Seoul rock stalwarts …Whatever That Means have been out of town for awhile but are now back in Korea to cause some mayhem on the underground punk and hardcore scene. Ollie Walker (Aweh, Loose Union) caught up with Jeff, guitarist and vocalist, to chat about their comeback and what’s on the horizon for the awesome foursome.
Jeff, Trash, Oh-Baeng and Honggu
Chincha: I guess the best place to start is where we left off. When you played your last Seoul gig before the US tour how were you feeling about the band and the upcoming hiatus?
Jeff: We were really torn because we were looking forward to that that last show at Spot. We figured it’d to be pretty big and get really wild, but we also knew it was the last time we’d be there for a while, and Spot had always been WTM’s home. It was a great night, but after we finished and everyone cleared out, Trash and I just kinda sat in the back of the club having a beer and letting it sink in that we wouldn’t be back for a while. It kinda sucked, but we were really looking forward to touring in the US. Then again, we knew that would only be for a few weeks, and then we’d really be done playing together for a while.
Chincha: Hard-hitting, I can imagine. You guys have played far more of a role in the Korean punk scene then just being a band. I’m suprised you actually made it to the States. I didnt think Honggu was even going to make it through customs.
Jeff: Yeah. Honggu is the definition of “looking suspicious” so we were really careful when we flew to the US. Anything band related was either in my bag or Trash’s because we are allowed to work over there. Honggu and Oh-Baeng only had clothes in their bags, and we had practiced their speeches for Immigration about visiting friends and traveling up the coast for vacation.
We played 16 shows in 19 days. We played LA, Vegas, Seattle, and every town between where we could find a show. It was a great time.
Chincha: Did Honggu and Oh-Baeng get themselves into any trouble whilst on tour?
Jeff: Nobody got caught doing anything that could have gotten them in trouble…And I should probably just leave it at that.
As for highlights, there were so many. The two biggest had to be our shows in Berkeley, CA and Tacoma, WA though. In Berkeley, we got to play at the legendary 924 Gilman Street. That’s the same punk club where Operation Ivy, Rancid, and Green Day got their starts. Plus, Corey Ayd, the guitarist from Banner Pilot, one of our favorite bands, was there with his side project The Manix, and they opened for us. That was incredible. It was the only time during the tour that I was l really nervous on stage, but it was a great night. Actually, our whole set from that show is on YouTube if anyone is interested in checking it out.
Chincha: Thats pretty damn awesome! So, after the tour you went on hiatus?
Jeff: Yeah. After the last show on tour, Honggu and Oh-Baeng went back to Korea, and Trash and I head to Pennsylvania for the year. I was in graduate school working on my Masters in Education and she was taking English language classes at the local community college.
We started making an album and are still planning to finish everything up and release it soon. Hopefully the cover EP ‘Honggu Goes to Prison’ will be done in the next month or so. The EP with our original songs might be delayed for a little while longer. Since we’ve been back, we’ve been working on a bunch of new material so we’re considering waiting until we have a couple more songs so we can put out another full-length album.
Chincha: ”Honggu goes to prison,” haha. Whats the deal with incorporating Honggu, your drummer, into so much of your branding?
Jeff: Why not? Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like Honggu? Really though, it’s just one of those random things that started as a joke and kinda stuck. When we started, Honggu was still kind of young, quiet, and shy so I thought it’d be funny to use him in our logo and a bunch of promotional stuff. We’re all big fans of The Descendents, and they used their singer Milo, a seemingly uncool science guy, as their logo, so I thought why not do the same thing with our drummer? Nowadays, Honggu is a lot louder and more confident though so it’s really just become a game of trying to embarrass him as much as possible.
Chincha: (Laughs) . On a more serious note, I guess, what’s it like being back? Have you noticed any changes in the scene, etc?
Jeff: Being back is great. We spent most of 2012 wishing we were in Korea. I may have grown up in the States, but Korea really is home now. The local scene is constantly changing. After we left last year, some of the more aggressive, chaotic styles of punk rock and hardcore got a lot more popular. Some great new bands popped up with an average age that is actually under 27 or 30. A lot of shows started happening outside of Hongdae at clubs in Mullae and Ki (The Geeks vocalist) opened a club near Haebangchon. All of those things are cool in their own right. I was pretty disappointed to see 2012 be such a quiet year for Club Spot in Hongdae, but that’s quickly turning around. Jonghee (Rux vocalist) and Jin Sucks (SkaSucks vocalist) have each put on a few shows there in the last couple months that have had great turnouts. Also, we’re going to start booking the monthly Spot Second Saturdays shows there again. So yeah, overall, there are good things on the horizon for Seoul City punk and hardcore, and it’s great to be back and involved again.
Chincha: Awesome! So are you guys looking forward to hitting the stage again?
Jeff: Definitely. At this point, I don’t think Trash and I enjoy going to shows as much as we usually do. We’re tired of watching other bands play and just wanna get up on stage and have some fun with our own band. It’ll make band practices a lot more fun too. Practicing these last few months knowing that there was nothing on the horizon for so long made it kind of a drag. Now that there’s more of a sense of urgency, it’s a lot easier to be motivated to practice play the same song for the millionth time.
Chincha: Yeah, I get you. Thanks for the chat Jeff. I’m looking forward to the show and seeing you guys get back on top of things.
Jeff: Thanks man. See you there.
. Tickets cost W15,000 plus a free drink. Read more on the band in this Aweh interview.
Interview by Ollie Walker
Images courtesy of WTM