With catchy hooks, aggressive riffs, and a punk energy that lights up the stage, a Patients show is never to be missed. They’re taking their exciting blend of drums, bass, and keys underneath punchy lyrics to the UK for the third year in a row for a tour that starts today. Just before setting off from the peninsula, bassist/vocalist Sumin Jo and keyboardist Hyuckjang Kwon sat down with Korea Gig Guide to talk music: where it comes from, where it’s going, and why it’s always fun but never easy.
How did you get guys together?
Sumin: Four years ago, I was playing with Patients, and Hyuckjang was playing with another band. We used the same practice studio back then. I thought his style would be good for Patients as at that time we had no keyboard, just guitar. So I asked him to join. And we got a new drummer earlier this year. His name is Soowon Choi. Hyuckjang knew him and recommended him to me. From the first moment we played together, it sounded great! We’ve been playing together for five months now.
Hyuckjang: He adapts very quickly. He is a great drummer.
Your sound has developed a lot over the years. What brought about these changes? Can you describe your current sound to new fans?
Sumin: When we first started, the band members liked 1970s classic punk rock and 1990s punk rock, so we modeled our sound after those styles. Over time, we studied more as musicians. When we released our first album, we were satisfied with our development. But we also wanted to develop a more unique sound that we could call our own. Around then, Hyuckjang joined Patients. We went to the essence of punk rock music and did what we wanted. Hyuckjang, Soowon, and I all have different tastes and we draw from all of those when making music. That is Patients’ sound today.
Hyuckjang: When I joined Patients, we were working on our second album, “18.” I wondered how we could make a rocking sound without guitars and we talked a lot about it. We wondered whether to use the keyboard to make heavy sounds or to create unique sounds. We tried lots of different things and were happy with the results on the album. Recently, Soowon has joined and brought his own sound and we have been trying to integrate electronic punk music with that. Before it was more of an analog sound, and then we had more of a digital sound. Now our sound is really close to the electronic keyboard sound we were imitating and paying respect to. You can look forward to seeing how our sound has developed on some new singles we’ll be releasing soon. We have two new songs right now called “Space Call Girl” and “Game Boy Game Girl.” We’ll be playing these songs during our upcoming UK concerts and will be recording them after our tour.
How do you expect Patients’ sound and style to grow in the future?
Sumin: The only thing that will not change is that we’re going to do whatever we want to do. That will never change in terms of attitude. I don’t know how our sound will change. I don’t think that far ahead. Ultimately, Patients is Patients. We don’t think about genres or styles because … well, that’s not our style!
Your music is marked by a lot of raw punk energy. After over 10 years of playing on stages in different parts of Asia and the UK, what inspires you to keep up that fiery energy?
Sumin: In my head, I’m still young and immature. And I think I’m still like a teenager with my love of music. So I feel like that kind of energy comes out naturally. I don’t count the years, I just live as usual. I do what I like as soon as I find something, you know?
You’ll be touring in the UK for the third time from May 25 – June 5. What are your expectations for this tour?
Sumin: It is first time going overseas with our new drummer so I’m sure we will have fun.
Hyuckjang: I’m looking forward to going to Angels, a strip club in Liverpool! Also, we’re excited about playing for audiences in the UK – they’re really great and welcoming. And we’re excited about drinking lots of great British beer too. But we’re not looking forward to the food.
What are the biggest challenges you expect to face?
Hyuckjang: Traveling between cities with all of our gear is a bit challenging. I use an 88-key keyboard. It was like dragging a coffin around when we went to Liverpool last year. I looked like an undertaker, not like someone carrying music equipment. Actually, as we were traveling between London and Liverpool people were asking why I brought a snowboard with me!
What should new fans expect from a Patients show?
Sumin: They can expect to see something they’ve never seen before. If they come with an open mind and heart, I’m sure they’ll have a great time.
Some crowd favorites are “Sipalsegi,” and “Idiot vs. Psycho.” Can you tell us a little about their inspiration, etc?
Sumin: For “Sipalsegi,” I thought about how “chung” (affection) and “han” (resentment) are big big characteristics in Korea and wrote about them in the lyrics. As for “Idiot vs Psycho,” when I was young, I always fought with our former guitarist. I fought with him seven days a week, all night long. Back then, I wondered “Is he a psycho? An idiot?” and I started writing the song while thinking about that. It’s about the battle between people that don’t understand each other.
What is your songwriting process?
Sumin: Often one member comes to practice with an idea and then we work together to complete it. Hyuckjang mainly makes the arrangements for the music and melodies. The words and emotions tend to come from me and Soowon creates a lot of the rhythms.
What is your favorite song to play live?
Sumin: “Space Call Girl” because it’s one of our new songs. But I like all of our songs.
Who are your favorite bands in Hongdae at the moment?
Hyuckjang: National Pigeon Unity, Trampauline, and 57.
Sumin: I like all of those acts too, but I’ll choose some different ones. I’m going to say Heynam Sin and Patients, DTSQ, and AKUA.
And who are your favorite UK bands?
Sumin: Sex Pistols, Inspiral Carpets, and New Order. I like the Manchester sound and classic punk rock.
Hyuckjang: Pink Floyd, The Cure, and Iron Maiden.
And non-UK bands?
Hyuckjang: The Australian band The Griswolds, Pollock from Spain, and Metallica.
Sumin: There are too many too list!
Sumin: Hongdae has big, wonderful concert halls like Sangsang Madang and Rolling Hall. There are also small clubs like Badabie too. I was thinking that it would be great if we had a tiny and stylish performance space that had a great sound system like the ones in concert halls. That’s the kind of place we thought we’d love to play in. And that’s why we decided to make Club Steel Face. The club is doing well. I like that we have a place where all our friends can perform in a really nice space. Club Steel Face was recently written about in the US magazine Paste, which was really cool to see. Come check it out!
Here are Patients UK tour dates:
May 25 Chester @ The Live Rooms
May 26 Manchester @ Night & Day Cafe
May 27 Whitchurch @ Percy’s Cafe Bar
May 29 Liverpool @ Liverpool Sound City (Cargo Stage)
May 31 London @ Windmill Brixton
June 5 Worthing @ Bar 42