Saturday, March 15, 2014

SXSW Interview: Hollow Jan

In many ways, Hollow Jan stands alone in Korea's music scene. Hollow Jan is arguably the only screamo band in Korea. As such, they do not simply stand apart from the mainstream; they stand very far away from the prevailing Korean indie scene as well. Yet Hollow Jan presses on, playing their own style of music for more than a decade.

Hollow Jan has six members, but the guitarist Lee Gwang-jae could not make the trip to Austin. (Choi Hyeon-seok from Apollo 18 substituted Lee for the band's SXSW tour.) The Korean sat down with four of the members, at Hollow Jan's hotel. (Drummer Ryu Myeong-hun was not available.)

The interview was conducted in Korean; the translation was the Korean's own.

TK:  Please say hello to everyone.

Hollow Jan:
In English? [TK: No, Korean is fine.] Hello, this is Im Hwan-taek, vocal for Hollow Jan.
Helllo, I am Kim Seong-chool, the FX for Hollow Jan.
Hello, I am Hollow Jan's guitarist Seo Han-pil.
Hello, this is Hollow Jan's bassist Jeong Dong-jin.

TK:  How did Hollow Jan come about?

Jeong:  We formed in 2003. At first it was just me and Hwan-taek. We first met after we finished our military service. We both had a job already, although we didn't work at the same place.

TK:  How are you enjoying SXSW? What did you think about how the audience reacted to you?

Jeong:  It was good. Unexpectedly good.

Kim:  Can I offer some criticism? I did not have an entirely positive experience. There were some equipment issues at the venues, and one of the venues did not even bother to ensure that the music from the other part of the venue did not leak into our stage. I'm not sure what the bands can gain in that kind of environment.

TK:  That venue was pretty tough, I thought. The crowd was thin, too. But you guys did great at K-Pop Night Out.

Jeong:  I thought the venue was fine. When I play, I can't pay attention to the audience reaction anyway. We have been doing this for a decade now, and we are playing a very uncommon genre of music. Other than us, there is literally one other band in Korea that plays what we play.

TK:  Which band is that?

Jeong:  49Morphines, which is run by Lee Il-woo at Jambinai. But since Jambinai is doing so great now, 49Morphines is not very active at this point. So it's just us. No matter where we play, we end up looking like we don't belong there. We stick out in rock festivals, we stick out at K-pop festivals. Ten years ago when we started, the audience literally walked up to the stage to mock us, because they didn't understand the music. Compared to that, this is fine. It feels like the early days of the band. If we could pick up just two more people who follow us, I would consider our SXSW tour a success.

TK:  How would you describe Hollow Jan's music?

Jeong:  It's screamo. It's a rare genre and not popular. There are a few bands in Japan and Eastern Europe that do this. If you never had challenges in your life, you wouldn't really understand it. I call it, "music for someone who was abused by his mother." It's not han, though. There is an underlying message of hope in our music. [Pointing to Im,] the lyrics that he writes tend to be hopeful too.

Im:  I don't think our music is that tortured, actually. I just like it. It's a stress relief.

TK:  Who do you count as your musical influence nowadays?

Seo:  Nowadays, I only listen to Hollow Jan.

Im:  Me, too.

Kim:  I probably listen to the most amount of music in the band. Since I'm an FX guy, I listen to a lot of electronica. I was also the last to join the band, which gives me a bit more objectivity about our music.

Jeong:  I like Poison the Well, and Japanese bands like Naiad and Heaven in Her Arms. I also like Deftones a lot. When Hwan-taek and I began, we were a cover band of Deftones.

TK:  In the ten years of playing music, how do you think you grew as a band, musically or otherwise?

Kim:  I think we became more focused on our mission, and all six of us became a bit more harmonious.

Jeong:  I disagree! We still have the same conflicts. But I suppose we did get a bit smoother in manners as we got older.

TK:  You just released a new album.

Im:  Yes, it's called Day Off. It is about death. I think our next album has to be happier, however. We joke about being cursed by the album, because so many bad things happened to us shortly after we released the album. We got into a car accident, caught mysterious physical and mental illness, broke a leg, etc.

TK:  Any parting words for AAK! readers?

Jeong:  Love your mom.

Im:  Be healthy. Without health, you can't play music.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. thanks for getting a hold of these guys, tk! despite being on the shorter end of things, this was a pretty engaging and informative interview! i appreciate the dedication the band has to their craft; they really are an inspiration. honestly, i was never really into screamo prior to my discovery of the band. however, getting the chance to listen to their work really broadened my horizons just that little bit more and i'm definitely grateful to all the members for that. furthermore, i've got to say, anyone who has the opportunity to witness hollow jan perform live should really seize it - they're simpy phenomenal on a live stage and their energy's unparalled! oh, and 'day off' is fucking amazing, it was most definitely worth the wait.

  2. I was very happy to hear a screamo band at KPop night out. It wasn't something I was expecting, but most of my high school and college years were spent listening to screamo and punk rock. It was refreshing. I thought they were fantastic. - Erica (beats and sheets)


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