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 20th installment of a series of interviews with Korean rock, acoustic and alternative bands. ― Ed.
With their defiant and “stick it to the man” underground rock ’n’ roll vibe, the members of the Busan-based rock band Genius take their lackadaisical, yet party-hard personalities and translate them into headbanging music.
“I want to see men punch each other in the face and girls kiss (when listening to our music),” said bassist Steve C., during an interview with the bandmates, who came up to Seoul to perform a couple of weekend gigs in Hongdae.
A trio that has survived a number of name changes and member shifts, Kim Il-du and expats Lee Chung-mok and Steve are looking to continue to push the envelope with music in English that is racier than the local rock music norm.
In February, the band released its newest album “Beaches,” which features songs such as “S― City,” “2/3 Gay,” “Math Head,” “Everybody’s F―――” and “Lost D―.”
The rockers admit that their “dirty” music style may be the reason why Genius appears to attract a specific breed of eclectic fans, noticing that the majority of the people that like their music are the ones who are truly sick of mainstream pop music.
|Genius. (Wynsum Foreman)|
“The most insane looking people in the crowd are always the ones who come up and say we were good,” said Lee smiling. “So something has to be off.”
“I want young, pretty girls,” Steve added. “But no, it’s always some weirdo.”
Steve recalled one of his most memorable live performances, a night when the band was playing a small gig in Shinagawa, Japan. The bassist said that while the band was performing on the stage, he could feel an unsettling stare from a particular guy in the audience.
“It got really hot, so I took off my shirt and I threw it at him, for a joke, you know,” he explained.
“He grabbed it (the shirt), and then he smelled it, and he kept it,” Steve added as the bandmates gasped in disgust.
The Busan-based rock band is no stranger to Hongdae, coming up to Seoul to perform several times a year. During their years together, performing countless times in the nation’s two major cities, the members have come to notice definite distinctions between the music scenes.
Despite admitting that Seoul has better audiences for rock music, stating that in Busan people seem “less interested in the live music scene,” the rockers claim that the music that comes out of the port city is more genuine in its nonconformist approach.
“Seoul music is boring to me,” said guitarist and lead singer Kim. “Busan people, they play the music that they want to play; but Seoul people, they seem to play the music that other people want to hear.”
“You taught me that word on the train, what was it?” Kim asked Lee, as he was trying to describe the main differences between Busan and Seoul bands. “Oh right, pretentious.”
With the band name Genius, the trio may appear to be alluding to pretension, but the members said that they look at the virtually unattainable status of genius as a life goal.
One of the songs from Kim’s first band, Suspense, was titled “Inevitable Genius” ― a phrase that is even tattooed on his shoulder in Korean, along with his date of birth.
While most people tend to link the term “genius” to the impeccable intellects of Einstein or Shakespeare, Kim’s personal definition is a bit broader. The guitarist is ironically a big fan of the fictional “The Simpsons” character Ralph Wiggum ― the lovable but “slow upstairs” son of the Springfield police chief ― claiming he’s a genius at being an honest and good person.
“So in some sense ... (it’s) not that we are geniuses, but it’s a sense of like wanting to achieve that,” Steve explained. “The late motif of his (Kim’s) life is to become a genius.”
Genius will continue to perform at various venues throughout the country to promote its latest album.
“We are the best band I’ve seen in Korea,” said Steve.
“Especially when we have mirrors,” Lee quipped.
By Julie Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)