South Korean Patients Dream, and Curse, in A Hybrid Punk World [Interview]

Korea may not be known for its rock music internationally, but just because K-pop is making headlines everywhere doesn’t mean that other genres of music are lacking in South Korea. Punk rock band Patients has had a role in creating modern punk music in Seoul, playing a role in the underground punk scene and now offers space for up-and-coming bands to play at in Hongdae, Seoul.

The band recently came back with its latest, self-produced hybrid punk album 18 ahead of a three-stop tour in England. The band, comprised of vocalist and bassist Jo Sumin, keyboardist Kwon Hyukjang and drummer Lee Jaehyuk, took their time to discuss their album, career, dreams, and more with KultScene.

Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Can you introduce Patients and yourselves to the readers who may be hearing of you for the first time?
Hi! We’re Patients from Seoul, Korea. We play a style of music that we call “hybrid punk.” We just released our second full-length album. It’s called “18.” This month we’ll be heading to the UK to play shows in London and in Liverpool. We love touring overseas so we’re really looking forward to our tour.

Patients just released a new album called “18,” what’s the significance of that number to the band members?
In Korean, the word for 18 sound like “sipal” which means “f#ck.” Just like the word “f#ck” in English, the word “sipal” can be used for good and bad things. Mainly, there are two topics on the album. One is about negative things happening in society and the other is about seeking endless pleasure. When thinking about those two different things, we thought 18 would be a good title because of its ambiguous meaning. Also, we want to continue to do more and more overseas, so we thought 18 is a good title because it’s just a number and everyone can read it no matter which language they speak.

What is the meaning of your band name, “Patients”?
It literally refers to patients or people who are sick. I think everyone is a patient at some point in their life.

I’ve heard your style of music is called “hybrid punk”. What does that mean to Patients? What’s your style of music like?
We decided to call ourselves a “hybrid punk” band for two reason. The first was that we wanted to distinguish ourselves from other bands. Some punk bands just want to mimic old classic punk acts. However, I think the essence of punk is to create new things and to destroy and overturn old ways of doing things. But some people are too set on what they think the fixed image of punk should be. So that’s one reason why I wanted to give our version of punk a different name. The other reason is that by calling ourselves “hybrid punk” we have more freedom to do whatever we want since it’s a sub-genre we created! We love the DIY attitude of punk and love being able to mix elements of punk music with lots of other sounds too. “Hybrid punk” is our dream version of punk.

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How has your music changed over the years? I know you’ve had some lineup changes, leading to different sounds and style.?
In our early days, we were influenced by classic punk rock from the 1970s. So we just followed that style. But then we decided we wanted to try and do something more unique and interesting. We started experimenting more and adding other sounds and styles to our music. In 2012, we parted ways with our guitarist. Instead of bringing in a new guitarist, we decided to ask Hyuckjang to join the band as our keyboardist. So now we make music as a bass-keyboard-drum band. This set up is a lot of fun for us, helps us add lots of new sounds, and opens up many more directions for us to explore as a “hybrid punk” band!

You’ve spent some time performing abroad. Where is your favorite place to perform?
My favorite place to perform was at the Liverpool Sound City music festival. We went there last year for the first time and had a blast! Our shows went well and we really enjoyed getting to see other cool bands perform too. There was a great vibe in the city during the festival. I’m really, really excited to be playing at Liverpool Sound City again soon!

How do fans at international shows differ from Korean fans?
In Korea, the audiences we play for are usually familiar with us and very friendly so the shows are really comfortable. When we play overseas, audiences usually respond really quickly to our music which is awesome. We’re really moved by this because we know most people don’t know who we are and can’t understand our lyrics because they are in Korean. When we play outside of Korea, we communicate only by sound and energy which is a very different and interesting experience for us.

What do you think of the current Korean rock/punk rock scene? What do you think of Korean music in general?
In the Korean punk rock scene, there are some awesome and very talented musicians, and there are also some musicians who are not-so-talented or are stuck in the past. As for Korean music in general, I feel sad because the mainstream media only focus on popular artists. Musicality and creativeness seem to take a backseat to popularity. But many musicians and music industry staff are trying to fix this so I expect things will get better in the future.

In 2010, Patients began Steel Face Records. What’s that like, running a record label for rock music in a country where rock music isn’t necessarily mainstream? ?
It can be challenging, but it’s fun! Steel Face Records was started so that we could have the freedom to do whatever we wanted to. Our label is small, but we’ve released music by Patients and some other bands, and we operate a live space above our label office called Steel Face Rooftop 3639 where bands can play high above the busy streets of Hongdae. We’re always open to talented artists with a similar mindset as us joining Steel Face Records.

How do you want people to remember your music and band? What would you like your legend to be?
We’d like to be remembered as a band that took listeners to a place that made them feel better. If people remember us like that, it would be an amazing thing.

Was there a pivotal moment in your career where you realized “wow, we made/accomplished our goal/dream”? What’s your current goal?
We felt a real sense of accomplishment when we finished our second full-length album, “18,” and released it on April 29. We worked really hard on the album and are excited for people to experience all of the things we’re trying to do as Patients. As for our current goal, we want to use the songs from 18 to make some fantastic live shows for people to enjoy!

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Who are your punk influences and who are your rock influences? OR who influences your music?
Sex Pisols, Ramones, The Cure, Beethoven, and many, many more acts. We all like a wide range of music and have been influenced by many different musicians.

With over ten years in the industry, what has inspired you in the past to pursue this path and what continues to inspire you?
The late ‘90s, when the indie scene first started coming together in Korea, is what inspired me to become a musician. What continues to inspire us are young indie bands all over the world.

What can we expect from Patients in the future?
You can expect us to continue to get better. We strive to be a band that is always improving and always creating better things.

Any final words for KultScene’s readers?
It’s really nice to meet you! Thank you so much for reading about Patients! Please check out 18 and we hope to see you in Korea or somewhere else in the world!

Patients UK Tour KultScene Interview

If you’re going to be in England this May, check out Patients live:
May 19- Korea Cultural Center UK, London
May 23- The Heineken Tall Ship Stage (Kaskelot)- Liverpool Sound City, Liverpool
May 24- The Cavern Stage- Liverpool Sound City, Liverpool

What do you think of Patients and their hybrid punk sound? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts. Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.