Blues band Billy Carter talks upcoming tour & plans to help women
Story By: Emma Kalka
Photos By: Kim Youngjoon
For any band or music, life is a constant cycle of recording, playing gigs, going on tour, finding gigs and so on. For local blues band Billy Carter, that’s not so different.
The band, consisting of vocalist Kim Jiwon, guitarist Kim Jina and drummer Lee Hyun-joon, dropped two EPs simultaneously in December. They were the latest in their Color Series – “The Orange” and “The Green.” What’s more, they will be heading out to the U.K. for a three-week tour in May starting at Liverpool Soundcity and ending at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton.
But beyond that, the band is hoping to change Korean indie band culture and make it a better and safer atmosphere for women.
“There was an archive; it was written by many women in the audience and they wrote things about what they felt and… it’s more about women’s rights. Like how women feel uncomfortable in certain situations as well as sexual harassment,” said Jiwon.
She is referring to a Google document started somewhere in 2016 though it gained media attention earlier this year amid growing attention to Korea’s Me Too Movement. Titled “한국 인디밴드의 공연을 안 가는 이유들,” or “Why We Don’t Go to Korean Indie Band Concerts” in English, the document lists over 100 anecdotes from women at indie concerts, including stories of groping and verbal harassment. It has since gained support from the Seoul Foundation of Arts & Culture.
“We really want to make the whole situation related to indie band culture – we want to know what they really want to make this whole situation better for them,” Jiwon said. “To feel safe and feel free to enjoy live music again.”
She continues that the band is currently working and planning different events to not only bring awareness to the issue, but to affect actual change and make a difference. “We want to listen to them. We want to communicate. And we want to know what we can do to make the atmosphere for live gigs better.”
The band says women’s issues is not something that they’ve intentionally focused on, but with two founding members being women and working with other women in music, it’s naturally a part of their lives. Jiwon says that it’s just something you naturally think about and focus on as a woman musician, but more than their own experiences, they feel the women in the audience are facing more hardships, which is why they want to reach out to them.
And through making the environment at live shows better, hopefully they can then make society in general better for women.
Jiwon says this goal ties in a lot with the messages from Billy Carter’s latest EPs. A bit darker than past releases, the EPs touch on difficult experiences in life. “The Orange” is meant to represent flowers and is an aggressive approach to the battles of life. “The Green” symbolizes grass and broaches such topics as birth and death.
They are the latest in their Color series, which started with the first – “The Red” – in 2015, which was followed by “The Yellow” in 2016. Jiwon says they are hoping to release their second LP next year.
But beyond that, Billy Carter is preparing for their second UK tour which kicks off on May 5 at Liverpool Soundcity. Jiwon said they got the opportunity to play at the major showcase festival through local showcase Zandari Festa. She adds that they were also able to play at Primavera Sound in Barcelona last year through Zandari.
“We love Zandari!” she exclaimed with a laugh. She added that playing at such a big showcase events is important to them as a band. “Because we really want to make something more from the festivals. You know, not only one time, but we’re gonna keep doing this.”
The tour will also take them to Cork, Ireland, which they also played at last year. They will be doing a gig with a local band called The Grunts, who gave them a heart-filled welcome, and then are to London before ending at The Great Escape. Jiwon said it’s been a dream of theirs to play at the festival in Brighton.
“That is one festival we really wanted to take part in someday. And yea, this happened,” she said with a grin. “I heard people there, people who come to enjoy the festival, I heard they know how to enjoy the festival. And yea, the atmosphere sounds really good.”
While last year the band was playing every day of their tour, this year they’ve scheduled in some downtime to either enjoy traveling or just doing nothing. Jiwon said they plan to meet new friends and have fun as well as enjoying the local drinks – whisky for Jina and ale for Jiwon.
Though it won’t be all fun and games. Touring abroad comes with its own challenges, such as dealing with equipment. Playing in Korea, the band usually only has to bring their instruments and drum sticks. But in the U.K., they have to worry about amps, backlines and drum sets.
“Many local bands there playing with us, they helped us out last year. And this time again,” Jiwon said. She also said they sense a difference in the audience’s approach to their shows. While in Korea, folks pay rapt attention to the band and stage – something Jiwon says is likely due to the lack of weekday shows and a fully formed live music culture in Korea – while there, the audience is more focused on having a good time.
“I think it’s a kind of cultural difference and both, both are amazing for us,” she said.
Upon their return to Korea, Billy Carter will also be taking part in the first-ever DMZ Peace Train Music Festival being put on in part by Glastonbury organizer Martin Elbourne, who also helps organize The Great Escape Festival. The lineup includes the likes of local favorites Crying Nut and Jambinai, but will also include Scottish band Colonel Mustard and the Dijon Five.
And with all that going on, what is the last thing they hope to tell their fans?
“Brush your teeth when you go to bed,” Jiwon said, somewhat seriously after a long pause, before the rest burst into laughter. “It’s really easy to forget if you’re drunk! People don’t brush their teeth when you get drunk, but it’s really bad for your gums. Let’s save our money for the dentist…”