Earlier this year, I was approached to do a short monthly segment on Korean indie music for a mostly K-pop radio show based in the UK, Radio Kimchi UK. Of course, I said yes and the first segment played back in February. It was a fun way to share my love of music in a different way – I may be a writer but I also love to talk – and with a different audience. It also wasn’t the first time I’ve shared my love of Korean indie music with music fans who primarily listen to K-pop as I’ve hosted a few panels on the same topic at Toronto Kpop Con so I knew that it would be well-received.
However, it took a while to realize that the segments would also make good articles – oh, that thought came six months later, yeah, sometimes I’m a bit slow – so with the permission of DJ Julia, who hosts Radio Kimchi UK, I started pairing an article with the radio segment back in August.
But then I got to thinking, what about all of the old segments?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of a written record of the earliest segments – they were meant for radio so I ad libbed most of it – and they did evolve a bit from the first one. But I wanted to share those groups with you, our lovely readers, because many of them number among my favourite bands. So I’m taking the easy way out and I’m doing a recap of the first five (5) segments I did for Radio Kimchi UK. Each segment features three (3) bands – except April’s because there were four (4) bands playing at Focus Wales and I wanted to mention all four – tied together loosely by a theme. Keep reading to find out which bands I talked about first – and don’t forget to check out the music videos, they are all great bands.
February – Three Groups Playing SXSW (that I love)
They are one of the grandfathers of Korean punk rock, along with Crying Nut who I’ll probably talk about in a later segment, and they’ve just celebrated their 20th anniversary with a 20th anniversary album, along with a fabulous album called Brainless. Both albums are great and I definitely recommend checking them out if you haven’t already. If you’re new to their music, I recommend starting with “My Leather Jacket” as it’s one of my favourite songs from their recent album.
They are a rock band that blend alt-rock, garage and punk to get a sound that’s all theirs. I was beyond excited to see them at SXSW as I’ve been listening to them for 10 years but had never seen them live, until last March. If you’re not familiar with them, you should check out “Always (언제까지나)” which is one of my favourite songs from their self-titled album, Galaxy Express – which is a fab album by the way.
A solo artist, Big Phony is a Korean-American singer-songwriter with a softer sound than the first two bands, who sings beautiful ballads. “But I Will, Everyday” is a great song to introduce you to his lovely voice and music.
March – Three Groups I First Became a Fan of at a Music Festival
Rock N Roll Radio
A rock band with elements of dance and other genres that have such an infectious sound that they hooked me from the first time I listened to them live. I heard “Shut Up & Dance” at that show and it’s still one of my favourite songs (and on a lot of my playlists).
A post-rock band that uses both modern and traditional Korean instruments to create such an explosive sound that will captivate you live. A great song to check out is “They Keep Silence” from the album, A Hermitage.
A mix of dream-pop, post-rock and electronica all stirred together into a fab sound that I can’t stop listening to. They are wonderfully addicting and each album is better than the last – seriously, check out Actress, and “The World is Calm Again” is a great song to start with.
April – Four Groups Playing Focus Wales
57 (오칠/Oh Chill)
A rock duo consisting of a guitarist and a drummer whose name confused me at first as I read it wrong (as fifty-seven, not five seven in Korean) but whose sound grabbed my attention with its blend of garage and alt-rock. “Get Away” is a great song to start with.
A hybrid punk band I’ve been listening to for a while and who have a fabulous energy live – one that I’d love to see personally as all my friends who have, love them. They are definitely on my list of must-see bands. “Space Call Girl” is a fun song to start with, especially as it’s a fairly recent release.
Love X Stereo
One of the bands I’ve seen most often, they’re great live (and recorded), with a fab electro-rock sound. They’re in the process of releasing 37 new songs this year and one of my favourite of their songs is “Hide and Seek” so give it a listen.
Say Sue Me
Their sound reminds me of summer and the beach, and is great to listen to when you need a bit of a pick-me-up, or if you’re off to the beach. A great intro to their music is “Spy on Motorbike”.
May – Three Groups With Shows in the UK
The Barberettes (바버렛츠)
They’re a fun, retro du-wop trio that will bring a smile to your face and heart with their music – live and recorded, they’re amazing. Check out their fairly recent release “Spring, Bear” as it’s a great song to get a feel for their sound.
Sultan of the Disco
A five member group with a whole lot of personality (and one of the funniest interviews I’ve done) who put on a crazy, entertaining show, complete with acrobatics. No joke! A great song to start with is “SQ”.
A blues rock band who I unfortunately haven’t seen live but who I’d love to someday. Mixed in with the blues rock is elements of rockabilly, garage and even some punk rock. “The Dog” is a great intro to their music.
There was no episode in June.
July – Three bands I’d love to see live
A bluesy rock duo that just released a new album, Rabbit. And it’s amazing! Their previous album, Some Kind of Youth is also well worth a listen – with my fav songs being “Witch” and “Want It”. I love the intensity and complexity they bring to their music, especially considering there are only two of them. While I recommend you listen to all of their new album, Rabbit, good songs to start with are “Tiny Town” and “Hide & Seek”
Wings of the Isang
I only started listening to Wings of the Isang a year or two ago but I love their trippy rock sound. The instrumentals are front and center in their music and it’s great to listen to while writing. There’s something addictive about their songs and I could listen to “Stream of Consciousness”, the song I’m recommending you start with, again and again. In fact, the whole album of the same name is amazing
National Pigeon Unity
I’ll be the first to admit, I listened to them first because of their band name but they hooked me immediately with their fabulous energy and sound. I’m always amazed with the complexity of their songs, especially as they are a duo. A rock band with elements of punk, they are definitely a group I want to see live. And a great song to check out is “Molotov Cocktail”, although I’m also a fan of “Cat Bomb”.
So now you know a few of the Korean indie bands I’d love to see live… just the tip of the iceberg really… I’d love to hear from you. Which Korean indie bands would you like to see perform?
Of course, now that I’ve come up with the bright idea to pair the segments I do for Radio Kimchi UK with a written article – and you can find the August article here – I’ll continue to do so. With little write-ups about each band and a music video that I like to continue to highlight or perhaps even introduce some great music to you. I’ve already got the next three bands picked out. But don’t just read our articles, check out Radio Kimchi UK as well for great music and other segments on K-dramas, films and more.