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[Band Uprising] After three-year hiatus, Phonebooth returns with ‘Wonder’

Rock group back on stage after completing military service

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Published : 2014-06-15 20:14
Updated : 2014-06-15 20:15

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 16th installment of a series of interviews with Korean rock, acoustic and alternative bands. ― Ed.


After completing their stint in the military as part of the country’s mandatory service, the five friends of punk-rock band Phonebooth have been eager to resurrect their music and return to the stage.

Having to put their musical career on a temporary standstill over the past few years, the ambitious members of Phonebooth were determined to keep the band alive and not lose hope of making a return. Taking advantage of the little spare time they had, the musicians composed more than 80 songs during their overlapping military service periods. Soon after all five bandmates had completed their service, they decided to select their 12 favorite tracks from that stockpile of songs and released their third studio album “Wonder” in April.

“Being away for such a long time and serving in the military, we were just very eager to return to life as normal,” said guitarist Kim Tae-woo during an interview with the band outside a convenience store in Hongdae.
Phonebooth. (Courtesy of Phonebooth)

After debuting in 2007 with their first EP “The Band Who Sing Time Truly,” Phonebooth made frequent appearances in small Hongdae clubs and continued to release new albums and EPs at a steady pace. And unlike the band’s past albums, which relied heavily on fast-tempo tracks with punk and ska influences, “Wonder” touches upon a variety of genres including rock, tango and blues. However, it’s not just the sound of the band that the members felt needed a change; the rockers also opted to test out their musical depth by emphasizing more narratives in their lyrics.

“After we were finished with the military, we all just have this overwhelming sense of freedom and we definitely noticed a change in our music,” Kim continued. “I feel like this time around we have matured and our songs really focused more on life and the experiences that we go through as people.”

The new album features two lead singles: “Jacklyn” and “The Wind Rises.” The two tracks have distinctly different styles but are both said to represent the band’s new identity. “Jacklyn” is an upbeat rock song about pursuing the love of a woman, while the “The Wind Rises” is a slower, psychedelic rock track expressing emotional powerlessness with the chorus line, “Just swaying like flowers in the wind.”

“We have all definitely gone through a lot of personal changes over the past few years ― changes for the better I think,” said bassist Park Han. “Back when we first started out, we were just a group of young punk rockers singing about whatever, but now I think we have become more refined.”

One of the bandmates’ goals with the latest album was to publicly rebel against the trend of blending rock music with electronic influences.

“So many bands nowadays have been using a lot of electronic-based sounds with their music and sometimes it works, but a lot of times it just doesn’t,” said lead vocalist Laser. “We tried it out once and quickly realized this is just not for us. We are simply believers that a guitar-based sound is rock and roll in its most original form and that this is the way it should be; so we are not pushing ourselves to conform to what’s just trendy now.”

As the bandmates ― four of whom have been chums since their early high school years ― sat in a circle looking around at one another, they all appeared to have one overriding facial expression: a look of sheer relief to be back together once again and to be “back home to music.”

“Our aspiration is and always has been to make music,” said Han. “There is no better feeling for us than to be sharing our songs and expressing ourselves in front of a crowd of people.”

“I know that K-pop music is starting to become more and more popular overseas lately, and now that we are back, we are hoping to do our part in spreading the sounds of K-rock to international audiences,” Laser added. “Even if they don’t listen to our band, I hope more people will be exposed to the band scene here in Korea and learn about what other music this country has to offer.”

Phonebooth will be performing live at the upcoming “Rockcoustic” show on June 27 at Evan’s Lounge in Mapo-gu, where they will play an acoustic version of “Jacklyn” for the first time.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)

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