As the Korean music market is beginning to receive more international recognition, the local band scene is looking to rise up and represent the next generation of Korean music. This is the eighth installment of a series of interviews with Korean rock, acoustic and alternative bands. ― Ed.
Known mostly for their softly sung folk-rock jams and old-school vibe, the four members of 9 and the Numbers say they are looking to continue making music that has a contemporary yet classic folk feel that is sorely lacking in today’s mainstream music.
“The sounds we are trying to create with our songs incorporate different elements from both Eastern and Western music and combine vintage with modern styles,” said leader Song Jae-kyung ― the only remaining original member ― during an interview with the band at a quaint cafe in Hondgae.
“Our music has the smell of something nostalgic, like this is how music used to sound back in the day,” he continued. “And when you compare it to some of today’s popular music, it isn’t childish, which is the case a lot nowadays.”
9 and the numbers entered the local scene with the release of its first album in 2009. The eponymous studio album showcased its retro-funk twist to lighthearted folk-rock, much like a Korean tribute to the ’60s American band The Byrds.
|9 and the Numbers (Tunetable Movement)|
Though they have only released three follow-up EPs since their debut nearly five years ago, the musicians admit that they don’t really feel they should bow down to pressure and release an album that isn’t up to par simply for the sake of putting something out.
“Writing songs can sometimes be a long process for us,” Song explained. “I really take my time when I’m thinking about what lyrics to write ... it sometimes takes me anywhere from three to six months until I’m satisfied.”
The members pride themselves on their dedication to creating quality music with a certain depth and meaning beyond a simple rhyming chorus that one finds in most K-pop songs today. However, the musicians say they are still unsure about how the public feels about their retro style.
“When people are listening to our music, we don’t always have the opportunity to look them in the eyes and gauge what they are thinking,” said drummer Duck. “But there were times when we played live shows where I noticed that people seem to react so differently; some smile while at the same time some even cry. We have had people write on our Facebook or Twitter (pages) about how they cried during our show because they were so touched but still left the show feeling much happier.”
“Obviously one of our goals as musicians is to make people happy,” Song added. “But honestly I’m the kind of person who really doesn’t like the word ‘happy.’ It’s just way too ambiguous because happiness means different things to different people ... ultimately I would say that through our music, I want people to feel a whole range of emotions ― if you’re sad, then be sad, if not, then be inspired.”
Late last year the band wrapped up a four-day, four-city national tour ― the first time they attempted such a jam-packed schedule ― and they claimed that although it was physically exhausting, it was one of the most memorable times in their young music careers.
“Just like you see in those Hollywood movies, we piled all of our equipment into this small van and traveled across the country and performed various gigs,” Duck recalled with a sentimental glow in his eyes.
The musicians added that they had also noticed a group of dedicated fans attending every show and following them on their cross-country travels.
“We were flattered,” he continued. “It was like the image I had as a kid of a true rock band was all coming true. I will always remember that time of my life.”
Even though 9 and the Numbers is a Korean band and sings almost exclusively in Korean, the bandmates believe that music has no boundaries and that people from any nation and all walks of life can appreciate a good sound regardless of the language.
“Whether you are Korean or a foreigner, music is music,” said Song. “The world is such a diverse place but we can still find something in common through music.”
“Please listen to some of our songs at least once in your lifetime, and if you need help understanding our lyrics just contact us and we will try to help you in any way we can,” he added with a sincere smile.
9 and the Numbers will perform live at the Mapo Art Center on April 25 as well as at the upcoming Greenplugged summer rock festival on June 1.
By Julie Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)