Sultan Of The Disco Does Funky Right At Seoulsonic NYC 2015 [Interview]

sotd2Seoulsonic 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. 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 interviews with HEO and WYM can be read HERE and HERE.]

Seoulsonic NYC 2015 began around midnight, but when Sultan of the Disco took to the stage wearing dragon-covered robes, shower shoes, and headbands, it was clear that the night was just getting started. The ‘70s inspired funk band hit all the right notes for the audience, getting everyone involved right away. With a full-fledged band onstage plus one member of the band dancing along to the rest with major aplomb, it was hard to not clap along and move to the sounds.

Sultan of the Disco is, when broken down, physical comedy meeting Korean musical innovation. Singing in both English and Korean, the group began its life as a dance troupe named Sultan of the Disco but over the years transitioned into a band with a heavy emphasis on dance. Their first single, “Magic Prince,” was released in 2007, and their latest song “SQ (We Don’t Need No EQ IQ)” came out this past July. Surpassing language barriers, the group’s played overseas in the past, although this was their first show in New York.

Lead vocalist Nahzam Sue sat down with me for a few minutes before the show began to tell me a bit about the band.

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“We want the immediate reaction of the audience to be able to dance and enjoy it,” Nahzam told me before explaining the band’s unusual inclusion of a member who just dances along while the rest of the band performs. “One dancer remains in our team, so there’s that spirit. He just dances… There’s a lot of energy [shared] between us and the audience.”

And indeed, on stage later that night, J.J Hassan stood there on stage, dancing alongside the other members as they played their music. Nahzam also had his own moves to show off while he sang, going back to the group’s origins as a dance team.

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“At the beginning, it was me and three other guys. It wasn’t an official band, but a dance team,” said Nahzam. “One by one, during sessions, guys who played instruments joined us and the Sultan of the Disco dance group became the band we are now.”

The band that they are now has had an album, 2013’s “The Golden Age,” nominated as the best electronic/dance album at the Korean Music Awards, but they’re moving onto the future.

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“We’re working on a new single now, that will be released by the end of the year,” the lead singer said. “The single will be a lot slower, a slow jam that’s different from what we’ve done. Even though our music is based in humor, we want to make our music maybe a little slower, groovier in the future [with more meaning.]. We want to be a more emotional band.”

Being emotional seemed like the last thing on their minds that night, though, as Sultan of the Disco connected with the audience through music, dance, and trying their best at talking in English. Pumping up the crowd in all the right ways possible, the band made a lasting impression at Seoulsonic NYC 2015 that the had us all wishing we were living in the disco age.

What do you like the most about Sultan of the Disco? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear you thoughts and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

WYM Created Haunting Electronic Music At Seoulsonic NYC 2015 [Interview]

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.”

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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.

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“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.

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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.

Do you like WYM? What’s your favorite Korean indie band? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear you thoughts and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

HEO’s Ambient Rock Sound Takes The Stage At Seoulsonic 2015 [Interview]

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 first of a three-part interview/review series from the event.]

Hard rock meets ambience in the Korean duo HEO, comprised of male vocalist/guitarist/producer Heo and female vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Bo-yeong. During the live show, the pair and a drummer created a new take on dreamy indie rock, combining rock instruments with synthesizers and vocal distortion. The result was something akin to a waking dream, where music acts as the guide into wonderland.

The music during HEO’s set, the second of three at Seoulsonic’s New York City show, tip-toed the narrow line between the genres, never going too far off into either the rock or electronic genres at any one moment, but instead bringing them together to become a perfect indie rock dreamscape.

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Even before the show, it was clear that the pair were consummate musicians, with Heo and Bo-yeong discussing their career passionately. Despite the fact that HEO had won the electronic dance album of the year award at this year’s Korean Music Awards for their LP, “Structure,” the pair still has a lot that they want to achieve.

The pair has been together since 2014, when Heo decided to bring in another vocalist. He knew Bo-yeong from their college days, when she was an underclassmen. “I already knew that she played keyboard and vocals, so I suggested, ‘let’s play together’ for the second album.”

On stage, despite the fact that the band is named after Heo, it is clear that the two are a pair and neither one overpowers the other. Heo’s intensity on stage as he sings, wails on occasion, and creates the electronic elements contrasts sharply with Bo-yeong’s blank gaze as she sings in her Lana Del Rey-esque voice and plays her bass and keyboard, but the songs would feel empty without one of the pair on stage. If anything, the two came off that night as living embodiments of indie meets rock: Bo-yeong wore the favored fringe and body glitter popular at indie music festivals, while Heo wore the iconic black leather jacket of classic rock.

HEO played at SXSW earlier this year, and the CMJ show was the second part of that journey with Seoulsonic. “This time around, touring with my band, especially coming to New York, which is world famous, it’s a huge honor and privilege,” said Heo. “Especially because so many of our favorite bands have played in New York and a lot of our favorite movies take place in New York so it’s very exciting.”

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Heo had appeared at Seoulsonic 2012 as a session guitarist for 3rd Line Butterfly, and was already familiar with Seoulsonic and the tour before HEO was brought on to the tour as the duo gained attention in South Korea and abroad.

Winning the Korean Music award for “Structure” was a big deal for the pair. “We couldn’t believe that we had won. It was a bit of a surprise that someone relatively unknown could win such a big prize.”

But despite the prize, they don’t feel like they’re famous yet.

“This whole album [“Structure”] was made without aiming for the mainstream,” explained HEO. “So as to why it even won is still a mystery.”

“If there’s anyone reason for why we won. It may be the fact the style of music is something that others haven’t really seen or heard before. It was very much a hybrid mix between rock and electronic, and while others have kind of experimented with mixing it, nobody else has really done it in Korea to this degree, with such a full force approach.”

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With twelve tracks, many of which HEO performed at Seoulsonic, “Structure” is a full length LP of electronic rock songs that sound like the average night’s dreams on a lot of acid.

As for plans after they head back to Korea? “We’re going to go back to the studios and start working on songs, with the goal to release a new single every month. Hopefully by next spring, we’ll have enough to release an EP or a full length album from all of those singles. More importantly, we’re releasing a vinyl album.”

Do you have a favorite song by HEO? What’s your favorite Korean indie band? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear you thoughts and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

Victim Mentality Brings Glam Rock To South Korea and SXSW [Interview]

South By Southwest (SXSW) is bringing a lot of international acts to Austin, Texas, including several South Korean musicians. Several shows are dedicated to Korean bands, and one member of South Korean metal band Victim Mentality spoke to KultScene about the band, its unique style, its upcoming album, and what to expect next from Victim Mentality.

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can you please introduce yourself to KultScene’s readers?

“Hi, I’m Kyungho! I’m the guitarist in Victim Mentality. We’re a glam metal band from South Korea. Our group also includes Scorpion on bass, Tarantula on drums, and Krocodile handles vocals. We’re going to release our Heavy Metal Is Back full-length debut [album] at the end of March. And we’ll be showcasing music from the album this week in Austin, Texas at the SXSW Music Festival!

How did you four come together to create a band?

Krocodile and I have been into heavy metal since we were kids. We met in 2005 and quickly became friends. In 2009 we decided to start a band together. We wanted to play classic heavy metal like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. But then we decided to change our style and become a glam metal band instead. We recorded a CD single together called Magic Finger, and after it was finished we found Scorpion. We knew him from an online metal community and knew he played bass well, so we suggested he become a part of Victim Mentality. That happened in 2013. The three of us started playing gigs together that year. We didn’t have a drummer yet, so we just used a drum machine for performances. Then we did a show and really liked the drummer that was playing with another band on the bill. So we asked him if he wanted to play with Victim Mentality. That was Tarantula and he officially joined our band in February 2014.

How did you guys decide to go glam? Have people reacted well to it?

We really like ‘80s music. We started off playing classic heavy metal music but we wanted to do something that was fancier and sexier. Glam metal seemed like the most natural fit. So we changed our sound and started wearing costumes similar to those that ‘80s glam metal bands wore.

A lot of people in Korea don’t understand why we’re dressed the way we do when we perform. Only people who are familiar with ‘80s metal understand it. But that’s okay! Because people who don’t know about ‘80s heavy metal get really excited when they do see one of our shows because we’re doing something different from what most modern rock and metal bands are doing.

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What music influences your sound? Who are some of your favorite metal icons?

Motley Crue is a big influence on Victim Mentality. The first song we wrote as Victim Mentality actually came from copying one of Motely Crue’s riffs. We also listen to hair metal bands like Styper and W.A.S.P. But I think musically we’re most influenced by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest still. If you mix their classic metal sound with Poison and Twisted Sister, you get Victim Mentality.

What’s the rock and metal music scene like in South Koreanowadays?

There are a lot of bands in South Korea, but the majority of them play modern rock or acoustic music. Compared to other styles of music, the metal scene is small and there are probably only 50 or so bands playing heavy metal in Korea. And those 50 bands are all playing different kinds of metal. That’s why we want to expose more people to heavy metal. We know glam metal is different from a lot of the more contemporary styles of metal, but our music is really fun and easy for people to get into. So I think Victim Mentality is a good band to introduce more people in South Korea to heavy metal.

How did you feel when you found out you would be performing at SXSW? Are you nervous about the festival?

We were really excited! And we’re still very excited now. It’s a world-renowned event and features lots of different kinds of music from all around the globe so it’s going to be a lot of fun to play in Austin during the festival. We’re looking forward to sharing our music with new audiences and to meeting lots of music fans and musicians from other countries.

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I’ve heard that sometimes you guys use props on stage,such as Krocodile using a bullwhip, combining music with performance art. How did that get started?

Heavy metal has always used props like leather jackets, leather pants, motorcycles, and other things. As for the bullwhip, Rob Halford from Judas Priest used a bull whip on stage. So to us, that’s also a great heavy metal prop which is why Krocodile uses one too!

Three of you have stage names, except your guitarist, Sohn Kyungho. Is there a reason for that?

In addition to Victim Mentality, I also play in another band called Dark Mirror ov Tragedy. With that band, I use the stage name “Senyt.” Since I’ve used stage names since I was 20, when we started Victim Mentality I thought it would be fun to use my real name. But sometimes when I see myself all dressed up in tight leopard print and wearing lots of makeup I question that decision!

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What’s your music creating process like? I noticed that you have songs in both Korean and English. Why is that?

I usually make the main riffs and melodies, and Krocodile makes the lyrics. On our Magic Finger CD single, there are Korean and English versions of the songs I’m Not Your Friend and Don’t Spit On Me. Originally we had made the songs only in English, but when we recorded them our producer suggested making Korean versions too. It seemed like a good idea to better connect with Korean audiences.

KultScene has a lot of readers who are fans of Korean idols, but don’t know a lot about other sorts of Korean music. Who are your favorite Korean musicians that you think people should know?

We only know about heavy metal bands, so that’s all we can tell people about. If you like bands that play glam metal like Victim Mentality, give The Hysterics a listen. If people are into thrash metal, Crash and Method are both great bands. And if you’re a fan of metalcore, I recommend Remnants of the Fallen.

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What are your favorite Victim Mentality songs for new fans to listen to?

Every song we have is awesome! So people should definitely listen to all of them. But if I have to pick a few, I’ll say American Junk Boy, Heavy Metal Is Back, and Pubic Lice. All three of the tracks can be found on our new Heavy Metal Is Back album. Give them a chance! I’m sure you’ll love them all.

What are Victim Mentality’s plans for 2015?

We’re going to be playing lots and lots of gigs in support of Heavy Metal Is Back SXSW will be our first time performing overseas. Hopefully we’ll have more chances soon to play abroad again.

Is there anything else you’d like to let fans know about Victim Mentality?

It doesn’t matter where it is in the world, if people want to see us play we’ll go there and will wow everyone with our fantastic music and stage show! Heavy metal is back!

Thanks so much to KultScene for speaking with us, and to everyone reading this for taking the time to learn about Victim Mentality.”

Victim Mentality will be playing three shows at 2015 SXSW. Check them out:
March 18 Austin, Texas (3:20 pm) @ Club Metropolis (Heavy Metal PoolParty)
March 18 Austin, Texas (9 pm) @ Karma Lounge
March 20 Austin, Texas (12 am) @ The Majestic (Korea NightII: Seoulsonic)

Check out Victim Mentality’s latest music video, and the teaser for the soon-to-be-released I Still Love You.

What do you think of this band? Where do you want Victim Mentality to perform next? 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.

Glen Check & More at 2014 Seoulsonic in New York

The 2014 Seoulsonic show on October 22nd in New York, was a feast of light and music when From The Airport, Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio, and Glen Check took the stage.

The groups, brought to New York City by the CMJ Music Marathon 2014, played in the Soho-based venue SOBs to an enthusiastic audience that was enthralled by the variety of sounds produced by the three indie groups from South Korea. Despite coming from thousands of miles away, the audience and the musicians had no problem understanding one another– this may have also been aided by the fact that only Rock’N’Roll Radio’s songs were in Korean, while the other two groups sung in English.

After starting roughly twenty minutes late, From The Airport kicked off the Seoulsonic show. The electro-synth duo brought a rock vibe to their set, with one member on stage in full-dj mode while the other switched off between his guitar and synthesizers. Even though From The Airport had a heavy emphasis on synthesizer, to the degree where one member’s singing sounded entirely mechanized, a few songs had guitar riffs, providing a synth-rock feel.

From The Airport 2014 seoulsonic nyc

The duo, made up of Milo and Zee, gave off a laidback concept as they stood on stage wearing T-shirts and glasses, while they performed their six song set. But From The Airport’s production anything but laid back, and every moment that the two were on stage, it was clear that they had put their heart and soul into the music. Zee in particular couldn’t seem to stand still as he delved into the music, nodding his head to every single beat other than when he had to sing into the mic.

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Even though the words were partially drowned out by the music, the meaning of each song was clear thanks to the presentation. The surreal sound of the songs matched the light show throughout the set. A screen behind From The Airport created a backdrop of vibrant flashes of color that enhanced the music rather than distracted from it, as if the lights and the synth-beats were combined.

The following act, Rock‘N’Roll Radio, was a completely different sort of indie group, forgoing technology and taking the audience back to the time when the only type of concert was one with a full five-member rock band. Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio was the relative newbie in the night’s roster, but the band had a great response from the audience, despite the fact that their lyrics are in Korean.

Rock'N'Roll Radio 2014 seoulsonic nyc

After From The Airport’s modern, electro-synth sound, an old school-style band like Rock‘N’Roll Radio was able to get the crowd moving. Every song that the quintet performed had a beat that was easy to move to, and several songs had simple lines of “oooh ooh ooh” or “yea yea yea” that made it simple for the audience to get into. Dance-rock songs like One Week and Shut Up and Dance were full-body experiences, and it was easy to see why Rock’N’Roll Radio received the 2014 Korean Music Awards New Artist of the Year award.

As if the audience wasn’t enthralled by the modern take on traditional bands, which are rare in the current Korean music scene, the lead singer kept the audience entertained in between songs by trying his hand at English. He had everyone in stitches with a random reference to a hit HBO show when he was discussing what it was like being in New York.

New York is cold. Winter is coming… I love Game of Thrones.

Glen Check rounded out the evening, and were definitely the most popular act in the room. The group is one of Korea’s best electronic acts, and recently had their song 60’s Cardin featured in the OST of both seasons of SBS’s Roommate. Like From The Airport, Glen Check sang in English.

The three on stage, the two members wearing matching white Glen Check sweatshirts and an additional guitarist, began performing to a loud round of applause. The set featured electro-dance songs with heavy synth, and Glen Check, like From The Airport, used the backdrop to create a light show with images and lyrics that matched their songs. The synth music that Glen Check meshed with the guitar and drums on stage created a funky sound that was both infectious and new; a style that was retro and new all at once. Numerous times throughout the set, Glen Check urged the crowd to clap along.

2014 seoulsonic Glen Check nyc

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The group ended the set and then performed an encore song, with one of the members taking up a drumstick and hitting the cymbal numerous times. The indie-pop-dance music had everyone in SOBs moving, and brought the entire night to a perfect full circle.

Stay tuned for more pictures and video from the event coming soon!

Do you like the bands featured on 2014 Seoulsonic? Be sure to tell us which is your favorite and don’t forget to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ to keep up with all of our posts.