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The Radio Dept. to make Korean debut

Landing fresh from a performance at California’s Coachella music festival, Swedish indie pop band The Radio Dept. are to play their first ever Korean gig next week.

The band, whose music was featured in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” are excited to play for their fans here, singer Johan Duncanson told The Korea Herald by phone from a recording space in Stockholm, in the midst of rehearsals for their upcoming Asia tour.

The show at Hongdae’s V-Hall will feature songs from all three albums plus singles and b-sides. But don’t expect theatrics: This unassuming band is all about music. “We don’t put on a big show or anything, we’re kind of shy people so, we just play our songs.”

They also prefer not to let gigs drag on.

“It's kind of our ideal,” said Duncanson, “short albums and short shows.”

The trio have been around, in a variety of forms, since the mid-’90s, receiving much critical acclaim and making many end-of-year top 10 lists. Their debut album “Lesser Matters” ranked among NME magazine’s top ten albums of 2004 and their latest, “Clinging to a Scheme,” made the top 20 of the U.S. Billboard Heatseeker’s album charts last year.

But the band remain humble, and although being away from home has gotten easier, the performing stills seems as strange to them as when they started.

“It’s weird that we’ve been around for nine years and we haven’t gotten used to playing live. It’s such a weird thing to walk up on stage and sing to hundreds of people … it’s weird, but fun,” said Duncanson.

Gently spoken and endearing, Duncanson comes across as a peaceful soul. Before gigs he and bandmates Martin Larsson and Daniel Tjader like to take at least an hour of quiet time in their dressing room, away from the noise and bustle of the venue, to focus.

“I get very nervous,” he admitted.

The band have been noted for their measured brand of Swedish pop, akin to the likes of Peter Bjorn and John, and have been compared to The Pet Shop Boys. 
The Radio Dept. (Labrador Records)
The Radio Dept. (Labrador Records)

But Duncanson most aptly described The Radio Dept.’s sound, even in up-tempo tracks, as “dreamy and romantic.”

“Maybe the vocals have something to do with it because they’re almost whispered sometimes, the background can be quite distorted and loud, like a wall of sound, but the singing is much softer,” he added.

As the indie scene is more established in Europe, the band is looking forward to the relatively small but dedicated following here. “When it’s a new scene it’s always more exciting,” said Duncanson. “I really appreciate that sometimes. When we go to countries and the people we meet are kind of pioneers in their country.”

On past trips to Asia, they noticed audiences were less reserved than when they play in Sweden. In Taiwan, for instance, they were surprised to be greeted at the airport by fans, “like they were The Beatles or something,” said Duncanson.

Songs from “Clinging to a Scheme,” released last spring on Swedish label Labrador Records, will be in the show. Duncanson said people can expect a beat-based, mixed tempo sound, including a hip-hop influence, marking a change from their more mellow previous albums.

“I was really into a lot of anti-Thatcher pop from the ‘80s I guess when we made the album, and a lot of early ‘90s, late ‘80s hip-hop,” he explained.

“There are some songs that are hopefully good for partying and dancing and some of them are better for after-party material.”

Mostly, though, they hope the songs make people feel good.

The Radio Dept. refuse to hastily rush out records, as the four-year break between the last two albums shows. The band opt instead to work on putting together finely-tuned, high quality recordings. Now launched back into touring, the band are enjoying themselves but still yearn for time to work on what they started with: making music.

“I think its just putting out good records … just putting a record together. That’s my favorite thing. It’s like making a painting. It’s the raw creative process in itself which is very fascinating to me.”

The Radio Dept. may not relish the limelight, but their tender, wistful vocals contrasted with often cheerful melodies, promise a very special show for music fans in Korea.

Presented by SuperColorSuper, The Radio Dept. can be seen at V-Hall in Hongdae on April 19. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost 48,000 won in advance and 55,000 won at the door. For more information and tickets visit http://supercolorsuper.com or email scstickets@gmail.com.

By Hannah Stuart-Leach  (hannahsl@heraldcorp.com)
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