes is one thing to go wrong to shut it down. I think people need to see that part. Patience is key to DIY. We got some angry messages the day we went around the city after getting shut down multiple times. I understand their frustration. People spend money to see us whether that’s filling up their own gas tank, taking the bus, getting a taxi, etc. I’m just trying to play. The same frustration others have with us, I have with myself. It’s a lot of hard work. Most folks just have to bring their vice of choice and hang out. They don’t see the hours of work it takes.

Being an artist as well I totally understand you. The amount of effort and time that goes into the curation of projects, merch, writing, planning, and executing really does take a toll on the mind especially when others don't see behind the scenes. What can we expect from The Runts for the tail end of 2021?

Awesome you’re an artist. You in a band? Yeah, it’s a lot of work. When it all works out it’s so worth it though. Well, we’re working on a new album. I just got back from the recording studio today. I’m actually listening to a new track. It’s not even mixed and mastered and I’m in love.

It’s going to top our old stuff which is a reason why it’s taken so long to write new music. It’s the only way to show the other OGs of the band how respected they are artists. Can’t let shit pass us. I’ve been very picky. Other than that, we don’t have a big plan. We make decisions as we go. We’ve learned that things in music are unpredictable. It can take us anywhere we want just gotta be focused.

Photo: Ruben Aguilar 

Unfortunately, not. I'm more a songwriter who works with musicians to create the create behind it. But I agree when the fruits of our labors are shown it's a beautiful thing. I know me, along with many others, are excited for what you guys have cooked up! Who are some bands or artists you'd like to collab with in the future?

Well, you have a creative release so that’s good. More people need to get into writing. It’s so therapeutic. It is a beautiful thing. 

There are so many bands and artists I’d like to collaborate with. One thing I don’t see in punk is having guests sing a verse on a song like in hip hop or pop. I don’t know why that is. I asked my friend Alex from Barrage to do a verse on an upcoming song. I think it’s a cool concept and since their music is different from ours it may help inspire something new. I also want to do something with RISK. I met them at the GPark show and was super impressed. They’re amazing people and musicians.

If I had to pick a “dream” scenario, though, I would love to do a collab with Title Fight or The Garden. I messaged Title Fight’s drummer and he responded back. Had nothing to do with a collab though. I think I was drinking and just messaged him how much his music has affected me and he thanked me for the support. I fan boy’d a bit. Amazing how the people who inspire us probably have no idea how much it means to us when we’re acknowledged.

It’s one of the main reasons why I try my hardest to reply to as many messages as possible on social media. I don’t know if I inspire anyone but if I do, I would want them to know I know they exist.


A post shared by The Runts (@killtherunts)

Thanks, man, I appreciate it. People should have a way to channel all the negativity in their day-to-day lives. It's funny you mention that about how there's not really a lot of collaboration going on in the scene because I'm always saying that as well and it would be really different and fresh to see it happen which you're doing so I'm stoked.

Before we wrap up this fun interview, is there anything else you'd like to say to the fans out there or just in general?

Thank you. This has been an awesome experience and wouldn’t have happened without people liking our music, so I say this with the greatest appreciation…thank you to the fans. Your impact on our personal emotions is just as impactful as listening to your favorite artists when you’re sad, mad, happy, etc.

When I go out and see people wearing our shirts, I think I’m in a movie. It’s an extremely humbling experience. Thank you, Cameron, Fred, and Eddie. The greatest musicians I can share the stage with. Thank you GPark Locs Belen, Chase, Richie. Thank you, Nacho, Corrupted Youth, Danny, Barrage, Alex, Dead City, Samantha.

Some of us don’t talk anymore and I hope we can make it work again but you were all instrumental in whatever amount of success we have. Thank you, James. It’s an honor to be interviewed by you. 


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