One of the more beautiful things about northeast Ohio –especially in the Fall- is how many great bands come through. On any given night you can experience live music in a number of great venues often leading to intimate shows where the audience can interact and mingle with the bands. On such a night like this, I had the good fortune to experience LA indie folk act Run River North. It was a particularly cold autumn Tuesday that set the table for a small but high-energy show at the Beachland Tavern.
The band relied heavily on their fantastic self-titled debut while joking that they “need to write more songs”. Playing many shows as the opener, this night gave them opportunity to play more than a few songs and the ability to showcase the tremendous talent and chemistry from the whole group. Tunes like “Lying Beast” and “Beetle” were given new life on stage and were allowed to breathe with no restrictions. “Growing Up”, which is featured in the new movie “The Good Lie”, was jokingly introduced as a song in a “real movie . . . not on Netflix, with Reese Witherspoon. . . .a real actress”. The band then continued to say humbly that they are not “big enough to do encores” and remained on stage at the appropriate time.
After their set, I was able to sit down with lead singer Alex who was donning a vintage Mickey Mouse shirt he had recently acquired in the adjacent thrift store. I was curious about what it was like recording with producer Phil Ek who has worked with established acts The Shins and Band of Horses. Recording in Seattle, Alex said that Phil was on the “top ten list of producers we wanted to work with” and that it was a learning opportunity for the entire band, being what he described as a “trial by fire”. Phil’s experience helped songs like “Somewhere” take shape in the studio.
Songwriting is one of the band’s many strengths. I was curious about their inspiration that deals with themes like faith, sin, and self-righteousness. “I write about what I know,” Alex explained. “I know about my family and friends . . .there is a lot to draw upon there . . . I don’t know anything about dance music.” He further reflected on “Banner” which he explained was written after seeing hateful demonstrations from a particular church on TV. While not passing harsh judgment, he explained that this particular song was written as a reminder that he too could become hateful and self-righteous given the right circumstances. It is a tendency in “all of us”. His thoughtful reflection on this was refreshingly gracious and introspective. Churches would benefit greatly from carrying this same attitude.
Alex went on to tell me that “Lying Beast” was his favorite song from the album. He described it as a song he could “sing for the rest of my life”, stating that it has influences from Korean folk music. Fans love it as well because it is something “everyone can sing”, while “Beetle” is a song that showcases the entire band and their strengths. These two songs are “classic” Run River North. I gained even more respect for the band and their craft after being able to ask questions as both an interviewer and a fan. Run River North has something special going for them, and if you have not yet experienced their energetic and humbly consoling art go do it now. Your heart and ears will thank you.