By Jason Keil   Published Mar 18, 2005 at 5:17 AM

{image1} Randy Diderrich looked forward to the February 17 episode of Fox's popular teen soap opera "The O.C." with overwhelming eagerness. But, Diderrich's anticipation for the show's airing had nothing to do with Peter Gallagher's character, the married lawyer Sandy Cohen, possibly rekindling his relationship with his college sweetheart.

Quite frankly, Diderrich didn't really want to bother with Seth Cohen's efforts to prevent his ex-girlfriend, Summer, from sleeping with her current boyfriend, Zach. And he was without a doubt not the least bit concerned over the budding lesbian relationship between Mischa Barton's character, Marissa Cooper, and her friend Alex. In fact, Diderrich, who rarely watches television, has no interest in the mind-boggling events that take place in the series' location of Newport Beach. It was the appearance of the first single from the Chicago musician's latest project Sundayrunners on the Feb. 17 installment that brought Diderrich's attention to this important sweeps episode.

It was one minute and 37 seconds of monumental importance as "Memories Left at Sea," the debut single from the Sundayrunners' self-titled release, played during one of the silliest but addictive shows. But keep in mind, the eclectic bands Death Cab For Cutie, Rilo Kiley, The Killers and Modest Mouse, groups that once struggled for recognition are household names because of the exposure they got on the show.

"It feels great to be lumped with that group of musicians," he says.

Right now, it's been tough to gauge the impact of the sundayrunners' presentation on "The O.C." Currently, the album is an Internet-only release until the Machine Records release makes its formal arrival in record stores on March 22. Diderrich's year-in-the-making labor of love has seen an increase in online sales since Feb. 17, and more and more new fans are signing up to be a part of the street team every day. Not a bad way for the 35-year-old to start out his first solo project.

Sundayrunners isn't Diderrich's first foray into music, though. It was his mother and his father Richard, a musician in a cover band, who encouraged him to travel in a musical direction by providing him nine years of training on classical piano. The elder Diderrich also taught Randy how to play guitar and exposed him to the essential music of Buddy Holly, The Beatles and The Who.

"When I started playing Judas Priest in the basement, I don't know how they put up with it," Diderrich says.

Around age 16, Diderrich became involved in his first real band, Mas Optica. Their sound was rooted in the noise grunge that was starting to change the musical landscape in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Looking back on his 10 years with Mas Optica, he considers the library of music they put out "dated, for sure."

A year after the breakup of Mas Optica, Diderrich accepted a role as second guitarist in local musicians Steve and Gary Vermillion's band Front of Truck. Known for their straight-ahead quirky rock, Diderrich enjoyed being behind-the-scenes and taking a minimal role in the songwriting process. As Front of Truck's success began to slowly grow, Diderrich and the rest of the band began considering moving to Chicago. Though he had left Milwaukee many times before, it was about eight years ago when he decided to make his move to The Windy City stick.

"One by one, we moved to Chicago," Diderrich says. "Our manager, who lived there, said there would be more opportunities in the big city. I was burnt out by Milwaukee. (Front of Truck) played everywhere we could in Milwaukee and we needed to see new things, and moving to a new city would help us to feel inspired ... I stopped feeling inspired in Milwaukee."

Last year, he was one of the two touring guitarists for Tobin Sprout, who is best known for his affiliation with the legendary indie rock band Guided by Voices. Diderrich even played alongside Sprout when he opened for the historic second-to-last Guided by Voices show in Chicago. In fact, there are traces of Robert Pollard's influence all over the Sundayrunners' album, and it is from the leader of GBV that Diderrich learned an important lesson. "He taught me that the song is more important than the production," he says.

Now Diderrich is leading a band again, and he couldn't be more excited. "Singing is something I enjoy doing," he says. "I wondered if I ever would (lead a band) again. (Being in the background) really got frustrating."

According to Diderrich, creating the debut "took a surprisingly long time." Taking on 90 percent of the songwriting, much of Diderrich's weekends over the last year were spent traveling from Chicago to Sumter Lounge in Lake Geneva to record the album, which benefited greatly from the help of his friends, including Todd Bowie, his brother Rick, and the Vermillion brothers. "We took our time," Diderrich says, "(Machine Records) wanted to make sure everyone was happy."

Mastered by Trevor Sadler at Mastermind Studios in Milwaukee, the disc benefits from the extra time taken to make sure everything was just right. The 11 buoyant tracks, with optimistic harmonies that recall The Flaming Lips, take a page from the history of Diderrich's life, though none of them are self-indulgent enough to alienate the listener. Not even the album's most personal track, "1993," which is about the sudden death of Diderrich's father at the age of 50, delves into the cynicism that seems to be prevalent in these anxious times. "My songs usually aren't so personal," he says, "but his death made me think about how short life is."

Diderrich's life won't be spent worrying about the fictional residents of "The O.C." A Midwest and East Coast tour is being planned around the album's release, and with the members of the band set in place, a new album will be in the works shortly. Diderrich promises it will be more of a collaborative effort, hopefully continuing to give the songs their timeless feel. Whether Seth Cohen and the rest of Newport Beach will even be around for the second album will be an entirely different story.

Sundayrunners Web site is They will appear on Fox 6's "Wake Up" news on March 22, the day of the self-titled album's release.