Apollo 18 have come a long way since forming just outside of Seoul in summer 2008. In three short years guitarist/vocalist Hyunseok Choi, bassist/vocalist Daeinn Kim, and drummer Sangyun Lee have built up their reputation as a solid and alternative rock group, making music from a genre that isn’t widely listened to in Korea. They are regulars at huge events in their own country and have played numerous times at Jisan Valley Rock Festival and Pentaport. They have also performed at Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival, and made it over to tour the States in Spring 2011 (including a stopover appearance at the massive South by Southwest (SXSW) Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas).

They released a brand new EP last month, so we thought we’d get involved and find out more about Apollo 18.

Chincha: How would you personally describe your music?

Apollo 18: Our music is a mix of hard rock, post-rock, and psychedelic rock. There are three members in Apollo 18 and we all have different musical tastes. Apollo 18 is a mix of all the kinds of music we like.

Your music is unusual for South Korea, even if we take into account the burgeoning indie scene here – your music is far more hardcore than most of the bands we know of. Do you find your individuality helps get you noticed or do you find it makes things more difficult for you as a band?

I think it’s helped us get more attention. As you said, our music is a little different from other Korean indie rock bands. There are some heavy elements in our music, but we’re not a hardcore or metal band. I think the shouted vocals in our songs add a stronger dynamic to our sound and increase the energy in our music. I don’t think our music has made anything more difficult for us as a band. We’ve won music awards in Korea and have had the chance to play at some really great events in Korea and abroad. We know our music isn’t for everyone, but so far we’ve been lucky enough to find some people who really enjoy the music we play.

Who are your influences?

This is always a hard question for us to answer. I think we’re influenced in some way by everything we see and do. Good music, films, nature, friends, alcohol, and other things influence us in many ways.

We read that you went to SXSW? How was that? Did anything funny happen while you were on your trip?

SXSW was really fucking good! Texas is so huge. It’s a really peaceful place, and everyone we met there was so kind to us.

SXSW was really busy for us. We played six times in five days during the festival, so we didn’t have a lot of free time. We really enjoyed Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza in Austin. They had a small outdoor stage behind their shop that we played on during SXSW. The staff were all really cool and the pizza was delicious! During another outdoor SXSW performance we did the police came because of noise complaints. We had just finished playing when they walked up to the property, so it was no problem for us. It still felt kind of rock ‘n’ roll to us though!

Along with SXSW, we did other gigs in the United States too. In total we played 16 concerts in 13 days while we were in America. It was tiring, but we had a lot of fun. We ate a lot of Mexican food when we first arrived and our tour manager had really bad gas. I thought I was going to die sitting in the backseat of our van with him! In Houston, we drove around trying to find the cheapest hotel possible. The one we stayed at had a sign at the reception that said people had three minutes after paying to inspect their room and decide if they wanted a refund or not. After three minutes you couldn’t get your money back. It took us almost three minutes to get upstairs and find the room, so a refund wasn’t an option. The room was so dirty and reminded us of the set of a porno movie. After we played in Tulsa, Oklahoma the bartender told us we were great and then pulled down her shirt and flashed us. We were really shocked when that happened and didn’t know what to do.

That’s hilarious! Are you planning to tour anywhere else?

Right now we’re starting to make tour plans for 2012. Nothing is confirmed yet, but we’d like to tour Japan sometime in the spring. We played at the Fuji Rock Festival this past summer. It was so beautiful there and there was so much good music. It would be great to have the chance to do some other Japanese summer festivals too. We would really like to try and play shows in Europe as well.

This year we played in the United States, Japan, and Taiwan. We’re hoping we can visit even more countries next year!

Let’s talk about your home country. Is there a ‘scene’ in Korea for the type of music you guys play?

As most people know, the Korean rock music scene is small. It’s slowly growing and more local bands are getting more exposure here and in other countries. This is really good to see. There are a lot of talented bands in Korea and we’re happy that the indie music scene is slowly getting stronger.

We heard you got the Rookie of the Year award in 2010. Congratulations! How did you feel about that?

It was cool to be recognized at the Korean Music Awards. I think it made our parents really happy! Hyunseok’s (Apollo 18 guitarist) mom has our Rookie of the Year trophy from the Korean Music Awards and our award from the 2009 Hello Rookie finals. She keeps them in her living room.

Awards aren’t so important to us. It’s more important for us to share our music with many people and to continue to grow as brothers and a band.

So what’s next for you guys?

We are going to start writing music for a new full-length album in January. We’d like to have it out in early summer. We’re making plans for some more international touring. We want to try and play our music in as many places as possible. 2011 has been a good year for Apollo 18. We want to try and build upon that next year.

How can our readers listen to your music, old and new?

We have songs on and our music videos are on YouTube. Our Red, Blue, and Violet albums are on iTunes and our new Black EP should be up there soon.

(Corpse Flower from Apollo 18′s Black EP, performed live at Planet Live Season 4)

And finally, when is your next gig in Korea so we can come watch you play?

We’re playing on December 23rd at the new Evans Lounge club in Hongdae with SmackSoft, 99 Anger, Juck Juck Grunzie, Jambinai. Tickets are 20,000 won and the doors open at 8pm.

Thank you! We’ll see you at the gig!

Images courtesy of Apollo 18. Featured image by Jo Andre.

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