[Eye interview] Seodo Band pioneers ‘Joseon pop’

Seodo Band performs at “Journey to Korean Music” in 2020. (©Kim Shin-joong)

Judging by their appears alone, Seodo Band doesn’t instantly strike one as a “fusion gugak” band, melding the normal music of Korea with the sounds of the West. There are not any conventional devices within the band. And all for a cause.

“It will not be that we don’t use them. Rather, we aren’t ready to make use of them,” Seo Do, the vocalist of Seodo Band, mentioned throughout an interview with The Korea Herald on July 14, explaining the absence of conventional devices within the pansori-based band. Pansori is a conventional type of narrative singing. Along with Seo, keyboardist Kim Seong-hyun, percussionist Park Jin-byeong, guitarist Yeon Tae-hee, bassist Kim Tae-joo and drummer Yang Jung-hoon make up Seodo Band.

Because he is aware of the devices intimately, having began studying pansori on the age of 4, he additionally is aware of the devices’ limits in performing modern music, Seo defined. The band doesn’t search to exclude conventional devices; the truth is, it’s ready for the correct second, that’s, when it turns into potential to make use of them successfully. In the meantime, the band is relying extra on conventional vocal parts.

Despite the absence of conventional devices, Seodo Band is decidedly rooted in conventional Korean music. The band refers to its music as “Joseon pop,” a time period prompt by an acquaintance and one which the band readily took up.

“It got here at a degree after we had been agonizing over our music,” mentioned Seo. Once they’d a reputation for his or her music type, issues grew to become simpler — they’d a reputation with which they might describe the form of music they do.

Seodo Band began out as an acoustic band in 2018 and took its present type in early 2020 with the addition of a bass guitar and a drum. It will not be troublesome to search out movies of Seodo Band on YouTube acting at varied gigs, exhibits and contests, their early performances largely covers of pop tunes in addition to their interpretation of well-known pansori items. The group did have reservations about collaborating in TV competitors exhibits, however they “desperately” wished to let themselves be identified. 

Clockwise from bottom: Seodo Band members vocalist Seo Do, guitarist Yeon Tae-hee, keyboardist Kim Seong-hyun, drummer Yang Jung-hoon, percussionist Park Jin-byeong and bassist Kim Tae-joo pose for photos before an interview at The Korea Herald in Seoul, July 14. Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald

Clockwise from backside: Seodo Band members vocalist Seo Do, guitarist Yeon Tae-hee, keyboardist Kim Seong-hyun, drummer Yang Jung-hoon, percussionist Park Jin-byeong and bassist Kim Tae-joo pose for photographs earlier than an interview at The Korea Herald in Seoul, July 14. Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald

In 2019, Seodo Band received two gugak awards that acknowledge younger, new skills. The awards took the band abruptly — in spite of everything, they didn’t have a single conventional instrument on stage.

“We had not anticipated the prize. Other members had extra gugak parts,” mentioned guitarist Yeon, as he recalled profitable the highest prize on the 2019 KBS New Gugak Talent Awards. For percussionist Park, the prize was a validation of the music the band had been pursuing. “A decide mentioned that he thought (our act) was the right concord of gugak and modern music. It was one thing I had wished to listen to,” mentioned Park.

With its first EP “Moon: Disentangle,” which got here out final month, Seodo Band makes clear the music it’s pursuing. The five-track album is organized as a single narrative, beginning with “Tic Toc,” a cacophony of sounds, together with the tick tock of a clock. Described as a prologue to the album, this very quick piece leads seamlessly to “City Lights.”

“City Lights,” whereas essentially the most pop music-like piece on the album, has many parts of conventional Korean music scattered all through. “Like a treasure hunt, there are lots of gugak parts hidden throughout the music,” mentioned drummer Yang. Traditional devices akin to kkwaenggwari, a small hand-held gong, for instance, are used within the introduction. “The bridge portion additionally options ‘byeoldalguri jangdan,’ which you’d have heard throughout elementary faculty music courses,” Yang mentioned, referring to a quick, rousing beat.

“Flower Without Fragrance” is notable for its lengthy rap-like narrative, a type borrowed from pansori. Pansori usually has segments the place the singer narrates freely with no melody or common beat. “I composed it after I was 19 and it was initially a rap,” mentioned Seo. “It expresses frustration, anger on the state of affairs immediately the place one can not see one’s personal gentle.” The soul sound that pervades the piece, curiously, derives from the pansori vocal type, dipping low and deep after which rising.

The titles of the subsequent two songs — “Baetnorae” and “Ganggangsullae” — shall be acquainted to most Koreans. But listeners are in for a shock. Seodo Band has reworked and tweaked the 2 unique items into totally completely different works. Among the few similarities they bear to the unique folks songs are the choruses. Yet the feelings expressed by the people songs are all there.

“’Baetnorae’ is the story of crusing to a utopia,” mentioned Seo. “Ganggangsullae” concludes the album’s story with folks singing collectively upon reaching that best place.

Cover of “Moon: Disentangle,“ Seodo Band‘s first EP (Universal Music Group)

Cover of “Moon: Disentangle,“ Seodo Band‘s first EP (Universal Music Group)

The type of “Moon: Disentangle” bears witness to Seodo Band’s music roots in conventional Korean music.

“Pansori is storytelling. In making the album, I noticed a narrative,” mentioned Seo. The band plans to difficulty future albums in an identical type. Such story-based albums may turn out to be the band’s defining id, in line with Seo.

Already, the band’s music and efficiency types are distinctly their very own. Just as their music is fluid –slipping between Western and conventional Korean influences- so is the efficiency type.

On stage, Seo wears what is usually known as “gender-fluid” look. In one efficiency, he wore a prime fabricated from two completely different coloured materials. One aspect was in crimson to symbolize Chunhyang, the heroine of “Chunhyangga,” and the opposite aspect was in blue to symbolize her lover Mongryeong. It made sense as a result of Seo was performing each characters.

“I just like the genderless really feel. Also, pansori is a style through which one singer portrays a number of characters. In one half I might be a person, and within the subsequent, a lady,” Seo mentioned. “I actually prefer it when folks say that they get the genderless vibe (within the efficiency). I take it as which means that I’ve suitably expressed all of the completely different characters,” he added.

Such freedom to totally categorical the characters comes from being ready, Seo famous. “I imagine that I should be actually good on the stage. I should be absolutely put together for the stage,” he mentioned.

Seodo Band turned to crowdfunding for its first EP and achieved 150 p.c of its funding aim. “We had been capable of produce the album and two music movies,” mentioned Seo, who described the crowdfunding course of as not solely a possibility to lift cash for the venture, but in addition a possibility to speak with the followers and develop its fan base.

The band has had three concert events “disappear” as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. The final time it carried out abroad was in Shanghai in December 2019. More than the rest, as soon as the pandemic is over, the band wish to carry out at an enormous music pageant overseas.

Meanwhile, Seodo Band shall be holding a web-based live performance at 8 p.m. on Sunday on its YouTube channel. While it can not change a live performance just lately canceled as a result of fourth wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the band needs to make it nearly as good as an in-person occasion.

“We had been very upset with the cancellation so we’re practising an entire lot extra,” mentioned guitarist Yeon. 

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