LOTS OF SEOUL: LOVE X STEREO PLAYS CHICAGO FEATURED
Written by Kendall Guimond
Love X Stereo performed at the Elbo Room on November 3rd to a shockingly small crowd that didn’t appreciate them as they should. Love X Stereo is an electronic rock band based in Seoul, Korea. Love X Stereo’s music is electronic music based in alternative and punk rock from the 90s, think Alanis Morissette with a Ratatat-esque synthesized beat. The lead singer of the band, Annie Ko, has a soft and easy voice that could rival any 90’s and 80’s female powerhouse. Their song “Soul City (Soeul City)” sounds like it could soundtrack any modern day “Dawson’s Creek,” while “Lose to Win” and “Fly Over” highlights Ko’s vocal talents.
Electronic rock is definitely coming into popularity and hearing a band from South Korea take the genre and make it entirely their own is an experience you won’t find equal to. Not surprisingly, Love X Stereo’s music often confuses Korean audiences, though they have a strong expat (foreigners living in Korea) community following, and some of those fans adoringly came to the Elbo Room to see Love X Stereo perform live.
Like any new band, exposure is key. Love X Stereo has a unique sound, an album you can put on and cruise to. If they chance to swing back through Chicago, grab some friends and head to see them. Not every day you get to see a South Korean band playing electronic rock in the Windy City. Check out their website here:
Interview with Annie of LOVE X STEREO
LOVE X STEREO from Seoul, South Korea is currently on their first North American tour, rocking their way around the East Coast and Midwest, having already made stops at the CMJ Music Marathon and Indie Week Canada. Tonight they’ll be in Detroit with Tinder Tiger, St. Zita, and Young Punk:
Tuesday, Oct. 29th at Small’s in Hamtramck, Detroit
Sunday, Nov. 3rd at the Elbo Room in Chicago, IL
Monday, Nov. 4th at MOTR in Cincinnati, OH
Saturday, Nov. 9th at The Loft in Boston, MA
Sunday, Nov. 10th at McGann’s in Boston, MA
Drawing influences from from 1970s Korean psychedelic folk rock to 80s synth-pop, to 90s alternative rock and punk, Front woman Annie Ko recently spoke with Elise of the Asian Music Show about Love X Stereo’s current tour and the government shutdown, punk rock roots, and upcoming musical pilgrimage to Chicago to see where the Smashing Pumpkins used to hang out and play shows. Hear the full interview below.
Interview with Annie of LOVE X STEREO recorded on Oct. 26, 2013
Elise Yoon: WDBM East Lansing, I’m Elise here for the Asian Music Show, and I’m currently joined by Annie Ko of Love X Stereo of Seoul, South Korea
Annie Ko: Hi!
EY: Annie thanks so much for speaking with me today. So, you guys are currently on tour here in the US, how has it been so far?
AK: Umm, it’s been real fun, all of our members except me have come here for the first time, and it’s actually our first tour in the States, so it’s really interesting and we get to meet a lot of people and [go to] cool places. It’s been real fun.
EY: I was going to say you have a very American sounding accent…
AK: Oh, I grew up in L.A. I wasn’t born there, but yeah I lived [there] for six years when I was young.
EY: Does that time in your life have an influence on your music?
AK: Well, I guess so, cause most of our lyrics are in English, so that explains a lot.
EY: So there’s currently five of you together on tour right now, who is in the band?
AK: Our guitarist is Toby, and our bassist is Sol, and our drummer is Kyosun – well our drummer is a session member.
EY: And you brought along your sound engineer?
AK: Yeah, we brought our sound engineer Yoon Taec, Jeong Yoon Taec.
EY: And then you play synthesizer?
AK: Yeah, well I have two synthesizers on stage, if we could afford a lot, I would do more, but yeah, right now we have two.
EY: How are you guys getting around on this tour?
AK: We rented a car and our bassist and our drummer [are] driving all the way, they are [the] only ones who have driver’s licenses, who can actually drive.
EY: And how did you bring all your instruments and equipment from South Korea?
AK: Half of it we brought from Korea, and half of it he bought here, which is way cheaper than in Korea.
EY: Now, is this your first tour outside of Korea?
AK: Yeah, it’s our first tour, like ever! Cause in Korea there aren’t that many places that you can perform in unless you have a huge name, so, mainly we stay in Seoul and, you know play there, but you know, being on a tour, it’s our first time ever, so it is really cool.
EY: And what do you guys think of America so far?
AK: [All the] other band members were saying that everything is so big here, like, even the sky is big…
EY: Yeah, even our towels are big. Now have you guys been doing any sort of sightseeing or anything like that?
AK: I don’t really like sightseeing that much but I heard some members went to [the] Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge. Well, I think just walking around Manhattan itself is just sightseeing, don’t you think?
EY: Yeah, definitely, I absolutely think so. So anyway, so far on this tour you’ve performed at Indie Week Canada, you did a show in [Washington] D.C., and you even a show for Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, on Randalls Island in New York…
AK: That was so weird! It was definitely a weird moment [that] we’ll never forget.
EY: Why is that?
AK: Cause, um, there were a bunch of old ladies, Korean ladies, and well they were sitting down and just, you know, [didn’t] know what to do. Which is a similar response [that] we get when we’re in Korea, cause our lyrics [are] in English so most of the Koreans really don’t know how to react [to] our music. So when we perform in Seoul, most of our fans are all foreigners or [ex-patriots] living there.
EY: Yeah, I was actually going to ask if a lot of your fans were ex-pats.
AK: Yeah, a lot of ex-pats actually, most of our fan base is all ex-pats, and that’s the reason why we wanted to [come] here in the first place, cause we thought our music could be more abroad, more than [it is] in Korea, and it will work outside first. Mostly, in Asia in general, I think they like to have a certain look, they want a band that has a certain image, and it’s not similar [to] us.
EY: Yeah, I definitely feel like your music fits in really well with the scene here in America
AK: Yeah, I can feel that already, cause we are getting warm welcomes and really good response even though the crowd wasn’t that big, but you get to meet a lot of very important people in your life, and I can feel that already so I think it’s good to be here.
EY: Now, you guys were invited to play at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York this past month
AK: Yes, It was really cool, it was awesome.
EY: Did you guys have time to check out any of the shows at the festival?
AK: Yeah, I did, we went to [the] Arts & Crafts, and after that we went to Santos Party House to check out a lot of bands, and it was really cool cause the sound system is very different from what we have in Korea, and even if it’s a small venue or a big venue, the sound was so good, so I was really impressed.
EY: Now you guys also played at Indie Week Canada in Toronto, Ontario how was that show?
AK: Oh, it was so weird. I wish I couldn’t say this, but yeah, we had to drive almost like ten hours, thirteen hours to get to Toronto in one day and the venue was kind of, I mean it was OK, but nobody seemed to listen to the music. They were all about the beer, I think it’s very interesting, but if we had another chance, like a bigger venue or someplace very music-oriented I would definitely want to go back cause we so little time there. We had to come back right after the show, and do another show in New York so it was really hectic.
EY: So you drove from New York to Toronto and back to New York?
AK: Yeah… in one day.
EY: Wow. How long did it take you to plan this tour, and what was that process like?
AK: Well we started actual detailed planning when we got accepted for [the] Midpoint Music Festival, which we couldn’t make because [our] visa[s] didn’t come out. It was like hell. I heard that the officer handling the P1 visa was switched and [so the process was] slowed down a lot. And additionally we’ve got holidays and government shutdown. Though we missed Midpoint, and we are very sorry about that, that’s why we wanted to do a little show in Cincinnati. We’re going to go there on November 4th.
EY: You’re listening to Impact 89FM, if you’re just tuning in I’m speaking with Annie, front woman of Love X Stereo from Seoul, South Korea. Now you guys create dark and dancy synth-pop music, who are some of your musical influences?
AK: Our influences [are] basically music from the 90s. We love that era, we grew up in that era, so mostly alternative, punk, techno, whatever kinds of music you [could] listen to in the 90s, we’re probably very much influenced by that.
EY: What are you listening to right now?
AK: Right now I’m listening [to] a lot of Nine Inch Nails. And I hear a lot of Pearl Jam these days, not intentionally, but I heard Pearl Jam came back and all I hear is Pearl Jam in the States right now.
EY: How did the band initially get together? How did you guys meet?
AK: We met as a punk rock band… Well Toby is a first generation Korean punk rock kid, so he started [in] the punk scene in [the] late 90s. He made a band called Screw Attack in 98, and I joined the band in 2005 and we did a lot of pop-punk, punk rock, but we decided to change our name and do something very new, so we switched our name in 2011 and that’s Love X Stereo, and from there we went on, and we’re here.
EY: Who are some of the specific artists that influence you?
AK: Umm, New Order, and all these bands from the 90s like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, we [are] very much influenced by this Korean psychedelic [music] in the 70s, and synthpop in the 80s. We loooove New Order, we [got] to see their show last year I think, and they are pretty old guys you know that right? They are in their 50s? 60s? I don’t know, they’re pretty old and they still, you know, know how to make young kids dance. At the end of the day I was jumping around, I didn’t know I was jumping, so that was pretty impressive.
EY: So that was in Seoul that you saw them?
AK: Yeah, it was in Seoul. They came, I think last year, they came with [the] Smashing Pumpkins.
EY: Oh OK, I didn’t know the Smashing Pumpkins were still together…
AK: Last year, I think, they came to Korea, it was their third time in Korea. Well I saw their first show in 2001, I think. It was a really great show cause [the] Smashing Pumpkins, right at that time, they announced that they were going to break up, and it was kind of a last show for them. They wanted South Korea and North Korea to unite, and that’s the reason why they stopped by Seoul, and yeah, it was the best show that I have in my memory right now.
EY: And back home, how often do you guys play live shows?
AK: Mostly two a week, yeah we [do] a lot of shows.
EY: And inn Seoul, where do you guys usually play live, like do you usually play in Hongdae?
AK: We usually play in Hongdae area like other rock bands, but we want to expand our, what do you call it? We’d like to play everywhere so we don’t have any, um, prejudice or whatever to…
EY: …To a particular neighborhood?
AK: Yeah, basically we play everywhere in Seoul.
EY: What is your songwriting process like?
AK: Mostly our guitarist Toby writes a cool guitar riff. We start from there and we write songs all together, but just one song which is called “Free Ass” that [lyrics came first], which is very unusual.
EY: And do you write the lyrics?
EY: So you just released an EP, called the GLOW EP on September 26, what was writing this like, what was the process like?
AK: When we first started planning this tour we thought we needed another album cause our songs were, we had a good set but we needed more songs so we just thought, you know, it might be better to release a new album and go to the States and promote it within our tour. And so basically we wrote, recorded, produced, mixed, mastered, all in one month.
EY: So do you guys produce your own music then?
EY: So where did you record this EP?
AK: We have a little studio of our own in Seoul, so we recorded it there. And yeah, I mean it was, I wouldn’t do that again, like making an album in a month, it’s just not… But I’m pretty satisfied with the product and it’s really cool cause I think the songs are OK and um, two DJs helped us out for the remix tracks and it was so good. And then hopefully maybe mid-November, I think, our music video will come out, so I’m pretty excited about that too.
EY: Yeah, your music really, it lends itself to being remixed, do you ever perform live with DJs?
AK: Usually [it’s] just our band, but we’d love to perform with DJs if we had a chance, but you know it’ll take a lot of time and practice to do that, cause you know…
EY: So it was recently announced that you guys are going to be playing at South By Southwest next year in Austin, Texas – very exciting – are you guys going to be performing by yourself, are you playing shows with other artists, are you doing any sort of showcases?
AK: Umm, I think we’re with SEOULSONIC…
EY: So then are you guys working with DFSB Kollective?
AK: Yeah, uh well they didn’t actually, you know, officially announce it, but I’m pretty sure that we’re going with them, and yeah, those guys were really good to us cause we had a lot of visa issues. They handled a lot, they currently are our distributor online, so yeah we have good relations right now.
EY: Did DFSB Kollective help you plan this tour that you’re currently on, or did you guys do that yourselves?
AK: Planning the tour was kind of a different thing, I did all the management, like booking, but they helped us out with CMJ Korea Remix Showcase and yeah, we are good friends, and we owe them a lot actually.
EY: So, when you come back to America next March for South by Southwest, are you going to planning on, you know booking other shows to do like a full tour around the country?
AK: Probably, yeah, cause you know, those plane tickets [aren’t] cheap, so it might be wiser to have the opportunity to do another tour [on the] west coast I think. So I’m guessing we might go to L.A., and maybe… the whole area in California, I guess, that’s what I’m guessing right now, like in my mind.
EY: And so South by is a obviously this huge international music festival, are you guys planning on checking out any other artists while you’re there?
AK: Oh yeah, definitely. And like, if we have time to see [them], I will check out every club if I can!
EY: So you guys are going to be here in Michigan Tuesday, October 29 in Detroit, then after that you’re heading to Chicago, Cincinnati, and Boston, so is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to on the rest of this tour?
AK: We always wanted to go to Chicago cause that’s where the Smashing Pumpkins came out, so we want to check out… some clubs if we can, just to, you know, feel the vibe. And I’m pretty excited about Boston too cause my brother lives there and it’s a pretty cool deal to see my sibling overseas and he’s going to watch my show. It’s really, really awesome.
EY: Now, is this going to be the first time that your brother will see your band perform?
AK: No, no, he’s seen us before, but you know, it’s pretty surreal that we’re here and he gets to see it here.
EY: So is there anything else that you want to let to our listeners know about this tour or Love X Stereo in general?
AK: Please check our Facebook and Twitter, you can find out where our local show is happening, and check out our new EP GLOW, it’s on iTunes and bandcamp. And I hope you guys like our sound, and thank you for the warm welcome, we love USA so far!
EY: You can check out Love X Stereo from Seoul, South Korea, they’re going to be playing live at Small’s in Hamtramck, Detroit on Tuesday October 29thdoors are at 8 and the music starts at 9. They’re going to be performing with Tinder Tiger, St. Zita, and Young Punk. It’s an 18 and over show, and you can find some more information at smallsbardetroit.com
AK: Thank you!
EY: Thank you so much for talking with me today, have a great rest of your tour!
AK: OK, bye!
ABOUT THIS VIDEO
Love X Stereo Showcasing Their New Material Overseas
Seoul electro-rock group Love X Stereo are halfway through their first North American tour. The jaunt was originally set to start in late September with a pair of performances at Cincinnati, Ohio’s Midpoint Music Festival, but delays with the act’s US touring visa forced them to sadly cancel those dates along with two shows in New York.
Finally receiving the necessary stamps in their passports on October 7, the group caught the next US-bound flight and arrived in time for their October 9 gig at Fontana’s in New York. They’ve since done a few other shows in New York (including a set last Friday as part of the renowned CMJ Music Marathon), traveled to Toronto for an appearance at Indie Week Canada, and did a club concert in Vienna, Virginia as well. Their remaining shows will take place in New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Massachusetts.
Gigging internationally is not an easy task, but Love X Stereo’s vocalist and synth player Annie Ko felt that she learned a lot from all the work that went into booking, promoting, and finding funding for the act’s initial foray overseas.
“The planning was a good experience, but it was exhausting as hell,” she shared before the band began their tour. “You get to know all these people who are willing to support you, do business with you, and try to communicate with you. That’s all the good stuff. However, you still need to reach out to everyone more and more to let them know who you are and what you are capable of. It’s like a never-ending rabbit hole.”
In September, Love X Stereo released their third EP, “Glow.” The offering boasts four new tracks and three remixes (the digital version of the album contains five remixes) of cuts from last year’s “Off the Grid” EP. The tunes on “Glow” are well-crafted and infectious. Possessing a distinct pop edge, the material has a lot of crossover potential and should equally appeal to fans of indie music and mainstream alternative rock/pop music.
The songs on “Glow” were written and recorded in August. Completing everything in such a short time frame was challenging, but the group are happy with the finished release.
“We were worn out by the tight schedule and we felt stressed,” says Ko. “But we love the new songs. We think they’re very well made, catchy, and easy to listen to.
“Both (2011’s) ‘Buzzin’’ and ‘Off the Grid’ were very experimental. We did whatever we wanted to do when making them. But ‘Glow’ is more strict and direct and has a stronger synth-pop influence. Our sound, style, and overall vibe hasn’t changed at all, but the songs are tighter and better produced. We have high expectations for this album.”
With three EPs now under their belts, can we expect a proper full-length effort from Love X Stereo anytime soon?
“We’ll make a full-length album when we’re ready,” says Ko. “As an unsigned band making our own way, it’s very difficult to produce a well-made full-length album without any sort of support. If we’re going to make a full-length album, we believe that we should be in a position where we can say, ‘We deserve this.’ Now isn’t the best timing for us, but when we know we’re ready, we’re definitely going to make a full-length album.”
Here are the remaining live dates on Love X Stereo’s 2013 North American tour. The band already have plans to return stateside again next spring as they were among the first wave of artists announced last week for the 2014 edition of Austin, Texas’ mammoth South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival.
October 25 New York, NY @ Left Field Bar
October 27 New York, NY @ The Delancey
October 29 Hamtramck, MI @ Small’s
November 3 Chicago, IL @ Elbo Room
November 9 Cambridge, MA @ The Loft at Tommy Doyle’s
November 10 Boston, MA @ McGann’s
러브엑스테레오, 좌충우돌 3인방의 미국 투어 연명기(?)
좋아하는 일을 하면서 살아간다는 건 어쩌면 당연히 추구해야 하는 일이지만 그만큼 지키기 어려운 말이다. 녹록하지 않은 세상살이라는 이름으로 주변의 기대가 그리고 현실적인 문제들이 숱한 핑계로 남기 때문이다. 그래서 때로는 좋아하는 일을 한다는 것은 평범하게 남들처럼 살아가기를 포기해야 한다는 말과 같은 의미를 지니기도 한다.
CMJ 뮤직마라톤에서 만난 애니(고연경ㆍ보컬 키보드) 솔(한솔ㆍ베이스) 토비(황정익ㆍ기타 프로듀스) 등으로 2011년 결성된 3인조 일렉트로닉밴드 러브엑스테레오. 이들은 좋아하는 일을 재미있게 해보자는 당연하고 단순한 원리에서 출발했다.
“스매싱펌킨스ㆍ뉴오더 등의 음악을 듣고 자랐어요. 자연스럽게 우리음악도 그런 분위기가 나죠. 그렇다 보니 우리 감성이 국내 시장과 어울리지 않는다는 걸 금세 깨달았어요. 국내 체류하는 외국인들을 위한 무대에 자주 서면서 외국인들의 반응이 남달랐어요. 자연스럽게 한 번 나가보자 했죠.”(토비)
EP 3장을 내며 워밍업을 끝낸 이들은 자연스레 해외 투어를 기획하기에 이른다. 하지만 이 모든 것이 ‘맨땅에 헤딩’하는 고군분투의 서곡이었다. 일단 세 명의 멤버들이 업무를 분담했다. 토비가 음악 프로듀싱에 전념하고 솔은 SNS를 비롯한 프로모션을 맡았다. 해외에서 성장기를 보내 영어에 능통한 애니는 미국 현지 라디오 방송사에 자신의 음악을 알리며 투어 계획을 짜기에 이르렀다. 퇴로가 있으면 전쟁에 전념하지 못할 것이라는 장수의 심정이었을까? 1년간의 준비가 무르익었고 이들은 과감하게 생업을 모두 접었다. CMJ 뮤직 마라톤의 참가가 확정됐고 이를 중심으로 뉴욕 토론토 워싱톤DC 시카고 디트로이트 보스톤 신시내티 등 7개 도시를 돌며 24개 클럽 무대에 오르는 대장정의 그림이 완성됐다. 하지만 쉬운 일은 없었다. 투어 에이전시 없이 모든 것을 스스로 해결하면서 예상하지 못한 각종 문제들이 터져 나왔다.
“연방정부 셧다운 문제가 불거지면서 공연비자가 한 달 가까이 미뤄졌어요. 천재지변이나 다름없었죠. 결국 투어 초반은 포기하게 됐어요. 라디오 방송 출연도 펑크를 냈고요. 사정 설명을 하니 그쪽에서 오히려 위로를 하더군요. 가장 급한 건 숙소문제에요. 친지 집에서 머물 계획이었는데 오해가 생겼는지 어렵다고 하시네요. 온라인으로 민박을 급히 수소문 중이랍니다.”(애니)
CMJ 뮤직 마라톤에 참가할 수 있었던 것은 이들에게 남은 마지막 행운이었다. 18일 뉴욕대 인근 SBD갤러리에서 열린 이들의 쇼케이스는 해외진출을 노리는 국내 음악 관련 종사자들의 파티와 함께 열렸다. 한자리에 모인 CMJ VIP를 비롯해 미국 뮤직 비즈니스 유력 관계자들의 눈도장을 받은 것. 이례적으로 20일에도 CMJ 관련 무대에 다시 설 기회를 거머쥐기도 했다.
이들에게 단박에 스스로의 이름을 알려질 거란 헛된 기대는 없다. 차근히 스스로의 음악을 해나갈 수 있기만을 바랄 뿐이다. 살면서 모든 것을 가질 순 없다. 좋아하는 것은 더욱 그렇다. 무언가를 얻기 위해 아낌없이 비울 줄 아는 이들의 용기는 그래서 더욱 빛을 발한다. 이들의 북미 투어는 11월까지 예정돼 있다.
“힘들게 왔지만 힘든지 모를 정도로 신나고 재미를 느껴요. 음악을 하길 잘 했다는 생각도 들죠. 한국으로 돌아가면 해결할 문제가 많겠지만 지금은 이 순간을 즐기는 게 맞는 것 같아요.”(애니)