Seoulsonic returned to New York City last week as part of CMJ’s 2015 music marathon, with a new set of acts performing at SOBs (Sounds of Brazil) in Manhattan on Oct. 15. Three Korean indie acts — Sultan of the Disco, HEO, and WYM— performed throughout the night to showcase the music coming out of South Korea’s indie scene nowadays, brought together by Seoulsonic. I had a chance to speak to each of the acts before the show to hear about their careers and experiences at Seoulsonic.
[This is the second of a three-part interview/review series from the event. The first interview with HEO can be read HERE.]
Retro synthpop is at its best with the one man band WYM, the final act of the night at this year’s Seoulsonic NYC. Described as sexy danceable music by WYM, his music incorporates electronica elements and intense drum beats.
WYM, or Byun Joon Hyung, is a one-man band, created by the South Korean artist known as Bjorn, the Scandinavian word for ‘bear.’ “A lot of people outside of Korea can’t really pronounce my Korean name, but my surname is Byun and a friend suggested I use ‘Bjorn’ as my artist name,” WYM explained during our interview. The band name in turn stands for “Would You Mind?” and the Korean phrase, “우주마인드,” (lit. “space mind”) pronounced “wujumaindeu.”
Also on KultScene: TWICE “Like OOH-AHH” Music Video & Song Review
On stage at Seoulsonic, WYM had an unpretentious stage manner and image, a sharp contrast from the heavily coordinated K-pop artists that have popularized South Korean music in the world. WYM stood behind a wide array of synthesizers, with the plastic tube of a talk box in his mouth to aid him in vocal distortion. A backing drummer, truly excellent at his craft, provided the only traditional instrument on stage during the set as WYM created his dark, wailing dance music.
The musician studied in the United States and collaborated early on in his career with a friend to create the project band MDS, which released remix music of Korean song in an electronic style. MDS released an album and a few singles before WYM was created.
“I felt like I had to do something,” WYM said. “That MDS thing, I still wanted to do it. But I wanted to concentrate more on something that I really like and want to express, and show people what I can do, what I believe, what I can sound like. I started as a soloist under the name Bjorn, then I released a single “Empty Desire” in 2011. Then I thought I needed to do more band-ish stuff. But alone. So I created a name, WYM, as my solo project name. So under WYM I made an album and released it last year.”
The LP “After Moon” was released in 2014 and proved WYM’s worth as an artist whose songs you want to listen to while dancing in a club and then ruminating in a drunken state afterwards.
“I want to make sexy music. That sounds, like, really sexy but also danceable stuff. That, and I really want to do some really emotional stuff too. On the album, there’s some of all of that. I have everything, I think. “
What WYM can do is outstanding. On stage, in front of Seoulsonic’s eyes, he went above and beyond, transforming his normal voice into a mechanized instrument and creating beats that were at once fun, introspective, and haunting. The five-song set included synth and distorted elements, but also showed hints of reggae and rock before settling firmly in the world of electronic dance music. The thumping beats of the drums were just as important to the music as WYM’s electronic sounds, both coming together to get the crowd moving.
Also on KultScene: This is NOT a Competition, Jessi Slayed her Los Angeles Show
A year after releasing WYM’s first EP, it’s a big deal for him to be a closing act at CMJ’s Seoulsonic and he hopes to perform at this year’s SXSW, despite the difficulties of being a Korean indie musician.
“As an indie artist in the electronic form of music in Korea, it’s a really hard life, it’s not easy,” he explained. “People don’t really like electronic. I mean, people go to clubs to listen to really mainstream EDM stuff but not a lot of people listen to the kind of washed out stuff in Korea. It’s hard to be recognized, I think, but I was happy [to be nominated for the 2015 Korean Music Awards Electronic Dance Album of the year award]. With that nomination, Seoulsonic asked me to join. I was very honored to be recognized.”
The show ended with the audience cheering for WYM, as the tunes went in and out of danceable melancholy and euphoria, ending the show with “Trying.” Despite the late hour, WYM’s energetic electronica had us all moving to the rhythm before 2015’s CMJ Seoulsonic came to an end.