Interview: Busker Busker
An indisputable mark of fame in the K-pop scene is when all the shops in Myeong-dong play a band’s music on repeat. One such band that recently catapulted to stardom is Busker Busker.
The Korean indie band consists of three members — Jang Beom-jun (guitar and vocal), Kim Hyung-tae (bass) and Brad Moore (drums). While already a household name among Koreans, they are largely unknown among expats, though you’ve probably already heard their hits “Tokyo Girl,” “Yeosu Night Sea” and “Cherry Blossom Ending” spilling onto the streets wherever you live, even if you don’t know them by name.
Contrary to what may be suggested by the moniker, their claim to fame is not street performance, but rather Mnet’s singing survival show “Super Star K,” a Korean rendition of “American Idol.”
Even though they finished second in the third season of the hugely popular audition-reality show, the band amassed nationwide popularity evinced by more than 13 million downloads of their debut album, an unheard-of feat for a new artist.
Busker Busker is also scheduled to perform at the 2012 Jisan Valley Rock Festival on July 29.
Catchy, comfortable and easy-listening, their first album is worthy of the frequent playlist designation for your iPod. Busker Busker keeps a low profile — they’ve yet to launch an official website — which made us more eager to get to know them. Here’s what we shook out of the jolly, easy-going buskers:
Groove Korea: Were you a frequent busker before you became Busker Busker?
Busker Busker: Yes, we used to busk fairly regularly at a park in Cheonan, where Sangmyung University (where the Korean members were students) is located. Busking in Cheonan was not very common compared to the Hongdae area, but we liked the idea that we could make our town more lively by busking. Since we started as a busking band, it was only natural to name ourselves Busker Busker.
Since you received explosive attention from “Super Star K,” it must not have been easy to continue busking. Besides the upcoming 2012 Jisan Valley Rock Festival, what other venues are you scheduled to perform at?
We have just performed at the Rainbow Festival in Nami Island, and finished our first nationwide tour. So until Jisan Valley Rock Festival, we are going to have no more concerts, and spend our time working on our next album and enjoy the long-awaited free time!
Is there a language barrier among band members?
We don’t have much difficulty in communication, unlike what most people think. Beom-jun and Hyung-tae can speak English pretty well. Brad’s Korean is not that good, but we still can understand each other. Admittedly we can’t talk a lot (laughter) but we don’t have many problems because when making music, we just play a chord and ask, “like it?”
You would be surprised how much music can get made without talking.
Do you have plans to perform outside of Korea, say, in Japan, Southeast Asia or the U.S.?
We did have a chance to perform in Japan last April — it was a very special experience singing in Korean in front of people who spoke a different language. But since lyrics are still important for us, we will think more about (performing in more places abroad) when we can speak more languages. It will be fun if we go to the United States and have Brad interpret for us (Beom-jun and Hyung-tae).
Do you have plans to diversify your style into a new or different genre?
Hmm … yes and no. We don’t think our style is fixed because we are still a new band. But we don’t feel we need to change it. It will happen naturally.
How did you all meet and decide to do music together?
Beom-jun and Hyung-tae went to the same university (Sangmyung University), and Brad was Hyung-tae’s professor for the English class he took. One day Beom-jun, Hyung-tae and other friends were busking in a park — as was usual.
A foreign couple passing by gave us money — they were Brad and Danny (Brad’s wife). After that we started to busk together as a hobby. It wasn’t until after we came in second at “Super Star K” that we put that much thought into it. We hadn’t taken it seriously, but alas, it became our fate.
How has your everyday life changed since “Super Star K3”?
A lot. At the beginning we did not feel very different, but we realized that it became difficult to have small busking sessions like before. Meeting friends during the daytime also became difficult. Life became busier and more complicated.
Where do you get the inspiration for your music?
Experience and memory — about love mostly.
How would you describe your music?
Easy, simple and friendly.
Tell us a little about yourselves.
Beom-jun: I am from Gwangju and started playing the guitar at age 15. I started to play music to express my feelings. One of my favorite musicians is Nell and my source of inspiration is love and women.
Hyung-tae: I’m from Gimhae (South Gyeongsang). I started to play music when I was 20 because it was fun!
Brad: I’m from Ohio but I consider Korea as my second home seeing as my life has changed drastically here. I started playing music around 13, mainly for fun. I like The Killers and Danny is my muse.