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 18th installment of a series of interviews with Korean rock, acoustic and alternative bands. ― Ed.
After nearly two decades in the local punk rock music scene, the five members of Crying Nut show no signs of growing old ― or maturing for that matter.
The meeting place of Korea’s best-selling indie rock group is reminiscent of a teenager’s bedroom: a backstreet basement recording studio plastered with band posters and promotional stickers.
“Hello, I’m Crying Nut’s bass player, you can call me Captain Rock,” said Han Gyeong-lok with a big smile, during a recent interview with the bandmates in their studio in Mapo-gu, Seoul.
As Captain Rock serenaded the room on his acoustic guitar while he waited for some of the band members to arrive, he talked about the role the band has played in Korea’s still low-key punk rock culture.
|Crying Nut. (Drug Records)|
“We first started playing shows in the Hongdae club scene back in 1995; at that time, we were one of the first bands to introduce punk rock to Korea,” he said. “We weren’t just doing Western-style punk music, rather we added our own local flavor to the music and it became what some people refer to as ‘Joseon punk.’”
After the bandmates were confident enough that their Korean twist on punk rock had the power to sustain itself, Crying Nut released its debut studio album “Maldalija” in 1998, selling more than 100,000 copies.
Now 16 years later, the debut album’s eponymous lead single ―- with its chaotic drumming and its raucus shouting ― is still arguably the best-known punk track in Korea.
“’Maldalija’ just symbolizes everything that this band is all about, this is style of Crying Nut,” said vocalist Park Yoon-sick.
So what is the band’s secret to becoming the best-selling indie band in Korean history?
“We drink a lot of booze, we meet a lot of beautiful women, and from all this we can make great music,” said Captain Rock.
Despite some speculation that the “nut” in the band name might refer to craziness, the name actually originates from a sad, yet funny story about mini-walnut cakes.
While Captain Rock and his friend were waiting at a bus stop near the grade school they were attending, his friend spotted a man selling walnut cakes from a food cart across the street. Suddenly hit with a serious sweet tooth craving, his friend decided to walk over and buy a bag of treats.
“But when he got back to the bus stop, it suddenly dawned on him that he had bought the cakes with his bus fare money,” Captain Rock explained. “Realizing this, he began to cry and we started walking home ... it was just one of those funny moments when you’re a kid that you always remember.”
Well known for their rambunctious live concerts, the bandmates admit that their music is all about tossing inhibitions to the wind and learning to free one’s mind, understanding that not everything in life has to be too serious ― even music.
“I want people to come to our concerts and think of it as one giant party,” said guitarist Lee Sang-myun.
“I hope when people come see us, they literally don’t think anything at all; after all we are not that kind of a serious act,” added keyboard player Kim In-soo.
As one of the country’s most successful rock bands, Crying Nut has toured all over the globe, performing across Asia, the U.S. and in Europe. However, despite having done shows in some of the world’s most notable music events such as the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, the bandmates claimed that their most memorable overseas show was playing at the Trastock Festival in Sweden back in 2005.
“It was just this huge festival with thousands and thousands of people ― like Sweden’s version of Woodstock ― and when we looked around we noticed that we were the only Asians, anywhere,” said drummer Lee Sang-huk.
As the venue had multiple stages with simultaneous acts, the bandmates were almost certain that they were going to draw only a small subset of concert goers during their allotted performance schedule. However, their initial presumptions turned out to be dead wrong.
“As we started playing, we noticed that more and more people started heading over to our stage; it was just an incredible feeling,” Lee continued. “There was even this young skinhead kid, with a big swastika tattooed on his arm who had been cursing racial slurs at us before the show, but once we started our set, he got so into the music he actually started crowd surfing ... rock music knows no boundaries.”
Crying Nut will be performing its next live concert at the upcoming “R.P. Fest” rock concert on July 6 at the Mapo Arts Center in Seoul.
By Julie Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)