Forming way back in 2009, …Whatever That Means has since toured throughout Korea, Malaysia, and the United States, performing at the Daejeon Rock Festival, and opened for international acts such as Strike Anywhere (USA), The Bruce Lee Band (USA), FCFive (Japan), Guitar Wolf (Japan), and NoOpinion (Germany).
Having kicked off their Winter Tour 2015 in Seoul last weekend, the melodic punk rock quartet hailing from South Korea will be heading to our shores for a rocking performance tonight! But before that, guitarist and vocalist Jeff took some time off to answer our budding questions. Find out more about the energetic band’s inspirations, thoughts on the Hallyu wave and more on their full length album, ‘Sixty-Eight, Twenty-Two’ below.
Q: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers.
A: Hi. We’re …Whatever That Means. We’re a melodic punk rock band from Seoul, Korea with an international lineup featuring Korean, American, and Polish members. We started as what we thought would be a single-show project band back in February of 2009 when Trash (bass/vocals) and I (guitar/vocals) got married and have been playing ever since. We’ve toured throughout Korea, Malaysia, and the United States, and have opened for international acts like Strike Anywhere (USA), The Bruce Lee Band (USA), Guitar Wolf (Japan), and more.
Q: It’s going to be the band’s first performance in Singapore – what can fans expect from the performance?
A: We’re a really high energy band. We have a lot of fun playing shows. I mean, that’s the point, right? And we do our best to get the audience excited and show them a good time.
Q: Is there a specific reason that drew the band towards the melodic punk genre? Are there any other kinds of genre that the band would like to try out one day?
A: Really, we just consider ourselves a punk rock band, but people always want us to be defined more specifically so we say we’re melodic punk. That doesn’t mean all of our songs fit into the same category though. We have some really aggressive songs and some really pop punk songs. We play fast skatepunk and other times we play mid-tempo stuff. So we play around within the punk genre, but I don’t ever see us moving away from that.
Q: Which bands would you list as the biggest influences to your sound?
A: I grew up in the US during the big punk rock explosion of the 1990s so that whole era has been a big influence on my songwriting. As for specific bands I’d have to go with Bad Religion, The Descendents/ALL, Face To Face, Social Distortion, and MXPX.
Q: It’s not easy being in the indie scene, especially when K-pop is such a largely-known genre across the globe. Have you guys ever thought of going mainstream?
A: Absolutely not. We have zero interest in giving up our identity to achieve whatever mainstream, K-Pop culture would define as success. We are who we are, and we like it that way.
Q: Do you think that the Hallyu wave actually brings about more opportunities for Korean indie bands, or do you think that it futures minimize the general public’s interest for the indie scene?
A: The whole Hallyu/K-Pop thing is really frustrating, and I don’t think it helps Korean indie bands. Whenever there are free, outdoor shows around Korea, it’s really obvious that Koreans love music. I’ve seen really extreme hardcore bands play on the streets of Seoul and watched normal Korean people really enjoy it. But most of them would never consider going to an actual punk rock show (or even an indie rock show for that matter). I teach at a university here in Seoul, and I’ve had students tell me that they don’t particularly enjoy K-Pop or Korean ballads, but it’s what they listen to. For some reason, somebody decided that K-Pop was this marketable thing that should be a central source of national pride, and most people have bought into that so they become so focused on the music they’re told to be proud of and completely ignore everything else that might actually speak more to them. It’s really sad and frustrating.
Q: Listening to your album ‘Sixty-Eight, Twenty-Two’, there were a lot of songs that seems to be story narrations. Where do you draw your inspirations when writing/composing the songs for the album?
A: The songs on that album came from a lot of different places. I wrote “Sixty-Eight, Twenty-Two” while I was in graduate school back in the US and really homesick for Korea. “Punk Rock Tourist” is about this obnoxious guy who came to one of our shows, tried to show how much cooler he was than everyone else, and then never came out again. “The Goodbye Note” was written from randomly thinking to myself, “If I knew I was going to die, what would be the most important things to say to my wife before I was gone?” Really, our songs come from lots of different things. It’s just whatever comes up in our daily lives whether that be an actual event or a random thought on whatever topic. Something pops into my head, and I just kind of run with it.
Q: Which song would you recommend to new listeners? Which song do you feel best channel …Whatever That Means’ uniqueness?
A: Like I said earlier, we play around with a lot of different styles of punk rock. If someone was interested in hearing our more mid-tempo, pop punk side, I’d suggest “Sixty-Eight, Twenty-Two.” If they wanted to hear something more aggressive with big guitar solos, I’d suggest “Punk Rock Tourist” or “Way Too Busy” from our first album. Then, there’s a lot of other stuff that falls somewhere in between like “Have You Had Enough?” or “More Than Ordinary.”
Q: What was your most memorable show, and why?
A: When we were on tour in the US, we got to play at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. That’s a majorly historic punk rock club in the US. It’s where Operation Ivy, Green Day, and Rancid all got their starts. I’d wanted to see a show there since I was a teenager so I was stoked when my first time there was to actually play. That night, we also got to play with a band called The Manix who were the side project for the guitar player from one of our favorite bands, Banner Pilot. It was just a great night overall.
Q: What do you hope …Whatever That Means to be known for?
A: We don’t have a big political or social agenda like some bands. For us, it’s simple. We just want to write music and play shows that people enjoy.
Q: Where do you see …Whatever That Means in five years?
A: It seems like we’re always working on our next release, booking local shows, and planning the next big tour. I honestly don’t see that changing too much. As we get older, it might get harder for everyone to get away for long, international tours, but I’m sure we’ll always find a way to make it work.
Q: Any last words to your fans?
A: We’re really looking forward to all the shows in Malaysia and Singapore, and hope to meet a lot of people while we’re down there. If you’ve never heard us before, you can give us a listen for free at our webpage or check out our latest music video for “Asian Prodigy” on YouTube. See you soon!
…Whatever That Means will be performing with six other bands such as Red Charades and Iman’s League at Aliwal Arts Centre tonight for the Punk Ska La-La-La Night, so for all of you K-indie and punk rock-lovers, remember grab your tickets at the door. More information on the gig could be found here.
Many thanks to …Whatever That Means and Jeff for taking the time out to answer our questions.
Punk Ska La-La-La Night is brought to you by Prohibited Projects // Social Prison. More information could be found on the Facebook event’s page HERE!