Posted on May 23, 2017
Visuals are a bona fide super group based in Seoul – all three members have been playing in Korea for a few years and been in some of the best bands around. This week they will release their debut EP. Doindie got tipsy with the group over chicken and beer and discussed their difficult to categorize sound, the benefits of being instrumental, and the state of the ‘scene’.
Visuals debut EP comes out Friday May 26th. They celebrate the release of the album on the same evening at 채널1969 in Yeonnamdong supported by Hellivision and DABDA. Doors open at 9pm. The show is free.
Jonathan: Ethan is a mysterious dark soul who comes across as being all chummy. There’s a lot of depth to Ethan; he’s like, “Hey, what’s up guys?” and the just gets on stage and blows your fucking mind.
# Ethan, can you introduce Ali?
Ethan: Ali is an extroverted Brit who talks funny. Ali’s like our manager and our musical director.
# Ali, can you introduce Jonathan?
Ali: Yeah, he’s some asshole. I’ve no idea who he is but he plays drums. He does what you tell him, so … it’s good.
Jonathan: That’s nice! That explains our dynamic quite well.
Ali: Usually we talk about how we have pretty standard instruments - drums, bass and guitar - but we run them through a shit-ton of pedals and we try to sound like a computer game. So if it’s someone that doesn’t know music, I ask, “Did you ever play Mario as a child? Did you like the music? You should come and watch us play, because we sound like a bastardized version of that”. Saying that, we don’t seriously promote it that much, but because people have seen us play they usually want to come back.
Jonathan: The first few shows that we did we were just all about playing, so we didn’t really tell anyone. We just showed up and played and no one even knew who we were. We only had four songs. And we just wanted to experience playing them live. Actually, we were writing the songs as we were playing them. So playing them live helped materialize what we wanted.
Ali: I feel like that’s what you have to do. I know there are bands that spend a year writing and they’ll record, and then play a show. But surely it’s when you are playing live that you actually write the songs?
# I would call you math rock – what would you say to that?
Jonathan: I don’t think we’re terribly “mathy” anymore. We used to be more mathy - we’ve mellowed.
Ali: I feel it’s a little bit of punk actually. It’s really fast with a couple of chords. But like I said, we push everything through those effects pedals.
Ethan: Personally, I never approach any song in terms of genre. Whatever Ali brings I just try to match that. I don’t think it’s math rock. It is math rock in the sense that we don’t use regular time signatures all the time, but groove is really important.
Jonathan: We’re very focused on rhythm. Rhythm is kind of more important than melody.
Ethan: I actually struggled in the band because I’m better at melody than rhythm. I had to adjust the way that I play.
Ali: Because I bring all these ideas to the practice room, the slightly off-kilter math-rock style is what I know really really well. That’s what I listen to, that’s what I play and write. It’s easier for me to write that than to write a melody and verse-chorus-verse.
Jonathan: That’s because you’re uneducated! That’s not an insult, though.
Ali: No, you’re right. Every band I’ve been in, like Colours and Mountains, I’ve had two other guys in the band who know music back to front. I’ll go into the thing and I’ll play a riff and then Jon will go, “Oh yeah, I think that’s in 6/8 with a, whatever, 13/12 twist” and I thought I was just playing bass. Alright.
Ethan: Yeah, I have to figure out what key signature it’s in.
Ali: Yeah, ‘cause I don’t know what it’s in.
Jonathan: He starts it off.
Ali: Jon does what I tell him. Ethan pretends to do what I tell him.
Jonathan: I don’t do what you tell me! You tell me to do something and I’m like, “I don’t wanna do that!”
Ethan: Jon and I have talked about this. Ali will send us recordings from his iPhone. His bass isn’t plugged in.
Jonathan: It’s on an acoustic electric bass.
Ali: I don’t have an amp!
Ethan: So we have to figure out what’s going on.
Ali: There was one song which I wrote; I was watching “Big Short” and I was really really high and I couldn’t be arsed to pause the film. I thought, “This riff is amazing, I’m just gonna record it with the ambient sounds” and then I sent it off. Later on Ethan was like, “I couldn’t hear”.
Jonathan: Pretty much any time he sends a recording, I think I’ll just listen to it when we meet because I listen to it and I think, “I can’t make sense of this”.
Ethan: Ali brings the riffs. Then we’ll structure it out. Ali also has a big role in terms of the parts order and stuff. I think that’s a little more collaborative.
Jonathan: I don’t mind taking a back seat to it. It’s kind of better that way because otherwise we could be completely unfocused and go in a wealth of directions.
Ethan: I feel like you [Ali] play off of what we do too right?
Ali: What is music?
Ethan: You didn’t play music when you were 15?
Ali: I didn’t start listening to music until I was 16. My parents didn’t listen to music. When I got into music when I was 16 it was in Iran and my cousins were all listening to Metallica and Pantera and Sepultura – the heaviest of the heaviest -- and also Run DMC, just for a little bit of fun. So I imagine my 16-year- old self would have hated our music – or wouldn’t have understood it.
Jonathan: I had pretty bad taste in music when I was 15, so it’s hard to say. I pretty much just listened to my parents’ music, which was classic rock. I probably would have accused the band of having ADHD.
Ethan: You guys are fucking losers. I was playing in a punk band when I was 15. We were playing in clubs and shit. I would have asked where the vocals were.
# So where are the vocals?
Ali: They are wherever you want them to be. They’re in your head.
Ethan: I think not having vocals helps to connect with Korean audiences more.
Ali: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
Jonathan: We’re non-threatening.
Ali: I noticed the same thing in Colours as well. Just because we were instrumental, it meant we could play Korean shows with Korean bands and nobody really cared that we were foreigners. “You guys are instrumental so we can just listen to the music and it’s fine”. And then as soon as we started Mountains and we’re singing in English most of the time, I noticed those shows fell away. And actually, we got more “foreign” shows.
Ethan: It’s a weird thing; when you hear vocals there’s something instinctual I guess where you connect to the music. But if the vocals are bad…
Ali: I think it depends though. I like to listen to the melody of vocals. So in England I used to listen to a lot of Japanese bands, so I don’t understand what they’re singing about but the melody is nice so I’ll try and “sing along”.
Jonathan: The thing about having vocals is suddenly the music has this narrative and if you can’t understand the narrative then you feel a little bit left out. Sometimes the narrative doesn’t have to follow the feel of the music.
Jonathan: Since 2011.
Ali: 2013 I think.
Jonathan: It’s bigger now. Everything has gotten bigger. In the past there were more experimental bands and now everything is kind of streamlined into just being a success. Everyone has rock-star dreams nowadays. So people are a lot more careful about their image and everything. People are creating a full package.
Ali: There are also a lot of “indie” bands. There aren’t that many experimental or post-rock bands. But maybe it’s just the people we hang out with and we don’t really see it?
Jonathan: No, I think there used to be a lot more but it kind of faded out. I think part of it is, there used to be more spaces for experimental music and now a lot of places have closed and the places that have remained are bigger business – you gotta fill seats. So that’s influenced the music; people are playing it safer nowadays.
Ali: Do you think it has something to do with that fact that Korean artists have started moving out of Korea and, not just South by Southwest but Liverpool Sound City and other festivals are now booking Korean acts?
Ethan: Yeah, that started in I think 2013/2012. That was when the first Seoul Sonic happened. That was the beginning of it. And from that point on there’s been a huge push by the government to fund K-Indie.
Ethan: Yeah. So whatever genre they exist within, they try to polish it.
Jonathan: There’s a lot more interest. There are band competitions. There’s a lot more ways you can make money doing it. Which is good… in theory... but because of that I feel the music has kind of shifted into more popular genres.
Ethan: I feel like, when you see a band, you can tell immediately whether it’s like, “oh this is a band that’s going to want to try to get funding”.
Ali: Although I feel like there is one exception to this: Silica Gel who aren’t totally weird or anything, but they’re not playing the same kind of generic indie music.
Ethan: Oh, they’re going for it. I feel like Say Sue Me is an exception because they never changed from what they originally were.
Ali: That’s true.
Ethan: After they got signed to Electric Muse they started getting more attention but I don’t think they’ve changed any.
Jonathan: It hasn’t influenced their sound.
Ali: I was in Busan yesterday and I saw two locals acts that I’d never heard of before. When I lived down south, there was maybe 4 or 5 acts: Genius, Say Sue Me, 3Volt, Barbie Dolls and that was it. Because of Say Sue Me’s success I think a lot of bands are forming and being inspired by that. So that’s kind of cool. One thing that has changed, when I moved here [Seoul] a year ago, so many bands split up. That sucked. In the last year we lost Table People, New Blue Death, Juck Juck Grunzie, Killer Drones, Used Cassettes, Nice Legs, Vidulgi Ooyoo, Les Sales aren’t doing much these days, and Baekma as well. So I was living down south and I was watching the Seoul scene from afar. And it seemed like this really collaborative, exciting place to be, and it still is a little bit, but because of all those bands splitting up at kind of the same time it feels a little lighter on the ground floor now. But we have new bands popping up all the time, not as many but there are still bands there and stuff.
# If you could collaborate with a band, whom would you collaborate with?
Ethan: I’d collaborate with Daft Punk or Justice.
Jonathan: Yeah, there you go!
Ali: I feel like we’ve been ripping off Four Tet recently so we should probably ask Kiaran Hebden.
Ethan: I’ve been ripping off Daft Punk.
Ali: Maybe we’re an electronic band and we just don’t know it.
Interview : 마이크 (Mike McGrath)
Edited by : Rock N Rose
For more information on the band, check them out at the following sites :
- 비쥬얼스 (Visuals)
- 헬리비전 (Hellivision)
- 다브다 (DABDA)
Date: May 26th 2017 (Fri) - 21:00
Venue: 채널1969 (Chanel 1969)