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‘iamnot’ what you expect

From punk rock and blues to even EDM, not-quite-rookie band never ceases to evolve

The band iamnot is by no means a household name. Its entry to the Korean music scene in 2015 was more like a plop than a splash.

Now iamnot is preparing for the gamble of a lifetime with its October concert in front of a crowd of 2,000 -- part of CJ Culture Foundation and singer Lee Seung-hwan’s joint project to support up-and-coming indie musicians -- nearly seven times the audience it usually performs to of about 300.

Pull it off, and iamnot may be on the path to becoming one of more successful rock bands in Korea. Fail, and it’s not only embarrassment, but perhaps more years of obscurity.

iamnot (Gravity Music)
iamnot (Gravity Music)

“We are very thankful that a concert for us is being held, but we do know what portion of the music world we are entitled to. There is still a lot of fear in us,” said Lim Heon-il, the main vocalist and guitarist for the three-man band.

Consisting of Lim, bassist Yang Si-on and drummer Kim Jun-ho, iamnot debuted in 2015 with the single “The Brand New Blues.” But it was not the first time the trio had been introduced to the public, having released an album as Bremen in 2006.

“We didn’t really know what to expect back then, we didn’t really have a grip on music,” said Yang, about the band that was broken up shortly after their debut. “Now we know what to expect from each other, drawing from our past 10 years of experience.”

Reunited after nearly a decade, the band has formed its own unique sound, a mixture of garage-rock-like guitar riffs and bluesy tones. Lim’s vocals sound at times laid-back, but retain that snarly tone that keeps listeners on edge.

While many three-man bands opt for a minimal sound, iamnot falls into the temptation to include as wide a variety of sounds as they can.

“There are songs that sound great when played live, and not so much when heard on a headset. We make music that sounds great on a stereo first, and then find ways to make that sound on a live stage,” said Lim.

In May, the band released its first full-length studio album “Hope,” which may have baffled fans looking for more of the gritty, hard-nosed -- but melodic -- sounds of “Psycho” or “Break the Wall.”

Lead track “Fly” -- featuring veteran singer Lee Seung-yul -- is a ballad track with a hint of modern rock, and track No. 3 “RBTY” starts country-like and takes off in an electronic dance music style.

“EDM has become one of our favorite genres; it’s all Jun-ho ever listens to these days. We thought it was worth a try,” said Yang.

“Predictable” is the last thing the band wants to hear.

“I don’t want people to say ‘Oh, these guys are doing this kind of music,’ and then we end up doing exactly that,” said Lim. “I want to give them a fun kind of shock. I want them to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know they could do that.’”

Of course, the band also gives fans what they expect. The bluesy track of “iamnot Blues,” according to Kim, incorporates the band’s identity and musical roots.

The album as a whole has an overriding message of hope, with Lim contributing to the theme.

“We are in our mid-30s, and are ailed by problems not so different from other youngsters. It’s not because we have no money, it’s because we have no hope,” he said. “Instead of being frustrated, we wanted to convey a message of hope.”

Each member of iamnot has a crucial role in the band.

Kim complements Lim’s crunchy low-keyed vocals with his clean high-key voice along with crisp drum beats that add to the bouncy feel of the music. Yang is the mastermind behind the editing process, arranging the music post-composition while also providing the synthesizers that enrich the sound.

They say that their time apart has helped them grow as a team.

“Si-won has had a lot of experience as a producer, and Heon-il built on his career as a vocalist and I think we became a more attractive team than (the Bremen),” said Kim.

What direction are they headed? Iamnot says they do not yet know.

“It’s not like we want to do just rock, just EDM, or any other specific genre. Our music is going to be what we like and what the public likes,” Yang said, indicating that their evolution will continue.

Whatever the band’s next sound may be, it will be anything but predictable.

The band’s upcoming concert will be held Oct. 21 at Yes24 Live Hall in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, with Lee Seung-hwan and Lee Juc making guest appearances.

It will release a new single on Friday.

By Yoon Min-sik