Just ahead of critically-acclaimed South Korean rockers Galaxy Express’ largest international tour, we caught them on their home turf to chat about rock star dreams, their lack of technological knowledge, and playing at weird festivals in Korea.
Chincha: How did you guys meet?
Jonghyun Park(Guitar/Vocals): Heekwon Kim (Drums) and I went to the same middle school. Juhyun Lee (Bass/Vocals) and I met at the club called Skunk Hell years ago. He was in a band and so was I. One day, he called me up saying why don’t we start a band together. I called Heekwon to join us and that is how we started Galaxy Express.
Chincha: What did your parents say when you said you wanted to be a rock star?
JHP: They said they would kick me out of the family. They must have been furious, since I snuck money from my tuition fee to buy a guitar. They are happy for me now though.
HK: They were delighted when I told them. They wanted me to have something to do with my life I guess. (Laughs)
JHL: My former band, Ghetto Bombs was a classic punk band. I had a mohawk and wore outrageous outfits. My appearance has mellowed down since I started Galaxy Express, so my parents were pleased.
Chincha: This is your 3rd US tour. The first one was for Korean residents, the second one was a tour around small clubs and diners which reminded me of the film Hedwig. Apart from SXSW, where will this tour take you?
JHP: There’s no drastic change. We will tour around 14 states with a campervan. We are also invited to a film festival in California and The VOV festival. SXSW said they will give us a better stage and slot this year. It’s not a significant step, but we are getting there.
Chincha: Galaxy Express is well known for radical stage performance. Were there any memorable episodes during previous tours?
HK: Jong Hyun usually jumps up on the bar and plays there, or sometimes on the rocks when we have outdoor gigs.
JHP: I remember one time, we were playing outside with no audience. I had a wireless speaker so I started walking around to find people. I ended up on the bridge where cars drive. (Laughs)
JHL: In Hong Kong, Jong Hyun went outside the club and played on the roof of a random taxi.
Chincha: How’s touring in the states? Do you miss anything from Korea? Are there ever any difficulties?
JHP: People are so welcoming there. When we had gigs at local bars, they usually gave us some gas money; more than they gave to any other bands, saying we did a brilliant job. Although I do miss Soju sometimes. (Laughs)
JHL: We are always grateful that everyone is so nice to us. I can’t think of anything hard during tours. I’ll miss my girlfriend and family.
HK: Well…. kimchi…?
Chincha: Do international crowds have different reactions from Korean crowds?
JHL: Only one difference, I think. Sometimes in Korea, we have to perform at the weird festivals, such as Pepper Festival in the countryside where no one is a fan of rock music. They just look at us like we are playing something ridiculous. But in the states, even if crowds are not fans of rock music, they listen to us with an open mind. People’s mindsets; that’s the difference.
Chincha: You released your 3rd album recently after 2 phenomenal previous records. Your new songs sound quite different from the first two albums; perhaps more experienced. An influence of touring abroad?
JHP: We got to have a lot of time listening to our music and thinking about it in the States over last two tours. We were in a totally different space, listening to lots of local bands. We thought we could try something new, something different.
JHL: We always like to record music we want to play at that moment. Our latest album is a result of us touring around the states. It’s music we wanted to write after the tours.
Chincha: Your sound is quite nostalgic, real 90′s rock n’ roll music. You don’t sound like anything trendy or digitally-dependent. This is maybe your appeal. What sort of music do you want to write in the future?
All: We can’t do high-tech work. None of us can use computers. (Laughs)
JHL: If we had a good chance to integrate computerized sound with our music, we’d be up for it. It could lead us to having an entirely new sound – which would be cool.
Chincha: Your characteristic energetic sound is charismatic enough to captivate the international crowds. As a Korean, I would like non-Koreans to know what you guys sing about. How would you describe your lyrics?
JHP: It is rock n’ roll itself. How can I say this; our music is supposed to give people a sense of freedom.
JHL: Our lyrics are us crying out to get out of this place. Saying that this place sucks and we just need to get out. We say that we want to escape from all those frustrating parts in society.
Chincha: Galaxy Express is one of the most famous bands in Korea now. Where do you think you’ll be in 5 or 10 years time? What are the bands ambitions?
JHP: We live a life where we can’t be sure about tomorrow. Now that we have a reputation and a lot of gigs, we don’t have to work part time anymore, we can just concentrate on our music. I want this life to last forever, no big fancy dream. Of course it would be awesome to have a yacht as other rock stars do. (Laughs)
Chincha: Are you planning on an international tour outside of the USA?
JHP: Yes, we will release our 3rd album in Japan soon, so we’ll tour there. Also, we just confirmed our first tour in the UK this year. We’ll be touring around 5 cities there. No details announced yet though.
Chincha: Any last words you want to say about your US tour?
HK: I’m very excited to experience new things and meet new people.
JHP: We’ll give everything we have for every gig. I’m also stoked to meet new people and listen to new music. Now that we have a new album, I wonder if people will like our new songs.
Galaxy Express are touring the US from March 7th – April 7th. They will no longer be playing at the Viper Room on April 6th in Los Angeles; this gig has been changed to Dim Mak Studios. An additional date is March 13 Austin, TX @ (1 am) Easy Tiger (SPIN House Official Showcase). Discover more about the band on their website and listen to them on Bandcamp.
Interview conducted and translated by Saemi Lee.