As the Korean music market is beginning to receive more international recognition, the local scene is looking to rise up and represent the next generation of Korean music. This is the third installment of a series of interviews with Korean rock, acoustic and alternative bands. ― Ed.
Known for going wild and their notorious antics both on and off stage, the rock stars of Galaxy Express started from humble beginnings. They then took their garage band sound further than any of the members had ever predicted.
The trio ― made up of Lee Ju-hyun (bass-vocals), Park Jong-hyun (guitar-vocals) and Kim Hee-kwon (drums) ― surprised even themselves by becoming one of the nation’s most popular names in rock music. They have found the chance to pursue music as a career to be a rewarding experience.
“The non-mainstream music scene in Korea is quite small and it was very rough starting out and trying to make ends meet,” Lee said during an interview with the band at a small cafe near the group’s studio in Seogyo-dong, Seoul. “But now that we have kind of made a name for ourselves, we are able to do what we love for a living and that has made all our lives so much more free and comfortable and this really has an affect on our music.”
|Galaxy Express (Love Rock Company)|
Although the rockers originally played in different acts, they decided to join forces and debuted as Galaxy Express in 2007 with the album “To the Galaxy.”
Despite the trio’s long history and experience in the music scene, they confessed that when it comes to composing and recording music, they simply rely on the basics ― no savvy technological assistance, just the three of them sitting in a room and jamming until they hear something they like.
“Honestly, the three of us don’t know how to compose or edit anything using the computer and none of us can actually read music,” Park explained. “We seriously just come together and have these jam sessions and just record them on our iPhones; we are quite primitive in that sense.”
The guys stated that despite their lack of technological knowledge, they always try to produce and showcase their music innovatively. In 2010, Galaxy Express released its second studio album, “Wild Dogs,” which was written and recorded in just a month. The album was part of a social media experiment in which the artists pre-released portions of their singles online and asked for feedback and suggestions from listeners.
“It was quite a new experience for us to receive the kind of help and comments that we did from our fans,” said Kim. “They even helped us name our songs and it was a very unique way for us to prepare and produce our album.”
Letting their carefree, outgoing and humorous personalities shine through their lyrics and music, the members expressed the hope that listeners find a sense of freedom through their songs.
“When people are listening to our music, I want all thoughts to simply escape them,” said Lee. “Our songs are all about getting rid of your worries, setting yourself free and just losing yourself in the music. I mean isn’t life complicated enough as it is?”
“Personally, I want people to think, ‘Gosh, aren’t they the best, I think this band is the coolest band ever,’” said Park with a sarcastic grin on his face as the other two burst into laughter, nodding in unison.
Galaxy Express has travelled across the globe, taking its music to Canada, France, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the U.S., where it performed at the annual South By Southwest music festival in both 2012 and 2013. The band’s performance at last year’s SXSW was hailed by numerous international media outlets including The New York Times, which wrote that the band “harked back to the crashing, roiling protopunk psychedelia of the MC5, slamming away with conviction.”
When the members returned home from SXSW last year they looked to reach out further to local fans by competing against other Korean bands on Mnet’s “Must Band Generation” reality audition program. TV viewers witnessed Galaxy Express battle it out against some of the nation’s top acts and make it all the way to the final round, facing off against fellow bands Daybreak and Romantic Punch.
However, the airing of the finale was abruptly canceled after bassist Lee was arrested for possession of marijuana shortly after the filming of the show. It was later revealed that Galaxy Express had indeed won the competition.
“I know the show wasn’t aired, but we had actually won and beat out the other bands so after the taping we all went out to celebrate,” Lee explained. “We were all together drinking, having a good time, toasting our victory and it just so happened I was arrested the same day ... I admit it was definitely an unfortunate and unforgettable moment in my life.”
Despite legal troubles that plagued the group after his arrest, Lee and his fellow bandmates stated that they are looking to put the past behind them and return to the local rock scene in full force, performing in shows and hopefully releasing another full studio album by the end of the year.
Galaxy Express will perform at the upcoming Hongdae Festival Alive 1 event on March 23 and the Greenplugged summer music festival on May 3.
By Julie Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org