Posted on August 26, 2015
We at Do Indie love to support new talent, and I am personally excited to introduce this young blues rock/rock ‘n roll band to watch out for. A charismatic trio consisting of brothers Jo Seong Min (guitar and vocals) and Jo Seong Hyun (drum and chorus) along with Lim Hak Young (bass, chorus), they are not, as some folk joke, named after the leader of Street Guns (although he is one of their many Hongdae mentors), but after the Jo brothers’ parents, who were born in the Year of the Tiger. Although they’ve only been officially playing as a band since last spring, they are having a year full of new opportunities, and seem to be a name on many people’s lips. Much of this is due to their personal charm and hard work ethic, which I’ve witnessed help them form many friendships and contacts within the scene--as an example, when drummer Seong Hyun played with Texan rocker Max Reynolds during his two visits to Korea, which is how I first came to meet them. They are about to truly kick off their career though, with the release of their all-important first EP album this month and a showcase to promote it on September 4th. A good time then, to find out a little more about these fast-growing tiger cubs!
Seong Hyun : This fella here is our band leader, guitarist and vocalist. His name is Jo Seong Min. He is 27 years old, born in the year of the snake in Yeonggwang, Jeolla Province. He completed his compulsory military service four years ago.
Seong Min : This is Lim Hak Young, he is 24 years old and is in charge of playing bass and being the cheerful guy in the band. He is famous for being cheerful when he performs; he works really hard, plays in the band and plays a lot of games as well. Everything he does, he works hard at.
Hak Young : This is Jo Seong Hyun. You have probably guessed already but he is the brother of Seong Min; he is 24 years old, the same age as me. He is in charge of keeping me cheerful. It is his job to keep eye contact with me while I am playing to send me cheerful vibes and to give him support. If just one of us is feeling down then neither of us can keep it up. He is the drummer and the drinker in the band.
Seong Min : No, there is no meaning. What’s more Hak Young’s mother was also born in the Year of the Tiger.
Hak Young : Destiny. It was meant to be.
Seong Min : They thought it would just be a temporary thing. I guess they thought, ‘There is no way they will keep that name’ or something like that. They actually said, ‘Oh, sounds like a fun name’, but they didn’t ever really think we would keep going for as long or do as well as we have, at the time.
Seong Min : Our base is blues and rock ‘n roll. We have a raw, unpolished dirty sound. We just play what we want, when we want.
Seong Hyun : Led Zeppelin. I was influenced heavily by the blues side of Led Zeppelin.
Seong Min : There are too many to count. There’s Buddy Guy, the Beatles …. Galaxy Express as well.
Hak Young : Can’t leave Galaxy off the list. There is no one really who has directly influenced me in relation to the kind of music we make with Sons of Tiger. There are artists I like personally, but they are really different from the style of music we play so I think of the stuff I listen to and the stuff we play as separate things. I like Guckkasten, Thornapple and Broken Valentine. These are the three bands I like the most in Korea.
Seong Hyun : You just need to look at this guitar to answer that. On Seong Min’s guitar the Galaxy Express stickers take up the lion's share of space. (laughs)
Seong Min : Yeah, but the Wasted Johnny's sticker is the biggest!
Seong Hyun : As for me, I have been listening to music by Galaxy Express since I was a middle or high school student. Before that I listened to the Beatles and hip hop as well. I first heard Galaxy Express on the EBS SPACE TV broadcast and they made a deep impression on me so I started regularly searching for them and listened to them on the internet. At that time I lived in Yeonggwang so it was impossible to come to Seoul to see them play. They are the reason I first got interested in ‘band’ music.
Seong Min : When I came out of the army for one of my vacations Seong Hyun told me to watch the movie “Turn It Up to 11” about Galaxy Express before I went back to military service. As soon as I watched it I went out and purchased their second album. While I listened to it I thought, ‘this is it, this is it!’ When I moved to Seoul I worried a lot about making a band and studying. I met Ju Hyun (bassist of GE) by chance in the street around that time, in 2012. I told him I was thinking about doing some music stuff and he said to me ‘let’s play together sometime’.
Hak Young : Galaxy Express’ music was a really different style to the kind of music I was listening to at that time, but I knew the rest of the band were really into them in a big way. Later we played a show with them so I got to see them live, I fell in love with them right then. Their live show was amazing, so I regretted getting into them so late in the day.
Pics : Jin Kim
Seong Min : I had already forged some kind of life in Seoul and Seong Hyun came up to join me right after he finished his military service. He and I had decided to make music together while he was still serving his military service. As soon as I was discharged I wanted to get to Seoul to see some live shows so I moved up here right away and ended up coming to live in a Gosiwon (a one room guest house), but it really sucked for me. So I thought it would be best to go back to my hometown to earn some money so I could get a decent place in Seoul. In 2012 I went back to my hometown and did some hard graft and earned a good amount of cash. I lied to my parents and told them that I was going to hang out in Seoul for a while before I started my studies again. I went up to Seoul and signed a long-term contract with an estate agent on a house. Seong Hyun finished his military service soon after that and joined me in Seoul. It was a hard time (sigh).
Hak Young : No. I came down here from the most northerly point of Korea. The place I lived in is much closer to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea) than Seoul is.
Seong Min : You make it sound like you are from North Korea. Just say where you came from for God’s sake! (laughs)
Hak Young : Ah, yeah. I am from a place called Yeoncheon. I was born in Yeoncheon but I went to university in Suwon. Before I graduated I put an advert online stating that I was looking for a band, which is how I ended up meeting these two brothers and making music with them.
Seong Min : They were not really against it.
Seong Hyun : Right at the start they suggested we think again. But by that time we had already been preparing for it since the fall of 2010.
Seong Min : At first we had deceived our parents in order to start making music. We had even planned our military service periods to coincide so as to make the band happen. The whole thing was planned right down to the finest details……. Our parents are the kind of people that, so long as we are healthy and happy, would support us whatever we do. But still it was really hard to tell my mother, so I told my father first, and he just said, ‘do whatever you want’. Not in a cool, relaxed kind of way … in an irritated kind of way.
Seong Hyun : Their reaction was a bit flat, really.
Hak Young : For me, they are still really against it even today. When I first told them I wanted to do music it took me around a year to persuade them. The compromise was that I would do music for a year before I started my military service.
Seong Min : I stayed in dorms when I was in high school. There is a three-year age difference between us, so when Seong Hyun was at high school I was at university. When Seong Hyun was 20 he went to the army, so we have not been in the same place all that much really.
Seong Hyun : We only really lived together until I went to elementary school.
Seong Min : So, it doesn’t really feel like we have lived together long at all. Because we are brothers many people are curious about how well we get on, but seeing as we are brothers there aren’t too many problems.
Seong Hyun : Our personalities are really different, so we hardly fight at all.
Seong Min : Right, we are not really like brothers at all. Also, we don’t meddle in each other’s private lives either. Seong Hyun is an impromptu kind of guy, where as I tend to plan everything.
Hak Young : While I was at university I was playing in a school club band as a hobby and debating whether or not I should try concentrating on music more. At that time I watched a movie called “The King of Jokgu” and it made me want to give it a go so I put an advert up on a music site. My friend recommended the movie to me and after I watched it I felt like had was being given some kind of sign or something. So, I decided to find a band quickly. I think I was lucky to end up in this band. Sons Of Tiger are already doing loads of cool things. I put the advert up and got a reply almost immediately.
Seong Min : As soon as I had posted my advert looking for a bass player, Hak Young uploaded his advert. So I immediately wrote a comment telling him to contact us.
Seong Min : It is like my house.
Hak Young : People call it the Tiger's Cave.
Seong Min : Actually, it is better than our house. I use this place more than my house. I write songs here too. I only sleep at home really. I leave my instruments here, so these days I feel like I haven't been here for ages if I spend even two days away.
Seong Min : It has had a massive effect on us, and I think we have gained a lot of insight as well. When we watch other bands we see lots of things that we end up trying out as well, and sometimes we see things we shouldn’t be doing too. Seeing as we came up from the country, we didn’t have many bands we were friends with, but these days we have lots, so that’s really cool.
Seong Min : The EP's title is "self-title" and it has 5 tracks on it, all of which were recorded as one takes. We recorded the EP in Ruailrock with our engineer, Shin Gi Won. We did the whole thing ourselves, DIY style. Apart from the three of us, there is another friend who lives with us all, and he helped with all the album design work. The title track is called ‘Eye of Desire’. If you live in the countryside and order three copies, we will send them out to you; if you live in Hongdae you can meet us and get a copy. (laughs)
Seong Min : Among the five songs there are two that I think, looking back could be improved… Seeing as it was our first time to record everything we decided to leave everything up to the engineer. We have known him for quite a long time from Ruailrock so he knows us really well. He is a friend so it was less business-like and it felt more like we were just all hanging out and having a good time. We recorded without any real pressure. The hardest thing was probably the guitar solos in the title track, I had to practice those a lot.
Hak Young : I have never seen him practice as much as that. I think it was the most practice he has ever done.
Seong Min : I only practiced for a day, that song is easy... the songs are so easy that other bands play them when they are soundchecking. In actual fact, I reckon the design work took longer than the recording. I didn’t factor in all the other things outside of recording in the budget.
Seong Min : Ever since I listened to Galaxy Express’s second album I have wanted to record naturally like that. I haven’t ever thought about doing it any other way.
Seong Hyun : For me, the first track ‘Money Money Money.' When the drums come in during the intro you get a real sense that the album has started.
Hak Young : Before the song ‘Lying on One’s Side’ came out, ‘My Town Girl’ was my favorite. For me it is the song that makes me the most cheerful, but it is also really fun to play and it is a song that seems to make other people feel cheerful as well.
Seong Min : There is one slow song on the album as well, a blues track called ‘Sitting on Top of the World’. I like it a lot because I think it came out really well in the recordings. Other people seem to like this song a lot as well. Also, the solo has two parts to it but it is never really fixed in stone so it’s always different when we play it live. When I play it I think it shows how I feel at that time. When we were recording I was thinking to myself ‘I have to get this right’, but everyone else said, ‘just do it however you feel’.
Seong Min : It is always different. Should I try to pick just one?
Seong Hyun : For me it is ‘Eye of Desire’. The groove is really fun. It is much more comfortable to play compared to some of the other fast songs. Also, if the reaction to this song is good then it means that it has been a good show.
Hak Young : The song ‘Helter Skelter’ is fun. We always play it last when we do shows so of course it is a fun song. Personally I think the song ‘Lying on One’s Side’ is the most poppy of our songs and therefore the easiest for people to get into. I think it is a song that is a bit different from our usual style. When we play it live it feels a lot like the kind of songs I listen to in my free time. It is easy for me to get into the groove of the song, so when we play it people say that I look like a pervert because I play sensually! We don’t play it much live though.
Seong Min : ‘Lost in the Clouds’ springs to mind. That was the first song I ever made. I made it myself in 2012 when I didn’t have a band; I like it because it is just a straight up song. It is easy to play (laughs).
Seong Min : I do all of the songwriting, but it is never set in stone. I set up the main structure of the songs and then we change it up and finish the songs together as a team. If the other guys say they don’t like something much, then I trash it and start again. As for inspiration...
Hak Young : His own personality?
Seong Min : My major at university was writing. I get ideas that I write down from books, movies and things or phrases I hear in the street. Also I am usually up late at Ruailrock writing and working on songs as well. I write lyrics as if I am talking, I just say whatever I want to in the songs. I don’t write pretty lyrics. I sometimes give lyrics to my friends in other bands as well.
Seong Min : We will play some songs we don’t usually play live and we plan to do a collaboration with some friends as well (we haven't said anything to them yet though). I would like to do two songs like that. Of course, we will play all the songs from the EP as well.
Seong Min : It would be good if you came to watch wearing comfortable shoes. Also, come prepared to drink lots of booze too. Don’t think of it as a CD release show, think of it more as a big party.
Hak Young : Before we wrote the song ‘Eye of Desire’ I was feeling a bit sad because we had not yet written a hit track.
Seong Min : Time has gone by so fast, I still can’t believe it. Before the band started doing so well I would walk past clubs and wonder when we would get to spend our weekends playing shows there.
Seong Hyun : Seong Min and I wrote down all the names of the clubs and started checking them off as we played them. We had made a two-part plan for each half of the year but we have already managed to do most of it already.
Seong Min : It’s amazing, isn’t it? I have become friends with and played shows with some of the people I considered massive rock stars when I was younger. We have not been playing for long but there are already people who come out just to see our shows; it’s wonderful. We are really thankful for that. We have managed to get this far just by having a lot of fun.
Seong Min : For me it would be the ‘Thursday’s Children’ show (at Club FF) that is run by the band The Monotones. Of all the shows we have done this one is I can recall the most. It meant a lot to me personally because we got to play with Galaxy Express and Cha Cha (Cha Seung Woo from The Monotones).
Seong Hyun : 7th of March 2014. That was our first ever show. At that time we had no idea about anything and dropped our demo off at all the clubs. The club Badabie had contacted us and asked us to come and play a Friday night show. There were not too many people at the show, but it felt like we had taken a big step forward. When the show finished I was thinking ‘ah, playing music is so much fun’.
Hak Young : That’s made me remember my first ever show as well. It was Christmas Eve at a place called Daddy J 1954 near Sungshin Women’s University. Usually before a show I don’t drink more than one or two glasses of beer but I was really nervous so I thought I should drink a lot and get drunk. So I did the show pretty tanked up and my fingers wouldn’t move the way I wanted them to, but it was a lot of fun.
Seong Min : For the last one and a half years we have always set targets for ourselves. Making this album and getting all the distribution things sorted out was really stressful so from September we are just going to make sure we have lots of fun playing in this band. We want to concentrate on having fun. We have already achieved most of the targets we set for this year. Now we have to play shows and sell lots of copies of the EP. Our biggest dream is for each member of the band to earn enough of an income to live independently. So we are working hard and having fun to acheive that goal. We would love to play some big shows as well.
Seong Hyun : Why can’t you just say that you want to play the big festivals?!? I want to play a show at SangSang Madang.
Seong Min : Right, SangSang Madang! The first show I ever saw in Hongdae was at that place. While I was at the show watching a few hundred other people jumping around me, I was thinking that I would like to play in a band and see people jumping around as well.
Seong Min : These days people talk about how hard it is in the indie scene, but we have not been playing for all that long so we don’t know about that at the moment. We don’t feel the problems so much at the moment. It is a similar situation right now as it was when we started out. I think that, rather than waiting for people to invite us to cool things, it is better for the bands to make the cool shows themselves. Since this spring I have been making shows with friends and colleagues. The shows are all really fun, even the ones we are not playing in. It is best not to worry about why not many people turned up, just have fun making cool shows.
Seong Hyun : Foreigners seem to really like our songs, so this is a good opportunity for those people to get to know us better.
Seong Min : I heard that if you do an interview with Do Indie you are a real rock star!!! (laughs)
Interview : A-Lim Lee, Jin Kim, Nuri Jung
English Translation : Patrick Connor & Doyeon Lim
Edited by : Rock N Rose
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Date : Sept 4th (Fri) : 20:30
Venue : RuailRock
Door : 15,000 won (1 Free Drink)
For more information on the band, check them out at the following sites :
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DoIndie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/bands/the-sons-of-tiger