Indie band Bosudong Cooler seeks breakthrough in reality, society
At the DMZ Peace Train Music Festival this year, a music critic noted how K-pop is seen by many to include different genres of music in Korea, not just “idol” K-pop band music. Even to many overseas fans, Korean indie music could be considered K-pop. To those who are tired of the familiar K-pop, they should explore other varieties of music being made in Korea, which deserve more attention and payment.
Indie rock band Bosudong Cooler tries to leap through boundaries between genres as well as restrictions in reality. Their genre influence transits from the 1960s to 1980s reflecting the members’ taste in such genres including rock, Japanese music, folk and dance.
In reality, they say performing in the indie scene itself is an experiment for them, as written in their lyrics that “life is a continuity of experiments and addictions for all people.”
Based in Busan, the band’s popularity grew from city to city and finally reached out to other countries including Taiwan within two years. As they joined an agency in 2018, they became more acquainted with the music scene centered in Seoul.
However, this is only their journey of the last two years, since they first formed the band in 2016.
“We started to perform on stage as soon as we produced our first song,” said Jung Ju-ri, the lead vocalist of Bosudong Cooler. “We wanted to expand our perspective in music and it was also important for the members to get exposed to stage experience.” During that period, they didn’t have any weekends they could rest.
The band started with guitarist2 Goo Seul-han and vocalist Jung Ju-ri. They met Choi Woon-gyu, the drummer, through the internet, and having changed bass players once, Lee Sang-won now completes Bosudong Cooler as it is now.
In June, it released its first sixsong album, “yeah, I don’t want it.” According to Jung, the title is the answer to the six songs of the album, which questions the fundamental reasons for the minute feelings we face in daily life.
“Much of our music is about deliberation on lives and feelings. The title is the answer — a rejection,” Jung said. The reason they added “yeah” is to express one has thought on a matter for a long time and finally breathing out “yeah,” in order to say the final message, “I don’t want it.”
“In our lives we face many situations in which it is hard to say no. I wanted to say it is important to have courage to reject what is so naturally demanded of us. Yet we can finally move forward in relationships rather than cutting off entirely by doing so,” she said.
For the lead off track, “0308,” Jung said she tried to write about mingling in life and how it changes when people bump into each other.
“I intentionally chose dry words in order to make it sound like a manifesto. The lyrics say ‘nothing lasts forever,’ insinuating there is an end to everything, but another verse says ‘there is no end.’ The lyrics themselves are tangled up in order to reflect the complications in life,” she said.
“This is inspired from my thoughts and feelings. Seeing people bump into many different relationships that transform us in life, I thought there are no set beliefs that we can define.” She concluded the songs and the band are all about breaking boundaries, whether in music, discrimination or stereotypes.
For Bosudong Cooler, the boundaries they have to break at the moment are about survival as an indie band. Although they enjoy performing, it is hard to ignore the reality, the costs and poor payments they receive, which stops them from spreading their wings.
“Personally, the boundary I want to break is being an indie band. It is hard to sustain our normal lives while performing as a band,” Jung said. “There is also skepticism among local bands with their scope of performance restricted, while we are completely capable of going further.”
Indeed, it is hard to move back and forth from Seoul to Busan for this band. With members having day jobs, it is hard to ignore the cost.
“We are a four-member group who just started playing gigs in Seoul. In order to show our fullest, we need to manage our energy, and in order to do so we have to arrive in Seoul the day before. This costs four times more than traveling alone, with transportation and accommodation,” Choi said.
Goo, the guitarist who also works as a freelancer, said he would like to become a full-time musician if he can. At the moment he has to postpone his work depending on the band’s schedule.
“This is a weird life in which we become poorer as we become more popular,” he said. “With improvements in our condition, we will be able to make better music than now.”
At the same time they do not shy away from raising their voice to break through societal boundaries. As hinted in the song “0308,” named after March 8, International Women’s Day, Jung is a feminist as well as the other three members who have started to understand why women are struggling so hard for their voices to be heard.
“We call ourselves outsiders, so our attention tends to go to the marginalized in society,” Jung said. “As a feminist, I think there are some changes in Korean society. People self-censor their words before speaking, and I hope this wave continues.”
Goo said, “I see some people being hesitant about listening to our music based on our participation in social movements. That made us think we are going in the right direction.”
As their popularity grows, they are also feeling the weight of their influence. Recently they appeared on Naver Onstage, a trending platform that introduces rising stars in the music scene. They are also joining Zandari Festa as well as MU:CON 2019. A few weeks ago, they toured Taiwan.
With a busy schedule, they are tired yet thrilled to perform at different venues. Lee said it was his first time flying when he went to Taiwan. “It was all fun for me,” he said of the tour. “There were more people than I expected. It was an experience I could never have when staying in Korea. I don’t know how to say it, but I learned a lot about their atmosphere and attitude on stage.”
For Choi, stepping up on Naver Onstage made him feel more responsible for what he plays. “I have been playing since I was 20, but that was mostly for my pleasure,” he said. “But now I feel the weight of responsibility and that I have to show my fullest for people who come to see us.”
The band members said they hope to play in many more countries in Europe and the United States. At the moment they are preparing for their first full-length album.
“I hope our message about reaching beyond boundaries becomes clearer for the next album,” Jung said.
Much of our music is about deliberation on lives and feelings. The title is the answer — a rejection.”
Bosudong Cooler is an indie rock band based in Busan. Four members include Jung Ju-ri, Lee Sang-won, Goo Seul-han and Choi Woon-gyu, clockwise from the center.
One of the official posters for Bosudong Cooler’s first EP “yeah, I don’t want it”