The hallyu wave and all it entails, including sub-genres such as K-pop, TV drama and reality shows, evidently hasn’t stopped skyrocketing in global appeal and in its pursuit for world domination. As far as music in itself is concerned, conventional catchy beats and flawlessly choreographed dance routines orchestrated by unblemished superstars who ideally conform to the notion of mainstream the media-friendly way seems to prevail.
While adhering to this manufactured Korean identity of musicians is increasingly lucrative and undemanding, one South Korean band that is forgoing that archetype as an alternative and yet topping Korean charts like no tomorrow with its soft rock indie tunes is the quartet Hyukoh. Comprising 24 year olds Lim Hyun Jae (LHJ), Lee In Woo (LIW), Im Dong Gun (IDG) and Oh Hyuk (OH), Hyukoh’s unmistakably eclectic sounds are unlike any other.
With their hit song “Comes And Goes” as well as other tracks like “Wi Ing, Wi Ing” and “Wanli”, Hyukoh has now successfully released three EPs, 20, 22 and 23, all of which are named after the ages the boys were during the time they were produced. Let’s just say it’s high time you catch up on the band’s charmingly dreamy tone of music punctuated with vocalist Oh Hyuk’s pronounced raspy voice if you’ve been missing out.
The K-indie boys of Hyukoh were recently down in Kuala Lumpur for their Urbanscapes 2017 gig at the Tiger #UncageMusic Block Party, and we were some of the lucky ones able to sit alongside them for a simple chatter. Read on below:
Q: What was your first memory of music?
LHJ: My first memory of music was a children song on the cassette tape.
LIW: It’s hard to pick one experience, but my parents always had an interest in music. So, I always had a thought about wanting to play an instrument.
OH: I was always exposed to music growing up and it was really natural for me to get into music.
IDG: I started doing music because my friend asked me to join a band with him.
Q: Hyukoh is far from a cookie-cutter Korean band. What do you like or dislike about the indefinite genre your fans are boxing you in?
OH: It’s hard to like or dislike that categorising of our sound because even we ourselves are still looking to come up with a definite name for it. But, I guess personally I would say that classifying music right now is a bit old-fashioned.
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Q: Where do you think your music stands right now, both in Korea and the international arena?
OH: I guess we’re only halfway there, standing-wise. We are known in Asia but not as known worldwide. But I’d like to believe that when people listen to music nowadays, they don’t put it in a box. It’s the character of the band or style they get into.
Q: Within an industry that is so overly saturated, especially in South Korea, have you found staying true to your musical and visual aesthetic as a band a tough thing to do?
OH: The thing is, we don’t try to be distinctive. It’s just who we are, what we pursue and what we like that happens to be different, so no, it hasn’t been difficult at all.
Q: Has understanding your fan base ever changed the way you make your music?
OH: Our fans are liking what we produce and we are thankful of it. With that said, it’s not about them taking an interest in certain parts of our music that alters our ways. It’s more about us understanding what they like and trying to communicate with them through that.
Q: Do you believe that there is a contrasting dissimilarity between Korean and Western musical styles?
OH: We are influenced by Western music a lot, but it’s hard to say that there is a certain difference right now as we are living in a global era where people are so easily exposed to various things. I believe it’s more about music with different moods, emotions and sentiments that differ by country, instead of musical styles on a whole.
Q: Have you ever encountered any challenges being musicians in Asia?
OH: I think there are certain stigmas and traditions that limit music in Asia but I don’t think we have reached that level just yet.
Q: CL recently gave you guys a shoutout on Instagram. How would you describe your relationship with her?
OH: She’s a good friend. I wrote one of her lyrics before. We are open for future collaborations if an opportunity arises.
Q: How did your IU collab for “Can’t Love You Anymore” come about?
OH: It was a fun experience and I’m really happy it had good results. We have been talking about singing a track together for the longest time and she mentioned that she has an album coming up so we did the song.
Q: What is your stand on K-pop? Do you love it or hate it?
OH: Love it because I’m Korean and K-pop has a certain flair that I’m intrigued by. Just like kimchi, it has that spice.
Q: If you weren’t in the music industry, what would you be doing with your lives right now?
LHJ: Working in the zoo. I really like animals.
OH: Not pro, just a gamer. Haha! For me, I would just be in school.
IDG: A professional race driver!
Q: If you could work with three artistes in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, who would be at the top of your head right now?
OH: Paul McCartney, Snoop Dogg and Tom York.
Q: Tell us about the most outstanding music venue or concert you’d remember in your lifetimes.
LHJ: I remember going to the opera with my dad. It was such a bad experience.
OH: Paul McCartney’s concert in Seoul, because I couldn’t go.
IDG: It’s Red Hot Chili Peppers’ tour stop in Seoul. I expected so much more but it was disappointing due to the sound. It just didn’t do the band justice.
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