Interview: Jambinai (at SXSW)

One of the more unusual and interesting Korean bands out there is Jambinai. Why are they unsual and interesting? Because they combine traditional Korean music and intruments with rock music and instruments… together which is a very fun and interesting sound. Add to the mix a great vibe on stage (I saw them live for the first time last night) and you have not only great music but a fun peformance as well. Check out what they had to say about their music and American tour.

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Hi there, can you please introduce yourselves and Jambinai to our readers.

Ilwoo Lee: Hello.  We’re a post-rock band named Jambinai that makes music with Korean traditional instruments.  Although we usually introduce ourselves as post-rock, we like to think our music is just “Jambinai music.”  Last year, we won “Best Crossover Album” at the Korean Music Awards and were able to gig overseas in Finland, Wales, Norway, and Brazil.  This week we’re playing our first American concerts at SXSW and at the Korean Underground Vol. 1 concert in San Antonio.  We’re really looking forward to all the gigs.

Eun Youg Sim: Jambinai uses instruments like haegum, geomungo, and piri to make progressive and unique music.  We’re excited to share our music with people in the US this week and hopefully with more people around the world soon.

You have such a unique sound, how did you come up with the concept for Jambinai? What does the name mean?

Ilwoo Lee: I wanted to come up with a way for traditional music to communicate with modern people.  

Bomi Kim: Our band’s name has no meaning.  It’s just a list of letters.  People can interpret the name anyway they’d like.

What are your musical influences?

Ilwoo Lee:  Korean traditional music, metal, hardcore, grindcore, post-rock

Bomi Kim: We all like really different music, but I think all of the elements of our tastes fit well in Jambinai.  Personally, I like string orchestras and tango music.

Eun Youg Sim: I like a lot of different kinds of music and take a lot of inspiration from plays, movies, and dance as well.

Where do you usually gather inspiration for your songs? What is your usual song-writing process?

Ilwoo Lee: I gather inspiration for our music from many bands.  I usually write songs while I’m thinking on long walks.  I imagine many images of music and hum new melodies to myself.  Afterwards, I play the things that came to me through my instruments and record them.  We use these basic recordings as frameworks at our practices and then complete the songs by jamming on them together.

Bomi Kim: When Ilwoo gives us the framework of a song, he lets us know his motivation for the song, the images he sees with it, and the process he used to make it.  Eun Youg and I then concentrate on the song’s feeling and add haegum and geomungo sounds to it to help strengthen it and make it complete.

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This will be your first time performing in North America, what are you looking forward to?

Ilwoo Lee: The US is the world’s largest music market.  We’re excited to play there and try and make some new opportunities for Jambinai.  We’re really looking forward to sharing our music with a new audience.

Eun Youg Sim: We’ll play at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.  There will be bands, music industry staff, and music lovers from all over the world there.  I’m excited about being able to meet so many different people.  I’m also wondering how everyone will react to our music there.

While you’ve never been to North America yet, you’ve played at several international festivals. How has your music been received? Was it different from performing in Korea?

Bomi Kim: Performing overseas wasn’t so different from performing in Korea.  But my personal thinking is that Korean audiences are more familiar with traditional instruments so they may not be 100% objective when seeing us play for the first time.  However, many people overseas haven’t seen the instruments we use before so they may be able to give us a more objective opinion and reaction.  All of the crowds we played for while traveling abroad last year were awesome.  Their reactions exceeded my expectations, and they seemed to truly love our music.   I was truly moved by the reactions we received overseas last year.

What is your favourite show/concert/festival that you played? Why?

Bomi Kim: Every show we’ve played has been remarkable, but my absolute favourite one was our set at the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival in 2011.  Pentaport is one of the biggest rock festivals in Korea and it was our first time playing at a festival.  Being able to perform there was a special day for me.  I’m a musician who plays music from several hundred years ago, but it felt like time had disappeared as I played at Pentaport, a popular event filled with lots of pop culture.

What do you like to do when not playing music?

Ilwoo Lee: I like to exercise.  I recently started boxing.

Bomi Kim: I like to travel.  When I have time, I love to leave and travel to different places without any plans of where to go or what to do.

Eun Youg Sim: I like listening to music, reading, and painting.

Do you have any social media accounts? Has your online presence helped fans find your music?

Ilwoo Lee: We have a Facebook page and a Twitter account.  I’m trying to study English harder and plan to use Facebook and Twitter more in the future to communicate with our fans around the world.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? What are your plans for 2014?

Ilwoo Lee:  After playing at SXSW, in April we’re going to perform in China for the Sound of the Xity festival and in Amsterdam for the PMPS event as part of the CinemAsia Festival.  We’ll be back in the US in June to play at California’s Sierra Nevada World Music Festival.  This summer we’ll also be appearing at music festivals across Europe including Denmark’s Roskilde Festival and Slovakia’s Festival Pohoda.

Bomi Kim: We hope we can meet all of you somewhere in the world one day.  Thank you for reading about Jambinai and supporting our band.

Jambinai’s March US tour dates:
March 11 Austin, TX @ (7:30 pm) Elysium (official SXSW showcase)
March 12 Austin, TX @ (3 pm) International Day Stage Austin Convention Center (official SXSW showcase)
March 13 Austin, TX  @ (1:30 pm) Hotel Vegas (Levitation Austin)
March 13 Austin, TX @ (12:00 am)  Flamingo Cantina (official SXSW showcase)
March 14 Austin, TX @ (3:15 pm) Spider House (The Texas Rock N Roll Massacre 2)
March 16 San Antonio, TX @ Limelight

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday – this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it’s taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I’m the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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