Synth Punk? Electro Alternative? It Doesn’t Matter, Love X Stereo Knows What It’s Doing [Interview]

Love-X-Stereo-2Rock meets electronica when it comes to Love X Stereo of South Korea. The indie duo is known in the Hongdae music scene and they’ve played abroad at SXSW, CMJ, and more. But the lack of chart-topping hits keeps Love X Stereo from gaining long-lasting recognition both at home and the greater world at large. And the pair’s upcoming album “We Love We Leave, Pt. 2” attempts to change that.

As the follow up to February’s “We Love We Leave, Pt. 1,” Love X Stereo is doing everything right on their upcoming album. “It’s like nothing we’ve done before,” Annie Ko told me over an Oreo frappe in a coffee shop in Seoul. “It’s all done now, we’re waiting for the masters. ‘We Love We Leave, Pt. 1’ was more about loving each other, but this one is all about leaving, parting, death. And not in a bad way, but mostly inspired by death and current events. We were affected by a series of personal stuff and national stuff [the Sewol Ferry tragedy of 2014]. So it’s, until now, the best record we’ve ever recorded.”

Ko and Toby Hwang are Love X Stereo. Together they create a new style of electro rock that Hwang calls “synth punk” and Ko calls “electro alternative.” Synthesizers clash with guitars to create Love X Stereo’s amalgamation of pop rock and electronic music, and Ko’s breathy tones acts as the string tying all of these musical elements together. “Ultimately, we’re a rock band, but we have so much respect and have been influenced by electro music, so we’re a rock band that’s trying to do stuff that has inspired us from electro music and try to do it on our own.“

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The pair has been making music together for years, and was together in the punk rock band Skrew Attack before forming Love X Stereo in 2011. Ko was 21 and preparing to be a K-pop ballad singer when they met thanks to tenuous connection with 1TYM’s Song Baekkyoung and No Brain’s Bulldaegal. After meeting, Ko auditioned to join Hwang’s band. “I don’t think he thought I would stay, but I always loved rock music and we’re both ‘90’s kids; we live and breathe ‘90’s music… We like the same music, but he is more of a punk rock guy, he knows all of these ‘90’s indie American, LA punk rock stuff. And I know, well, I grew up in LA in the ‘80’s, so I kind of have more of an attachment to pop music. So it kind of collides and merged in a weird way.”

Transitioning from a band to Love X Stereo was difficult for the pair. “Our drummer left the band, and we were kind of in a rut, music-wise. People don’t even care about punk rock music anymore. It’s kind of the end of the era, I think,” Ko explained before Hwang picked up. “In the ‘90’s, every band was a punk rock band. There are still maniacs out there. But time flies and we wanted to do something new. And back then, we had our first synthesizer. We bought a new synthesizer to make something interesting, and that led us into us doing this.”

After playing abroad in the United States and Canada on multiple occasions, Love X Stereo garnered attention in South Korea, but the music scene in South Korea isn’t kind to indie bands, especially not ones with a female frontwoman who looks like a typical punk pop princess.

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“Girls like guys,” Ko revealed. “The majority of ticket sales, 70 percent or more here at the shows and album sales are made up of girls. Guys sell, especially in Korea where everything is so visualized. For instance, K-pop. It’s less about the music and more the visuals, and that applies to K-indie as well. Being an indie band in Korea is really hard because you have to do your own music, your own promotions, your shows, everything, and it’s kind of a dead end because there is only a small chance that you can make money out of it.”

Even though it may seem like a dead end, Love X Stereo rattled off an impressive list of past performances. The pair has performed at multiple CMJ Music Marathon’s in New York, South By Southwest in Texas, Culture Collides in California, Canadian Music Week in Toronto, and countless other Korean and international festivals.

“Mostly, the response is that the Korean audience doesn’t really get what we’re doing,” Ko said frankly, explaining that the fact that she sings in English isn’t really why Koreans don’t immediately understand Love X Stereo. “People are like ‘um, interesting,’ but they don’t really get what we’re influenced by or what type of music we’re trying to do. But when we were in the States, they knew it right away. Like ‘ah, it sounds awesome.’ It’s a very different response right away. Since we got a good response overseas, it’s kind of now coming back to Korea and it’s catching up to us. Now Koreans are seeing what we’re doing.”

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The two spoke about being in talks with a record label so that they would be able to focus more on music and less on promotions. “[It’s] not that we don’t like our songs, we like our songs, but we feel that our past songs are mostly us experimenting and putting time and effort to make something interesting. But now we know how to be more available to the majority of our audience, and it should be, quality-wise, better. Producing, songwriting should be better. And just to make that clear, if the quality is there, people will find our music. We can expand our music business in a much bigger way. So like, if we have a semi-hit song, it’s easier to get record deals, and we don’t like our future to be too vague. We want to have a certain goal, and to do that, it’s easy to come up with a solution. It’s hard to describe, but to have better songs and to get more attention [is the goal]. The pop scene, not K-pop, spends a bunch of money on mixing and mastering, and there’s a reason why when you listen to the radio, it shows. When we compare that with our music, it’s not about what’s good or not, but there is a certain standard and for us to be listened to by a wider audiences, we need to improve our sound quality.”

Although Love X Stereo is not currently signed to a record label, “We Love We Leave, Pt 2” is being co-produced by Adrian Hall, who has worked on songs by Britney Spears, the Black Eyed Peas, and Shakira. They three were brought together by KT&G’s SangsangMadang’s “The Art of Recording” program in 2014, and worked together on five songs. “I never thought that our sound could sound like that, it was pretty amazing to see,” Ko said, regarding the new music.

Other than the pending release of “We Love We Leave, Pt 2” what’s next for Love X Stereo? “Ultimately, what we want to be, is follow our predecessors, the ones we love and adore. Every other band dreams about it, we want to have a root and expand ourselves as international artists.”

What do you think of Love X Stereo and their music? Share your thoughts and questions for the band 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.

Culinary Hallyu: Shin Kim’s ‘Banchan Story’ Will Bring Korean Food Lovers Together [Interview]

Shin 2You may think you know a lot about Korean food based on what you’ve eaten at the newest Korean barbecue joint in your city or what you’ve seen stars on Korean television shows. But Shin Kim thinks that a lot of Korean food aficionados are only touching on the stories and history of Korean dishes, and is kicking off a new sort of culinary-cultural fusion experience known as Banchan Story

Shin Kim is known from DramaFever’s “Cooking With Shin” series and the recipes from her personal blog. Now, she’s kicking off something a bit new, a new culinary experience class that she’s calling Banchan Story. With the tagline “whispers from every little dish,” Banchan Story is part Korean culture meetup, part history lesson, and all food.

Banchan Story is a way that Kim hopes to combine foodies and fans of the Korean wave, known in Korea as hallyu. This is made up of all sorts of Korean culture that is exported abroad, primarily K-pop, Korean movies, and Korean television dramas. Food and beauty products are some of the lesser discussed, but just as important, parts of the Korean wave.


While some people come to Korean cooking classes with little knowledge and are just looking for some fun new food, Kim said that anytime she mentioned the fact that she subtitles Korean dramas a few people’s eyes lit up and they admitted to being fans.

“I figured, it would be nice to actually have Korean cooking classes that go in depth into the story behind the dishes,” Kim told KultScene over the phone. “A lot of time these days, because so many people are watching Korean dramas, it would be fun to tie these dishes to the dramas that feature the everyday, home dishes of Korea.” Banchan Story is Kim’s inventive way to combine the interest in Korean pop culture and Korean food, and to create an environment for people to meet up.”

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“First and foremost Banchan Story is about me helping you cooking Korean food at the class and at home, so it’ll be step by step instruction with me guiding you through,” explained Kim. “But for people who are interested in Korean culture, I think it’ll be fun to gather together and cook together and eat together and talk about culture and history and food. And that’s why I opened this up; I wanted to share this family-like, friendly gathering for people who want to learn more about it.”

Why the name? Banchan is the Korean word for small side dishes served at just about every traditional Korean meal, and Kim discovered that a lot of people came to her cooking classes for widely known dishes like japche noodles and kimchi, but left with a love of the side dishes.

“A lot of people are surprised by how good the little side dishes are and how simple it is to make so I think a lot of time they come for the big Korean dishes that they recognize but end up liking the little dishes that they didn’t know about,” Kim said as she explained the reason behind the title of her latest venture. “A lot of people recognize a lot of Korean dishes that even a few years back wasn’t the case. But then still, all these little dishes come out when you order something at a Korean restaurant they get lumped together as just ‘those little side dishes’ so I thought I could go in depth about those little dishes and teach people how to make them.”

Those little dishes don’t always get so much screen time on Korean television shows and movies, but a lot of other food does and Kim thinks the rise in popularity of Korean food is innately linked to other Korean media.

“Korean shows were first and foremost for Korean people, so it always piques people’s interest and it’s part of the culture to have food all the time and talk about it. And it’s sort of feeding each other that’s a big deal, so people like to see it, and they show more [food] so that people are interested. And from that, people who got exposed to K-pop and dramas see this. And at first I didn’t notice it, because I’m so used to the food in the shows I watched, but people noticed that if you watch Korean shows often and long enough the same food comes up again and again. People look it up and get interested.”

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According to Kim, Korean culture is largely focused on food, resulting in the amount of focus on food that people see on television and movies. “Korean dramas and movies, or even variety shows, they show people eating all the time. And it’s not just like in American shows, where they show the characters eating at a diner or eating once in a while, but it’s not a big focus unless it’s a holiday scene. There’s not usually a lot of zooming in on the food, but in Korean culture and Korean shows they always take time to show off the actual food and show people enjoying the food itself. And I think that comes up because Korean people really like to eat, they like to see what other people are eating and how it’s made and how they can get it, and how they can eat.”

Since Banchan Story is currently only in New York City, Kim has kept up her recipe blog. Here are some of our favorite recipes from Shin Kim:

Kimchi-Style Cucumber Salad (오이 무침 – Oi Muchim)


1 package Persian cucumbers (mini, thin cucumbers, 7 in a package)
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

2 tablespoons rice vinegar or brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 scallions, washed and chopped fine
2 ~3 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons sugar


1. Cut cucumbers to thin slices.  Sprinkle sea salt over cucumber slices and mix well.  Let it rest for 10~15 minutes, just until cucumber slices start to sweat and soften.  This also depends on how thin the cucumber slices are, so keep an eye on it.  If it’s your first time and you’re not sure, go under rather than over, meaning, don’t let it sit too long, which will get the cucumber too salty and too soft.

2. In the meantime, mix rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, toasted sesame seeds, scallion, garlic and sugar together.

3. Rinse off salt from cucumber in cold water and gently squeeze to remove excess water.

4. Mix cucumber slices in seasoning.

Keep it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.


In case you’re interested, Banchan Story kicks off in New York City on July 8th, at an event sponsored by the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange (KOFICE) and H-Mart. Banchan Story classes will begin this summer in Manhattan. Check out Banchan Story HERE.

Do you cook Korean food? What do you think about the connection between Korean food and Korean TV shows/movies? 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.