In­die band Bo­sudong Cooler seeks break­through in re­al­ity, so­ci­ety

The Korea Times - - WEEKENDER - By Jung Hae-my­oung [email protected]­re­

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.”

Cour­tesy of Judge Light

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.

Cour­tesy of Judge Light

One of the of­fi­cial posters for Bo­sudong Cooler’s first EP “yeah, I don’t want it”

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