Earlier this month, Run River North shared their explosive new single “Pretty Lies,” which stemmed from a collaboration with fellow Los Angeles indie rock trio Sir Sly. Now the band shares a socially-distanced “Pretty Lies” video, co-directed by RRN’s Daniel Chae and photographer Serro Park.
“Serro had come to our last live show before the shutdown at the Echoplex here in Los Angeles,” RRN’s Alex Hwang tells American Songwriter in an interview featured below. “We had mutual friends but his photography—especially his film work in the low-light, frantic world of live music—was INCREDIBLY impressive and he had a really great eye. We decided to figure a way to work with him and felt like lockdown LA was an eerie canvas to shoot and walk around.”
The video is a perfect complement to the song, culminating with a beautiful shot of RRN’s three band members (Chae, Hwang, and Sally Kang) performing in separate windows of an empty parking garage. We caught up with Hwang about the song, the video, and RRN’s forthcoming album, which will arrive later this year after 2016’s Drinking from a Salt Pond and their 2014 self-titled debut. Check out the full interview and watch the “Pretty Lies” video below.
American Songwriter: What’s “Pretty Lies” about? When did you write, record, and produce it?
Alex Hwang: “Pretty Lies” came from our first meet and session with Sir Sly. The three of us in RRN met the three of them down in their studio in the [Orange County], and after the initial awkwardness of all writing sessions we found a beat and some chords that we all enjoyed. During the initial “sharing of demos” phase of the songwriting session, Landon [Jacobs] had whispered something into Hayden [Coplen’s] ear and it struck me he “cupped his hand to keep the word safe.”
With that first line, Landon and I split off to work on some pretty lies while the rest of the bands continued to build a world around the bass, drums, and chords. By the time we all got back together, a verse and chorus came out and Landon asked if we ever rapped in our songs. Our response to all new paths during songwriting sessions is “nope, but why not try.”
That led to Sally’s second verse bars and experimenting with 808’s and flirting with trap beats. As we continued to keep a safe space for any and all ideas, the outro/ending felt like the perfect celebration of release and chaos. After an incredible day of work, we came back to do more songwriting, as well as have Jason Suwito from the band produce the song with most of the stems from that first songwriting session.
Looking back at the session with Sir Sly and playing it live on tour even before it was officially out, “Pretty Lies” felt like a playful step into the unknown for us sonically and thematically. But now releasing it in the middle of COVID-19 and BLM and the upcoming presidential elections, it’s hard not to see some correlation to the news that we’re given and the news that’s actually out there and how sometimes it’s the pretty lies over the ugly truths that we decide to upvote, like, and subscribe.
What was your vision for the video? How’d you get connected to Serro Park?
Serro had come to our last live show before the shutdown at the Echoplex here in Los Angeles. We had mutual friends but his photography—especially his film work in the low-light, frantic world of live music—was INCREDIBLY impressive and he had a really great eye. We decided to figure a way to work with him and felt like lock-down LA was an eerie canvas to shoot and walk around. He’s helped us with band photos and our relationship continues to grow from simply just photography and videography.
I love the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot, around 2:30, of a painted rock that says “stay positive” — what have you guys been doing to stay positive over the last few months?
Nice catch! For me, the key to staying positive has been to embrace the negative spaces. The gardening, the cooking, the slowing down—all of these things happen because of the negative space created from the shutdown and instead of easily filling all of that empty space with worry and anxiety, I’ve tried to sit in the silence with meditative patience and look within me for ideas and curiosities that were buried under all the noise of the regular day-to-day rat races.
Sometimes I come up successful and our band’s Patreon and our family’s raised planter are two examples. However, even the days when worry, anxiety and depression seem to fill those negative spaces, I still try to positively embrace and learn from those feelings rather than let those feelings envelope me into a further hole. I’m grateful that I have a wonderful wife, a church community, and the band (and our fans!) as my network when all of this becomes overwhelming, but that’s my long-winded answer for how I stay positive.
That and Jeni’s Brown Butter Almond Brittle ice cream.
Have you been writing or recording any new music during the pandemic? If so, what has that process looked like?
We have been constantly writing and recording, whether it’s new ideas or dusting off old ones. Our goal is to release a single every month until we release an album at the end of year. Being an independent band now and having full control of which songs get to come out and be a part of the album, the risk and responsibility is completely on us. Adding the pandemic has just meant that we have to get a little more creative with our production and collaborations—whether that’s using iPhones with sock filters for vocal takes or going back to our “roots” and recording guitar and vocal tracks in our cars.
What’s next for Run River North in 2020?
Promoting “Pretty Lies,” prepping for our next single “Cemetery,” and the subsequent three other singles as well as finishing the rest of the album that we placed a release date even before all of the songs have been determined. We just agreed upon an album title so we’re slowly getting things done in an order and logic that can’t be any crazier than the order and logic of events of 2020.
“Pretty Lies” is out now.