Korean Indie Music Interview: Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio

There is more to Korean music than K-pop and hip-hop. Not that there is anything wrong with those genres but if you don’t expand your knowledge, you are truly missing out on some great talent. One such talent is the amazing group, Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio. The band plays a mix of dance rock, post-punk, and pop rock. They have played many major Korean music festivals and last year they won “Rookie of the Year” at the 2014 Korean Music Awards, beating out popular K-pop group, EXO. In 2014, they also did two American tours and performed at renowned festivals like SXSW, CMJ, and Culture Collide. Prior to their appearance at Culture Collide, LA Weekly picked Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio as one of the top five bands to see at the festival. This year they’re continuing the international crusade by touring France in June.

Rock-N-Roll-Radio-Picture-12Can you introduce yourselves to new fans who may not know your names?

Hi, everyone!  We’re Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio from Seoul, Korea.  My name’s Naehyun and I play guitar and handle lead vocals.  Jinkyu Kim also plays guitar in our group, Minwoo Lee is our bassist, and Minkyu Choi is on drums.  Our band formed in 2011 and we released our full-length debut “Shut Up and Dance” in 2013.  Last year we toured in the US twice and also won “Rookie of the Year” at the Korean Music Awards.  This June we’re travelling to Europe for the first time to play some shows in France.  We can’t wait!

How did you come together as a band?

We all used to work as technicians for a very famous Korean rock band called YB.  Jinkyu, Minwoo, and Minkyu went to the same high school as well and since then have played in bands together.  And that’s why all three of them worked as technicians together for YB too.  But Minwoo and Minkyu had to stop that job because they had to do their Korean military service.  That’s when I got that job and met everyone.  I think that was around 2004.  After finishing their military service, Minwoo, Minkyu, and Jinkyu played in a band called Go Go Beat.  But then Jinkyu was fired from the band.  And I was fired from my old band around that same time as well.  So Jinkyu and I started a band together called Burning Flowers.  One day Jinkyu met up with Minwoo and Minkyu by chance.  They started talking and decided to make music together again.  This time I joined as well, and Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio was born.  Our name was taken from the title of a Go Go Beat track.

What song are you most looking forward to performing during your France tour?

I guess “Shut Up & Dance” will be the most popular song in France because the lyrics are easy and the song is fun and catchy.  All of us are really proud of this song.

Will you be playing any new music during the tour?

We’re going to be playing one new song at the shows.  And while we’re in France we’re going to record a new EP in Paris too.  The EP should be released in late summer or early fall.  We hope everyone reading this interview will check it out!

Take us through your writing process. Do you write the lyrics first, or do you start with creating the melody?

Songs usually start from a guitar riff or melody.  From there, songs are constructed through jam sessions with Jinkyu leading the way.  Usually, lyrics come last.

Who are your musical influences?

We all like groups like Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, Foals, and Duran Duran.  Minwoo and Minkyu also really like Red Hot Chili Peppers and D’Sound.  Jinkyu likes London Grammar, Phoenix, and Peace. I enjoy acts like David Bowie, The Beach Boys, Depeche Mode and, Talking Heads.

Rock-N-Roll-Radio-Picture-5-1024x681What do you think of the increase of interest from international fans towards Korean indie music?

It’s very surprising!  As you may know, the Korean indie scene is very small.  So it’s amazing that more people around the world are starting to know about Korean indie bands.  Maybe their interest started from K-pop idol groups like Girls Generation, EXO, and Big Bang and then they started digging deeper into Korean music.  I hope more and more people get exposed to the wealth of talent in Korea’s indie scene.

How are you going to handle touring and preparing a new EP at the same time?

It’s actually making us really tired already, and we’re not even on tour or recording yet!  Preparing for just a tour is a lot of work, but now we’re also getting the songs ready to record.  It’s hard getting ready to do both things at the same time.  I don’t think I want to do this again.

Can you tell us anything about the new EP?

Romain Tranchart from the French band Modjo will be our producer.  We were introduced to him by Annie Ko from the excellent Korean indie band Love X Stereo.  I think the EP will be a highly danceable affair!  The EP should come out in late summer or early fall.

What are your plans for the rest of 2015?

In late July we’re going to perform at the Ansan M Valley Rock Festival, which is Korea’s top summer festival.  In late August we’re hoping to go to Russia for some shows.  And we’ll tour across Korea in September.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

I think Minkyu would be a technician.  I’m not sure about Minwoo.  His mother runs a restaurant and he has experience running a bar.  So maybe something with food and drink?  Jinkyu’s mother teaches cooking and he likes to cook and can do it very well.  So maybe he’d be a chef?  I’d want to try to be a soccer player.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

There are lots of great bands in Korea not named EXO or Big Bang so please check them out.  You’ll be happy you did!  If you’ll be in France in June, please come see Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio play.  And please keep an eye for our new EP.  We hope you like it!  Thanks so much.

Beyond Hallyu thanks Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out their hit Shut Up and Dance music video below.

If you are interested in hearing Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio live and live in France, check out their tour dates.

6th June – Midem Festival, Cannes
11th June – Thunderbird Lounge,Saint-Étienne
15th June– Le Buzz, Paris

If you want to find out more about the band you can follow them on Facebook or Twitter. You can also hear more of their music on their Soundcloud and Youtube channels.

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