As the rain ceases to descend on a miserable day in Seoul, it’s a far cry from inside club Keu Keu, where New Blue Death’s Adam Brennan and Ethan Waddell are sat relaxing after their show. The atmosphere is chilled and ambient. Their set-up for the gig was not the most exemplary: no stage, band in the center and audience lounging around the room. But while the unusually cozy design might not have conjured up much liveliness, what it did do was allow a chance for the band to put across their talent as songwriters. With not one song sounding exactly like the last their music can be described as experimental indie rock, fluctuating between shrill guitar effects, snappy rhythms and floating melodies. Adam’s vocals wavered from the high shaky pitches of Tom Verlaine to the lower moans of Ian Curtis, all of these factors drawing in to create a sound unique to them, to New Blue Death.
Patrick Walsh, Ethan Waddell, Adam Brennan, Adam Hickey and Andrew LaCombe of New Blue Death.
Adam and Ethan talk about how their group came about. “At the first Loose Union show, I talked to Adam. And we decided to start a band,” Ethan says. Thankfully the plastered promise stuck and, gaining bassist Adam Hickey, keyboardist Andrew LaCombe and Drummer Patrick Walsh, all of who are of American or Canadian origin, they went on to composing their initial tracks. Adam describes how each member has some sort of musical background, saying, “Everyone’s a music dork. We all have extensive record collections.” This could conceivably be the reason for New Blue Death’s speedy development. Forming in October last year, they have already played a number of shows around Seoul, including their .
Listening to their album you get an even wider perspective of the effects they pull, particularly with the presence of their keyboardist who was, unfortunately, absent for this show. Both the guitar and keyboard melodies are interplayed intellectually against the tight bass and rolling drums. Coating this are Adam’s deep vocals that transform the air of the album, integrating so many sounds of the post-punk and indie era. From the hard-hitting ‘Typhoon’ to the gentle, summery ‘Minnesota’, all of their songs differ and yet are true to New Blue Death’s style.
Although they had no direct inspirations in mind when writing the songs, Adam notes that their technique has derived from specific musical preferences. Discussing the many motivations they share, it’s clear they are in agreement that their sound is comparable with 70s punk group Television. “We don’t purposely take cues from other groups. But once the song starts to develop you can’t deny that the influences sound like certain bands. When the song begins taking shape, then we can hear it,” says Ethan, “but we try to play every song individually.”
Click on this link for New Blue Death’s album on Soundcloud.
When discussing where they recorded their album the mention of Loose Union pops up again. The organisation Adam helps run, he says, has its own recording studio and plays an integral role in the alternative music scene in Seoul. “I have been playing in bands here for five years,” he states, “so it’s [the music scene] small, but it used to be really small. Now it’s growing and the music is more diverse.” Along with fellow founders Danny Arens from Used Cassettes and Ollie Walker from AWEH, LU was created originally as a medium to promote local bands further than just the clubs they were playing at and has extended into a multimedia platform. Their base is the label that has released records from other resident bands such as Love X Stereo and Used Cassettes. They also collaborate with film-makers, photographers, musicians and artists. The company records and documents live performances, creates music-based video projects such as their well-received music documentary Loveful Heights, and supports events with an inclusive aim at highlighting the current underground music culture. Adam adds, “there are more venues and there’s more of an audience than there used to be.”
As the evening draws to a close, the room now sufficiently filled with smoke, Adam and Ethan talk about the future of the group and for a band that was formed six months previous, their plans are nothing short of ambitious. “We’ll take a break in August and then the idea is to have a second album out in September and then another in December.” Alongside their three record goal, Ethan notes their recent success with famous actor Ha Jung-woo, who bought one of their songs to use in his directorial debut, Rollercoaster. With so much in the pipeline, the outlook for New Blue Death is promising, with many shows lined up to promote the album. Within what is evidently the small but exciting music culture of the city, it would be best to keep a look out for their next move.
in Seoul. Buy tickets from supercolorsuper.com, or catch them at .
Words by Daisy Phillipson
Images courtesy of Loose Union. Cover shot by Ryan Stripling.