Black Bag’s label, Ruby Records, explains the symbolism behind the band’s name: A simple black plastic bag is an ordinary, everyday object which everyone uses. But what each person carries in their bag is very different. “Like a common ‘black bag’, Black Bag’s music can be understood in many different ways. Respecting the differences in the ways people think, Black Bag’s music lets each audience member listen and interpret in their own way.” I didn’t realize how apt this name was until I sat down and really listened to their music (for, despite the dynamism of their live shows, it is music that deserves to be properly listened to)--here is a band that is best described as unexpected, while remaining unpretentious and intimately connected with their audience.
Like many bands of the current generation, Black Bag’s members [Minwoo Jang (vocals and rhythm guitar), Jeff Lee (lead guitar), Hyezee Lee (bass) and Gu Taewook (drums)] first met as teenagers in a music academy, and started playing together in 2008, united by their love for both classic and modern alternative rock. Their first EP “Beyond the Sky” was released to widespread acclaim in early 2012, and they soon became the rising darlings of the indie scene, being chosen for the Olleh “Hello Rookie Awards” and SangSangMadang’s Band incubating program, playing at several big music festivals and even competing in the survival TV show “Top Band 2” that year. Having released their first full-length album “Rain Has Fallen” last year, they have continued to experiment, adding instruments (acoustic guitar and keyboard) and varying their sound on each track, thus defying those who wish to pigeonhole them into one genre.
Black Bag’s style of music is not new. But somehow, it is always fresh. At first they seem easy to dismiss as just another talented, young, fabulously good-looking, alternative rock band, but their music is so layered as to sound different every time I hear it. The first word that comes to mind is, quite honestly, “beautiful”. Their music and lyrics are beautiful, to the point of feeling comforting and uplifting in turn. The melodies, underscored by persistent drumbeats, build and soar in a deceptively simple manner, so that you never quite know where each song is going to end up. Many tracks begin with long, dreamy, shoegaze intros, and are rounded off by Jeff’s kickass, classic-rock-grounded guitar solos (check out “Free”, which he wrote himself), the focus on which lends Black Bag much of its uniqueness. That and their lovely lady bassist, who seems to have quite a cult following among local indie fans, as the last time I saw them play at FF she got more screams than any of her male band members!
However, I would personally argue that there is one overriding reason to pay attention to this band: vocalist and songwriter Minwoo Jang. Seldom have I heard any vocalist in Hongdae, let alone a young and relatively unknown one, sing so, well…beautifully. He has the training and self-assurance to vary his voice dramatically, ranging from the angry shouting to the most delicately anguished high notes. In fact, the first name that I thought of when listening to him sing on their first EP’s title track “Beyond the Sky” was Jeff Buckley—someone whom Jang lists as his role model.
If you’re having a hard time imagining what kind of a band Black Bag is, it is almost as hard to describe them. In that sense, if it helps at all, I would say that they remind me of a rock-ier, masculine version of Dear Cloud, another well-trained young indie rock band centered around a powerful vocalist, who are good at combining the predictable with the experimental, the soft with the hard, the sweeping with the intimate. But I urge you to see—and listen—for yourself, to discover what’s inside your Black Bag.
Written by : Rock ‘n Rose
See Black Bag live this Saturday, April 26th, at DoIndie Korea’s first concert, 'FWD Vol. 1' :
Date : 26th April @ 21:00
Venue : Club FF (Hongdae)
Cover : 15,000
Line Up : ECE / Black Bag / Smacksoft / The Killer Drones
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/theblackbag
Twitter : https://twitter.com/band_blackbag
Official Site : http://www.theblackbag.co.kr
Doindie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/band/black-bag