Ahead of the Loose Union party this weekend we tracked down Adam Hickey from Used Cassettes and asked him a few questions about his band, how they started, and what’s on the horizon for the indie five-piece in the future. Used Cassettes have been working as part of Loose Union recently, and will be launching their new album this weekend at the event in Hongdae.

Chincha: Tell us a little about Used Cassettes.

Adam: Used Cassettes started back in 2009. When I first moved to Korea I knew I wanted to start a band immediately. I was involved heavily in music back in Canada as well but I didn’t know anyone here. A friend of mine sent me to Danny (Arens)’s place a couple of weeks after I got here. I didn’t know him at all, I just knocked on the door was like “hi, I’m Adam, I have a guitar.” We hit it off and actually wrote a song that night that we still play 3 years later. We met Pat (Walsh) and Matt (Spence) through some friends. Our buddy Pete Simms started the band with us too but he left Korea back in 2010. We had become friends with the boys in On Sparrow Hills through gigging and were big fans of them so were super stoked when Josh (Shell) told us he’d be be the 5th Cassette after Pete left.

Our name comes from the title of a song I wrote back in the early days of the band. It’s kind of about dealing with a quarter-life crisis a lot of people at our age find themselves going though. I think a lot of our tunes are variations on that theme. Used Cassettes also brings up images of mixed tapes. With all of us writing, singing, and playing multiple instruments a mixed tape seemed like an appropriate image. All that and the fact we just thought it sounded cool, haha.

C: You had a break from each other and then reformed. What’s the story behind this?

A: We usually end up taking a few months off in the summer and winter because we are all on different schedules outside of the band. We go home to see our families or go traveling or whatever. It’s usually good for us. During breaks we are all busy writing new material to bring to the band. You need that time to retreat back into your bedroom and get into the nuts and bolts of songwriting away from the noise of the jam room. Or at least I do. We usually come back feeling refreshed and ready to get to work on the new material.

C: How would you describe your music? Do you have any particular inspirations?

A: We’re a rock band, I suppose. Nowadays its getting harder and harder to classify types of music. So many creative people are mixing genres and sounds. “Rock band” or “indie-rock” or “pop-rock” can mean a million different things. We use lots of different instruments to create atmosphere around the tunes but they are usually centered around the guitar. Maybe you could call us a “guitar band”?

C: Do you feel that being an expat band makes it easier or harder to make a name for yourselves in the indie scene in Korea?

We try not to focus on the difference of being a foreign band or a Korean band. We are a band that happens to live in Seoul. It’s our home. Traditionally, it felt like there was a gap between expat artists and Korean artist but lately we are being more accepted by Korean artists as members of the community. A lot of the work we’ve been doing with our label Loose Union has been helping to break that wall down. We work with people we like and play for everyone without thought as to whether they’re expats or Koreans. We also speak Korean so that has helped us get involved with a lot of cool groups and shows that other foreigners might not have and an opportunity to do. We’ve hooked up with this awesome group of Koreans called VLUF, for example. Loose Union (us and Sparrows) have been the only foreigners invited to play at their events and thats been awesome for getting Korean people into us. We also have a tune (KTX) where Danny sings in Korean. The response has been great. The Korean scene is growing in a big way and feels like it’s only gonna get better. We’re just happy to be a part of this scene and contribute to the independent art movement happening in Seoul right now.

C: What exciting stuff are you up to at the moment in terms of recording/ gigging?

A: We are releasing our first EP called The Cost of Living, coming out on April 21st as part of the Loose Union Presents party at Club DGDB. We’re really high on that. We recorded it with B.A. Wheeler at Union Studios in Kondae. Brad is a legend! Working with him is so comfortable and he really understands the sound we are trying to get. Making the record didn’t feel like work at all – it was us having fun and being free in the studio. The box wine really helped us get the that loose vibe going, hahaha. Kris Lee also contributed amazing art work. We were so lucky to get to work with her.

On top of that we are super stoked to be a member of the new label Loose Union. We shot a great video with Ollie and the crew last fall as an experiment and it’s really snowballed into something special. We’ve all been involved in other Loose Union projects behind the scenes as well. We’ve been lucky to work with and play with other great Seoul bands like Wagwak, Juck Juck Grunzie, and (of course) our buddies in On Sparrow Hills. The are some great things coming from the Union in the very near future.

On top of that we’re contributing music to a feature length documentary film called “Lilly, Sachi, & I”. We met the filmmaker Jose Fernandes a couple of years ago while he was shooting a doc about his time in Japan and Korea. He’s back in Europe now editing the film. I think it’s supposed to be released in a festival Paris this year last we checked? He’s using some of our music from our recordings and we’re going to work on some more ambient tracks that he can use to score sections of the film as well.

C: What are your long-term future plans as a band?

Keep working hard. We are all committed to staying in Seoul for quiet some time. This is our home. We don’t really see an expiration date. We wanna keep making good records, playing for more people and be a part of helping foster the scene here in Seoul. We want to see Seoul be recognized internationally as the absolutely rad place that it is. There is a fuck ton more going on here than K-Pop. We want to show people this side of the culture here.

A part of that is touring. This time next year we’d like to be in a position to tour places outside Korea. Japan’s music scene has been rad for years and China’s music scene has just been exploding. I was blown away by the amount of incredible music and underground art happening in Beijing when I spent some time there. We’d really like to hit up our other Asian neighbors as well as eventually get on the road back home in Canada and America. We’ll be looking into that more in about a year’s time.

C: Who are you listening to right now?

A: On the local side of things I’m really digging Juck Juck Grunzie. Those girls (and boy) are killing it. It’s really cool to see Korean females playing such agressive music with such attitude in a country that is still very conservative. Women’s rights and issues are way lacking here. Those chicks are really giving the finger to the mainstream image of women in this country. They’re awesome. Internationally, I’m really into lastest Real Estate album. The whole band has been digging that record and finding some inspiration in it. Destroyer, Kurt Vile, and The War on Drugs albums last year were huge for me too. I think if you listen to those records you’ll find some elements that sit nicely beside what we’re trying to accomplish with our sound too.

C: Thanks Adam!

A: No, Thank you!

For more info about Used Cassettes or to stream their music then visit the website.

Images: Hea-won Kim