South Korean indie legends Galaxy Express are set to the ram their infectious garage-meets-stadium rock back into Texas this Friday and Saturday for this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival. Performing as part of the K-Pop Night Out showcase and doing a second showcase on their own, Galaxy are gearing up to shred some Texan eardrums.
It’s been nearly three years since the band last played abroad, so SXSW audiences can expect a show fueled by an extra dose of that rock vitality they have enamored fans with around the world.
This award-winning three piece also have other exciting plans in the works, including new music. They released a brand new single on March 11 called “The Way,” and I’d been told they were hoping to record another track each month. The songs will eventually make up their fifth full-length album.
“Yeah, we’re just going to write them as we jam,” explains bassist Juhyun Lee. “We just decided that if we can record like this, and make one song a month, it’d be great.
“Of course the sound will feel different every month. It’s not something we have a clear plan for,” says Juhyun. “We just want to capture the feeling of the moment. So I expect each month the songs will have a different feel to them. Summer will be hot so the summer tracks will likely have a hot feel to them.”
More pressing then their plans to record, the band is excited about getting back Stateside. This will be their fourth time to play SXSW but their first overseas show since 2014 as Juhyun’s 2013 marijuana conviction made international tours more challenging.
But they are more than excited to spread their wings again. I asked them how they felt about heading back this year. Rather than having a grueling tour schedule, they are happy to focus on the SXSW shows only this time, and to check out other acts during the festival.
“Well, we’ve got Korean friends living in Austin so it’s like we’re going to meet family for a celebration,” says guitarist Jonghyun Park. “We get to catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a while.”
“This time we don’t have other shows to perform so we can cruise around and check out the place properly and enjoy SXSW,” says Juhyun. “The whole place is abuzz and the streets are literally filled with music.”
I wondered if there was a major difference between Korean and American audiences, and what excites them about the SXSW audience.
“In the States, there’s always these young guys who come to our shows and bow their heads in front of us,” Jonghyun explains, imitating some thrashing fans up the front of a show.
“One guy explained that when he was an exchange student in Korea, he saw us perform. He came to our SXSW show. When we asked him why he liked us, he explained that it’s because we make so much noise,” adds Juhyun.
“So, we thought, these guys are crazy! But I guess they also think we’re kind of crazy. So it means we go crazy together!” laughs Jonghyun.
“South Korea and the Trump country [USA] are both in a similar situation at the moment,” Jonghyun explains, referring to former President Park Geun-hye when I asked about what it will be like to play in an America under Trump. “We’re all the same at the end of the day.”
“Because of Trump, I’ve heard that there are many angry Americans. If many of those angry people make their way to our show, won’t it be fun?” he adds with a laugh. “We can let off steam together!”
And after the show? Putting aside rumors the guys like to take a dip at the local nude beach, I wondered how they will unwind after another sweat-drenched performance.
Juhyun has it all laid out: “After you’ve had a lot to drink, there’s a rice noodle restaurant where you can cure your hangover and then there’s also a Thai massage joint.”
“It’s been a long time since we played there. I hope those who came to see us last time will make it out. I wonder how it’ll feel to meet those people again,” ponders Jonghyun. “And they could also see us differently, of course.”
While not all of the members are so confident in using English, it doesn’t seem to phase them. They look forward to rubbing shoulders with fans.
“We use body language and just hope we get the right amount of change,” jokes drummer Heekwon Kim.
“Yeah, we communicate with our music,” adds Jonghyun.
Here’s Galaxy Express’ schedule at SXSW:
March 17 Austin, Texas (9:30pm – 10:10pm) @ The Belmont (K-Pop Night Out)
March 18 Austin, Texas (1:00am – 1:40am) @ Barracuda Backyard