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