Interview with Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio

Formed in 2011, the Korean quartet ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RADIO quickly began attracting attention with their great dance-rock melodies. The band has been invited to play in important festivals, in Korea and US (SXSW, CMJ, Culture Collide), even before the release of their debut album, Shut Up and Dance, and won the ‘Rookie of The Year’ award at the Korean Music Awards. In June 2015, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RADIO will be performing three gigs in France for the first time, as part of the K-Pop Night out at the MIDEM (Cannes – June 6), at the Thunderbird Lounge (St-Etienne – June 11) and at the Buzz (Paris – June 15).

Hello and thank you for this interview. Can you introduce the band for people who don’t know you ?

Jinkyu : Hello!  We’re Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio from Seoul, Korea.  We’re a band that will make you dance. Our music is rhythmical and exciting, but inside the songs there is some sorrow too. Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio formed in 2011 and we released our first album, “Shut Up and Dance,” in 2013. Last year we won “Rookie of the Year” at the Korean Music Awards and traveled to the US twice to play at festivals like SXSW, CMJ, and Culture Collide. Right now we’re in France! We’ll be playing some concerts here and recording a new EP in Paris.

Can you tell us the story of your band name, Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio ?

Jinkyu : I used to play in a band called Go Go Beat with Minwoo and Minkyu. But they fired me from that band!  However, later on the three of us decided to play together again and we made a new band with Naehyun. Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio was the name of one of the tracks we had as Go Go Beat. We thought it would make a good name for our new band.

Tell us the reasons why you created this band and how the band began.

Jinkyu : All four members of Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio used to be technicians for a famous Korean rock band named YB. I went to the same high school as Minkyu and Minwoo and we have played in bands together since then. And we met Naehyun while working for YB.  As I mentioned before, I got fired from a band I played in with Minkyu and Minwoo called Go Go Beat.  And around that same time, Naehyun got fired from a band he was in called Anti-Roman so Naehyun and I decided to form a new band together called Burning Flowers. After we finished making our first demo, I ran into Minkyu and Minwoo. I gave them our demo and they called me to ask about playing together again.  I agreed and brought Naehyun along this time. That happened in 2011.

Many people have discovered you through you hit « Shut Up & Dance ». Tell us a bit about that song.

Jinkyu : We were jamming one day and Naehyun played a different guitar riff. I asked him why he was playing a different riff. And then I told him that it sounded pretty good and asked whose riff it was. He told me it was my riff! That’s when I figured out it was a riff from an old song I’d made. I got inspired from that and “Shut Up & Dance” started to take shape.

Naehyun : We were trying to make a song like the Chemical Brothers! The song wasn’t that hard to make and it came out really good. That song has helped us a lot and we’re all really proud of it.

Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you work to create a song ?

Jinkyu: We usually jam together and record our jam sessions. Songs grow from that. I usually suggest ideas about different things to try and based on my suggestions we play together and develop the songs.  I’m the band’s producer, so I’m always thinking about what is best for each member. And the other members try and understand my vision for the songs and share their own input too. I draw inspiration from many things. I express this inspiration through sounds and lyrics.

We can hear many influences in your music. Can you talk a little about that ?

Jinkyu : Growing up, I listed to rock music, blues, jazz, and funk because of my older brother. I used to listen to a lot of American music, but then I got into UK music, and now I’m interested in European music. It would take a long time to list all of the bands who have influenced me.

Naehyun : We all like bands like Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, and The Whitest Boy Alive. And personally, I like groups like The Beach Boys, Depeche Mode, David Bowie, and Joy Division too.

In 2014, you won the « Rookie of the Year » award at the Korean Music Awards. How did it feel to win ? Has this award been beneficial in terms of exposure / awareness about your band ?

Jinkyu : The prize didn’t really change our lives in any way. But it’s still special to me. I’ve been making music for over 10 years, but Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio has been the only band I’ve been part of that has gotten any kind of recognition. We’re happy we won the award and the rookie prize can only be won once so it’s really special.

Minkyu : Winning the “Rookie of the Year” award is the highest honor a new band can get. So we felt honored to win. And it served as a good way to introduce us to more people.

You had the opportunity to play in the USA several times at famous festivals (SXSW, CMJ Music Marathon, etc). How were those concerts and how your music was received by the US public ? What is your best memory from these concerts ?

Jinkyu : There is an annual tour called Seoulsonic that brings Korean bands oversea.  We went to the US as part of Seoulsonic. My best memory from those tours were the Culture Collide shows in San Francisco and LA. LA Weekly picked us as one of the top five bands to watch at Culture Collide. They said, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio is light years ahead of what most Americans associate with K-Pop. In other words, they’re the band we should be talking about.” It was a really great press quote for us!

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You are going to play in Cannes as part of MIDEM. How were you chosen for ? How do you feel about the fact to represent your country in France ?

Jinkyu : We were chosen to play at MIDEM during the Mu:Con conference and festival in Korea. We’ll be playing as part of the K-pop Night Out showcase during MIDEM. We’re excited about the opportunity!

Minkyu : MIDEM will be our first performance in France. I’m nervous and excited at the same time. I’m also looking forward to our concerts on June 11 in Saint-Étienne at Thunderbird Lounge and our June 15 concert in Paris at Le Buzz.

While you are in France, you will also work on a new EP with some French producers. Tell us a bit about this project and this collaboration.

Jinkyu : The suggestion to work with Romain Tranchart from Modjo came from our friend Anne. She’s the vocalist and synthesizer player in a great Korean indie band called Love X Stereo.  Annie knew Romain already so it was easy to get in contact with him.  And then Gregory Louise from the band Aloud was brought on too. We’re excited to work with these two talented producers.  We’re going to spend a few days recording music with them in Paris. And then we’ll release a new EP with the music on it in later summer or early fall.

Internationally, we talk a lot about hallyu and Kpop. Do you think these movements are good for Korea and Korean indie music ?

Jinkyu: Absolutely it’s helpful to the Korean indie scene. Shining more light on Korean music and entertainment means that there are more chances for Korean indie bands to get exposure and be introduced to new listeners too.

Naehyun : It’s good, but the Korean indie scene needs some stars to emerge in order to get more attention. I’m hoping Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio will be one of them!

End, do you have a message for the readers ?

Jinkyu: There are lots of good bands in Korea that aren’t named EXO or Psy. Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio is one of them. If you like our music please introduce us to other people too. If enough people learn about our band, maybe one day we’ll be able to come and play for you no matter where you are in the world. Thank you for reading about Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio.

Thanks to Naehyun, Jinkyu, Minwoo, Minkyu and Shawn. Interview before the MIDEM.

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