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Meet Run River North: Korean Rock Not K-Pop

Run River North

The young indie band Run River North caught my attention last year and I’ve been following their progress ever since. They’re an adorable group of Korean American kids from the San Fernando Valley with a bright, folksy sound. I found them initially interesting because they are one of the very few Asian American bands around (NOT K-Pop!) and because they got pranked by the Honda Corporation in the best way possible. At that time, they were known as Monsters Calling Home (a reference to their parents’ immigrant history), which I think was a superior name. They changed it to Run River North without a lot of explanation, though I wonder if it was because of the similarity of Monsters Calling Home to Of Monsters and Men.

Late in 2012, the band put out a video on YouTube of their song “Fight to Keep,” that they had shot and mastered themselves. Unable to afford studio space (at that point, they were mostly gigging at farmer’s markets and the like), they recorded the video in their cars, which were all Hondas. Apparently the video went viral, including within the Honda Corporation, and a decision was made to include them in a “Honda Loves You Back” advertising campaign. They were contacted and asked to perform for a group of Honda executives in Los Angeles, which they happily agreed to do. At the rehearsal, however, they were abruptly told that do to a scheduling problem, the gig had to be cancelled. Disappointed, they were asked to perform just for the two Honda employees present (in actuality, actors) and being good sports, they began to play. Again, they were abruptly interrupted and told that this had all been a gag, and instead, they were being brought across the street to appear on The Jimmy Kimmel Live Show that night! The whole thing is chronicled in this sweet video:

After this breakout, things started to happen for the group. Bigger, better gigs came their way (including a performance at the Troubadour in LA) and they got signed to the Nettwerk Music Group. They spent a good portion of last year touring and working with producer Phil Ek, who had produced The Shins and Fleet Foxes. “Fight to Keep” is already available on iTunes and their self-titled debut album drops next month.

In preparation for the debut, their first professional video premiered last week during the Conan Show. It’s a VERY different video for “Fight to Keep,” starring comedian Diedrich Bader in addition to the band, that I frankly found completely bizarre. Described as being “equal parts mandolin riffs and The Hunger Games,” I suppose it’s an effort to be playful and fun.


Included in numerous “New Bands to Watch” lists and with exposure in interviews on NPR and elsewhere, as well as an appearance in Honda’s latest commercial (I love how this all came full-circle), I think and hope that this debut will go well for them.

In an interview, lead singer and guitarist Alex Hwang stated, “I feel there’s no one we can truly compare ourselves to because there isn’t another six-person Korean American rock band out there. We can’t be called ‘the next-anything’ because there isn’t something [like us] that came before.” That individuality should be a strength, and Run River North should hold onto that in their journey ahead.

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