Run River North: Songs That Search For Home
"I feel more comfortable sharing my stories barefoot," says Alex Hwang, lead singer/songwriter for L.A.'s Run River North, standing shoeless before an intimate audience during the group's recent performance at Hollywood's Hotel Cafe. Sporting naked feet and a throwback 'stache, Hwang could have been at home with at 1970s music festival, and his band's folksy sound would fit right in too. "These aren't tears," he jokes about his glistening face illuminated by the cozy club's lights, "I'm just sweating from my mustache." While his mustache is impressive, it's those feet -- perched on that well-trodden bar stage -- that catch the eye. The mind becomes caught in the unbidden questions: "Where has that floor been and what has it seen?" In their music, Run River North inspires similar honest inquiry, tracing their own personal and spiritual journeys through song.
Onstage, the group's performance easily claims attention, especially in those moments where they swing from quiet reveries of soft vocals and strings to bombastic guitar and drum passages draped with multi-vocal harmonies. The group produces a phenomenally big sound for only six people; it helps that at least half the band seems to play at least 2-3 different instruments over the course of a single song. Daniel Chae often plays both violin and lead guitar but Sally Kang is the true overachiever: not only is she the group's other main vocalist but she also plays keyboard, mandolin, percussion and a freakin' melodica. These days, Kang moves seamlessly between the instruments but when she first started with the band in 2011, she recalls, "just switching from the tambourine to the keyboard was hard for me."