Monthly Archives: September 2012

China-Based Californian Duo Alpine Decline Tour South Korea Around the Chuseok Holidays

Experimental rock duo Alpine Decline will be playing four gigs in South Korea over the next several days. Hailing from Los Angeles originally, band members Jonathan Zeitlin and Pauline Mu previously played together in the band Mezzanine Owls, before forming Alpine Decline. Based out of China since fall 2011, their upcoming concerts in Seoul (9/29), Daejeon (9/30), Daegu (10/5), and Busan (10/6) will be their first shows in South Korea.

Ahead of Alpine Decline’s tour, guitarist Jonathan Zeitlin answered some questions for Korea Gig Guide. Check out his answers below.

What can people in Korea expect from your live performances?

We’re two people, so every live show is an effort to build our dense tower of sound without it collapsing into chaos. We project Super 8 film footage from our trips into the mountains and deserts, which I’ve altered to maximize brain burn, while we play. We try to make each show an experience that ejects you from the outside world for about 30 to 40 minutes. We’re feeling pretty loose at the moment and will probably plan sets that keep us out of our comfort zone, but you can expect some heavy blows.

What do you want to do in South Korea when not playing?

We’re playing the first two shows of the tour and then taking to the mountains. We’ve heard endless stories about the beauty of the Korean wilderness and we’re going to dive in as deeply as we can before coming out and playing the last two shows. Hopefully while we’re in the cities we’ll be able to explore the local scenes and soak up as much as our little bodies can absorb.

How did you and Pauline first meet? What made you want to create music together?

This is going to sound crazy, but we met through the newspapers, pre-Internet, totally analog. We’re not subscribers to cosmic concepts, but somehow among Los Angeles’s crushing bloat of artists we may have been the last to connect through the medium of print. What’s more, after four years of touring and recording together in bands with somewhat radial relationships, we suddenly and unexpectedly collided and scattered everyone else away.

We were on a slow schedule with our other band, and had a mutual desire to make a record that defied the practices of that band, and started to record an album together. It was made with one cheap microphone, one layer at a time – literally. We’d put the mic over the snare and record it. Then we’d put the mic under the snare and record it. Then we’d put the mic on the tom and record it. We did this over and over. We were in a total psychoactive blur for 20-hour stretches broken up by fitful sleep on the floor of my dilapidated apartment. Looking at pictures from then, there is an insane look in our eyes. It looks like we had lost control over our facial muscles and our expressions, like we were babbling possessed mystical lunatics. By day four or five we were inextricably locked into each other’s orbit, permanently. We made two full length records, which are currently unreleased, this way before the meltdown of our other band, which at that point had become inevitable.

Since Alpine Decline formed in 2010, you’ve released four albums. What was your motivation for issuing so many recordings over the course of only two years?

After our last band broke up, we had a long stretch where we chose to be completely absent from music entirely. We didn’t make music. We didn’t go see bands. I only left the house to go shelve books for minimum wage. We started to create Alpine Decline in our minds, in conversation, and the conversation was not about what kind of sound we’d have or what kind of image we’d have or anything – it was about what kind of a daily life, what kind of rituals we would need to build and what choices we would need to enable us to create music as our life’s work, from now into the black. Not to approach making music as just being in a band, but to approach it as our craft which we could depend on and live our lives through.

When you’re in a rock band, you end up spending most of your time and energy trying to expand things – you want to play better shows, get more people in your crowd, and make the next step forward. We made a very direct decision to abandon the rituals of rock bands and embrace the lives of writers. When you spend your day-to-day life writing, and when you think about albums as something tangible you are crafting rather than as the content to support your band, you end up slipping out of the traditional timeline. We made the first three records in about a year, but it wasn’t part of some “fuck you” drive to be prolific, it was a direct result of embracing a creative process that immediately erased the boundary between our daily lives and as a rock band.

Please tell us about your new album, “Night of the Long Knives.” When was it written and recorded?

“Night of the Long Knives” was written in late 2011 and early 2012 in the Beijing Culture Factory, our practice space on the outskirts of east Beijing. It was recorded in spring 2012 at the Beijing Culture Factory (which has since, inexplicably, been demolished) and at Psychic Kong Studios with Yang Haisong. It’s going to be released in Europe and the US later this year. We’re currently sorting out the Chinese release.

What are some of your best memories from making “Night of the Long Knives”?

For two months we woke up and met up with Yang Haisong. The Beijing Culture Factory was literally in the shadow of a nuclear power plant, nestled in some crumbling brick buildings that had been taken over by squatting migrant workers. Psychic Kong is in a cold, wet basement parking garage in a neighborhood where a guy with a guitar on his back, let alone one with a white face, might as well be an alien touching down. As our first record in China, and our first record with a Chinese producer, it took on the vibe of some weird mythical trial for us, through which we would either pass through the fire or be consumed by it. With Yang Haisong and Liu Yi Ke, who helped engineer the record, two of our closest friends since moving to Beijing, we dove in and made an album that captures the wild highs and crushed lows of our experience moving to China, both real and imagined.

Why did you decide that China was a better place for the band to be based out of than LA?

We had this idea that living on the outskirts of Beijing would help us escape the framework of being a musician that’s been codified in the US. There are some really insane musicians in LA, but no matter how far out there you are, you are subject to 60 years of history playing this kind of music in the States and we had the fantasy that we’d move to the furthest place possible, into a dystopian chaos where we would etch our ideas in the rubble and disappear. Of course that fantasy is totally not real, and that’s a good thing, and our lives here are made meaningful through the friendships we’ve made with other musicians and people passionate about building a great music culture in China. We get the best of both worlds now – we can live away from the craziness of the Beijing city center, but we can participate in the most free and vibrant scene we’ve ever seen and give whatever we can to help it as it evolves.

Would things be any different for Alpine Decline if you were still living in LA now?

Staying in LA was not an option – years and years of just living in Echo Park and playing in a band exhausts your experience and your ability to move forward. Our lives in China are completely different, operating a band here has a wildly different range of choices and possible outcomes that I’m not sure how to characterize. The people playing music here, booking shows here, and writing about music in China are giving themselves entirely to building this world with really no chance of traditional commercial success – the rewards are essentially experiential and personal in nature. We have no money, we breathe micro-particles, we have fantasies about western food and greedily drink coffee that looks and tastes like shoe scrapings, but we have never been more inspired or happy in our lives. And from Beijing, we’ve been lucky enough to explore scenes and meet people living through music all around Asia, now including Korea.

Alpine Decline play tonight (September 29) at Powwow in Seoul with Apollo 18 and Sighborg. Tickets are 15,000 won and the show starts at 7:30 pm. Alpine Decline will also play tomorrow (September 30) at Daejeon Cantina. The show is free and will start at 10 pm. Next week, Alpine Decline will play in Daegu (October 5) at Horus Music Garage and in Busan (October 6) at Realize. The Daegu concert will be with Mr. Headbutt. It will start at 11:00 pm and tickets are 6,000 won. The Busan gig will start at 7 pm and costs 10,000 won. For more information about Alpine Decline’s South Korea tour, visit here.

Apollo 18 Heading for New Space

As well as being an awesome live outfit who take their brilliantly recorded music to new heights on stage, Apollo 18 have also always impressed me with their obvious dedication and focus when it comes to the business side of things. In their short time as a band – just over four years – the powerful trio have released three EP’s and one album, toured Korea relentlessly, visited the US, Japan and Taiwan, won awards, wowed crowds at the Jisan Valley Rock Festival four times, and have shown a strong motivation to keep growing as artists and take their sound abroad. They are currently part way through writing a new album, and this week they are performing in Canada at the Pop Montreal festival.

Prior to heading to Canada, I managed to track them down to answer a few questions on the current state of all things Apollo 18!

How are you getting ready for your first trip to Canada?

Hyun-seok: We’re practicing a lot, getting equipment and backline sorted out, and trying to learn some simple French to use during Pop Montreal. We’re all really excited about playing in Canada and appearing at the Pop Montreal festival.

What can you tell us about the big festival in Montreal?

Sang-yun: Pop Montreal is a five-day festival that in Montreal, Quebec that features music, art, film, crafts, and other events.  The fest will have over 350 bands playing in 40 venues around the city.  We’re really looking forward to performing as part of the festival.  We’ve heard from friends that Montreal is a really cool place.  We want to try poutine while we’re there!

Tell us about the progress on the new album?

Dae-inn: We started writing songs for our new album at the beginning of the summer.  We’ve got four songs written now, but we’re still tweaking them to make them sound exactly the way we want them to.  We want to make at least six more songs when we get back from Canada.  We’re hoping to release the album before the end of this year.

Hyun-seok: We started performing one new song at gigs a few weeks ago. I imagine we’ll begin playing a few more new tracks at shows pretty soon.

The “Black” EP seemed to have a subtle funk/ pop sensibility than was found in previous releases – what new influences can we expect in the new album?

Dae-inn: Um, we’re not sure yet.  We all like different styles of music, and with Apollo 18 we try to find a middle ground between what everyone likes.  I think the songs on the new album will be faster and harder, but also more psychedelic too.  But that could change.  Maybe we’ll work in an acoustic song or something else different as well.

You are the only act to play at the Jisan Valley Rock Festival for all 4 years of its existence – how does that feel?

Dae-inn: It feels good!  We play on the second stage for the first three years, and this past summer we performed on Jisans’ main stage for the first time.  We’ve had a great experience every summer at the festival and were so happy to be a part of it.  My only complaint is that sometimes the site gets too dirty during the festival.  We need to work together to try and keep the grounds cleaner during the Jisan Valley Rock Festival.

How do you prepare for a live performance?

Dae-inn: We go to the venue, have some drinks, smoke, and watch all the pretty girls in the crowd!

What does the Korean indie music scene need most of all?

Dae-inn: Diligence – Korean indie bands are lazy sometimes.  And Apollo 18 are too.  Everyone needs to work harder to build up the Korean indie music scene, both at home and abroad.

What is the best lyric you have ever recorded?

Dae-inn: Our music doesn’t have any proper lyrics.  If there are vocals on a song, it’s just me or Hyun-seok shouting or mumbling.  We treat vocals like another instrument.  They are more about the sound than the meaning. That’s why the inside or our Red album says, “All lyrics are yours.”

What is the best food/ drink to enjoy as you listen to Apollo 18?

Dae-inn: “Somaek” – a mix of soju and beer.  It’s one of our favorite Korean cocktails.

Looking back at your “Rookie of the Year” win at the Korean Music Awards in March 2010, how helpful was it to get such recognition then, especially as you were still so new to the scene?

Hyun-seok: We won the “Hello Rookie” grand prize in 2009 and “Rookie of the Year” at the Korean Music Awards in 2010.  We were thankful to be given both awards, but I don’t know how helpful they were.  I think a lot of Korean people don’t know what those awards are.  I think they made our parents really happy, though, so maybe they were helpful in that regard. After we won those awards and toured the USA last year our parents started worrying a little bit less about us being musicians!

You have released both EPs and albums – how would you describe the difference in approach when writing and recording both formats?

Hyun-seok: There’s no difference in writing music for EPs and full-lengths. For recording, the only difference is that EPs can be recorded faster.  Our original plan was to make “Black” a full-length album, not an EP.  We started writing music for the album in April 2011, after our USA tour.  We were given the opportunity to record “Black” at Zankyo Records’ studio in Tokyo in May 2011.  Because we only had a short amount of time to prepare new songs for “Black,” it became an EP.

Sang-yun: We’ve got more time to work with this time, so our new album will definitely be a full-length album.

Did you watch the movie Apollo 18 – how was it?

Dae-inn: I watched the movie.  It was okay.  Visually I thought it was really cool, but the story wasn’t very good.

Finally – if Apollo 18 members were all animals, what animals would you be?

Dae-inn: This is a great question!  I want to be a panda because pandas are really cute.  I could be the first Korean panda!

Along with playing at Pop Montreal, Apollo 18 will be doing a few other Canadian shows as well.  Here are their Canadian tour dates:

September 19 Hamilton, Ontario @ This Ain’t Hollywood
September 20 Ottawa, Ontario @ Zaphod Beeblebrox
September 21 Montreal, Quebec @ Quai des Brumes (Pop Montreal)
September 22 Toronto, Ontario @ Bovine Sex Club

PS I Love You: One Down, Two to Go

Last night, Canadian indie rock duo PS I Love You played the first Korean concert in Seoul. Today they’ll be making their way to Daegu for a concert at Horus Music Garage and on Saturday they’ll perform at Busan’s Vinyl Underground.

The group are currently touring in support of their sophomore full-length, May’s “Death Dreams.” PS I Love You started crafting the album in late 2010 shortly after the release of their fantastic, acclaimed “Meet Me at the Muster Station” debut. “Death Dreams” was recorded on a portable studio in the act’s Kingston, Ontario practice space.

“We sort of worked on it off and on throughout 2011,” says guitarist and vocalist Paul Saulnier. “We toured a lot in 2011, so we would be away for two months and then come home and record a couple songs and then go away for a month and so on.

“Recording the album in our practice space really fit with our schedule and casual attitudes towards producing music. That’s also how our producer, Matt Rogalsky, likes to work and it works for us.”

PS I Love You was originally a solo project for Saulnier. After two years of using a drum machine to provide percussion, he reached out to Benjamin Nelson.

“I already knew Benjamin was a great drummer,” says Saulnier. “I wanted my shows to be louder so I invited him to play with me. Things worked out so well that we became a permanent duo.”

This summer PS I Love appeared at festivals in the Czech Republic and Spain before their Asian jaunt through China and South Korea. Later this month, they’ll play at the Pop Montreal music fest as well.

“It’s really exciting to travel the world to play music for people,” Saulnier. I’m curious to see what our fans are like in South Korea. I’m stoked to see some Korean bands too. I still can’t believe that we get to tour all over amazing countries that we would never have the means to travel to without the music.”

And what can fans in Daegu and Busan expect from PS I Love You in a live setting?

“They can expect moderate to extreme guitar theatrics, pounding drums, and charmingly off-key yelling.”

PS I Love You play tonight at Horus Music Garage in Daegu with Insert Coin and Mr. Headbutt. Tickets are 10,000 won and doors open at 10 pm. PS I Love You also play in Busan at Vinyl Underground on Saturday with Enter Busandman and 21 Scott. Tickets are 15,000 won and doors open at 10 pm.

Floating Tunes Down the River

On Saturday (September 8), a new outdoor concert called Rockdo will take place at Yeouido Hangang Park.  Set to take place on the Yeouido Floating Stage, which boasts “is the world’s first floating performance stage,” Rockdo will feature live sets from Korean and expat bands and bellydancers.  Admission to the event is free.

Here’s the full lineup (with set times) for Saturday:
Ironic Hue 12:00 – 12:30
Noisecat (featuring Non) 12:50 – 13:20
Angry Bear 13:40 – 14:10
No Respect for Beauty 14:30 – 15:00
Magna Fall 15:20 – 16:00
Love X Stereo 16:20 – 16:50
Used Cassettes 17:10 – 17:40
Eshe & Navah 17:40 – 18:10
Vidulgi Ooyoo 18:30 – 19:10
Ynot? 19:30 – 20:10
The Strikers 20:30 – 21:00

Rising electro-popsters Love X Stereo applaud Rockdo organizer Exit 6’s choice of location for the show.

“The floating stage is right in the middle of the Hangang, so it’s a pretty awesome venue. We’re very excited about performing there with a bunch of bands we really like,” says vocalist Annie Ko.

Widely recognized as one of the country’s premier indie acts, Seoul shoegaze quartet Vidulgi Ooyoo are excited to be a part of Rockdo.  Like Love X Stereo, they are also fans of the riverside venue and its laidback environment.

“Rockdo isn’t a large rock festival or a club party in Hongdae,” says guitarist and vocalist Ham Jee-hye.  “It’s more like a picnic.  I think it’s really cool that anybody can just come and do whatever they want while enjoying the music.”

Vidulgi Ooyoo also have a special treat for Rockdo attendees.

“We will play a brand new song for the first time on Saturday,” shares Ham.  “It’s called ‘Cypress.’  We think the song goes really well with nature, so it’ll be a good fit for the outdoor stage at Rockdo.”

Rockdo runs from 12 pm – 9 pm on Saturday and is free.  To get to the Yeouido Floating Stage, go out Exit 2 of Yeouinaru Station (Line 5) and walk down the stairs into the park.  Turn left at the river and walk around 300 meters and you’ll see the stage.  You can find more information about Rockdo here.