Text and interview by Sheila Madai & Ivonne Vega · Photography by @mamanze
South Korea, the land of beauty… Is it really all about beauty and pop culture? Just ask the younger ones, where reality is different from what is often shown by media.
Let’s go back in 2016, when Choi Wonbin, Heo Jinhyuk, Chae Jiho and Jung Jihoon decided to express the world their feelings through amazing and captivating songs. With the catchy “Who”, the band’s debut single, they started their own way to get a position in the Korean rock scene. The following “Romance in a Weird World” (2017) and “We’ve Lost, What Now?” (2018) EPs made us trip in a roller coaster of emotions, sounds, and visuals with a touch of brit rock inspo, but what’s behind the creative process? We had a conversation with lead singer Wonbin and bassist Jihoon about their inspiration, composition, and what is it like to speak their minds as a rock band in Seoul.
NOISE: How did you guys meet and what happened that you felt the need of creating music?
WETTER: Wonbin and Stophoon met in high school, Wonbin and Jinhyuk met in college and the other three (Wonbin, Jihoon, Jinhyuk) met Jiho in the label company.
First of all, we liked English culture and bands, and there were many things we wanted to say to the world. It’s kind of a repressed emotion or primitive rebellion against society. I think this is why we play rock music. Rock n’ Roll is the best way to express ourselves.
It’s been two years since the releasing of your first single “Who”. What is the creative process that each one of you took during the composition of “Romance in a Weird World”?
Wonbin: The first song, “Who” was done by myself and the songs that were produced afterward. All of us got involved in the work and the other ‘new things’ were made.
Jihoon: Every process was creative. We recorded in our own studio, we even borrowed a snare and guitar from a friend, worked with an engineer we knew, and fought with Wonbin for our tracks that would be included in the album, etc.
How would you define the rock scene in Seoul?
I sense a vibe between Brit-pop and 1970’s punk. What is the music or sounds you listen that inspires you when composing?
J: The first inspiring thing is my mind and the friends around me. I listen to British rock music of every decade as much as I can like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Radiohead, and other country rock music like Nirvana, The Doors, The Black Keys.
W: The sound that I’m influenced by is different time to time, but now I enjoy listening to sounds like Primal Scream or Happy Mondays.
The composing of your music is very creative! In some songs, there are some fragments of voices from films and you make great contrasts in music that goes from powerful in “Hello Sunshine” and “I Don’t Wanna Be a Doll” to kind of gloomy in songs like “Dear My Friend” and “Just Stay”. How is it that you create such powerful yet soothing rhythms in your songs?
We think there’s a variety of emotions in people’s hearts. The most important thing is that we always intend to express that point of mind with our own riff. With personal greed, we want to maximize one emotion and make an album with one emotion.
Some people have labeled you as punk, rock, k-indie, etc. How would you personally define Wetter’s sound?
Oriental-Brit Rock? or-bit rock? HAHA, JOKE. I guess British rock n’ roll. Furthermore, we want to make a genre called ‘Wetter’.
Everyone writes about love, fears, heartbreaks, achievements in life, etc. What do you guys share with us in your lyrics?
Feelings about our fucked up society and feelings for one’s relationship like concern or advice. Because of a bad situation in our society and culture, most Korean people seem to be difficult to express their own color and strong individuality. It seems that Korean people’s shape of hearts are square wooden sticks, we hope them to spread our more branches. Let’s all be free.
I want to talk about your style. I believe fashion and music always come in hand, having bands like Sex Pistols defining punk fashion or Nirvana defining grunge fashion. What are your thoughts on this?
J: Exactly! Fashion and music always come in hand.
W: If Kurt Cobain and Sid Vicious were not cool, I don’t think we’d ever find their music, born in 1992.
Do you consider that fashion might be linked to your music?
J: Yeah definitely. I love converse and Chelsea boots. I think that color naturally appears in our music.
W: Hmm, I still don’t know about that. I think we’re looking for it now.
In two years of live performances, what is the most memorable thing you’ve experienced?
The performance of the British band Wooze in Busan and Seoul a few days ago remained a huge memory. We were always interested in England, and then we talked to a British band in person. We became very close friends. It’s so hard to get along with any Korean bands and we were surprised to get along with them so well in two days.
We also performed in Busan for the first time so I think we gave tens of thousands of energy to a very small group of people. It was so fun.
“We’ve Lost, What Now?” was released last year. It is sincerely one of the greatest albums I’ve heard from this decade, giving us great music and videos like “Hello Sunshine”. What are your plans for 2019?
First of all, thank you very much for your listening. We have a plan to go to England for a gig in May and prepare for the ‘1st Original Album’. We all are ready for these.
After two months, I decided to share with you one of the greatest accomplishes I’ve done this year (and probably, in all my life). Most of you know how much I love punk music. I grew up knowing about Sid Vicious, The Ramones and The Clash because my oldest sister listened to them. But it wasn’t until I was thirteen years old when I listened, consciously, Nevermind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. And for a thirteen-year-old kid who had been listening to All Time Low and The Academy Is… before, this was a big mind-blowing moment for me. This was just the start of my passion for punk music (and photography, and fashion)
Of course, as I did research of this genre, where most of the information source came from a book named ”Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk” written by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. One time, I was in Barnes and Noble and when I saw the book I immediately bought it. (well, my parents did)
I was reading the book and I had no idea what they were talking about but I absolutely loved it. In my fifteen-year-old mind, Lou Reed was a very nice person. Drugs weren’t that heavy. There was no rudeness between people in the scene and everyone loved each other so much. (I don’t know what I was thinking?!)
Not so long after that, I met Legs McNeil, author of the book, and it wasn’t until now that I decided to ask him the question I was always hesitant to ask. “Could I interview you?”
So, I got to talk with a genius mind, a true punk rocker, a legend in the music history and a very nice man who called me a “sweetie” at the end of the conversation. A 19-minute call filled with mumbled crappy inaudible voice recording but with an interesting insight of the real punk scene that isn’t far away from any underground music scene in your town. And that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.
Sheila: I started reading for the second time your book “Please Kill Me”. The first time I read it I was 15 years old and I didn’t quite get everything, to be honest, but now that I read it again I was astonished. The attitude, the fashion, the scene, music. It wasn’t easy for a band to play in a place, which still happens to this day.
You got to live an iconic decade, this whole punk scene, where everything was emerging, nothing was done or heard yet…
Legs McNeil: Well, I wrote it just for you, Sheila. You were in my mind the whole time. I only cared about whether you’d like it or not. I didn’t give a shit about anyone else…
…Oh my god. Now, looking back, did you realize how important those new changes were going to be in the future? Because punk right now is a big part of the music history.
I hoped, at the time. We hoped that it’d settle and people would like it but they didn’t. They rejected it. It became like some kind of a joke for most people.
You were the one who started using the word “punk”. That’s amazing! That’s pretty clever.
Yep. Well, Holmstrom and I wanted to start a magazine and I thought it was a stupid idea. He wanted to combine comic books and rock and roll, and he wanted it to call “Teenage News” and I thought it was a stupid title so I just come up with Punk.
How did you come up with that name?
It was pretty easy. That’s what everyone called me my entire life.
And did you think it was somehow related to the music and the people from the scene?
Well, we said, “Okay, we’re gonna do this magazine and we’re gonna call it punk.” And then we went to CBGBs to saw The Ramones and Lou Reed was in the audience. And I tried to confront it, you know? We’re up to something now. ‘Cause the Ramones were singing “Beat on the Brat”, “Loudmouth” and I said “Yeah! This is great. This is cool.”
Actually, I wanted to ask you about that moment. I love that story of how you and John Holmstrom went up to Lou Reed and asked him a bunch of questions. I’d be intimidated because you kept talking to him while he was being rude to you and you didn’t care.
I mean, you cared! But we thought that The Ramones were the best band ever. We thought that everyone would love them but they didn’t get played on the radio, they didn’t get played anywhere, you know? It’s kind of depressing.
Yeah… that’s true.
It’s just that since the nineties punk had just taken on but before that, no one gives a shit about it. No one gave a shit until we were doing the book!
I didn’t know that! I thought it had been a big thing in the eighties.
Gillian kept saying “This book is gonna sell really big” and I said no, it’s not! Because none of these groups sold. We sold more books than The Ramones had sold out. Probably not now, but The Ramones only sold $100,000 records every time now, you know?
I really thought they were pretty big even in the seventies when they were getting started.
Well, they should have been but they weren’t selling.
Yes, and you know, the Velvets, Johnny Thunders, and the Heartbreakers. It goes back and forth…. one week it’s this band, one week it’s that band.
There’s a photo I love of you and Sabel Starr in the backstage of CBGB and Dave Vanian is behind…
Yeah, I was pretty drunk. I was pretty drunk most of the time.
And do you remember that night? I want to ask you about the story behind the photo. I strongly believe that photo describes the late punk scene.
I don’t know. I think it was taken the day The Damned was playing at CBGBs. And I think Sabel just saw a photo opportunity so she just jumped into the picture.
Were you friends with Sabel?
Sort of. Not very close, though. I was not a big-time rock and roll star so she really had no interest in me thought we’d hang out. She was nice. I liked Sabel.
Now, what did you think about fashion these days? Why did punks dressed like that?
Because we thought it was cool. It was also economical, we wore what we already had. The t-shirts, leather jacket, and sneakers.
I thought they were trying to make a statement.
I thought we looked great! I still do when I go back to those pictures. It’s like those shots with the early Velvets. They still look great. It was kind of like that tradition. Stripped t-shirts, tight black jeans, sneakers, the black leather jacket. It still works. Nothing has really replaced it.
It’s being used again. People still wear leather jackets to resemble punk.
Going back to the magazine. I’ve never seen it in person but from what I’ve seen on the internet the creative idea and concept of Punk Magazine are incredible. The living cartoon stories, it was very original. What happened to Punk?
Well, John Holmstrom fired Ged Dunn and after that John was a horrible business manager. It was pretty much over.
When did that happen?
Early ’77. It kept going for a while but it wasn’t the same. But John was a great genius.
Did you ever hear of any band from this decade that sounds like The Damned or The Ramones?
No… well, yeah. I go to see friends of mine that are still playing. But I don’t know, I just listen to music I like. 99% of everything, books, movies, television, music is crap. There’s only like 1% that really matter, that really affects you. There’s always some music I want to hear, there’s always some book I want to read. When you look it at that way it’s kind of pleasing when you find something you really enjoy but people are very unimaginative and I’d say they’re just copying stuff, so something comes out and everybody copies it. And usually it’s crap, you know?
Yeah, actually a lot of bands try to do the punk sound and they just sound…
But that’s the way the world has always been! So I’m sure there’s a band out there right now that I’d love to hear I just don’t know who they are, what they sound like.
I really wish we could know them.
You have to look harder but that’s the way it’s always been. We just got lucky to walk in CBGB and see The Ramones that night and everyone else was there. Everyone else was great, you know? Blondie, Talking Heads. That night was giving birth to the scene. It was fun, it was exciting, it was great.
Here goes my last question, what’s the most important moment for you during that time?
I think all. All the moments were just great. It was just a fun time, it was great that it would come night again and you’d go out and have a great adventure.
No se si soy afortunada de haberme mudado a Monterrey hace cuatro años porque desde que estoy aquí he notado que la música tanto interna como migrante ha crecido muy notablemente (O probablemente solo me empece a dar cuenta por llegar a vivir aquí). El punto es que desde finales del 2015 la escena de la música en Monterrey ha ido creciendo y creciendo, y cada vez nos visitan músicos de nuestro otros países ansiosos por conocer nuestra cultura y música local pero también esta la otra parte donde nuestra misma comunidad llegan a la ciudad a compartirnos su talento, inspiración y esencia. Y vaya que hay mucho talento en todo Mexico.
Esta ocasión tuvimos la oportunidad de conocer a Vanessa Zamora, una cantante y música originaria de Tijuana. Llegamos antes de su set acústico en Agua Fría para platicar con ella sobre la necesidad de un cambio en nuestra persona para llegar a lo que buscas, perseverancia y dedicación.
Sheila: ¡Bienvenida! ¿Es tu primera vez aquí en Monterrey?
Vanessa: ¡Muchas gracias! No, es como la cuarta vez que toco acá y está cool.
S: Ahora bien, ¿cuéntame como surgió la necesidad de querer música?
V: Desde que estaba muy chiquita me acuerdo que me gustaba mucho la música. No le entendía, no sabia tocar ningún instrumento pero me gustaba mucho. Me acuerdo que mi papa siempre cuando viajábamos por carretera ponía un disco que le gustaba mucho de Earth, Wind and Fire y lo repetía, y lo repetía y me aprendía los arreglos de las canciones. Pero no sabia que era eso.
A los 8 me metieron a clases de piano en una academia chiquita en Tijuana y luego aprendi guitarra. Después deje la música por completo porque era super penosa, no me gustaba cantar. Cuando fui a vivir a Guadalajara fue cuando empecé otra vez a a tocar y un día estaba escuchando la canción —-Ain’t no Sunshine de Bill Withers. La saque, grabe un video que subí a Youtube. Recuerdo que mi mama me hablo por teléfono, llorando, diciéndome “Hey, no manches, no sabia que cantabas!”. No sabia que un cover
S: ¿Cómo inició tu carrera musical?
V: Empece a sacar videos de covers como muy a mi estilo, mucha gente comenzó a compartir los videos y de repente mucha gente comenzó a escribirme. Un amigo me produjo mi primer disco que se llama “Hasta la fantasia” y saque el disco a como sabia. Yo sola lo subí a Spotify, yo investigue…
S: Tu solita te moviste…
V: Yo me moví, súper independiente y pues saque ese disco y me trajo cosas bien chidas. Empece a tocar, gente me hablaba que fuera a tocar aquí, allá y me empezaron a invitar. Empece a viajar, a tocar, conocer hasta que esto se volvió mas serio y la verdad desde ese momento no he dejado de perseguir este sueño de hacer música y de de vivir del arte porque es una carrera retadora, estas fuera del sistema, no hay un sueldo seguro cada quincena.
Pero es parte de la pasión de hacer algo y es de chingarle y buscar. Que te apasione de verdad. Y pues ya estoy a punto de sacar mi segundo álbum “Tornaluna”.
S: ¡Es lo que te iba a preguntar! Sacaste un sencillo, Malas Amistades, que es buenísimo. Noté un cambio, todavía esta tu estilo, tu esencia, pero si hay un cambio de tranquilo a un poquito más movido. Me encanto esa transición. ¿Cómo fue que sucedió?
V: Tenía muchas ganas de hacer algo mas movido, divertirme mas en el escenario. El primer disco lo siento como medio ingenuo, mas inocente, tímido. Era mi primer disco y las canciones eran mas naïve. Pero pues he cambiado yo también, ya no soy la misma persona y quise también producirlo yo. Desde componer la música a todos los arreglos. Sabia que quería algo movido entonces abrí mi laptop y empece a hacer beats. Voy a estar sacando sencillos hasta el 5 de octubre que es cuando lanzo el disco completo.
S: ¡Qué cool!
V: Sí. Así se fue dando el sonido del disco. Después se unió Marian Ruzzi a co-producir conmigo. Es un disco producido por dos mujeres lo cual esta bien chido.
S: ¿Cómo te sientes con haber producido tu disco? Yo no sé nada de producción. Siempre le pido a Andrea que me explique cosas de producción.
V: Mucha gente piensa que producción es como tal vez nada mas hacer los arreglos o darle el sonido o dirección de una canción pero producir un disco va mas allá que eso. También desde encaminar el proyecto, darle el sonido que quieres desde bookear el estudio en el que vas a grabar, desde coordinar los músicos que van a grabar contigo. Quise involucrarme en cada proceso del disco desde componer hasta estar en la mezcla para aprender.
S: Te aventaste todo el disco. ¡Qué cool!
V: Sí, en su mayoría. ¡La neta estoy bien feliz! Fue un proceso muy bonito y pues justo estoy haciendo estos shows acústicos mientras presento mi disco el 5 de octubre en el Foro Indie Rocks en Ciudad de Mexico.
S: ¿Por qué decidiste que fuera un show acústico?
V: Uno, era mas fácil para mi viajar ahorita sola. Dos, porque me gusta el hecho de poder compartir las canciones de una manera desnuda, súper crudas. Ya después del 5 de octubre, ya voy a empezar la gira con la banda.
S: Y de todas la canciones que vas a tocar el día de hoy, ¿cuál es la que tu dices “ya quiero que sea el momento en el que presente esta canción” y le des toda tu vida, emoción al presentarla?
V: Fíjate que me emociona tocar todas las del nuevo disco. Ahora estoy tocando piano y guitarra acústica y la neta me gusta salirme de mi zona de confort.
S: ¿Que recomendarías a las personas para que se salgan de su zona de confort? Conozco mucha gente que se queda super trabada ahi y no quiere salir por miedo, o lo que sea. Y estoy viendo que tu conforme al paso del tiempo lograste adquirir esa confianza y saliste, y ya tocas sola, quieres tocar nuevos instrumentos. Ya no te quedas solo con lo que sabes.
V: Pues, yo creo que las cosas suceden afuera de tu zona de confort. Tienes que estar cómodo estando incómodo. Es no tener miedo. Muchos se quedan en lugares que no se sienten bien y tu misma lo sabes. Ya sea una relación, un trabajo, una amistad, tal vez gente que parece ser tóxica que en lugar de elevarte te mantiene en un lugar donde no estas bien y no crecer y no evolucionas.
Creo que es el reto mas grande de los seres humanos y decir, puede que esto no funcione pero tal vez esto me lleve al siguiente nivel. De eso se trata la vida y ver que pasa y si la cagaste mínimo ya lo intentaste. Eso es lo que te va a hacer crecer.
S: ¡Muchas gracias Vanessa!
V: ¡Gracias a ustedes!
Acabandose la entrevista, nos quedamos platicando un poquito mas con Vanessa y sobre un tema bastante interesante que pronto escribire al respecto pero mucho de esto tiene que ver con su nuevo sencillo “Río” Te invitamos a escuchar pues es una cancion que nos enseña a dejar la vida fluir con libertad y sin paradigmas.