Hello readers! Today it is our pleasure to introduce you to an indie songstress and her band that has been making waves in the underground scene in Korea these days. They have a quirky yet distinct charm to their sound and visuals and you’ll almost certainly remember their music. For your pleasure, here is our chat with Korean indie-pop songstress Hyangni!
Hyangni (born Lee Ji-hyang on May 25, 1989) is a Korean indie-pop singer-songwriter. Playing with three other band members under the same name as her own stage name to help translate her vivid songwriting and charismatic performance energy, Hyangni is one of many rising groups in Korea’s indie scene today. Having just recently released their first full studio album, they are no stranger to playing on stages both big and small, including the 2013 Ansan Valley Rock Festival. Taking time away from performing and studio time, Hyangni herself was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
Hello, I am a Korean musician, Hyangni. I’m so glad to have this great opportunity to talk about my music and myself. Hyangni is my real name as well as our band’s name. The Hyangni band consists of four members – Seung-gyu Shin, Jun-gyu Lee, Jaeshin Park and myself. We recently released our first official album, “Be My First Love”.
How long have you been doing music for?
I have been making music as Hyangni for three years and before then, I started to study at music school.
What kind of artist would you consider yourself?
I think I like bright and colorful things and I can’t control myself when I am overwhelmingly passionate about something. Sometimes I make mistakes and go over the line, because I believe in myself and love myself so much, but the way I work and live.
How did you come up with your stage name ‘Hyangni’?
It used to be my nickname since my high school days. Many of my friends just called me Hyangni at that time. That nickname just caught my mind and I thought I wanted to be called this name when I release my album someday. Finally, it came true! I also used this name for ID of my favorite RPG games.
This first album was not my solo album but Hyangni band’s project. I wrote songs and lyrics and arranged the whole album. After that, the band members gave a wonderful, fantastic performance. I am sure that my members filled the artistic parts I can’t figure out by myself with their amazing talents.
I also felt more comfortable and fulfilled when I worked with my members for this album in that every performance of theirs contributes to this album with their own musical colors not just for rhythm or sound.
You released your first full album ‘첫사랑이 되어줘’ recently. Talk about the process behind recording the album, as well as where you drew your inspiration for it from.
It took two years to record after this album was planned to be made. During that time, lots of versions were tried through continuous arrangements. Actually, for this album we went through not only arrangement but also modification for the songs themselves. Songs were modified through performing a number of performances in live clubs. And I came to expand my perspective in music after I met Bang Junseok as a producer for this album, who is a Korean musician and soundtrack director. Obviously he is the one who made me try something new that I haven’t done before. I recorded songs in the producer’s studio by myself.
Not only that, I think my favorite things whether they are related to music or not, things like movies, literature, comic books, animation provided me inspiration. Above all, my worries and the questions in my mind were the most inspiring things.
Actually, I didn’t feel any of my songs were quirky at all. I just tried my songs in this way for fun. But I understand why people think like that, looking back into my personality and myself. Because my songs in this album are all about my stories and myself not anyone else, I get that.
You performed at the Ansan Valley Rock Festival last year alongside some big names. Talk about that experience.
Oh, You know about Ansan Valley Rock Festival. Yes yes, we prepared for that festival very hard because it was one of the largest performances we have done. Actually we were asked to give a tribute performance for 서태지 who is a legendary musician in Korea by the production staff. So we wanted to arrange his music with our own colors. We started to listen to his songs again because those songs were released before we went to elementary school. The more focused on his music we were, the more we came to know there were so many exciting and fun parts. So we enjoyed working on this. Before then, we had only three members including bass, the drummer and me. We finally became Hyangni band like now after the last member joined while we were preparing for the tribute performance.
On that day, we enjoyed performing very much and we enjoyed and watched other performances until late together, especially Nine Inch Nails’ performance, which was very fantastic.
We are still doing gigs and we are going to have our first solo concert at CJ azit on December 6. We are working very hard these days.
As far as music is concerned, who gives you your inspiration?
Actually, I am always asked this question. I think everything that I experienced such as comic books I read, animation and movies I enjoyed watching and music are all my inspiration.
I don’t think one particular thing inspired me but I am sure this album is filled with every one thing I experienced. For example, one of my favorite comic books, “삐리리 불어봐 재규어’ and one of my favorite fictions, “Brave new world” written by Aldous Huxley would be considered inspiration to me.
What are your five most played songs currently?
Bon Iver – Perth
Knower – Something more
Morning Musume – one two three
Tame Impala – Sun’s coming up
ECE – 붐비세
Name any artist you would like to collaborate with, and why.
I have seen Silica Gel’s video. They are one of many Korean indie bands and I think this band is genius and so talented. I was so impressed and moved. If I get a chance, I want to arrange my songs with the band.
I have experienced that people who listen to my music for the first time react with thinking this is unusual, unique and hard to understand. When I started to do music, I received awards in some contests among Korean new musicians. So, I thought “People love that kind of music” at first. Also I think I could receive music makers’ interests through those experiences.
Along with that, some people who listen to our songs or watch our performances leave their comments on twitter, so I don’t think there is no reaction or interests.
Your thoughts on up-and-coming indie artists in Korea and the scene in general?
There are actually many different musicians in the Korean indie scene. I think we have a variety of genres. But I acknowledge that people can just come up with just a few genres about Korean indie music styles.
I hope people pay more attention to different genres in the near future. I think the Korean indie scene is trying very hard to develop indie music industry in their own way. I hope our efforts would make people have more interest in indie music.
What is your guilty pleasure currently? It can be anything!
I enjoy reading romantic comic books talking about high school day’s pure love stories. I am reading ‘アオハライド, となりの怪物くん’ these days.
When you have spare time, what do you do for fun?
There is DVD rooms where you can watch all kinds of movie in a separate room in Korea. It costs only from $6 to $7 for one movie. I often go to DVD rooms a lot with my friends and enjoy watching movies. I enjoy watching Morning Musume’s videos on the internet as I am a big fan.
Describe your personality in three words.
Hasty, manic, rackle
You also seem to be very fashion-driven. What inspires your personal style, aside from music?
I wanted to wear dresses that main characters wore in Shirley Temple or Anne of Green Gables. I am also a big fan of Morning Musume and Japanese animation. I always had a longing for wearing pretty dresses appeared in the animations.
I took part in working on hip hop group Leessang’s album as a featured singer before.
Any advice for aspiring artists?
Don’t be in a hurry. I think I was always too stressful because I was very hasty and wanted to do well but it was meaningless.
Any final words for the readers?
Hello, everyone. We are a new Korean band, Hyangni! I am so glad to introduce our band and our music to you far on the internet. You can enjoy our first album “Be My First Love” recently released through iTunes. I can’t wait to share this with you!! Thank you very much!
Many thanks to Hyangni for answering our questions. Please be on the lookout for this singer and her amazing band for future releases. Until next time, this has been a rhythm.connection exclusive!