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The Church Roots of ‘Monsters Calling Home’

Photo: Brian Kim/Daniel Chae
Band members in Monsters Calling Home use their Korean American heritage and church roots to develop their unique folksy sound.

The band Monsters Calling Home, which formed shortly before Kollaboration 11 in Los Angeles, has garnered a new fan base with its folky tunes.

By Nalea J. Ko, Reporter
December 21, 2011

Nestled in Granada Hills, Calif. is a church congregation of about 70 that some say is teeming with artistic and musical talent.

At the church Lifestream Valley, a partner of Valley United Methodist Church, there are enough singers, violinists, bassists and pianists to form a band — or two.

Six Korean American musicians — Daniel Chae, 23, John Chong, 25, Jennifer Rim, 18, Sally Kang, 20, Joe Chun, 20, and 25-year-old Alex Hwang — teamed up through the church to start the band Monsters Calling Home.

There are differing philosophies on what attracts the young talent to the Lifestream Valley, a congregation that began about five years ago. For some it is merely a coincidence, while others say it could possibly be a divine power that accounts for the number of musicians and artists at the church.

“To be honest, I’m not really sure why so many artists and musicians are coming to our church,” said Pastor Sam Lee, adding that another band, Feats In Inches, also hails from the church. “Sometimes I think God may have something to do with it.”

The origins of the band date back to earlier this year when singer and songwriter Hwang wrote the ditty “Monsters Calling Home,” which was inspired by the stories of Korean American immigrants and other first generation Asian Americans.

“I thought it was a rich story and it’s very telling of at least my personal experience. So the name kind of came out of that,” Hwang said.

Adopting the name Monsters Calling Home, the group began playing at venues across Southern California. The band showcased their talent at venues like the Super Concert and the DRIP coffee shop in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. The performances prepared them for their Nov. 5 gig at the 11th annual Kollaboration entertainment competition in Los Angeles at the Nokia Theater, a competition that promotes Asian Pacific American talent.

Standing in a semicircle as the Nokia Theater curtain was raised, the band calmed their nerves and prepared to play at its biggest gig to date.

“Before the curtains were opened, I was very, very nervous,” said vocalist Sally Kang, 20. “But then once it opened and I just saw the crowd, I realized that we were there to put on a show.”

“It was quite a phenomenal experience,” said Jennifer Rim. “I felt so spoiled because it was my first time being in a band and my first gig at Nokia Theater. I mean it’s really a once in a lifetime shot and I just felt so honored and grateful.”

Their performance at the competition earned them new fans like Angry Asian Man blogger Phil Yu, who declared the group his “new favorite band.”

Self-described as “gangster, folk, Oriental, Jesus,” the band merges their vocals and various instruments to create a sound the pays homage to the band’s church roots while also combining the members’ love of hip-hop and their Korean American heritage.

“The Oriental part is just kind of a jab that we all are Korean Americans and just kind of embracing that for what it is and not trying to take it too seriously,” Hwang said. “And the gangster part, I really hope that that draws some kind of really awesome hip-hop artists to come collaborate with us because I really dig certain hip-hop artists.”

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