Love X Stereo = Delicious Electro Rock From Seoul
By MTV Iggy
October 11, 2013
Name: Love X Stereo (Annie Ko, Toby, Sol Han, and Jeong-kyeom)
Where They’re From: Seoul, Korea
Genre: Post John Hughes pop/rock
For Fans Of: CHVRCHES, The Cardigans, Garbage
Sounds Like: Optimism
Love X Stereo promises two things: love, and (of course), stereo. The trio’s third EP Glow delivers all that their name implies. Over four tracks and a handful of remixes, the Seoul, Korea-based band manages to wrap the spectrum of youthful angst (including, but not limited to, loneliness, romance, and a desire for transcendence) into a candy-coated, easy to swallow pill. It’s like your mom always said—a spoon full of optimistic indie pop/rock helps the medicine go down.
Frontwoman Annie Ko possesses a girlish, fairytale whisper that lends itself to CHVRCHES comparisons. But while the Scottish band floats like an electronic butterfly, Love X Stereo stings like a rock ‘n’ roll bee. The band inhabits a space just post John Hughes. The high school exams have been passed. The boy (or girl) has been won. But as we all know, that’s just the end of act one. Love X Stereo is standing by for when adult emotions flood in. Their effervescent blend of grit and grace is here to remind us that no matter what life throws at you, you’re badass enough to take it in stride. But you might want to start by dancing it out…
Glow is out now. – Words by Laura Studarus
Love X Stereo : Glow
As Love X Stereo venture to the United States for their tour, they released Glow, the newest EP. Fans of Love X Stereo’s older releases will find a slight difference with Glow. The music is a step up from Off The Grid andBuzzin’. The previous recordings of Love X Stereo hold back the energy that the band has during live performances, but Glow sounds like the band is reaching to a new direction.
Glow is definitely within the same core sound that the band creates, but this time Glow is a bit more upbeat. There was an underlying aggressive feeling with the previous EPs, but the single “부끄러워요” felt different.
The four new songs are excellent additions to the library of music from the band, but it definitely shows the time between releases. The music is more mature and feels more polished. Love X Stereo’s live performances are amazing, but there has been a slight disconnect between the recordings and the lives and Glow sounds like the bridge has been made.
My favorite song is “Secrets” because it has a feeling of continuation of “Storm” while not directly pulling the same elements. The band continues to create excellent songs and Glow is the perfect introduction to new fans.
The remix tracks of the old songs are great re-introductions to those songs as well for old fans and I’m sure it’s going to make people who’ve never heard of Love X Stereo want to explore the older releases.
In Love and Stereo: Korean Indie-Pop Songstress, Annie Ko
Over the past few years a growing number of South Korean indie bands have been breaking into international waters and making a name for themselves touring North America. Indie-pop darlings ‘Love X Stereo’ will be joining those ranks shortly. With their first North American tour coming up in October, frontwoman ‘Annie’ Ko spoke to us.
Annie was born in Chuncheon City, in the cold northeastern province of Gangwon-do, South Korea, in 1981. Gangwon-do is a province that, until recently named the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, was best known for its now-defunct mining industry and its proximity to the communist North. Her family relocated to LA soon after her birth, where she lived until she was 6 or 7 before moving back to Korea, first living in Pohang and then moving to Seoul for University when she was 19.
‘Annie’ is not her given name, but it is the name she is best known by friends, fans and even family. “My real name is Ko Yeun-Kyung, but my parents still call me ‘Annie’” she says. “At some point, I thought it was kind of embarrassing because it was my childhood name (from when I lived in LA) and people here in Korea were questioning why my parents would call me that? But when we made ‘Love X Stereo’ I thought that it wasn’t so bad after all.”
While it’s not uncommon for Korean parents to push their children into music, this usually takes the form of violin or piano. “My mom didn’t like the idea that I was so into pop music” she says, “but I was a very brave kid. I wanted to try it all.”
As musical influences she cites Michael Jackson, 90’s Alternative Music and most importantly, Cyndi Lauper. “She (Cyndi Lauper) was and is still my hero, although today things are a little different, I want to be a more of a ‘musician’ than just a singer. Making music, the whole process, that’s what I’m into,” she says
After leaving for Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul to study physics and then astronomy at Grad school at the prestigious Seoul National University, she left to pursue a career in music. “Honestly, I hate studying. I found that out too late.”
Her first big chance was as an ‘R&B’ singer shortly after, “The word ‘R&B” is really different here in Korea. Most of them think ‘if you can sing like Mariah Carey, then you are an R&B singer. Which is so wrong. I auditioned to be a singer, and I signed a contract with a new company associated to a major entertainment company here. But I don’t think I achieved that much during that time. What I really achieved was that I finally realized that I really wanted to pursue rock music, be creative, and stop being just a singing songbird.”
It was in 2005 in the underground Korean art and music mecca of Hongdae, the area surrounding Hongik University, that Annie joined her first band – ‘Skrew Attack’.
Formed in 1998, Skrew Attack were one of the best known pop-punk bands at the height of the punk scene in Seoul – a full 7 years before lead guitarist and founder ‘Toby’ decided he was interested in having someone else carrying the fronting duties – which is when the band found Annie.
But as time went on, the members of Skrew Attack decided that after more than a decade it was time to do something else, and as their sound began incorporating a more diverse range of elements it was time to make it official: ‘Skrew Attack was no more.
“At some point we thought we thought that the name ‘Skrew Attack’ was holding us back. We needed to create something new, something that we haven’t done before, but always wanted to try. We figured out that we had great interests in 90’s alternative music, so we started from there. Tried to be as creative as possible, and update those sounds for the 21st century”.
With only about three years under their belt, Love X Stereo have already released 3 EPs and a single. The most recent release, “Glow” which was put out on Sept 26th, was praised by I Am Entertainment Magazine for its “rainbow of sounds and styles” and of which Annie says “it has a lot more synth-pop elements than our other albums. On our other albums we didn’t think that thoroughly about the arrangements; we just did whatever we wanted to do. This album is ‘smarter’ than the others, I think”. The new EP includes several different remixes of a song which helped bring them a lot of attention over the last year, “Soul City”, a 360 degree look at Seoul in all its vibrancy and also, despair.
“It’s about Seoul City, but it’s not like we wanted to promote the city. It’s not like that at all. It’s our true feelings about the city. All the good and bad is in it. When I first heard Toby’s guitar riff, I instantly thought of Seoul. The way the song never seems to end, that was intentional too. We felt like Seoul never really ends, like a psychedelic song.”
“Seoul has the fastest Internet services in the world, and there are so many great eateries, day or night. I love the Hangang river, I love the cycling, the Chimaek (chicken and beer shops). But I really don’t like all the negatives, the sense of failure in people’s daily lives, people working so hard for nothing, the drinking problems.”
One of the things that’s fuelling this tour is that LXS have become indie darlings among the increasing number of young North Americans who have been moving to Seoul for work (mainly in the English as Second Language industry). Being able to ‘play-test’ their music to a foreign audience has been a great ‘rehearsal’ for this tour; “It’s what made us want to go in the first place!” she says.
And while the entire tour is something she is proud of, Annie singles out two events in particular: “I am most excited for CMJ Music Marathon (New York City’s largest music event). It’s such an honour to be there. I’m also really excited about our studio live session for Viva Radio. The first time we tried to reach out to American audiences, those guys were really generous to us. They have been supporting us ever since. Can’t believe we’re actually going to meet them and perform for them.”
The entire run-up to the tour has been exhausting. In addition to having to quit her day job to make time, Annie’s also had to give up her passion for cycling, “Just don’t have time for it any more. Lol.”
Annie and Love X Stereo have no intention of relaxing once they return home -“Our ultimate goal is to go to Europe. We would like to perform at festivals like Glastonbury. But really we just want to create music every day. And if we can ‘just do music only’, I’d be super happy with my life, seriously.”
Love X Stereo will be in Toronto on October 19th as part of the 2013 Indie Week Canada festival at The Peacock on King Street.
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: