Interview: HEO at SXSW

HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016
HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016

I sat down with the South Korean electro-rock group, HEO while at South by Southwest (SXSW) earlier this month and had a lovely conversation with them about their music, performing live and what they have planned for 2016 among other things. We chatted briefly before the interview about my bad Korean, cute earrings and if the questions would be hard or easy… They were lovely to talk with so keep reading to see what they had to say.

And if you haven’t already, check out their album, Structure, and their new single on Bandcamp.

HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016
HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016

The Interview

Hello, can you please introduce yourselves and your band, HEO?

HEO: We are HEO from South Korea. We play rock and electronic music. We are dark mood. Thanks.

If someone was discovering HEO for the first time, how would you describe your music?

HEO: Rock with electronic bit, there are some elements of shoegazing, IDM and post-rock.

What song do you think really speaks to who you are as a band? Why?

HEO: [Discussion in Korean] “Luna”, maybe. It contains dark mood of electronic and some lyrics. [Discussion in Korean]

WYM: Usually electronic songs, tracks, have a brighter side and are danceable but “Luna” has a really dark mood and they pursue that dark mood in electronic form.

HEO: That’s right.

BoYeong: Thank you WYM.

HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016
HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016

What influences your music and songwriting?

HEO: A band or something? Anything?


HEO: Actually I think about life and death.

WYM: He likes splitting in relationships.

HEO: Relationships. And I love some directors like David Lynch. That kind of weird things.

You’ve been to SXSW before and played other shows in the US, how is playing in North America different from playing in Korea? Or is it?

HEO: [Discussion in Korean] It’s a hard question, you lied. [laughter] Another question first? [laughter]

Okay, we’ll skip it for now. But speaking of your shows, has anything strange or unusual ever happened while you were performing?

HEO: Actually we have every time accidents about our equipment so every stage is very nervous for us.

WYM: There is always something that happens while performing.

HEO: She said, last year, while we played, some guy covered his ears.

BoYeong: Eye contact with me. [laughter]

HEO: Okay though, it was good.

WYM: Oh, but she didn’t care. [laughter]

HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016
HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016

What’s the biggest challenge in performing live, between your recorded sound and your live sound?

HEO: When I make a record, I don’t think about live situation. So there are many problems because we are only two members. Actually we need more members, maybe six. It is our most hard point when recorded sound is different from live sound so we use computer. I don’t want to use computer but our members are so small so there is no way to express our sound without a computer. It’s a very hard point.

How has the Korean indie music scene changed over the past five or ten years?

HEO: So many changes. Many Korean indie bands perform overseas and many international people like Korean music. So whenever we go to U.S. or somewhere, many people… [Discussion in Korean]

WYM: So there are a lot of people around the world who appreciate Korean indie music, so when they play outside Korea, they get a very warm feeling from the fans.

HEO: Like you. [laughter]

To add onto that question, what changes do you see in the future for Korean indie music?

WYM: Do you want his opinion on what he wants to see or just expectations from his point of view.

Either or both.

HEO: Both, okay. [Discussion in Korean]

WYM: He thinks at this moment it’s doing pretty good but he would like to see more bands that do more very different styles or various genres of electronic music like us. He hopes that those bands can stand on their own without any media or marketing. He wants to see a lot of people, more people like those bands and those types of music.

HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016
HEO at the Seoulsonic showcase at SXSW 2016

Okay, a fun question, an easy question…

HEO: Easy, really?

Which do you prefer: beer or soju?

HEO: Absolutely beer, absolutely I think.

BoYeong: One more easy question. [laughter]

I really liked Structure, are you working on anything new? What are your plans for the rest of the year?

HEO: Thank you. Did you hear our new single? Not yet? This year our plan is every month a single will be released and when we go back to Korea, last two singles will be released by vinyl, 7 inch small vinyl. The same way, we will make 7 inch vinyl two singles and at the end of the year, together and we will make a long LP.

Excellent, can we go back to the question we skipped? How is playing in North America different from playing in Korea?

HEO: Okay, WYM and us want our music…

WYM: Doesn’t speak for any nation, global music.

HEO: So showing our music to America or other countries is for us, our goal. We want to do more shows in other countries. Actually we want to live here [laughter] so every time we play in another country it’s a big challenge for us. We want…

WYM: He wants to have this kind of opportunity to play around the world and get his name out to all the audiences.

HEO: I’m sorry, the answer is different from the question

That’s okay, it’s still a good answer and it actually leads me into my final question. I’m actually from Canada, not America. Would you ever come to Canada, to Toronto to perform?

HEO: Whenever, we want, we absolutely want. But if there is a chance to visit Canada, why not? We can go to Greenland. [laughter]

Thanks so much for the interview!

HEO: Thank you.

Editor’s note: While the majority of the answers were given by HEO, with some translation help from WYM (our separate interview with him will be published shortly), there was a lot of discussion in Korean between the two members of the group.

Final Thoughts

It was a lovely interview on a patio downtown Austin during SXSW with laughter, sunshine and interesting answers. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting the interview. And don’t forget to check out HEO’s latest single (and follow them on social media to stay up-to-date of course)!

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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