Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SXSW Interview: Smacksoft

Smacksoft, led by frontwoman Whang Bo-ryung [황보령] (known in the U.S. market simply as "Bo",) is one of the few rock bands in Korea that are indisputably led by a woman leader. Smacksoft has been critically acclaimed for its colorful music that translates well to audiences of different cultures.

The Korean met Smacksoft at the lobby of their lodging. The interview was conducted in Korean; the translation is the Korean's own.

TK:  Please say hello to everyone.

Hi people, my name is Bo-ryung Whang. I'm the vocal and I play guitar.
Hello, I'm Smacksoft's drummer Seo Jin-sil.
Hello, I'm the bassist Shin Gee-yong.
How are you, I am Rainbow 99, the guitarist.
Hi people, I am Hanul. I play the synthesizer.

TK:  How did Smacksoft start?

Bo:  I have been playing as a solo since 1998. We held an audition for members, and Smacksoft began in 2007.

TK:  How would you describe Smacksoft's music?

Bo:  It's post-punk. It defies categories, mostly based on rock, alternative and electronica.

TK:  This is your first SXSW. How are you enjoying it?

Seo:  This is way too much fun.

Shin:  It's really different from Korea's rock festivals. In Korea, you play before a single, huge crowd. Here, each bar and club has its own, small show. The whole city is involved. I wish Korea would have something like this, too.

Rainbow 99:  It's so much more fun than expected. It's fun to watch the people here too.

TK:  Any artist at SXSW that you want to see in particular?

Bo:  We are a bit too busy to follow a particular band.

Hanul:  The lines are too long for big names anyway. I just want to stroll and watch a lot of different acts.

Bo:  There was one young woman band who does hardcore rock. I wanted to see her.

TK:  Who would you call as your musical influence?

Bo:  J.S. Bach. You know, Johann Sebastian. Velvet Underground. Bauhaus. Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Cure. Simon and Garfunkle, Bob Marley, the Pixies. Suzanne Vega. I like everyone. Sonic Youth.

Seo:  I'm not into Sonic Youth.

Bo:  How about we all go around and talk about the music we like then.

Hanul:  Sigur Ross, My Bloody Valentine. [Bo:  I like them too!]

Rainbow 99:  Brian Inoue. Vision of Disorder. Yo La Tengo.

Shin:  Pink Floyd.  [Rainbow 99:  I hate them. Their earlier stuff was ok though.]

Seo:  I like jazz. Chet Baker, Bill Evans. I like Red Hot Chili Peppers too.

TK:  Would it be faster if you just listed the stuff you don't listen to?

Rainbow 99:  Sure. I'm not into "K-pop."

Hanul:  Music from hot countries, like reggae. I also hate the trot medleys that they sell at highway rest stops in Korea. Regular trot is fine; just that fast medleys.

Bo:  There is some jazz with discordant notes. I can't stand it.

TK:  How do you see Smacksoft's music evolving, going forward?

Bo:  We just want to make good sound. The music equipment has made that so much easier. With computers, it is much easier to add anything we want, and just put on some more acoustic stuff. In our most recent fifth album, we have a lot of rock, electronica and ambient noise. We try not to get tied down to a certain genre.

TK:  How did you feel about your SXSW experience?

Bo:  I love people. I love music. I love Austin and SXSW! It's so wonderful here.

Seo:  It was far beyond expectation. I really want to come back.

Bo:  Maybe we should leave our instruments here.

Shin:  Seeing so many artists was great. It was so much better than seeing just the headliners.

Hanul:  Rock festivals in Korea are too similar to one another. I wish they combined to form just a couple of festivals with more tradition, and have something like this in Korea.

Bo:  It could totally happen around Daehak-ro. We should talk to the mayor.

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

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