Korean Music Interview: Monkey Bars on striving for the promotion of Asian American music

Asian Americans have historically been chronically under-represented on the global music stage. Recently, however, a lot of musicians have been working hard to change this. Looking to follow in the footsteps of other successful Asian American artists like Far East Movement and Jay Park and make their own mark are the up-and-coming producing duo, Monkey Bars. In fact, for this group, promoting Asian American artists is not just a potential bonus of success but one of their primary goals. Made up of James Keys and Chase Bars, Monkey Bars has just released the promising debut EP As You Can See – displaying a mix of hip hop, RnB and electronic influences. We recently caught up with them to find out more about their music and their plans for the future.

First of all can you introduce yourselves to our readers?

Hi guys, we’re the Monkey Bars. We’re a Korean American Music Producer Team based in Seoul City. Our members include James Keys, producer and vocalist/singer, and Chase Bars, producer and rapper. Long story short, we’re just two humble musicians.

You’ve just released your first EP. How would you describe the music on the album?

We dealt with the most common topic among musicians: love. At the time, we were going through an emotional turmoil so the making of the album was a form of therapy. We made 5 tracks that best generated our moods and simply transformed our thoughts into lyrics. It’s a personal album. Basically, we recorded ourselves ranting and added a beat to it. Glad we can call it our first.

How did you come to form Monkey Bars?

We got introduced to each other by a mutual musician friend. Chase was temporarily in Korea as a soldier and James was already in Seoul establishing his music career. It didn’t take too long for us to click. We met up, talked for a little bit, saw a common goal, and immediately planned a project together.

Who are your biggest influences?

This interview would last so much longer if we actually talked about this in-depth! From Kurt Cobain and J Dilla to Andy Warhol and Bruce Lee, we find our inspirations and motifs from an endless list of great people and other sources.

You say you want to strive for the promotion of Asian American music, can you explain what you mean by that?

Despite the artistic creativity and potential that many Asian and Asian American artists possess, we feel like most of us don’t get the spotlight that we deserve outside of Asia. In addition, most people’s perspective on Asian and Asian American music lies within the boundaries of K-pop. Thus, Monkey Bars hopes that our music and efforts could contribute for the removal of limitations and stereotypes that many Asian and Asian American artists face.

Being Asian American, do you think you bring something different to the Korean music scene?

Honestly? No. Not yet at least. For the general Korean audience, we don’t think it really makes a difference if we’re Korean or Korean American. In the eyes of most Koreans, we’re probably just another group that also speaks fluent English. We do hope that one day our identity will have its moment in the Korean music scene.

Do you think living in Korea has had an impact on your music?

First of all, much props for Korea for making everything happen. And yes, Korea’s definitely had an impact on us in various ways. Our album was never designated to a specific audience. Most of our lyrics are written in English. After releasing our debut album in Korea, we thought that it wouldn’t be too bad if some of our future projects should involve more Korean rather than utilizing too much English.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

We’ve already got started on our next project with EDM producer, Seotter. Long story short, if “As You Can See” was created by an overflow of emotions and deep thoughts then this project is the exact opposite. We were just like “F@#K IT”.

Finally what are your long-term plans for Monkey Bars?

Monkey Bars always takes one step at a time.

If you like their sound, you can find Monkey Bars on Facebook or through their YouTube channel.