Korean Music Interview: Dead Buttons

Another day, another performance and as we write this the groups undertaking their first tour of the UK are two days in and reactions so far have exceeded expectations (not mine, I expected them to be fantastic!).  So with four dates left and just two days until the next performance at The Hatchet Inn in Bristol we introduce you to the next group showing that Korea has so much more to offer than choreographed routines and toned torsos, Dead Buttons. *Please note I have no issues with routines or torsos.

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jihyun Hong and drummer/vocalist Kanghee Lee, the two met one another after Lee had finished his mandatory service and came upon the idea to create Dead Buttons. However Hong is not a newbie face to the ‘alternative’ music scene in Korea; he has previously performed with punk groups Sweet Guerillaz and Oi! Resolute, played garage-rock with The Infamous Orchestra and even currently plays guitar for Combative Post. It’s to be expected that any band this talented young man is in is bound to make an impact on listeners, but that is not to say that the equally talented Lee shouldn’t be praised also.

Originally starting out as a trio in 2012 the band quickly made waves on the circuit, so much so that they were able to perform at the Japan-Korean Punk Festival in the same year. However 2013 would see them part ways with their bassist leaving them a member down, but in no terms out of fresh ideas. Whilst most bands would have buckled under this sudden departure, the newly formed duo threw away all their older material and began creating newer songs, formed to highlight their strengths. In February 2014, they released their first EP as a duo, Whoever You Are, which consisted of five songs created in just five hours.

We had the chance to ask Kanghee Lee some questions about the tour, being compared to The Black Keys and recording that EP in five hours!

Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us how your band formed:

Hi, we’re Dead Buttons. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll duo from Seoul. We started our band in 2012. I play drums and Jihyun plays guitar. We released our first EP, “Whoever You Are,” this past February. And now we’re in England on tour. We played the first gig of our tour on Friday night at Liverpool Sound City. It was a lot of fun! We’ll be playing more shows in the UK together with the Korean band Patients until May 10. We hope we can see you at one of our concerts here!

Anyone that has come across your band’s Bandcamp page will note that Dead Button’s style of music is described as anything from garage punk to country. But which would most accurately fit your band, or would you prefer to simply be known as musicians that display features of many styles?

The simplest way to describe ourselves is just to say that we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band. All of our songs are based around rock music. But we like to add bits and pieces of all the other musical styles we like to make the songs more unique and fun to play.

You debuted in 2012 as a three-piece, but last year lost a member to another band. Despite this Dead Buttons continued on and produced a more distinctive and memorable sound with one less member. For this reason I ask, do you prefer listeners to think of you as a band with one less member or an entirely different group now?

I think we’re a completely different band now. When we paired down to a duo, we threw away all of our old songs and decided to start again from scratch. It was like a new beginning for us.

Despite the band’s young age you are building up quite the following and being compared to many great artists, most often The Black Keys. Do you think this helped your first EP “Whoever You Are” be as successful as it is?

I think it has been our live shows that have helped us start to become a bit better known in Seoul’s indie scene. We’re still a really small band though and have a long ways to go before we can be described as successful. In terms of our music, we’ve been influenced by countless artists. We like The Black Keys’ so they may have influenced us in some way. “Whoever You Are” is definitely our way of paying tribute to all the different bands past and present who have inspired and influenced us.

What is your opinion on the increase of interest in ‘alternative’ Korean music overseas?

Of course it’s a good thing! Korea’s indie music scene in very small and doesn’t get a lot of attention at home. So it’s great if other places around the world starting paying attention to the great indie music being made in Korea and if more acts get the opportunity to share their songs with global audiences.

Your EP was recorded in 5 hours giving it a raw, energetic sound. Was that what the group aimed for by recording everything so quickly?

It wasn’t our intention to record the EP quickly. We wanted to record all of the songs in just one take. We hoped that by doing that we would be able to better capture our live energy on the recordings.

This tour will be your first one of the UK so what should audiences be expecting to see from you?

We’re going to play with a lot of energy and have a lot of fun. That’s our only plan for these gigs. We’ve had good reactions to our live show in Korea. We’re confident that folks in the UK are going to like and see what they hear too.

After your tour of the UK is complete what other countries are you hoping to tour and why?

I’m from South America so we’d love to eventually do a tour there. We don’t have any kind of set plan on when we’d like to do this, it’s just something we’ve talked a lot about and are both interested in doing.

Dead Buttons UK tour poster

Outside of creating and playing music what do you like to do?

I like to watch movies, read books, listen to music, drink with friends, and go for long walks around Seoul.

How does the band hope to continue to develop and grow over the next few years?

We hope we can continue to improve as musicians and to make better music together as a band. Our UK dates are our first time playing outside of Asia, but we hope to continue to keep gigging abroad and to expose more people to Dead Buttons.

Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?

Our EP was just the tip of the iceberg. We promise Dead Buttons is going to keep getting better and better. Please keep following our band. You won’t be disappointed! Thanks so much for taking the time to read about us. We hope we can hang out together with you in the UK, in Korea, or somewhere else in the world one day!

Thanks to Dead Buttons for taking the time to answer our questions and good luck with the rest of the tour. There are plenty more dates to catch this brilliant duo and the other great bands currently touring as listed below:

May 7 Bristol, England @ The Hatchet Inn

May 8 Southampton, England @ Unit Club (WTFest) [Facebook Event]

May 9 London, England @ AAA [Facebook Event]

May 10 London, England @ Astbury Castle [Facebook Event]

Follow the band on Facebook and Twitter and check them out on Bandcamp.

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Co-founder and Editor at Beyond Hallyu
Lover of Korean hip-hop and indie music...and Unicorns.