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The Los Angeles-based alternative folk rock band Run River North is six Korean-American friends who say they’ve found the American dream through music, even though they admit their careers in music concern their immigrant parents.
Formerly called Monsters Calling Home, the band has just released the self-titled debut album, “Run River North.”
Band members Daniel Chae, John Chong, Joe Chun, Alex Hwang, Sally Kang and Jennifer Rimm perform an acoustic mini-concert and talk about their music with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson, from the studios of NPR West in Culver City, California.
Alex Hwang on the meaning of “Monsters Calling Home”
“The monsters, I think, that I’m talking about and that we’re singing about first started off as just how I saw my immigrant parents. Not necessarily monsters in a totally negative connotation, but just the fact that, you know, they came over here as immigrants, left their entire culture behind and pursued the American dream. Sometimes they failed, sometimes they succeeded, and they’re just as human as anybody else. And in the process, some of the choices that they make kind of create these monsters in the children’s eyes. That’s kinda how we got started, and that’s how I looped everybody into the band. I came up with the song and then they all connected — probably because we were all immigrant kids.”
Hwang on what choices created monsters
“When you’re raising kids in a place where you don’t speak the language, you’re gonna deal with shortcomings in your patience. And I think some of the choices that we make, whether it’s alcoholism, abuse or — all the things that any human is prone to, but at the same time having kids speak a language that you don’t understand. And I think trying to work in America. Like, my father had a degree in statistics and he had to come here and work at a liquor store just to make ends meet, and just doing that takes up all his energy. When you’re doing that on top of raising two little boys that are seeing their peers go on camping trips and other things, and your dad just working at the liquor store 24 hours a day, I think the relationship is really hard to just always be on the same page with. And so all those miscommunications come out in different choices. Some fathers and mothers succeed and some don’t. And I think it isn’t to blame anybody, but just to say that some of those choices that they make kind of make them into monsters that they probably didn’t want to be in the first place.”
Hwang on growing up as a Korean-American in Los Angeles
“There are huge pockets of Korean-American communities here, so I think we were all kind of lucky to be in Los Angeles and have a support network — even if we didn’t want it — of other Korean-Americans and other faces to look at. But as we grew up and decided to just express different parts of who we were, and finding the limitations of what it meant to be Asian faced and yet at the same time feel very American inside, and it became clear how we had to explain ourselves. But I think growing up — the only thing is when we went to elementary school, you know, we would have sushi or something and that would be weird for peanut butter and jelly people out there.”