Forget Psy and “Gangnam Style” and whatever YouTube has shown us about South Korean pop music. Galaxy Express destroys all that nonsense with high-octane kick-out-the-jams punk-rock that’s equal parts sound and fury (and fun).
A South Korean punk band you say? I say yes.
The band is one of (if not the) country’s top indie-acts and is currently on a 26-stop U.S. tour through 14 states. They’ll be in Fresno on Thursday, playing Audie’s Olympic Tavern with InsideTheSun, Murder Park and It’ll Grow Back.
I had some email correspondence with guitarist Jonghyun Park.
Galaxy Express is obviously a punk-rock band, but there are other influences in there as well (some rockabilly twang and some psychedelic guitar noise). There’s this awesome video of you guys covering “Kick Out the Jams.” What bands have influenced you? Did you grow up listening to American rock? Are you at all influenced by more traditional Korean music/culture, etc.
We grew up listening to a lot of Western and Korean rock and punk music. We listened to stuff like The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, Metallica, Nirvana, Rancid, the Korean punk band Crying Nut and lots of other stuff. Korean had an awesome rock and psychedelic scene in the 1960s and ‘70s and we’re all big fans of that music too. We love old Korean music by bands like Sanullim and Shin Joonghyun.
What most Americans know of Korean pop music is Gangnam Style K-Pop or whatever. You guys were named Musician of the Year at the Korean Music Awards. Does punk/indie rock have a big following there?
Psy actually won Musician of the Year at the 2013 Korean Music Awards ceremony that was held a few weeks ago. It’s a bit funny to us that he won an award that we were also the recipient of (back in 2011)!
No, the indie music scene in Korea has a very small following. K-pop gets a lot of attention in Korea, but all the other local scenes here don’t receive very much attention. Most of the indie scene in Korea is centered around one area of Seoul that is called Hongdae. There are several hundred bands operating in Hongdae. It’s very challenging for a lot of those bands to get media attention or to even play shows outside of Hongdae.
The good thing is that things are slowly getting better for Korea’s indie scene. There are more festivals in Korea now, which is giving a higher number of indie bands the chance to showcase their music on bigger stages and to bigger audiences. And more indie bands are trying to tour overseas as well. I think that as Korea’s indie scene gets more international attention, people in Korea will start to pay a bit more attention to it.
How does your popularity at home differ from what you’ve experienced out on tour?
We’re one of the most popular indie bands in Korea, so we play to bigger crowds there than we do in the U.S. We’re actually very lucky in that we’re one of a small number of Korean indie bands that are able to make a living solely from music. We’ve won awards in Korea like Musician of the Year at the 2011 Korean Music Awards and Best Rock Album at the 2009 Korean Awards, and get invited to play each year at many of the country’s biggest music festivals. As a result, most people in Korea that are into indie music and rock music are familiar with our band. Things are much different for us in the states. The crowds at shows are a lot smaller than we usually play to in Korea, and we’re playing for a lot of people who aren’t familiar with Galaxy Express. But the crowds in the U.S. have been awesome to us. We’ve gotten lots of praise from fans at shows. And people have driven great distances to see us play. When we toured the U.S. in 2012, two girls drove 8 hours to see us play. And on this tour, we’ve had several people come to see us perform in multiple cities. Yesterday, in Las Vegas, a fan gave us a hotel room to use while we were in the city and also brought us a care package with food, soft drinks and smokes. We were so surprised by her kindness. We’re so grateful that we’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people during our time in the states, and that so many people have gone out of their way to try and help us.
What can people expect from a Galaxy Express show?
Lots of wild energy and loud rock ‘n’ roll! We always play with a lot of energy, but I think we take things up an extra notch when we’re in the U.S. Korea is a small country. If you drive six hours you’ll be on the other side of the country. But in the U.S., you can drive for six hours and still be in the same state! So, when we come to the U.S. we spend a lot more time traveling to gigs than we’re used to. The good thing about this, though, is that after being cooped up inside a vehicle all day, we’ve got a lot more energy to burn off when we finally get onstage and get to have some fun!
Anything else we need to know?
Our show in Fresno is the third last date of our U.S. tour. This tour is the longest tour we’ve ever done as a band. We played 26 shows in the span on a month (it was supposed to be 28 but we sadly missed two shows because of vehicle issues). We’re hoping to close the tour out on a high note, so please come and make a fun and wild rock ‘n’ roll party with us in Fresno!
In late April and early May we’ll be doing a two-week UK tour. It’s our first time to tour there. We’ve had an amazing time in the U.S. on this tour and have met so many amazing music fans and musicians. We’re hoping all this positive energy carries over and that are UK tour goes just as well.
Here’s the video for “Horongbul” off the band’ new self-titled album.