As the Korean music market begins 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 ninth installment in a series of interviews with Korean rock, acoustic and alternative bands. ― Ed.
When multicultural eclectic concepts meet unexpected sounds and abstract lyrics, the end result becomes the psychedelic post-modern rock band Magna Fall.
Expats David Holden of Ireland and Kevin Heintz of the U.S. initially came to Korea to enter into the most popular profession for Westerners living in the country ― English teachers. However, not wanting the change of address to stymie their passions for music, the two ― after a chance meeting in a bar one night ― decided to come together and form a band.
In 2010, the two musicians first started out as the Bastards of Bupyeong, a rock music cover trio that included former member Neil Smith. After they were confident that they were able to venture out with their own original material, they decided to reinvent their identity from the bastards and christened themselves as Magna Fall. Taking both classic and modern influences from the likes of Led Zeppelin and Radiohead, the rockers molded themselves into what they refer to as “space rock.”
“We wanted something (a band name) that sounded spacey and big,” said Holden, during an interview with The Korea Herald of the bandmates in their practice studio in Mapo, northwestern Seoul.
“And it works because it kind of defines our sounds, which is spacey and abstract,” Heintz added.
|Magna Fall (Chili Music Korea)|
Joined later by two new local musicians Do Joong-mo and Lee Yeon-su in July 2013, Magna Fall is now a four-piece rock band.
Despite the diverse backgrounds of the members and the occasional struggles to overcome the language barriers, the bandmates do not define themselves as differing from other local bands simply because of their varying nationalities. In fact, guitarist Do said he feels no different playing with these guys than he did in the Korean bands that he had been with previously.
“The only thing that makes us stand out is our music, because we have a really different sound,” Do stated.
And no matter the cultural differences, there is certainly no shortage of laughter and entertainment when the bandmates are together. The camaraderie they share through humorous jesting is undeniable.
Magna Fall’s newest members are actually longtime high school buddies who first met in church. Do and Lee ― who were both musicians and attending music school ― would oftentimes meet up and explore their passions for rock music, even daring to practice together while in church.
“Funny story, I actually started (playing guitar) in church,” Do says. “I started to play rock music and I started getting further and further from church, I don’t know why.”
“It’s the devil’s music,” Holden responded as the rest of the bandmates followed in laughter.
“We got together and we were jamming out with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and then the pastor came and said, ‘What is that music called?’” Do said. “So I said, ‘It’s Black Sabbath,’ and he said, ‘The Sabbath is good. It shouldn’t be black.’”
Since its debut, Magna Fall has had three EP releases including “Japan” in 2012, “No Mirror” in 2013, and its latest five-track EP “Space Kitchen,” which was released last month.
One aspect that distinguishes the band’s music from other local bands is undoubtedly the band’s distinctive style of lyrics.
Heintz, who is the band’s lyricist, says that he’s not necessarily looking to tell a story. Rather, his lyrics tend to start out as an abstract idea and snowballs into a finished piece.
“Feathers of Cats” off the band’s latest EP starts off with the lyrics, “Thorn of the rose will break the skin; let the juice run out of every wound before the stink sets in. Too many laser-guided fools flying at our pod a mile high; I cannot save you, I cannot save myself.”
“The lyrics at times may sound like they’re not cohesive, but that’s just because it’s not a narrative,” he explained.
Heintz added that he still struggles with the decision of whether or not to write more conceptually accessible lyrics ― even hoping to one day being able to write and sing in Korean ― so that Korean audiences can have a grasp of their music. However, not all the members are in agreement that singing in simpler English would make any huge impact with the locals.
“I don’t really think the language makes that much of a difference,” said bassist Lee. “I think when it comes to a lot of music, most people get really into the sound.”
In attempt to make their presence better known in Korea, Magna Fall competed in the popular KBS 2 battle-of-the-bands TV program “Top Band” in 2012. The bandmates explained that even while competing in the show, people still saw them as an outsider band, which is a label the band is trying desperately to shake.
“I think most people think of us as a foreign band. ... We would really like to change that,” said Holden. “We consider ourselves as a local band.”
Heintz and Holden, who have now been living in Korea for six years and four years, respectively, stated that because they are non-Koreans, people can falsely assume that their endeavors with Magna Fall in Korea are only on a temporary basis, as if it were something they do on the side for extra cash; but this is not the case, according the members.
“We are certainly not in this for the money,” said Holden. “I mean, sooner or later we are going to have to change our name to Magna Broke.”
Although the bandmates would love to be able to make a living solely through music, they agree that rock and roll doesn’t require anything fancy.
“He (Do) got one of his guitars out of the dumpster,” Heintz shared.
“Yeah, I even used it in the recording studio. Why not? Sound still comes out,” Do responded.
The musicians continue to look at the big picture and have vowed do whatever they can to make a name for themselves in the local rock scene.
“We recently signed a four-year contract with Chili Music Korea,” said Heintz. “So we are here to stay.”
Magna Fall will perform live at the upcoming Green Plugged Seoul rock festival on May 31.
By Julie Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)