I joined the Run River North fanbase right before Drinking from a Salt Pond. There were a lot of articles talking about the music video in the Honda and the Korean American-ness of the group. Besides those points, I really enjoyed all of Run River North’s music and was able to see them three times over the years.
Run River North have undergone their own transformation, most easily heard through their 2019 EPs and now with their latest full length, Creatures In Your Head. Run River North in 2021 is an evolution of their signature sound. I’ve always had questions I’ve wanted to ask the band and have finally had the opportunity. Big thank you to Alex for taking the time.
Can you introduce the band?
We are Run River North from the San Fernando Valley. We started off more folk, then get more angry, then mellowed out, and then now, we just want to see you in our Patreon discord.
How was the band’s 2020? You started a Patreon and released multiple singles along with live streaming performances. Was this all a way to keep the band active during COVID-19?
Oddly enough, Patreon would have never happened if it was for the quarantine and we probably wouldn’t have been as diligent with our singles releases if it wasn’t for the fact that we were home for the long stretch.
It was definitely a way to keep the band active or else we would have just faded into Netflix binging and hiding forever behind our masks.
RRN closed out your run on Nettwerk with the Monsters Calling Home trio of EPs. Were these releases the first experimentation and transition in the band’s new chapter? They feel like a step away from Drinking from a Salt Pond and a mid-step towards Creatures In Your Head.
They were definitely our first steps in directions that were previously unknown for us, musically. Experimentation and transition are perfect words for what we are continuing to do – never really doing something musically too similar for too long. With DFASP, we had six members and by the time we release CIYH, there’s a lot more space to experiment and think and be present with those Creatures in our heads.
Drinking from a Salt Pond is one of my favorite albums, but there’s a feeling that every moment had to be filled and a strong underlying tension. Creatures In Your Head feels like RRN is in a more comfortable place. The signature style is there with a strong layering of rhythms and melodies, but every song has a brightness to it. How did the songs on the full length come about?
I think you hit it on the head with the difference between the two albums. That space that we tried to fill completely was suddenly empty. And rather than feel the need to fill it again, the three of us had time to experiment and not feel as rushed.
We also had songs that were worked on for years or with other artists, some from 13 years back and others from demos that we didn’t even think would ever see the light of day. Songs like “Spiders” came about nice and easily with Sally and myself wanting to write a song for an art gallery performance – trying to keep it simple since it would just be me and Sally performing. And then COVID happened and the song became our little mantra through the whole process “it’s just the way it for now.”
That gave us freedom to find our songs from wherever and whenever. “Funhouse” is a remix, a redo of that same song that was released two years ago. “Pretty Lies” and “Weight” were done with the guys from SIR SLY, Chris Chu (co-writer of “I’m Amazing”) helped us write our two mellow songs – “Cemetery” and “All For You.” Nick Anderson came back again from our fun single “Wake Up” to give us “Lonely Weather” And then you have “Goodnight Moon” – our 13 year old song finally finding its way onto an RRN album.
Creatures In Your Head isn’t wholly stylistically cohesive from start to finish, but there’s a consistent tonal theme. The early songs are easily recognizable as RRN, but tracks like “Hummingbird,” “Funhouse,” and “Weight” really present a different RRN song composition perspective. Has the songwriting process changed now with three members? Less cooks in the kitchen?
Yes, less is more. And it allowed for guest cooks to come through and include their spices and ingredients. That consistent theme, for me, is that they are all different monsters running around the same head of mine. So they may all have different styles but they’re actually all hanging out together and I believe the conversation that the songs have tie them together.
Alex is still the main vocalist, but Sally has more presence as a vocalist. Was that a deliberate decision or did that happen as songs were composed? Will there ever be a Sally solo song? There should be a Sally solo song.
There should be a Sally solo album. I think it started with “Casina” from the MCH Volumes. She took “Casino” and made the feminine version with her incredible second verse. Also, letting her enjoy her range and bars – you can tell she’s enjoying it and when the artist enjoys it, hopefully we can translate that to the audience.
Is there any song on Creatures In Your Head that encompasses the band’s current vision and presence?
“Creatures In Your Head!” Having both my and Sally’s vocals singing in tandem, with music that Daniel had created, and the lightness of it – I love it and think there should be more RRN songs that race from heart to head.
When the band gained a lot of popularity from the second album, a lot of narratives highlighted the band’s Korean American roster. Did you ever feel any pressure or annoyance as some media took that angle? How would you describe RRN in one sentence in 2021?
Always some pressure but you couldn’t really get too annoyed – some folks were just lazy and others were actually super interested and asked interesting questions. But most were just lazy, and that makes sense, especially given our number and no shock factor.
In 2021, RRN is free to do whatever we want and it’s awesome.
Does the band think media’s coverage of POC bands and artists has improved or is there still a level of “otherness?”
I believe there will always be otherness. If the opposite of that is sameness, then I would want otherness all of the time. That just might be my Enneagram 4 type talking though.
Any favorite Korean pop songs? Does RRN have favorite South Korean artists?
hmmmmmm there was a random time when I was watching Hyori‘s show and then IU came on and then when I youtubed IU – she had the song “BBIBBI” come out and I was a fan. Who should we be listening to?
For someone coming back to RRN with Creatures In Your Head, what should they expect?
They should expect something familiar from whichever RRN they were listening to and also expect something utterly alien from whichever RRN they were listening to.
Anything to say to readers?
Give us some more S. Korean artist recommendations!