koreanindie.com on bringing K-indie to an international audience
Since late 2011 koreanindie.com has been the go to place for many fans of indie and rock music in Korea. The site has become a place in which fans are able to check out reviews of both new and older groups, in-depth interviews with musicians and links to other sites, blogs and sources of information regarding the often overlooked world of alternative Korean music. Here at Beyond Hallyu we were lucky to get an interview with two of the people behind koreanindie, Chris Park and Anna Lindgren Lee.
How did you first come up with the idea to start a site on alternative Korean music (indie, rock) and what were your influences for doing this?
Anna: I’ve been listening to Korean indie music since 2002, always trying to find new music and learning more about the artists. Problem was I didn’t know Korean and there was no information in English anywhere. After a while I realized that I had acquired a bit of knowledge of my own and wanted to share it with others. For a few years I was planning to launch a forum, but never got around to it. Then I started reading ‘It’s A Trap!’ which covers Scandinavian music, and realized that’s what I should do too.
Chris: I started my first site, wakesidevision, in 2009 as a way to present people with interesting music who may not have known about it otherwise. The site covered a lot of different genres in both Korean and Japanese music. The actual idea of the site came from my girlfriend who told me I should make a site considering how much music I listened to. I didn’t have any long-term plans with at the time and thought that it would be an interesting experiment. Anna and I both had separate sites before deciding to start koreanindie.com.
There seems to be more people now desiring a different look at Korean music, away from idols. Do you feel that the year ahead will be a good one for your site with the sudden rise in the number of listeners of Korean music?
Anna: The year has only just started, but already we can tell that the interest for Korean music aside from k-pop has been growing, with more and more bands trying their wings in the world. As there aren’t really any other sites that do what we do in English, at least as far as I’m aware, with that I expect that this will indeed be a good year for the site. Although while growing is fun, to me personally the site is still just about sharing the love of great music that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Chris: I think koreanindie.com is one of the better sites for people to actually learn about bands. Other sites that I’ve viewed are formatted to just play music or music videos and rely on the band or other people who have already created the content and just present it again. This year will be much more interesting as we’re expanding into different directions and not just doing the same thing for another year. Like Anna said, we share our love of indie music and that’s always been the goal. If the site grows larger in 2013, that would be excellent, but we’re not sitting around waiting for it to happen; we’re always working.
Your site is called Korean Indie but you outline and provide a resource for many genres of alternative Korean music. Why exactly did you decide to go with the name Korean Indie?
Anna: To me “indie” is more than just a genre, and I think in Korea in particular the concept is generally taken to cover most music made outside of the mainstream, or “over ground” (I wrote a post last year explaining my opinion in more detail: What Constitutes Korean Indie Music). The name is a bit on the plain side, but when we tried to come up with a good name before launching the site we failed horribly and ended up going with something very straightforward.
Chris: We had a lot of email discussions on a possible name, but the more creative names didn’t really convey the purpose of the site. When we decided on koreanindie, the next big step was making sure the domain and social network usernames were available. I like the simplicity of the name and it’s great for searches. The indie genre is really wide and a lot of music can fit into the style so it applies really well.
Anna and Chris each of you have your own blogs (Anna launched indiefulROK in 2008 and Chris launched wakesidevision in 2009) but they both came to a standstill midway last year. Would you say this was so you could put more time into this site and making it stronger? And do you have any plans to re-launch either in the future?
Anna: Morphing into a full scale site dedicated to Korean indie music was always the next step for indiefulROK, so naturally all of the posts I would usually put on i
ndiefulROK now end up on Korean Indie instead. However, I’ve grown quite attached to indiefulROK over the years, and the idea of just letting it die doesn’t really appeal to me. I said I year ago I’d try to dedicate that space to more personal posts, but because of all focus on Korean Indie that never happened. I’m hoping that can change this year, but there are still so many things I want to do with Korean Indie so it’ll be a best effort venture.
Chris: I tried to write for both wakesidevision and koreanindie at the same time, but it ended up splitting the work of actual content. Wakesidevision was becoming only Japanese music and koreanindie took all the Korean music which skewed the writing. When I decided to take a hiatus from wakesidevision, it was also a way to refresh my mind with writing. I’ll probably write on wakesidevision again after I change the layout which looks really old. It would be cool to allow others to contribute and make it a more community-based site, but koreanindie is my focus right now.
You seem to have built up a quite a reputation within the alternative Korean music circle, leading to you being able to interview many brilliant groups. Who so far has been your favourite interview?
Anna: My most favourite interview ever was the one with Tearliner, in 2007. He was my very favourite artist at the time and he was exceptionally kind, answering my numerous questions very well. My favourite interview since launching Korean Indie on the other hand, I think that’s the one with KimC. It’s the highest profile interview I’ve done in recent times. Not only did he provide very thoughtful answers to my questions, but he also chose to reveal some information that he had yet to share elsewhere.
Chris: The interview I was most nervous about was meeting Horan in person in Gangnam which turned out to be an amazing insight into her perspective. While email interviews are great for introductory interviews, any of the video interviews I’ve done are my favourite, partially because I was able to talk to musicians directly.
You have a wide selection of up to date information regarding underground music. Where do you get all your information from and do you spend a lot of time reading over Korean sites in order to relay it in its truest form?
Anna: Embarrassingly enough I still don’t know enough Korean to be able to read Korean sites. I get most of my information through Twitter or Facebook and from sites that sell music online, like Hyang Music. If I come across something that seems interesting but I can’t decipher with by basic knowledge of the language, usually Google translate will help me out, and when that’s not enough I bug my husband, who is Korean, for an impromptu translation.
Chris: Like Anna, I follow a lot of musicians on Twitter or their Facebook pages. The other way I find about bands is from other bands. The indie scene is small and most people know each other so it’s relatively easy to ask bands who they’re listening or playing with. Another way I’ve found recently is to subscribe to people on YouTube who take video at live shows. They usually upload new videos every weekend and it’s a great way to discover bands that don’t have official releases.
Where can you see the site going in the next 5 years and do you have any plans on where to take it in the future?
Anna: Five years is a long time–especially online–but I definitely hope we’ll be able to make reality of more of the ideas that we had when we first started the site. Rather than just posting random reviews, interviews and news, we’d like to present all the information in a more organized manner and make the site more comprehensive. We’ve got a few ideas for how to do it but have been short on time to make anything of it. We really need more people writing for the site! Starting this year we’ll also try to do something under the Korean Indie name in the offline world.
Chris: By 2018, I think the music scene is going to be different, bands are going to celebrate big anniversaries, and there are going to be a lot more bands. As for the site, there will be a better UI/UX (user interface/user experience) which is going to change with the way content is viewed. My hope is that Anna and I will be able to work on koreanindie full-time rather than after regular jobs. We have had discussions of long-term plans and things are starting to lean in that direction. Like Anna said, we need more writers, but it’s hard to get people who can dedicate time out of their schedules regularly. One big goal is to actually film a professional Korean indie documentary that covers a lot more ground than the one I did during my November 2012 trip to Seoul.
Beyond Hallyu would like to thank both Anna and Chris for the time they took out of their busy schedules to do an interview with us and wish them luck for the future. I myself will continue to be a loyal reader of koreanindie.com and look forward to more interviews, reviews and insight from the world of alternative Korean music.