All posts by Tom

I Wear* Experiment Return to Korea this Weekend

I Wear* Experiment are bringing their dance beat-fueled electro pop back to South Korea this weekend. Having played Zandari Festa 2016, the Estonian trio are performing sets of their self-described “sex, darkness and synths”-driven sound in Seoul on Friday and in Busan on Saturday.

I Wear* Experiment have made quite a name for themselves in recent years, performing across Europe with a number of major acts, getting picked up for a film soundtrack, and making it into the top 10 of Eesti Laul, Estonia’s national song contest for Eurovision. Their show packs cinematic soundscapes into a visual experience that you won’t want to miss. Korea Gig Guide got to interview the band ahead of their Korean shows.

How does one wear an experiment?

It means standing by your beliefs and truths without compromise which is an experiment in itself because it always leads to new and exciting experiences. We feel that in a lot of areas and especially in music it is becoming more and more rare for artists having the courage to wear and express their true colors without succumbing to the pressure of being likeable.

Tell us about releasing your first full-length album Patience last year and how your sound has developed since 2012.

As it is our first full-length release we really took the time and put in effort like we had never done before. It was also a first time we worked together with a producer. It was a very big learning experience and in the wind of that we are already working on the next release.

Our sound has become more electronic and we have learned how to “melt” the different sounds together. With Patience our aim was to leave no stones unturned and try to create the best possible sounding album we could. Through trial and error we learned a lot and now while creating new songs I feel we can improvise and experiment even more.

What’s the indie scene like in Estonia?

It is very strong and getting stronger by the year. The last two decades have been great for the indie scene. The shift has been from singing in Estonian to more and more artists turning to English and a more polished and mainstream sound influenced by Brit pop and shoe gaze. You should definitely check out Vaiko Eplik, The Boondocks, Röövel Ööbik, Junk Riot, Levski and Ans. Andur. The recent years have seen a revival in the influences of funk and electro.

I Wear* Experiment performing the title track from their 2016 album Patience for the Eesti Laul song contest.

What was it like performing at Zandari Festa 2016?

It was very cool! We could feel the vibe of Seoul in the festival, which made it special. The first show we played at Zandari was at club Steel Face at noon. We had never played a show this early and we were a bit worried, but the place was packed and people reacted to our music, which is always great. The second show in club Veloso was in the same spirit, people reacted straight away and we had a good energy exchange with the crowd.

Are you excited to be heading back to Korea?

We are very super excited. We all, including the sometimes grumpy technicians, fell in love with the city, the people, the food and soju. When leaving the hotel after the last night of the festival, several of us had tears of sadness for having to leave combined with tears of happiness of how overwhelmingly great time we had had.

What can audiences expect at your upcoming shows?

We always give as much energy and emotion from the stage as possible. We have our excellent crew with us who are the best in Estonia, so we are bringing our full production.

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I Wear* Experiment play Club Freebird in Seoul on Friday, Jan. 6, and will be supported by Silica Gel, Asian Chairshot and DTSQ. They also play Vinyl Underground in Busan on Saturday, Jan. 7, with support from Leaves Black, 3 Volt and 57. You can pick up advance tickets here for the Seoul show here  and the Busan show here.

Zandari Festa 2016 – Five Questions with Ooberfuse

The fifth annual Zandari Festa is taking place in Hongdae from September 30 –
October 3. To spotlight some of the event’s performers, Korea Gig Guide is asking a bunch of acts five simple questions.

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For this installment, we’re talking with Cherrie Anderson, vocalist and Hal St John, vocalist, synth player and guitarist for electro-pop band Ooberfuse from the UK. Ooberfuse will play at Zandari Festa on Sunday, October 3 at 7pm at Club Ta. Now let’s get to their answers!

1) Why are you excited to be performing at Zandari Festa 2016?

Hal: There is an energy in emerging music that refreshes in ways more traditional genres fail to do. We are so excited to be performing at Zandari Festa and hope to give the audience an amazing unrepeatable musical experience and also to be uplifted and inspired by the other acts performing. When like-minded people from multiple cultural backgrounds assemble together united by a common love of music magical things can happen.

2) What can people expect from an Ooberfuse live show?

Hal: Some reviewers have observed how layered synthetic sounds come to life when we bring these into interaction with emotionally charged vocals. We hope to touch our audiences with accessible contemporary sounds incorporated into well-crafted pop tunes.

3) For fest-goers not familiar with Ooberfuse yet, what should they know about you?

Hal: We take the very best from contemporary Western pop music and infuse it with Eastern exuberance. Our music has emerged from the cultural melting pot that is the hallmark of a cosmopolitan city like London. We take the very best of British songwriting and fuse this with oriental flavours.

4) Aside from performing, what else would you like to do during Zandari Festa 2016?

Cherrie: This will be our first time in Korea so we are very excited to experience Korean culture and music. We will be checking out Korean bands and musicians, and hopefully meet like-minded people and make new friends.

5) If you can go drinking with another Zandari Festa act, who do you want it to be?

Hal: Dead Buttons, Love X Stereo, Paranoid City – to name a few!

Zandari Festa 2016 – Five Questions with I Set the Sea on Fire

The fifth annual Zandari Festa is taking place in Hongdae from September 30 –
October 3. To spotlight some of the event’s performers, Korea Gig Guide is asking a bunch of acts five simple questions.

For this installment, we’re talking with Pete Jenkins, the bassist for I Set the Sea on Fire from the UK. I Set the Sea on Fire will play at Zandari Festa on Sunday, October 2 at 8 pm at SangSang Madang. Now let’s get to his answers!

I Set the Sea on Fire

1) Why are you excited to be performing at Zandari Festa 2016?

We’re so excited to be a part of the festival, it’s such an incredible opportunity for any band and an amazing platform for smaller bands to be discovered by a completely new audience it would be really hard to reach without Sound City or Zandari Festa. We’re looking forward to representing the UK’s wide music scene in such a wonderful city that we can’t wait to explore and we can only hope the festival will open doors to more exciting opportunities whether these are in South Korea or not.

2) What can people expect from a I Set the Sea on Fire live show?

We somehow manage to mix trumpet, trombone and flute with four-part harmony on stage. So you can expect a massive, energetic live sound!

3) For fest-goers not familiar with I Set the Sea on Fire yet, what should they know about you?

We’ve been going for about seven years, changing lineups for the whole of this time. We’ve just recorded our debut album, “Sleep Now Suburbia,” with a Sheffield-based producer, and are releasing the B-sides to this just after our trip to South Korea. We’re looking forward to debuting this in Seoul!

4) Aside from performing, what else would you like to do during Zandari Festa 2016?

Meeting people who work in the international music scene, other bands, and music lovers from around the world. You’ll find us most days watching new bands around the festival and finding our next favourite artist. Obviously the inevitable beer and our favourite game of table football and pool will have to fit in somewhere though.

5) If you can go drinking with another Zandari Festa act, who do you want it to be?

We’re really looking forward to meeting the other UK acts who are flying over there, as well as finding the local music of Seoul! If we could drink one with one act we know, it would be She Drew The Gun, as we follow a lot of their music!

Zandari Festa 2016 – Five Questions with Cosovel

The fifth annual Zandari Festa is taking place in Hongdae from September 30 –
October 3. To spotlight some of the event’s performers, Korea Gig Guide is asking a bunch of acts five simple questions.

cosovel

For this installment, we’re talking with Izabela Wroblewska, the vocalist for alt-pop act Cosovel from Poland. Cosovel will play at Zandari Festa on Monday, October 3 at 8 pm at Freebird. Now let’s get to her answers!

1) Why are you excited to be performing at Zandari Festa 2016?

For me, Zandari is literally food for thought. It’s a musical paradise with a dozen clubs within arm’s reach. It’s a chance to get a new perspective, experience moments of musical ecstasy, and face the challenges. Overcoming the challenges gives you some of the greatest joys of all.

2) What can people expect from a Cosovel live show?

A combination of a music and dance performance on the verge of diverse feelings: joy, sentiment and nostalgia, with a strong pulse of beat. I’m a melody and harmony lover, but lately I’ve gotten into dirty, underground techno. It will be definitely visible in our performance, rhythmically and sonically.

3) For fest-goers not familiar with Cosovel yet, what should they know about you?

I’m an emotional addict. I love seeing people dancing and singing with me during concerts. I fulfill myself working with music in its all aspects, from creating, recording, producing, performing and making video clips. I enjoy touring a lot. It gives me the greatest thrill when the day is already dawning and I glide along the road into the brand new. I like the feeling of the unknown. I value devotion and criticism in art. And I really can’t wait to see you in Seoul.

4) Aside from performing, what else would you like to do during Zandari Festa 2016?

To tell the truth, I’d like to grab as much as I can during that short glimpse of time. My goal is to experience Seoul’s momentous heritage treasures and rollercoaster nightlife at the same time. I’d like to soak into the city, hang out with locals, listen to the pulse of the streets during rush hour, dazzle myself with the glow of motley streets, visit old markets, breathe the same air as Nam June Paik, taste soju for the first time, experience Sajik Daeje, meet Xooang Choi by accident – I could make a list of my wishes at least 10 times longer.

5) If you can go drinking with another Zandari Festa act, who do you want it to be?

It’s hard to answer that question without being a part of the concert and feeling the real energy of the performing artist. I’d love to experience some great live shows with pure power, which is something I really miss after the electronic music revolution. I see a lot of enthusiasm in the Green Flame Boys, I don’t remember the last time I had an evening with a punk band.

Zandari Festa 2016 – Five Questions with Paranoid City

The fifth annual Zandari Festa is taking place in Hongdae from September 30 –
October 3. To spotlight some of the event’s performers, Korea Gig Guide is asking a bunch of acts five simple questions.

paranoid-city

For this installment, we’re talking with Japo “8-Bit” Anareta, the synthesizer player for synth-pop band Paranoid City from the Philippines. Paranoid City will play at Zandari Festa on Saturday, October 1 at 6 pm at Veloso. Now let’s get to his answers!

Why are you excited to be performing at Zandari Festa 2016?

We’re really excited because this is going to be our first time playing at Zandari Festa as well as in South Korea.

What can people expect from a Paranoid City live show?

They can expect a lot of energy from our performance. We want to give our audience a sonic synth-pop experience they will really enjoy.

For fest-goers not familiar with Paranoid City yet, what should they know about you?

Paranoid City is not just a band, it is a shared experience for both the band and the audience. That’s why we tagged ourselves as “Your Metropolitan SynthPop Destination”.

Aside from performing, what else would you like to do during Zandari Festa 2016?

We want to meet a lot of new people, both fellow musicians and fest-goers. We also want to experience Hongdae’s unique nightlife.

If you can go drinking with another Zandari Festa act, who do you want it to be?

An Honest Mistake! They are our long-time friends from Malaysia. Aside from them, we also want to go drinking with other synth-pop bands as well so we can share ideas with them.

 

Still Lots of Musical Goodness Left: Pentaport Day Two

Day two at Pentaport was just as packed with big acts, and the crowd filled out as weekend punters flocked in to soak up the sounds and the sun.

I started my day with very high hopes for At the Drive-In, five Texans who first gained real prominence in 2000 before abruptly splitting up and going on to create The Mars Volta and Sparta. At the Drive-In did not disappoint, offering up a thrilling display of pure rock ‘n’ roll.

ATDI

Turning out seven songs from their final landmark album, “Relationship of Command,” they performed with an intensity that matched their distinctive brand of noisy post-hardcore. By the second song, which began with the greeting of “Good morning, Korea!” vocalist Cedric Bixler had already smashed the mic stand in two. Bouncing off anything he could find, he sang “Enfilade” while crowd surfing and proved that fire extinguisher spray is indeed heavier than air during “Cosmonaut.”(Note: I hope the young woman who caught the microphone tossed into the sky with her head was okay.)

Bixler went on to share some great news with the crowd by informing everyone that At the Drive-In were going to be recording new tracks in Seoul during their stay!

IDIOTAPE_002
Photo courtesy of the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival

And as amazing as At the Drive-In were, there was lots more fun to be had throughout the day. Korean electronica three-piece Idiotape were typically awesome, blasting out live crescendoing drum fills that gave way to bob along chorus beats. From the crowd pleasing tracks from their award-winning “11111101” 2011 debut album to the newer “Don’t Go” from this spring’s “Re” EP, they had the crowd packed with a train of people revolving in and out of the Dream Stage tent as they gasped for air. A party band that can lure even the stiffest necks into bending, their visual show – rife with political innuendo ahead of Liberation Day – had everyone entranced.

The inflatable swimming pool, which I may or may not have snuck into only to discover it was actually open to the public, provided a refreshing cool down before the night’s headliner. I share this as a note to future fest-goers who should come prepared to get wet.

weezer_11
Photo courtesy of the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival

A fest can never go wrong closing out its main stage with a performance by Weezer. While a little more static than I’d hoped, there wasn’t a moment when they let the crowd slip out of their grasp.  Kicking off their set with the sunny “California Kids” from their eponymous album that came out this spring, the alt-rock superstars played a total of 18 tracks including mash-up medleys and even a Kim Kwang-seok cover! The concert was like a giant college party sing-a-long as we all embraced our inner geeks by strumming air guitar and shouting along to the encore of “Buddy Holly.”

weezer_07
Photo courtesy of the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival

The Epic Rock Adventure that is Pentaport: Day One

The Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival has been bringing some of the biggest international names in rock to Korean shores since 2006. And this in turn, of course, guarantees a brilliant lineup of local acts to help round out the bill each year.

Taking place at Incheon’s Songdo Pentaport Park, the festival grounds are about a 10-minute walk from the train station and this either meant a dash under the stinging heat of the sun or wait around in it to catch the free shuttle service on offer. Inside, aside from vendors selling hover boards and sugar drinks, a ring of stalls laid out a decent selection of food and cocktails. One thing they do need to work on is making sure there are a few options for vegetarians.

Like most outdoor music festivals in Korea, Pentaport is incredibly family friendly. It’s a safe and fun environment where you can pitch a tent with a decent view of the mainstage and lounge about having a few drinks between friends. And as one friend put it, the benefit of the Cass monopoly on beer is that you are unlikely to get too carried away drinking.

day1_galaxy express3_pentastage_
Photo courtesy of the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival

I arrived at the tail end of Galaxy Express’ set on the main Pentaport Stage, which is like arriving at your favorite restaurant when they are closing up. It sucks and it makes you damn hungry. In this case for some rock ‘n’ roll. Fortunately, seasoned local metalheads Crash were on hand to belt out their eclectic mix of heaviness in the Dream Stage tent against a backdrop of flaming skulls.

The highlight of the day was without a doubt Run River North who performed on the Pentaport Stage while the sun was still up. This six-piece folk-rock band has a sound that is reminiscent of Mumford and Sons with at times the melodic nature of The Head and the Heart. With a violin and keys and a spring in each step, these Korean American guys and gals know how to put on a show. “Run and Hide” and “29” from this year’s “Drinking from a Salt Pond” album were both standouts, but I wasn’t disappointed by any of the nine tracks they performed. The inescapable conclusion is that they were made for that blue sky summer’s day.

Between songs they joked in broken Korean about the few Korean expressions they knew.  One thing they had somehow picked up during their short stay in Korea was the obligatory selfie with fans at the end of their show. Let’s just say they knew how to ingratiate themselves.

day1_suede5_penta stage
Photo courtesy of the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival

Main stage headliners Suede came out noticeably looking their age and a little stiff in their stride. I was quite prepared for something of a lackluster performance until vocalist Brett Anderson managed to almost tear off his sleeve and expose his well-maintained chest within just the first couple of songs. Opening with “When You Are Young” from their most recent album, “Night Thoughts,” and moving through a number of their anthems including my personal favorite “Animal Nitrate” from their 1993 self-titled debut and even an acoustic rendition of “She’s in Fashion,” they played a total of 19 tracks while the crowd sang along in unison.

All in all, a brilliant first day.

Gig Review: Galaxy Express, Dead Buttons, and 57 @ Strange Fruit on January 16

On Saturday night, I clambered down the stairs of Strange Fruit in Hongdae to see veteran indie rockers Galaxy Express perform. The band have committed themselves to a month of nightly performances at the tiny basement club in January. While this kind of demanding schedule is usually reserved for overseas tours when bands are fueled by the thrill of new environs, Seoulites now have the rare opportunity to see one of the city’s most loved indie acts any day of the week (barring Mondays).

While Galaxy Express is usually filling much larger live halls or soccer fields at outdoor festivals, they have decided to offer a more intimate experience for fans. Strange Fruit was definitely not built to hold big rock acts and does not allow much room for jumping around, but they had the place packed and bumping wall to wall.

57
57

The show was kicked off by garage rock duo 57. Their set had its highlights with subtle moments building into big crashing riffs, but one gets the feeling these up-and-comers are still honing their sound.

Galaxy Express
Galaxy Express

Surprisingly, Galaxy Express were next to take the stage, explaining that they wanted to give the headline honors to Dead Buttons to celebrate their new album release. Galaxy Express belted out eight songs in quick succession without so much as skipping a beat, even slipping into some unexpected reggae with a few bars of Bob Marley ‘s “I Shot the Sheriff.” While the audience highlights were definitely “Horongbul” and “Jungle the Black,” a personal favorite was “Let it Out,” the opening track off their latest album, last summer’s “Walking on Empty.” While one might have forgiven them for stepping off the gas for a moment given their hectic playing schedule, the trio blasted out a frantic set to a full house and even relented to demands for an encore of “Oh Yeah!”

Dead Buttons
Dead Buttons

The night was finished off with the eclectic garage rock of Dead Buttons putting on the best performance I’ve seen from them to date. The band cranked out a more raucous rendition of their crowd pleaser, “Baby, Please Be Yourself.” It is safe to say that this rock duo have really hit their stride with their brand new album, “Some Kind of Youth,” with “16-22” standing out live as a great track. A cover of Galaxy Express’ “Oh Yeah!” wrapped up a fantastic night of rock and roll.

Galaxy Express play nightly (sans Monday) at Strange Fruit in Hongdae throughout January. Check out who they’ll be playing with each night by clicking on the photo below.

Galaxy Days

 

Singaporean Punk Rock Trio to Launch New Album in Korea

Iman’s League is a melodic skate punk trio hailing from Singapore. With a catchy and full-throttle SoCal-esque sound, the act recently became the first punk band to ever win Best Band and Best Song (Singapore) at the Anugerah Planet Muzik awards, a major Southeast Asian music awards show. Alongside local legends …Whatever That Means, they are poised to play a three-show tour hitting Daejeon, Gwangju, and Seoul to launch their new “Destiny” album this weekend.

SONY DSC

Korea Guide Guide interviewed frontman and namesake Iman just days before they christen their new album with a punk rock rampage across the country.

Iman’s League began as a solo acoustic act in 2007 and has now transformed into a high-speed punk group. Tell us about your transformation.

Initially Iman’s League was supposed to be just a solo project of mine. I kind of “quit” playing in bands after my previous band of 10 years broke up in 2007. That’s when I decided to just take it slow and play lots of originals acoustically. I played a lot of small pubs, community centers, and even weddings.

After a few years of doing that I decided to record an EP called “Crossing Rivers.” I played all the instruments on it. After the EP was released, I decided to bring two session musicians to accompany me during my live performances. That’s when I called up the other two members of Iman’s League, Ishyam and Anhar, to be my session players. I had known them since my teenage years, and we immediately clicked from there. Before we knew it, we were playing numerous shows in Singapore, and we also did a Malaysia tour in 2012. That’s when I decided that this should be a band rather than a solo project. We recorded a second EP, “Forever in 7th,” in 2013 and toured Indonesia and Japan in 2014.

You describe your sound as “anime punk rock.” Could you elaborate on that?

One of my main influences in music is punk rock, and I listen to lots of Japanese bands like Hi-Standard, Dustbox and Total Fat. I also listen to lots of Japanese anime music. I would say that most of the Japanese anime music also has a bit of punk rock influence. I really love the way the music sounds so energetic and melodic. I have also been strongly influenced by American punk rock bands like No Use for a Name, NOFX, MXPX, and Green Day. So we kind of mix both of these influences into our music and decided to call it “anime punk rock.”

Iman’s League have toured Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan, and now, you are going to play Korea. Have you had any memorable tour moments?

There are lots of memorable moments that we’ve had while on tour. We often wake up late on the final day of tour and almost miss the bus ride home. One of us shouts, “The bus is leaving in 15 minutes!” That’s when all hell breaks loose, and everyone starts panicking. Just last week, Ishyam almost got stranded in Pahang, Malaysia when he got off the bus to buy some stuff, and the bus driver left without him. Luckily we managed to stop the bus.

What can we expect at your upcoming shows in Korea?

For this Korea tour we will be promoting our fourth release, “Destiny”. Our setlist will consist of all the new songs from the album. What audiences can expect is fast-paced punk rock music with lots of jumping around on stage. This is the first time the three of us are going to experience cold weather. We may get sick, but we are still gonna give 100%!

You’ve just made a new music video for the title track off of “Destiny.” What can we expect from the album?

This time around the songs are faster than our previous releases. “Destiny” also represents our personal musical journey as all three of us have known each other for a really long time, yet we only got together to form a band in our 30s. I can say that these has been the best years for us personally as we have accomplished quite a number of things over the last few years.

Iman’s League launch their tour with a show in Daejeon at Mustang (formerly Brickhouse) on Friday followed by Gwangju on Saturday at Club Boojik and Hongdae on Sunday at Channel 1969. More details can be found here: www.tiny.cc/ImansLeagueKorea

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Five Questions with Johnny Sands

Zandari Festa 2015 will take place in Hongdae from October 2 – 4.  In order to spotlight some of the talent performing at this year’s event, Korea Gig Guide and our friends at Do Indie are teaming up to ask a bunch of acts five simple questions.

Johnny Sands

For the final installment of the interview series, we’re talking to the vocalist and namesake of the Liverpool-based act Johnny Sands. Including Joe Rhead on keyboard and bass, Johnny Sands delivers catchy soundscapes punctuated by vocals that flow and ebb. Now let’s get to Sands’ answers!

1) Why are you excited to be performing at Zandari Festa 2015?

It’s really exciting to travel so far to play my music to a new audience. It’s my first time in Korea and I can’t wait to sample the culture. I’m especially looking forward to exploring the Hongdae area over the festival weekend!

2) What can people expect from a Johnny Sands live show? 

The live show will be atmospheric, heartfelt, and spontaneous. There will be drum machines and guitars and above all a captivating performance.

3) For fest-goers not familiar with Johnny Sands yet, what should they know about you? 

They should know Johnny loves performing to a new audience in a new outfit in a new country with a new drum machine!

4) Aside from performing, what else would you like to do during Zandari Festa 2015?

When I’m not performing at Zandari Festa you’ll find me drinking coffee and playing chess in a local cafe, followed by watching every other band possible!

5) It’s important to stay hydrated at music festivals. What’s your festival drink of choice?

Drink of choice: coffee & water – and a morning grapefruit juice!

Johnny Sands will perform on Saturday, October 3 at West Bridge Rooftop at 9 pm. For more information about Johnny Sands, check out his Facebook page here.  To learn more about ZandariFesta 2015, you can check out the festival’s website here and its Facebook page here.