[Band Uprising] Saturday night fever stayin’ alive

By Korea Herald

Sultan of the Disco brings back sounds of ’70s

  • Published : Aug 3, 2014 - 20:23
  • Updated : Aug 3, 2014 - 20:24
As the Korean music market receives more international recognition, the local band scene is looking to rise up and represent the next generation of Korean music. This is the 23rd and final installment of a series of interviews with Korean rock, acoustic and alternative bands. ― Ed.

Get down on it and get your back off the wall, because indie band Sultan of the Disco is looking to reintroduce the sounds and moves of the ’70s with gusto.

With their flashy Middle Eastern aristocrat-inspired costumes, funky dance moves and local twist on disco groove, the five members of Sultan of the Disco certainly have their sights set high.

“Just like our name says, we want to be even higher than kings, we want to be the sultans of disco,” said band leader Nahzam Sue during an interview at a caf in Hongdae.

“We always wanted to pursue music that was funky and disco-inspired. In the beginning we just had the concept of the band ― we really weren’t any good at it,” Nahzam Sue added. 
Sultan of the Disco (BGBG Record)

“So we knew that we had to do our research. We studied a lot about disco and other styles of music from the ’70s and ’80s and we try to tailor our songs so that it meshes with Korean culture.”

Veraciously taking the concept of “sultans” to heart, the bandmates have not only adapted a colorful approach to their music, but to their style as well. Even if attending a large-scale music festival with dozens of acts, Sultan of the Disco could be spotted in a matter of seconds. Because they don’t care to blend in visually with other bands, the members are almost always decked out in sultan-like costumes, some of which the members said they actually ordered from Saudi Arabia.

“We have a general consensus that our costuming concept is best if it’s sort of flashy and out there,” said the band leader. “However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we are committed to this concept permanently.”

Aside from the band’s non-mainstream disco style and royal attire, Nahzam Sue says that another unique aspect of Sultan of the Disco is that it has its own dancer.

“Unlike other rock bands out there, we have a band member (JJ Hassan) whose sole purpose is to come up with choreography for our songs and dance at our live shows,” he added.

After debuting in 2008 with EP “Magic Prince,” Sultan of the Disco has been slowly elevating its reputation as a noteworthy Korean band with five releases, including its first full studio album “The Golden Age” last year. The 12-track album is a hodgepodge mix of classic disco beats and laidback soul tracks unlike anything being released in the Hongdae rock scene.

“I think a lot of Koreans tend to have the wrong impression of what disco music is, thinking that it always has to be like ‘pop pop’ flashy,” says JJ Hassan. “In our first full album, we included a number of slow tempo songs and a lot of people have asked us, what is disco about these songs? So I think one of the things we are doing is giving people a better idea of just how diverse disco music can be.”

The band was one of only three local acts that were invited to perform at the annual five-day Glastonbury Festival in England this summer and stated that it was one of the most “memorable and significant moments in their careers.”

Although it has been nearly six months since the release of the group’s latest single “Tang Tang Ball,” the members say that they hope to unveil new singles later this year and have their sights set on releasing the band’s second full studio album sometime next year.

Sultan of the Disco will perform live at the 2014 The K Festival Incheon, which will be held at the Songdo Penta Park Oct. 3-4.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)