In the fall of 2011, Of Monsters and Men quietly released their debut album, My Head Is an Animal in Iceland, and it slowly made its way around the globe. Arguably one of the best albums of 2012, it went platinum and eventually peaked at No. 1 in Australia, No. 3 in the UK and No. 6 in the United States.
Since then, fans have been clamoring for more, and, according to a recent interview, a new album is on the way, but a release date has yet to be announced.
In the meantime, there have been plenty of bands vying to usurp their indie-folk/pop thrones, but few have managed to ascend to the top. But there’s one that is just starting to gain steam — barely a blip on the radar now but destined to become the next new “it” band on the indie scene. And, coincidentally, before a name change, it even had “Monsters” in its moniker.
The group, Run River North, shares many musical similarities with their Scandinavian brethren, right down to their quiet-loud-quiet song structure, beautiful blend of male and female vocals and the communal vibe they give off.
Of course, it’s the differences that make them stand out. There is nary a horn to be heard on the group’s self-titled debut that came out in February. Oh, and then there’s the fact that Run River North is made up of six Korean-American 20-somethings from the San Fernando Valley.
That is the original video for “Fight To Keep”, which, as you can see, was recorded exclusively in the band members’ Hondas. The video went viral and caught the eye of Honda executives, who decided to surprise the group — then known as Monsters Calling Home — by lining up a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in September 2012.
(If you can’t get enough of that song, check out the professionally shot video starring Diedrich Bader — from The Drew Carey Show and Office Space fame — that is rather dark and may have been influenced by the movie, Surviving the Game.)
The group formed in 2011 when singer/songwriter was hiking with friend and future bandmate Joe Chun and they talked about their shared experiences of growing up in an immigrant family. That discussion stirred a lot of emotions in Hwang and eventually spewed forth in the form of the song “Monsters Calling Home”. (Yes, the band’s original name. It gets kinda confusing.) He then recruited friends from church to fill out the roster.
The band members discussed their upbringing and how it affected their music during recent interviews on Acoustic Cafe and Here & Now. (One interesting tidbit you’ll glean is that two members are classically trained violinists and the drummer came up in the punk and heavy metal scene.)
After gaining some much-needed exposure, Run River North signed with a label and set forth recording an album. Influenced by such bands as Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and The Shins, the group was fortunate enough to work with Phil Ek, who produced albums for all of those well-established acts.
Ek’s magic touch can be heard throughout the album, including on the third track, “Lying Beast”, a slow-burning tune in which Hwang does his best Conor Oberst impersonation.
There’s a dearth of filler here as just about every track has the ability to get stuck in your head. Some of the other more notable songs include “Run River Run”, “Somewhere”, “Excuses” and “Foxbeard”.
Run River North are crisscrossing the country this summer and fall, including a stop at Schubas Tavern in Chicago on July 21. Now is your chance to check them out before all of the hipsters catch on.