The Korea Herald


Expat rockers gear up for Zandari Festa

By Korea Herald

Published : Sept. 23, 2015 - 19:03

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Expat artists will be looking to win new fans at Seoul showcase festival Zandari Festa, which returns Oct. 2-4 with 259 acts.

Similar in format to South by Southwest in the U.S., the festival takes over a raft of venues across the Hongdae area, for a multi-stage music festival, giving established acts and up-and-coming bands the chance to win new fans.

Among those playing is Max Reynolds, who performed at Zandari twice while based in the U.S. before taking the plunge and moving to Seoul this year.

Reynolds was playing in a small-town punk band in Texas when he shared a stage with Korean rockers Galaxy Express in 2012 and 2013 at a venue he helped run. After the second show, the manager of Galaxy Express invited him to play at Zandari Festa.

“I jumped at the opportunity for adventure,” said Reynolds. “It was quite an experience to travel 7,000 miles on my blind faith in Rock ’n’ Roll.”

As he is still looking to set up a permanent band here he will be performing with a temporary group of musicians, but he is impressed by the camaraderie of the Seoul scene.

“Zandari Festa has really lived up to its name for me. I’ve made some awesome friends and great professional contacts,” he said.

“The crowds are great at the festival, everyone is there to hear great music and dance all night.

“As for comparing the Hongdae scene to anything in the U.S., I was most impressed by how serious all the bands and artists take their work and how well they work with others. I feel a real sense of family in Hongdae.”

A reverse experience will be that of The Primary. The band has been in Korea since 2011, but this will be their first Zandari Festa.

Guitarist Tony Boyd said that over the years smaller venues outside of Seoul had become more open to original material, while in Seoul a lot more women are involved in the music scene, though its current penchant for synthesized sounds doesn’t always suit their more folk-inflexed rock sound.

“I think The Primary is more suited to the local bar/cafe scene instead of these clubs where we have sometimes found ourselves sandwiched between an electro-pop act and the local punk-rocker,” said guitarist and vocalist Jon Lennon. “However, we embrace these challenges and usually find ourselves in the midst of a decent reaction. Our music has a real mix of influences which at times can pull even the toughest crowd along with us whether they like it or not!”

The band has recorded a new album and has been performing it around the country in recent weeks.

“Jon and I wrote and arranged the songs that became ‘Arctic Roar’ while we were really fascinated by the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica and all things from the heroic age of Antarctic exploration,” said Boyd. “The music and lyrics are definitely heavily influenced by those events.”

And the band relishes giving it a Seoul airing.

“‘Arctic Roar’ has taken the best part of a year to come together. So we are extremely excited about taking our show on the road.”

Both said they thought it was positive that Korea had a music festival like Zandari that provided smaller bands with an outlet. As no one from the band has been to the festival before, the group is just looking forward to the experience.

“I don’t have any expectations, I’m just really happy to be involved and hope that we can play a great show to a good crowd,” said Boyd.

Returning to the festival will be longtime Seoul band …Whatever That Means. The band’s Jeff Moses said a lot had changed since he arrived in 2007, when punk ruled the roost. Since then trends in genre have come and gone in waves, and with them many of the old venues.

“Skunk (Hell) is a bar. Minor league is a kimchi jjigae restaurant, and Spot is a Noraebang,” he said.

But he added that this kept things interesting.

“Sometimes you get tons of people consistently coming out to shows, and other times, it’s a struggle to get 20 people into a venue,” he said.

“It’s a pretty dynamic scene. Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, it can be a bit frustrating at times, but it’s for sure never boring.”

The band is currently preparing to record three songs for a split 7-inch with Seattle-based punk band Burn Burn Burn, who they met while on tour in the U.S.

“We’re really excited about the new songs and looking forward to introducing Burn Burn Burn’s music to the scene here in Korea and getting some more exposure for ourselves through them in the U.S.,” said Moses.

The band played at Zandari Festa last year, and Moses described the experience as awesome.

“We played for a lot of people who had never heard us before and we got to connect with some great musicians who usually run in different circles,” he said.

“Zandari is definitely having a positive impact on the Korean music scene. It’s nice to see an effort put into promoting bands and not pop music.

“It’s a great chance to share the stage with all levels of musicians, from the long-running, well-established bands to the newest ones coming out on the scene, and the fest has done a great job working to bring in bands from other countries.”

You can catch …Whatever That Means at the Steelface Rooftop on Oct. 3, The Primary at Gopchang Jeongol on Oct. 3 and Max Reynolds at Club Bbang on Oct. 4.

For more information about the festival and a complete lineup, visit

By Paul Kerry (