K-Pop Indie Gem: LOVE X STEREO
WRITTEN BY MIYOKO ON SEPTEMBER 29, 2013
Welcome to another edition of Indie Gem! This time we’re talking about LOVE X STEREO, an electronic rock band with roots in 90s alt and punk rock. Furthermore, the band makes note that their music is danceable, for a fanciful touch.
LOVE X STEREO consists of Annie, lead vocalist, keyboardist and synth master; Toby, guitarist, vocalist and producer; Sol, bassist and vocals; Koo Kyo-seon, dummer; andYoontek Jeong, sound engineer and producer.
Initially formed in 1998 under the name Skrew Attack (a skate punk rock band), the group debuted as LOVE X STEREO in 2011 with their EP Buzzin’. Since then, they’ve been steadily gaining fans in Korea, but more so internationally. In fact, LOVE X STEREO is one of the most accessible Korean indie bands I’ve come across, because the majority of their lyrics are in English and they have their hands in a vast array of social media. They are definitely making an effort to reach out to their foreign fans, and are embarking on a North American tour in October and November this year.
As Skrew Attack, they firmly planted themselves in punk, as LOVE X STEREO the band has been committed to an electronic sound. Though deceptive in its light-hearted, often poppy tone, their music is a layered mix of synth, standard instruments and genres. Across their discography, one can hear an evolving play with the digital, not only as effects, but also as an infusion with their rock base. LOVE X STEREO gives electro and rock equal weight, creating music that is both delicate and in-your-face. Though the band’s most recent EP, GLOW, shows their continued move deeper into electro-pop, one can still hear influences of The Smashing Pumpkins andNirvana, which are just a few of their inspirations.
The first track off Buzzin’, “High Road,” illustrates the band’s rawest expansion into a new style. Rock is still the overarching sound, with digital running in the back; it’s not quite an accent, but also not quite strong a feature. Annie’s voice shifts from light to all out punk, expressing the lyrics’ message of defiantly taking a new road, even if it’s a difficult one.
Within Buzzin’, the band’s shift to a dreamy electronic sound is apparent by the third track, “Ocean Breeze,” which is meant to conjure up images of the beach. “Ocean Breeze” was the turning point for the electronic to take center stage. This performance of “Ocean Breeze” shows how many elements go into their music, and also how awesome they are live:
Their next EP Off The Grid was released in 2012. The first track, “Soul City (Seoul City),” expresses the band’s ambivalent feelings toward Seoul.
I was climbing up the hills of industries
It seems no one speaking up unanimously
Get all dizzy in this town that never sleeps
Keep up with your drinks and then you’re free
The heavy drums and driving guitar are still present, however, the mixing is tighter and more intertwined than in their first EP. The song has the feel of fast movement, pulling the listener through Seoul, which is represented in the music video as well. All three tracks on Off the Gridexpress more refined electronic sound, and we start to hear an inkling of the mysterious mood that becomes prominent in their next EP.
This month, the group released GLOW, which consists of four new songs and five remixes. The remixes are results of their numerous collaborations, which can also be heard in the single they released right before the EP, “부끄러워요 (Bu-kkeu-reo-wo-yo).”
Fresh off GLOW is “Lose to Win,” an emotional song that serves as a hopeful anthem for those who feel alone and uncertain in life. It begins with an almost otherworldly sound, which puts the focus on Annie’s haunting vocals. “Lose to Win” is a perfect illustration of how the group creates a sound that is both intimate and expansive, dreamy and grounded, direct and wandering.
It’s apparent that they’ve embraced synth-pop with clean electronic sounds, and Annie’s vocals stay in the light, breathy range. However, their signature mix of electronic and rock now works to create a distinct mood for each song, moving beyond the exercise of mixing genres. It’s nice to see how over time, LOVE X STEREO keeps playing with electronic and rock, committing to and expanding on both.
LOVE X STEREO undoubtedly will continue to woo fans overseas, so keep tabs on them. And if you live on the East Coast in the U.S. or in Toronto, see if you can check them out during their tour! And for final funsies, here is their cover of Nirvana’s “On a Plain”:
LOVE X STEREO interview
1) Kindly introduce yourselves and what’s your role in the band
Hi, we are Love X Stereo. Annie is our vocalist and she plays synthesizers. Toby is our guitarist and he produces our songs. Sol is our bassist.
2) How was Love X Stereo created?
Love X Stereo was created based on a simple idea. “Let’s do something new.” Our previous band “Skrew Attack” is a sk8 punk rock band started in the late 90s. We thought that the band name was holding us back. We need to start something fresh and new, something we haven’t done before, and something very creative and fun. We wanted to do 90s influenced music with an electro vibe, and make it sound spacious and grand. That’s how Love X Stereo started.
3) How’d you get the name Love X Stereo as a band name?
We liked the word “Stereo” and we added “Love” in the front, but thought it wasn’t enough, so we added “X” in the middle. It means, “Real love moves freely in both directions.”
4) You will have your first North American tour, how does it feel?
It’s awesome! We are so excited! Can’t believe it’s all happening now. Still need a lot of work to do, but we are so ready to hit the road. We’re heading to Cincinnati, New York, Washington, Toronto, Boston, Chicago and Detroit, and will perform at four major music festivals including CMJ Music Marathon.
5) Which state or city are you most looking forward to perform at?
CMJ, definitely. It is an honor to be there. We are still figuring out the venue and time, but what we know is our showcase is scheduled on Oct 18, Friday.
6) What are you planning to do while in the US?
Explore, perform, improve, make friends, meet fans, be creative, do business, and enjoy the days of our lives!!!
7) Could you tell us about your album “Glow”?
GLOW includes seven tracks, with four new songs and three remixes of older ones. The new release features a stronger and more accessible synth pop feel than our previous releases, part of an attempt to develop a new sound that is both powerful and straightforward.
8) What is the band’s favorite song in the album “Glow”?
Our favorite song is our title song “Lose to Win”. It is dedicated to people struggling with anxiety over the uncertainties of the future. It speaks a message of hope, telling people to keep moving forward toward their goal and never hesitate. “Lose to Win” is a quiet, moody, and beautiful number with real impact to it.
9) What’s the band’s favorite song to perform live?
We really enjoy “Chain Reaction” from our previous album . That song really make our members connect intuitively. You can see us being completely focused. On stage.
From this album, “Fly Over” seems to be the crowd favorite, so we like that one. We also like to perform “Secrets” as well, because it has a very strong, powerful, energetic sound.
10) Who’s the band’s inspiration?
We like bands from the 90s, music from the 90s, synth pop music from the 80s, and psychedelic music from the 70s.
11) What would the band like to accomplish outside of South Korea?
We would like to meet the world, be heard outside of Korea, and be creative all the time. We recently quit our previous jobs for this North American tour. Hopefully, we don’t need to go back again. If you dig our music, please support us! ☺
12) Why should Hallyu LA readers listen to Love X Stereo?
There are so many great indie bands here in Korea. Please try to listen as many as possible. Who knows? You might be surprised! (Band information is available on YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, or websites like Chincha, Koreanindie, EatYourKimchi, Indiestreet etc.)
13) Message to fans and future fans.
Hey, this is Love X Stereo! Hope you enjoy our new EP album , which is coming out on Sep 26, and we hope to see you in The States and Canada very soon! (Please follow our tour schedule here.) Thank you!
Get connected with LOVE X STEREO:
Artist: Love X Stereo
Rating: 1 = WORST, 4 = BEST
Songwriting – 3.4 || Music – 3.25 || Vocals – 3.5
Location: Seoul Korea
Genre: Alternative Dance (Electro / Rock / Alternative)
Haling from the city of Seoul (Korea that is), Love X Stereo’s brings forth a brand new EP release titled “Glow,” which is set for release on September 26 (2013). The sound on this project is a cross pollination of several genres that can only be summed up as Alternative Dance. It is Love X Stereo’s uniqueness that makes their new 7 track EP such a fun and interesting project.
My favorite song on this project is “Soul City (John Gaska Remix)” because it has a great deal of club potential for U.S. markets. It’s a synth-pop groove that could easily feature Will.I.Am on the track, which could bring a lot of great exposure for this band. Right out of the gate the track grabs you with its awesome pop/electronic beat that is heavily laced with synthesizers to provide the necessary bed of melodies. This particular remix of Soul City will get the party started for just about anybody.
In addition, songs like “Lose To Win” and “Secrets” round the project out very well and I couldn’t help but enjoy the projects rainbow of sounds and styles. For the most part, the project is upbeat with honest melodies and lyrics. I’d recommend Love X Stereo to anyone who has affinity for Alternative Rock and Electronic/Dance music.
Love X Stereo is scheduled to appear at a number of U.S. and Canadian music festivals and venues this fall. Don’t miss them! Visit their website to see when they’ll be in your area.
Review by: Senseitional (Reviews Editor, I Am Entertainment)
Love X Stereo: Looking Out from the Inside
by CHINCHA on Sep 11, 2013 • 9:51 am
Love X Stereo gig more than any other band in Seoul. In the relatively short time they have existed, the dance-oriented rock band have released three EPs and will release their newest one, “Glow,” this Friday. At the end of September, the band will embark on their first North American tour.
While mainstream Korean music explodes across the world in a wave of K-Pop, alternative musicians in Korea still have to claw their way up to be heard. Being a musician in Korea is no easy feat. It’s is a great place to grow and create, but there is little opportunity for independent musicians in Seoul to be heard by a wide audience. Large-scale distribution is very difficult, if not impossible. Touring is limited to a few cities, and while the audience for non-mainstream music is growing, it is still extremely limited. Given this atmosphere, Love X Stereo are branching out.
Chincha caught up with lead singer Annie from Love X Stereo to talk about the group’s future.
Have you gigged outside of Korea before? Why now? Do you have any expectations for the North American audience as opposed to the Korean audience?
No, we haven’t. It’s our first time. And it’s about time. When we first started our band, less than two years ago, our goal was to be heard from the outside world. We are very eager to find out what others have to say about us outside of Korea. It’s pretty much our motivation to do what we do now. We believe that we might get more direct response than here. Good or bad. We can take in, and we’re willing to evolve from there.
What are your goals for the tour?
We would like to meet our fans, of course. And hopefully get some exposure to the music industry if possible. We want to test ourselves to see if we can handle this, too. And want to figure out what needs to be done to make a better show for the audience.
Are there any gigs, cities or festivals that you are particularly looking forward to?
We are looking forward to CMJ Music Marathon, definitely. It’s an honor to be invited to such a huge festival, so we need to bring our A-game. We’re spending almost a month in NYC, so we’re pretty excited. We’re heading to Cincinnati, Washington, Chicago, Detroit and Toronto, too. Very excited, indeed!
What can you tell us about your new EP, Glow?
In “GLOW,” there’s a very strong synth pop vibe into it. It still has the 90s alternative feeling, yes, but we wanted to make this EP more pop than usual. Didn’t think that much when we made it. It’s was supposed to be simple, direct, but grand. Hope we nailed it.
How does it differ from your last EP, Off the Grid?
“Off The Grid” has a more psychedelic feeling. We didn’t know, and actually didn’t want to know, when to stop the song. But this time, we very much knew all along when to start and stop the song. Our sound and style hasn’t changed, but the songs are a bit tighter that way.
Where was it recorded? Did you produce it yourselves?
We recorded it at our humble studio all by ourselves. But luckily, we got to work with one of the best producers, yOoNtEk Jeong, and he’s coming with us on our tour as our sound engineer.
Anything special in this EP?
Our title song is called “Lose to Win.” This song is dedicated to anyone who is struggling everyday with the unknown future. We believe the song is very soothing, relaxing, yet powerful. Hope you like it.
Another song called “Crossing Rivers” is a song about North Korean Kkotjebi. We wanted to send out a message that we need to care more and more about these matters and do something about it. This song will be featured in the upcoming PSCORE compilation album as well. On this EP, we included three remix tracks from two DJs, John Gaska and J-Path. It was really an honor to work with these guys. Superb remixes indeed!
North American tour dates:
Interview by Adam Brennan
South Korean music isn’t limited to K-Pop only. There’s a thriving indie scene centered around Seoul’s Hongik Univeristy, known as Hongdae for short. But some observers say the neighborhood has become a victim of its own popularity.
Original link – http://monocle.com/radio/shows/culture/
Is Korea’s Indie Epicenter Too Small For Musicians?
- Written by Jason Strother
- Wed,23 October 2013 | 08:00
Much of the music we hear coming out of South Korea these days is of the K-pop variety. Acts like the Wonder Girls, Girl’s Generation and of course Psy have drawn global attention.
But back home there is an indie music scene.
It’s not big – in fact it’s almost entirely centered in one neighborhood.
Love X Stereo is an indie band that’s been playing the bars and clubs around Honggik University for the past seven years.
Lead singer Annie Ko tells me her band takes inspiration from 1990s alternative music, but puts their own twist on it.
“We wanted to make it a bit more 21st century.”
She’s doing that by using synthesizers. “We didn’t want to make it obvious dance type music.”
So it’s definitely not K-pop, I asked.
“Yes it’s not K Pop,” she says and laughs.
Love X Stereo is a staple of the music scene in this neighborhood, known as Hongdae for short.
Outside, the sound of guitars and drums echoes down the alleys. A small park is packed with a young crowd checking out a live performance.
If you’re an indie band in South Korea, Hongdea is the place where you get your start.
Observers say it’s no coincidence that this neighborhood is the epicentre of the country’s independent music scene, or any other art form for that matter.
“Hongdae is without a doubt Korea’s number 1 art university. As a result it’s where all the artists would study, but more importantly, play,” says Bernie Cho, CEO of DSFB Collective, an agency that promotes Korean music overseas.
“So during the early 90s, Hongdae really started out as a hangout with these artists. Pretty much any Korean music act that wants to be considered credible and legit, they need that mark, they need that tag, that bragging right, that they cut their teeth and were a product of the Hongdae scene or the Hongdae system.”
How bands in the Hongdae system get their start is a lot different from how K-Pop acts get their start, says Cho.
Huge entertainment companies south of Seoul’s ritzy Gangnam assemble those groups, give them a style and write their music.
Hongdae is more of a do-it-yourself environment.
The group 3rd Line Butterfly started playing the Hongdae scene about 15 years ago.
They recently won album of the year at the Korean Music Awards.
Guitarist Song Ki-won and singer Nam Sang-ah say Hongdae has gone through some big changes since when they first started performing there.
“We were a part of this very, very sincere musical scene. The bands we know are friends. They don’t lie with their music. It’s true; we are true to the music. I feel proud to be a part of that scene. That’s the most important thing that makes us keep going on.”
I asked singer Nam, if she thinks the scene is still as warm as it used to be.
“I think its warmer. I think the audience is more open minded than before. The number of the audience has increased too. You can see on their faces they are enjoying themselves more.”
But some venue owners in Hongdae say it’s getting tougher to stay in business.
“People come more, more more, prices go up, up. Many artists can’t work in Hongdae, it’s too expensive,” says Eddie Hwang who manages the live music bar F-F.
Bernie Cho of the DSFB Collective says Hongdae’s growing popularity has come with a price.
“Now you have all these franchises that want to get in and cash in on this hip, cool street cred factor. And what’s happening is that is driving some of the smaller clubs out of the neighborhood. It has in some ways it’s become a victim of its own success.”
For Annie Ko, Love X Stereo’s lead singer, finding new venues outside of Hongdae doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. She says her band hopes to broaden its horizons.
“It would nice to know that there is somewhere else where we can perform.”
“Hongdae is a very small pool,” she adds, “Even if you get famous, it’s hard to expect a lot. Our goal is to get out of here.”
Love X Stereo recently took off on their first overseas tour to the United States. It seems like her wish came true.