Hello hello! We know how much you all love Korean indie bands and the diversity of the Korean indie scene. Here to help quench your thirst for new indie acts is our friends from five-piece band BeautyHandsome. Our chief editor had the chance to sit down with the group back in June while visiting Korea. Here what they have to say about themselves, the indie scene and what to expect next!
BeautyHandsome, comprised of members Eddie Chun (guitar, vocals), Choi Lee Jae (bass), James King (producer, keyboard), Mandoo Chaplin (drums) and Kwak Jinseok (percussionist), are an indie pop/rock band based out of Seoul, South Korea. Releasing their debut EP ‘너를 사랑하니까’ on indie label Sugar Records (home to previous interviewee Hyangni) in August last year, the band has been steadily gaining popularity in the Hongdae indie scene and performing on many stages, including the recent Grand Mint Festival and the Mystic Open Run concert. Check it out!
Eddie Chun: Hi my name is Eddie Chun. I play guitar, I sing and I’m the frontman of BeautyHandsome. I also write the music for the band.
James King: Hello, I’m James King. I’m the keyboardist of BeautyHandsome, and I’m also the producer of our first EP album. I also do some arrangement work and schedule coordination for our group.
Choi Lee Jae: My name is Choi Lee Jae and I am the bassist of the group.
How was BeautyHandsome formed? What is the back story of this group?
EC: Basically, I came to Korea almost four years ago to pursue music as the indie music market in Canada (Eddie’s home country) wasn’t as strong at the time. I came initially to pursue a solo career as a singer-songwriter and get my name out there, but part of me always wanted a band to support me. I started playing shows around Hongdae and was fortunate enough to meet various musicians during that time. About three years ago I was playing at this one club and I told a friend of mine who was a bassist that I was looking to start a band. She introduced me to Mandoo Chaplin, who’s now our drummer. After that show, he introduced me to his crew ‘Rooftop Bombers’, and because of him I got to meet many other artists like our keyboardist James King and our percussionist Kwak Jinseok. I still needed one more thing to get this band going – a bassist. Once again, Mandoo introduced me to our now current bassist Lee Jae. She was playing for another band at that time, and after seeing her perform at a live club, Mandoo and I knew we needed to recruit her for the band. At the beginning of last year, we decided to do a show sponsored by Mandoo’s crew at an art hall. The name had not yet been established for our group, and Mandoo had proposed the name ‘Eddie Chun Super and Handsome Band’, and we rolled with it. A month after that show, during at which point we got together formally as a group, Mandoo connected us with someone from Sugar Records, and after that we signed with them, under the name BeautyHandsome. That’s how we got together!
Who or what gives you inspiration for your music?
EC: For me, my taste in music changes on a day to day basis. It’s hard to give a fixed answer, but right now John Schofield is someone I’ve been listening to a lot lately, in terms of guitar playing. In terms of songwriting, one of my favourite groups is Daybreak, a Korean group who I got to see perform for the first time at Grand Mint Festival in 2012. That show was a turning point for me as an artist, as a musician…because it showed me the potential of indie music in ways I couldn’t have imagined, that indie music could more more than just obscure, that it could achieve popularity, like it did with Daybreak at that time. Their artistry and musicianship really intrigued me. Daybreak is one of my biggest influences right now.
JK: Each member definitely has different tastes in music. But there are some artists that we all share love for as well. We all like John Mayer though. We are also very fond of some electronic music as well. We are actually working on some electronic-ish songs which we plan to release in the future.
LJ: I really like music with a focus on melodic baselines. I’m a big fan of Paul McCartney.
EC: I didn’t really listen to K-pop before auditioning for the show. I remember auditioning in California, where BoA was judging for that round, and I got to meet her. She’s really famous in Asia obviously, but at the time I didn’t really know who she was. When I was on the show, it was a good experience in terms of getting exposure on TV and meeting the other contestants with the same dream as me. However, since I’m a songwriter, I’ve learned that if you’re a songwriter attempting to get into JYP, SM, YG or any of those big companies…you may not be satisfied. I was casted to JYP in the later rounds and I felt like I was not able to fully flesh out my creativity as a songwriter during that time. That’s what I learned the most about. At the end of the day, I just want the general populace to know who I am as an artist in all manners of the word. I want to be able to share to people all over the world that Korean music is not just K-pop, that’s there’s way more to it.
Any advice for those looking to pursue the Korean singing audition program route?
EC: People who are looking to pursue K-pop have to prepare themselves for the reality of things. The media shows only certain sides of K-pop, the fun atmosphere and all that. But there’s obviously a lot the public doesn’t see in terms of the reality of what goes on away from the cameras, and that’s what these people interested in K-pop have to be ready for. A lot of hard work and discipline is required, even more so if you get signed and train with a major company. Also, you have to expect a lot of hardships because it’s not all fun and games. It’s a lot of sacrifices and compromises that are required in order to pursue a career in that industry. So be sure you’re willing to make the time and sacrifices necessary to be in that industry, to become a K-pop singer. If you’re a songwriter and are just starting out, make sure to find the right people. I think having that support is very important. Make sure to find and surround yourself with reliable people.
EC: There were some tough times then. It was not easy.
JK: There was some trouble with our company at the time. I was actually the last member to join the band. Mandoo had suggested me as a new member and producer. So I joined without hesitation. After we signed with our label, our first recording session went very well. However, Mandoo and Lee Jae got really sick after that session. We had to take an extended break because of that. However, when we resumed, we found ourselves plagued yet again with another issue. Our label’s assistant engineer had some difficulties with the label and decided to part ways at that time. As a result, due to other schedules, the label’s resources were devoted elsewhere, leaving us with this issue to solve ourselves.
EC: It’s a small company, so of course their resources are not as big as the major companies. We got very minimal support from them at that point. It was pretty tough.
JK: The release date of our album was delayed about three or four months. We had planned to release it in April last year, but due to the delays, it was pushed back to August. I had no choice but to take on the editing of the EP myself, due to having no assistant engineer at our label anymore and because we wanted to finish recording and mastering it as soon as possible.
EC: Usually with most labels, the sound engineer is the one who does the recording and editing normally. But at that time, James had to go home after our sessions and edit all the tracks to the right tempo and all that. He wasn’t supposed to do it, but we had no choice. We soldiered on and made it work. James worked especially hard to make all this happen…he would be up late doing the producing, arranging, editing and mastering. So that’s why it took longer to release the EP.
JK: It was a hard time but a good experience I think. It really was a team effort in the end though.
Your group has performed at a number of shows since your debut and even before then. What gigs stand out the most in your mind and why?
LJ: For me, it’s hard to pick one specific gig because we all really enjoy performing for the fans and for those who might not be familiar with us.
JK: For me, the ‘Beautiful Means Life’ show was very memorable. It was one of our first official gigs as BeautyHandsome and it really was a starting point for us to introduce ourselves to the public. It was our first festival stage, so we were very eager to play that show last year. It was like a dream come true…so amazing.
EC: We set a goal for ourselves – to have a record to perform at festivals and stuff. And to attend and perform at as many festivals as possible. For me, I agree with James. ‘Beautiful Means Life’ is meaningful because we connected with more people at that show and it was a great experience for us.
LJ: I really like Love X Stereo these days. They have a cool electronic sound!
EC: I got to see Glen Check perform not that long ago. I didn’t really get into the electronic sound until after I met my band members. Whenever we’d be driving in Mandoo’s car, we’d play some Glen Check songs. When I saw them live, I was blown away and hooked even more to their sound. It inspired me as a songwriter to pursue writing music like theirs.
JK: I want to recommend our label mates at Sugar Records. Also, Peppertones, Epitone Project, J Rabbit and Billy Acoustic are great acts to check out.
What is your current guilty pleasure?
EC: In terms of snacks, I eat a lot of butter rings and Cheetos. I can’t really think of anything else that’s a guilty pleasure.
LJ: Makgeoli is my guilty pleasure!
JK: I think every man has a guilty pleasure….I just can’t think of one specifically.
EC: If I’m not writing music, I’ll be at home gaming or reading or exercising. In rare cases, I really like hiking but I haven’t had a lot of chances to do that. I really wanna do it again at some point. Also, hanging out with friends!
JK: Similar to Eddie, I really love gaming. Especially games like Diablo. I am a great fan of those types of games but I don’t have much time these days to play. Maybe once or twice a year. I also love to read or watch movies. I really want get into an exercise routine but again, I’m so busy these days so it’s hard to fit that into my schedule. Mountain climbing and swimming are also fun to do.
LJ: Spending time with my cat. Also hanging out with friends, and going out drinking too!
Any words you wanna share with the readers and your fans?
EC: If you want to be a musician and a songwriter and your goal is to make as much music as possible, I think you have to relegate to more simplified melodies and hooks and lyrics to get people’s attention, especially here in Korea. That’s really tough, but that’s something to keep in mind. Art doesn’t exist until other people notice your art, I feel.
JK: We’re now working hard on our next album. As mentioned before, our next single will have a more electronic feel to it. Please check that out when it’s released. Have great expectations for our future releases! And if you like our music, please share it with your friends.
LJ: We’re working diligently on our next album to thank our fans for their support thus far. Please look forward to it. Thank you!
EC: One last thing to add! To BeautyHandsome fans out there, music fans, pop music junkies etc. – if you want to explore something new, something very obscure that may not be in your regular musical radar, try listening to a lot of indie bands. They have great quality music. Please support independent bands. We all need the support from fans! Thank you~
Many thanks to Eddie, James and Lee Jae for meeting up with us to chat. Please look forward to BeautyHandsome’s future releases and performances, and support indie artists. This has been a rhythm.connection exclusive!