The debut album of Run River North, a band consisting of six second-generation Korean-Americans in Los Angeles, has made it to No. 3 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Alex Hwang spoke to the Chosun Ilbo by telephone on Tuesday morning in a mixture of Korean and English.
Run River North are currently on a U.S. tour, stopping in Washington. Another member, Jennifer Rim, who plays the violin, also was on the phone.
The others are vocalist and string player Daniel Chae, bassist and vocalist Joe Chun, John Chong, who sings and plays the drums, and Sally Kang, who sings and plays the keyboards.
"Monsters Calling Home," which launched their career, is about the immigrant experience and how they see their immigrant parents, thus resonating with various ethnic groups in the U.S. But the rhythms come from country and folk music.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article about the band in February headlined, "Classically Trained, Unlikely Rockers: Los Angeles-based ensemble Run River North is no K-Pop confection."
"We don't have a firm idea about what kind of music we want to pursue. All we want is to share our stories with songs and instruments," Hwang said.
It was at Kollaboration, a performance contest, in Los Angeles in 2011 that their musical journey began.
Hwang, who composed "Monsters Calling Home," had formed a band with his friends from church. Although they did not win the contest, their live performance started to gain popularity online. Hwang had a stable job in a big company, Chae was working in finances, and Chong worked in an outdoors store, but they all quit their jobs to focus on music.
And now, with 11 songs on their debut album, they are rising stars on the U.S. music scene.
"K-pop is a truly big industry with musicians like Psy and Girls' Generation. It's funny and they're good. But it's not something that we can or want to do. We want to do music that lasts longer," Hwang said.
They have not been able to schedule a concert in Korea due to their busy engagement in the U.S. "Our parents came from Korea, so of course we want to hold concerts in Korea. It would be a great honor," he added.