by Adelie Salagnac
From appearances on national television or selling out historic venues, to almost breaking up, Run River North’s journey has been a wild one. The members of this California-based Korean-American indie folk-rock band had to learn the hard way what being a band means. “We’re being honest and that openness is one of the main thrusts for the album. Embracing the bitter with the sweet, not trying to hide the crappy parts. The crappy parts helped make the good,” says frontman Alex Hwang.
Down-to-earth and self-aware, Hwang found some time off his busy touring schedule to talk about the band’s struggles and bright future. Currently on a seven-week tour through North America, the sextet is stronger and happier than ever. With an overwhelming response to the new material, more interviews and radio coverage, the band is finally starting to see where their career is going.
Next stop on the tour: our very own Philadelphia. Hwang and his bandmates are really excited to show you how far they’ve come since the last time they swung by. Run River North’s frontman says that we can all expect “a really honest look at the band.” He explains: “I think our show is a lot more fun, there is a lot more energy. It is definitely a different show from the last time we came through. (You) can expect a good time and hopefully (you)’ll connect with us on another level.”
Being a six-piece band on tour, driving a mini van, and living 24/7 together, the band still manages to have a hell of a time on the road. Hwang gets particularly excited about “all the food!!” they get to try. Oh man, I feel ya. But on a more serious note, meeting new people, interacting with fans, and getting to see what is great about each town they visit, even if only for a second, is what keep the band going. Because let’s not forget that life on tour is not always the most glamorous one.
“We don’t have a bus or anything,” says Hwang. “We are still driving a small van, so it is usually hard to get away from each other. When you need your ‘alone’ time, there really isn’t that kind of space. You’re kind of forced to show yourself to these people. It is basically doing business with your family, and you get to see every bit of everybody’s personality. You really have to learn to deal with this. It is still a process.”
Looking at the band now, it’s hard to believe not even a year ago, they were on the verge of calling it quits. “What happened is what happens in any kind of relationship,” Hwang explains. “You have to figure out whether you can work with each other. We had one year when we weren’t really making a lot of money and we had six mouths to feed, so we were all wondering separately whether we could keep doing this as a job or not. When you’re in that kind of situation, you are kind of forced to deal with your own personal demons.”
Fortunately for both the band and the fans, they managed to get through this, together. Dealing with the band’s internal problem was difficult. But it was something that helped them grow as persons and as musicians, that helped them realize the music was more important than egos. “ We were just being very honest with each other. When people are honest with each other, acknowledge their weaknesses, and are able to communicate that with each other, they are able to maintain a certain relationship, and things just work. We made really good music out of that.”
What came out of those months of struggles is the band’s sophomore album, Drinking From a Salt Pond, with a change of sound that took the band to a whole new level. “We just wanted to try something different,” remembers Hwang. “I think that really started when I put down the acoustic guitar and we all decided to try something new. We are all in this equally. When everyone else also started figuring out who they were and what their role was in the band, it kind of shook things up with our music.”