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Expat’s post-punk N.Y. band to tour Korea

The Willing Prisoners to play in Seoul, Guri and Daejeon


When expats play with bands here they often visit Busan or Seoul from smaller cities, but The Willing Prisoners’ Guri-based bassist brought his band all the way from New York.

Two of the trio, who both work in finance, will be funding a trip to tour Korea and Japan this month, the follow up to their 2009 U.K. tour.

The other member is bass player Jim Bisbee, a teacher, who recently played for The Stranded Bandits when they toured here in March.

Despite the hiatus since Bisbee left for Korea, he loves the band’s music and is excited to be reunited with “phenomenal” drummer Matt Pincus and guitarist and vocalist Jason Ghoshhajra. 
Jim Bisbee of The Willing Prisoners. (The Willing Prisoners)
Jim Bisbee of The Willing Prisoners. (The Willing Prisoners)

“The Willing Prisoners sound great, I mean definitely part of what the music was and still is in New York. Sort of the post-punk garage, Strokes-esque vibe,” he said.

“It owes a lot to that genre and that vibe of Lower East Side New York.”

Formed in 2009, the band is the baby of Ghoshhajra, a classically trained violinist who writes all the songs, and taught himself everything ― from how to play guitar to mastering advanced sound editing equipment.

“He’s a perfectionist,” said Bisbee, in awe of his many talents. “It’s complicated to a level that you wouldn’t expect from someone who literally is just teaching himself everything as he goes.”

Although the music may be complex ― the upbeat, New York sound is infused by influences ranging from Ghoshhajra’s classical background to the metal of Iron Maiden ― they like to keep gigs simple.

“(It’s) just really, really fun, high-energy, pop-punk music. We don’t do anything fancy with the pyrotechnics or anything. We just get up there and play as hard as we can.”

If Bisbee’s experience of the “vibrant” Korean music scene is anything to go by, this ought to go down well with crowds here, who he said scream and dance rather than just nod their heads. “There’s a lot more emphatic, explicit enjoyment of music here,” he noted, having also played gigs with an expat band.

Comparing it to cities with more established scenes such as New York and San Francisco, where he feels music can become too self-important, he enthused: “In Korea, as far as I’ve seen, it’s just fun, which is something I love and think what music should only, always be about.”

Bisbee first came to Korea in 2005 and was amazed at the changes he noticed when he returned last year. For him, Korea is an exciting place to be: He sees it as still “pregnant” with revolution, as Western countries were in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

He appreciates this in the music scene especially, where he’s noticed more grassroots Korean bands taking the limelight. “There’s a really positive explosion of creativity,” he observed.

Although Bisbee will be returning to Washington, D.C. in July for a masters program, he hopes this is not the last we’ll hear of the band.

“I love, love The Willing Prisoners’ music and I really want Jason to continue to write. And as selflessly as possible, I want him to do it with or without me because I think he really has an amazing talent and a great gift for it.”

The Willing Prisoners will play Moon Blues in Guri on May 4, Ole in Daejeon on May 5 and Club FF in Hongdae, Seoul on May 6. Entry to the first two gigs is free, and the standard entrance fee applies at Club FF. For more information see the band’s Facebook page.

By Hannah Stuart-Leach  (hannahsl@heraldcorp.com)
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