Interview: Smacksoft (at SXSW)

One of the bands I’m super excited to see tonight at South by Southwest is Smacksoft. There’s nothing like seeing a new band (well, new to me) perform live to truly get a feel for their music. Luckily, Smacksoft took a few moments out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions for ATK Magazine. Keep reading for what they have to say.

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Hi there, please introduce yourselves and your band to our readers.

Hi, I’m Bo Ryung Whang.  I’m the leader of the Korean post-punk band Smacksoft.  Our band is based in Seoul and features five members.  I sing and play guitar, Rainbow99 plays guitar, Jin Shil Suh drums, Ji Yong Shin plays bass, and Ha Neul Kang plays keyboard and synthesizer.  

Who are your musical influences? Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Johann Sebastian Bach has been a big musical influence on me.  I’m inspired by being alive and just being able to enjoy live.  Inspiration comes from everything around me.

You have played gigs in North America before, how was it different from playing gigs in Korea?

The language is definitely different and so is the food!  American audiences tend to show their emotions so much better than Korean audiences.  In the US, if the music is terrible crowds may heckle you or throw things.  But if the music is awesome, they go crazy.  I like people showing these kinds of emotions.  And it’s definitely extra motivation to make sure we’re always at the top of our game when we play overseas!

Has anything interesting or unusual happened while you were on stage? Do you have any fun stories from performing?

In 2012, we played at a healing center in Massachusetts caked Earthdance.  It was a really cool space and everyone there was so generous and kind.   They were just really nice people.  I close my eyes when I sing, so I didn’t watch the crowd during our performance at all.  But I saw video of the show afterwards, and everyone was dancing and having so much fun while we played.  It made me not want to close my eyes anymore when I sing.

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How has the rock/indie music scene changed in Korea since Smacksoft formed? Do you think it will ever be mainstream?

I’m not sure if rock and indie music will ever be mainstream in Korea.  K-pop is a really big deal in Korea.  It doesn’t make any sense to me.  Too many K-pop videos seem to be about half-naked people dancing around with lots of plastic surgery on their faces.  It’s not about the music at all.  It’s more about selling an image to people.  That’s not what we do with Smacksoft.  We want to try and do the best we can with our music.  I’ve always believed that if you’re true to your work, then your work will be true to you.

We are seeing more Korean bands coming to North America – including 15 performing at SXSW this year. Do you think the North American music scene is becoming more receptive to Korean bands?

Hopefully!  I think a lot of the Korean bands who are playing abroad are getting really good reactions.  The world becoming more receptive to Korea’s indie scene is definitely not a bad thing!

I read that you’re planning on releasing your sixth full-length album in June, can you tell us anything about it?

It’s going to be pretty similar to our 2012 album, “Follow Your Heart.”  But it will have more of an electronic sound to it.  We’re going to finish up work on the album after our American gigs and a couple of shows we’ll be doing in Europe in April.

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Do you have any other plans for 2014 that you would like to share with our readers?

I just released a solo EP in last February.  It features seven acoustic tracks and is called “As if Nothing Ever Happened.”  The music video for the first single from the EP came out two weeks ago.  You can check it out here.  We’ll be doing gigs in the US between March 14 and March 20.  And on April 12 we’ll play the PMPS event as part of the CinemAsia Festival with the Korean bands Jambinai and Su:m.  Before coming back to Korea, we’re going to do a gig in Paris as well.  Hopefully when our new album is out we can do more overseas concerts as well!

Smacksoft’s March US tour dates:

March 13 Austin, TX @ Icenhauer’s (SXSW)
March 16 San Antonio, TX @ Limelight
March 20 San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall (CAAMFest)

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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