Les Sales have been plugging away for two years, playing at nearly every haunt in Hongdae. Now they’re just about to release “Doo Nyeon,” a split album with another Loose Union band, Table People. Mike McGrath chatted with the lead Sale, Cheong Daein, about their new songs, where they got them from, and Korean indie rock in general.
How long have Les Sales been together? What events led to you all meeting and collaborating? And why the French name?
After my former band, Banana Republic, I was trying to form a new band. Jinny, the drummer, and Chris, the bassist, were found via some musician friends. The guitarist was the hardest one to find. Actually, he gave me a call from an ad I put on the Internet on my birthday of 2012. So my birthday, January 16th, was the very beginning of Les Sales, and I still think that he is my best birthday present ever. Our band name, Les Sales, is not exactly a French name. At first, I wanted to call it The Sales. Then I thought, there’s so many bands called “the” something. So I chose this article from a language I’m comfortable with: French.
How would you describe the band for anyone who hasn’t heard you before? What can people expect when they come to your shows?
The first thing I can say about our band is that our show is always very exciting and lots of fun. But it’s true that our music is very hard to describe in a few words because we don’t follow any common musical origins, basically due to the very diverse tastes of each member of the band. There are very few musicians that we all love together, such as the Beatles or Elvis Presley, so sometimes I’m quite confused by myself explaining Les Sales’ music style. But in the other hand, I’m really proud of doing a indescribable kind of music. And believe me, we had lots of difficulties to be agreed in our music during the song making process.
What’s the best thing about being in Les Sales?
I can play the music I always dreamed about, sometimes much better music than I had ever imagined.
Your lyrics are great, especially considering they are written in your second language. Why do you sing your songs in English? Wouldn’t it be easier to write Korean lyrics?
I always had lots of difficulty writing lyrics in Korean or French because, for me, those languages are not made for rock. Even though I have lots of love for Korean traditional rock bands and 90s Hongdae bands, my rock music classics are from Anglophone countries. Also, the lyric-writing process is kind of a puzzle game. It’s like a Dadaist word game. I put in random words and try to make sense.
At first listen, you sound a lot like a British band straight out of London. Am I right in assuming that British indie music has influenced your song writing? Are there any major influences on your style?
We have lots of British influences in our music such as The Orange Juice, Aztec Camera or the Smiths. And also a lot from 70s New York-based post-punk bands like Television or Talking Heads. Johnny Thunders and The Clash are some of our biggest influences too. And all that music I listened to on the radio during my teenage days in Paris, like The Strokes and The Libertines were the most important soundtrack of my teenage days.
You have a split record coming out with the Seoul-based band Table People. Why did you choose to release a record with them?
Eric from Table People, charmed by Les Sales music, asked us on this beautiful journey together. I thought it would be a great experience for us to record an album with Table People. We had already played a couple of shows together before, and we really loved their sound and Eric’s original voice. I was also very interested to record at Brad’s studio, where all the Loose Union bands have recorded, because I always wondered where the fuck those bands record this amazing sound. The result: we had lots of fun and are really, really proud.
Table People are a mostly expat band. What do you think are the main differences between the Korean and ‘expat’ bands in Seoul?
Language, of course. Even though Eric works a lot on his Korean and Ethan speaks almost fluent Korean, I think they have difficulty contacting useful people in Seoul. Secondly, those expat bands enlarge Hongdae’s indie scene. As you know very well, I guess, there are so many shitty bands playing in Hongdae. Most studied instruments at university, they don’t have any sense of rock and roll, and they just play their stereotyped songs with some stupid synth touches. I’ve seen some expat bands playing shitty but never saw an expat band playing a categorized, expected and unsurprising music. That’s exactly what the Hongdae scene needed, I guess.
With K-pop becoming more popular across the globe, do you think that there is a chance for any Korean indie bands to make a name for themselves outside of Asia?
No, and I hope not. K-pop is based on a commercial bubble, and I hope not because if we can send Hongdae’s greatest music to other countries then I hope it happens in an indie way, not in the Samsung way.
What are the aims of Les Sales? Do you have an end goal in mind?
Making great albums that can inspire the dreams of teenage poets and rebels.
What’s next for Les Sales?
We are preparing our very first full-length album for the beginning of 2014. Those who wants to listen to lots of our songs can help us by crowd funding.
Do you enjoy recording or performing live more? Why?
Performing! When you can hear some mistakes after an album is done, that stays there for life. But after a drunken night show, even if you played like a shit, all you can remember is that you had lots of fun and made lots of fun for people.
What have been the best, worst and weirdest experiences at any of your shows?
There was a crazy late night show and on that night every frontman took off their shirt to show their beautiful six-packs. So Les Sales played last that night, and when the audience got really excited with us, someone shouted “take off your shirt!” Then everybody started saying it, so I took off my shirt. After seeing my ugly, fat body, they asked to me to put my shirt back on. But I said “fuck you” and played the whole night without my shirt.
The Doo Nyeon album release party is at DGBD on Nov. 16. Merchandise such as shirts, stickers and even cellphone cases will also be available. .