Galaxy Express
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Galaxy Express


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"'People always get excited when we get wild'"

Seoul’s Galaxy Express is comprised of guitarist Park Jong Hyun, bassist Lee Ju Hyun, and drummer Kim Hee Kwon. Over the last six years the trio’s infectious hybrid of garage punk, psychedelic sounds, and riotous gigs have helped make them one of South Korea’s premier rock ‘n’ roll outfits. - The Jeju Weekly

"Galaxy Express Invade America"

One of the country’s best-loved indie acts, Seoul garage rockers Galaxy Express started off last year on a high note by winning Musicians of the Year at the 2011 Korean Music Awards. And from there things just seemed to get better and better. - Groove Korea

"Galaxy Express"

Rolling Stone’s David Fricke was unfolding himself from my clown car Sunday when I asked The New York Times’ Jon Pareles – crumpled into a nonexistent backseat – what his favorite sets of SXSW were. South Korea’s Galaxy Express made the short list, and when he described the punk trio in terms he used in his Monday wrap (“harked back to the crashing, roiling protopunk psychedelia of the MC5”), Fricke and I both groaned because we'd had no idea. Wait till David hears I got an encore! - The Austin Chronicle

"(Galaxy Express) – Wild Days Review"

Knowing nothing about Galaxy Express, going into the album I was only expecting some type of rock. But when listening to the album, I was introduced to some great garage rock. The album is pretty dense with twenty tracks. They reminded me of early Crying Nut, but also pull some heavier influences in the songs.

Pulling from 70s punk in some songs to almost British-influenced rock in others, the album proves the band know how to perform songs. They also reminded me of some 90s American rock like a mixture of Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins, even though the songs don’t sound like those bands, but smaller elements appeared.

There’s just so much in the album that it takes a number of listens to appreciate everything the band introduces and that makes it a great album. - Wakesidevision

"Seen: 2K11 Seoulsonic North America Tour, April 2, 2011 at the Roxy, Los Angeles"

After Vidulgi's hour was up, Dumbfounded returned to the stage for requisite emcee duties as they set up the next band, Galaxy Express. I took the opportunity to run out and feed my parking meter, which covered the rest of the night. When I got back, it was just in time for Galaxy Express to take the stage. It was immediately apparent that even before they picked up their own instruments that the trio had the rock swagger down. Lee JuHun and Park JongHyun were both bearing leather jackets with Lee in sunglasses. And from the moment this trio hit their instruments, they came out wailing. This group definitely puts on a good show in addition to their loud garage rock and had more than enough stage presence to make up for the more low-key preceding acts. Kim HeeKwon dutifully banged on his drums while Lee, the "cool guy" of the duo never took off his sunglasses. The much younger looking Park was the wild man on stage, jumping on top of monitors and generally throwing his body into the performance. Both frontmen threw windmill, flung their instruments around to creatively play them and put on a wild performance. The second song of the night also happened to be the only song of theirs that I really knew, because it was a cover of none other than Sanullim's "????" and a rather rocking fun cover of it as well. Galaxy Express also presented some variety in their songs with a few songs that offered some dynamism in tempo and decibel level and as they performed, the young seeming Park clearly got overheated in his jacket and took it off, along with his shirt, performing the rest of the show shirtless. Galaxy Express clearly engaged the audience the most, getting the audience to clap and sing along to their "?? ?? ??". At one point, Park runs straight into the crowd, blasting right past me and runs up into the VIP section for part of the song, surprising the crowd. It was also during this performance that some of the kids up front began moshing ever so slightly, causing the small audience to part for the three or four wildly dancing kids. In between songs they would speak in limited English with a bit of a snotty punk attitude, but they are a gracious enough band to thank everyone toward the end of their set. - Init_Music

"Inbox: Galaxy Express - Noise on Fire"

When I first saw Galaxy Express during Seoulsonic's 2K11 North America Tour, it was absolutely clear that this trio were dynamic performers of garage rock. But, from their set, I was aware that they didn't just stay within the confines of garage rock and now that I managed to get a hold of a copy of their double album, Noise on Fire, it's clear that they are strong performers of both garage rock and other core styles of rock, filtered through their own high-energy rock and roll attitude.

Of course, a double album is certainly not the kind of album you'd ever really expect released by a garage rock band, but the trio manages to stuff two whole CDs full of music. The first disc is their more garage-oriented album, blasting through from start to finish with the kind of energy and intensity that you absolutely expect from a high-octane garage band, although I have to admit that the group's stage presence was sorely missing from the recorded music and the first disc is so stuck on just providing that one kind of style that it can get a wearisome if you listen to it on repeat. Still, the first disc provides so many quality rock tracks like: "????", "Jungle the Black", "??", the title track, and a fun cover of Sanullim's "????", although I think their recorded version could have been pushed with even more energy.

One of the aspects of this trio that help it to stand out is that both Lee JuHun and Park JongHyun are main vocalists which results in some pretty great back and forth as well as wailing rock harmonies and all three members put in some solid work on their instruments. Even if the recordings do flatten their energy a little, it's hard not to see their rock attitude through the music.

The second disc actually allows itself room to deviate from their core garage rock sound, even though it opens up with the strong garage blast of "?? ???". Once you hit "??", we actually hit a kind of hard rock ballad that would make YB proud. The band actually hits punk-like notes on "Hit the Trail", goes for rocks instrumental starting on "Laika" and ending with "??? ??", almost coming across as fused with space rock. The band then manages to perform an epic hard rock cover of classic K-rocker's Han Daesoo's "????", expanding it from it's more rock and roll roots into a soaring hard rock exploration.

I think it's this bifurcation between the band's core garage rock sound and its various exploration into neighboring rock sounds that actually makes Noise on Fire work as a double album. If it were just two discs filled with straightforward garage rock, even at its high quality here, it would've been too much to handle, but having the second disc give the band room to try different things with their music gives the two disc format meaning. And clearly this is a band that really rocks hard and wails and while it might almost be too much on the first disc, by the time you hear the second, you start hoping that the band is willing to continue their rock explorations in later albums. 8/10. - Init_Music

"Korean indie bands to rock North America"

It’s the ultimate band roadtrip. Except this isn’t your typical, Americana garage-band straight from Smalltown, U.S.A., it’s post-rock indie group Apollo 18 from the capital of South Korea.

“We’re nervous in general about going to the U.S., playing at South by Southwest (SXSW), the clubs, the venue ambiance and the people inside those venues,” bassist Kim Dae-inn laughed. It will be the first time any of the band members have stepped foot on North American soil.

This spring, Apollo 18 and four of the country’s most-buzzed underground names will enter the American scene by touring some of the most prestigious festivals this March and April, shattering the idea that Korean music holds a mere wisp of a presence worldwide.

Kim and his bandmates, Galaxy Express, Vidulgi OoyoO, Idiotape and EE will go west to make a stand for Korean music either by DIY or with corporate backing. The move records both the marked increase of local bands at SXSW (March 16-20) and the official debut of Korean music at Coachella (April 15-17).

“This (rock) sound is originally from the U.S., so if you’re in a band, it feels right to go to America and experience it firsthand, be inspired by it,” Choi Hyun-seok, the guitarist for Apollo 18, said. The three-man group managed to expand their initial festival performance into a five-state, 14 gig roadshow using only their knowhow, Googling skills and an abundance of e-mail.

Previous years have seen one or two Korean mainstream bands play at the acclaimed Texas music event, one of the largest in the country with nearly 2,000 acts. This year, a total of four indie bands will play SXSW out of the 13 Korean groups that applied.

“This will take a lot of money, so if we go, we want to go for more than just the festival,” Kim said, referring to their decision to turn the showcase into a tour. Apollo 18, ever the hard rockers, took the grassroots approach so they could customize their own schedule independently. A rental van is in the works.

Though the group was originally invited to the 2010 showcase, a lack of funds and preparation delayed the band for a year. But their determination saw a rapid comeback as fundraising and money out of their own pockets will send them on their first overseas trip.

Art performance duo EE, who will debut at the legendary Coachella, was brought to the attention of the Western industry through Seoulsonic, a now-defunct concert series that was transformed into a multi-faceted music organization that aims to be the Korean Pitchfork Media.

Parent company DFSB Kollective refurbished Seoulsonic to focus on both local and international activities through “packaged” band tours, and Galaxy Express, Vidulgi OoyoO and Idiotape will comprise its first North American venture.

The trio of bands will hit up Canadian Music Week, SXSW and hold a variety of shows from New York (The Knitting Factory) to Los Angeles (The Roxy).

“During the day, we would speak about and hear about how hip and how hot the Korean music scene was perceived overseas. But at night, perception and reality didn’t really mix too well at cocktail parties,” said Bernie Cho, president of the DFSB Kollective, a digital music distributor and promoter.

“Whenever we attended showcases sponsored and hosted by different countries’ governments, we were amazed by the live performances of international artists hailing from music markets comparable to and far smaller than Korea. Time and time again, we kept asking and were being asked the same questions. ‘Why is there no Korean night? Why are there no Korean bands here? Where is this cool Korean music people are talking about?”’

DFSB decided to take the matter into its own hands and, after studying other music promotion methods, decided to take Seoulsonic into the direction of group tours.

“Rather than have each act play on its own and get lost in the shuffle, we felt there would be strength and safety in numbers by bundling the bands together under the Seoulsonic brand,” Cho said. “All the bands represent a distinct style and flavor that show the diversity and dynamism of the AltROK scene.”

"It was never a matter of ‘if’ but more of a matter of ‘when’ Korean music acts would step onto the biggest music stages worldwide,” Cho said. “Spring 2011 seems to now answer the ‘when.’”

Previous Korean guests at the Texas festival are less optimistic about Western acknowledgement.

“Actually, there’s still not that much interest about Korea,” said Song Kyoung-kun of Gong Myoung, who performed at SXSW in 2009.

The group, who entered in the fest’s world music category, was featured on prevalent national radio network PRI during their stay in Austin, and regularly attends art markets in Europe to garner international recognition.

Though they often play abroad, Song said that many people still believe Korea to be somewhere between Japan and China, culturally. Indeed, this year’s SXSW will see nearly 20 bands from Japan and eight from Taiwan.

But whether it’s this year or not that Korea will rise from the trenches of the unknown, the experience for the collective bands touring will prove to be a learning one — particularly for other musicians here.

Lee Sang-yun, the drummer for Apollo 18 and the quietest of the three, said: “We want to go and show others that ‘Hey, we did it, so you can do it too.’”
Meet the bands

Apollo 18: The three-piece post-rock group will make you sweat, roar and jump in their intense live performances. Their DIY tour carries all the makings of a true band road trip, down to the scouring of Craigslist for empty beds and their enthusiasm for good eats while traveling the American South.

Galaxy Express: Arguably one of the more well-known indie rock groups in Korea, Galaxy Express has done it all: leave their record label, perform to thousands of fans at both Jisan Rock Valley Festival and Pentaport and, of course, won the 2009 Rock Album of the Year at the Korean Music Awards.

Vidulgi OoyoO: Literally translated into “Pigeon Milk,” Vidulgi OoyoO’s ambient, shoegaze rock will slip you into a rhythmic trance by the time you’re halfway done with your first drink. With such track titles as “Mosquito Incognito,” who wouldn’t be taken?

Idiotape: The pulsing electronics of Idiotape are irresistibly grabbing, with slow builds that reach a climactic intensity before falling back into a simplistic lull. Hints of disco funk add to the entertainment, resulting in an all out dance party.

EE: This art performance duo will not only don skintight costumes and sing in your face during their shows, they’ll make you love them. From residencies at the alternative culture space Platoon Kunsthalle to hitting up this year’s Coachella, this pair is not one to miss.?
- The Korea Times

"Koreas Galaxy Express Wins Battle of Bands"

Following four weeks of healthy competition amongst some of Koreas most promising young bands comprised of local and foreign musicians, often mixed in the same band, Seoul power trio Galaxy Express took top honors to win the Stompers Battle of the Bands at Ole’ Stompers Rock Spot in Itaewon, Saturday.

Playing to a packed audience of more than 200 music enthusiasts, young Galaxy Express put on a dynamite performance that literally blew the opposition away, leaving no doubt in the judges minds, this scribe being one throughout the contest, that Seoul is definitely on the map when it comes to producing rock acts of world class quality.

Competing against finalists the Pines, Rabiheim and wild card Saint John the Gambler, the 1,000 won prize money was up for the taking, with Saint John the Gambler showing equal potential throughout the battle due to their strong stage presence, dynamic song writing talent and diverse musicianship.

Rabiheim had one of the tighter sets but failed to impress overall due to their set sounding too similar to the previous heat.

There were a few a few hiccups earlier in the night with the Pines getting off to a late start due to their drummer being late and uncontactable, but for the most part the Stompers Battle of the Bands proved that Ole Stompers Rock Spot is emerging as Seoul’s premier indie rock venue. - The Korea Times

"Galaxy Express Getting International Exposure"

Some fun news for one of the biggest bands in Hongdae, Galaxy Express — their new album Wild Days is getting launched at the big Music Matters conference (the biggest music industry event in Asia) in Hong Kong this week.

Galaxy’s international sales agent, DFSB Kollective, just issued a press release about the big Hong Kong shows. It says, in part:

According to DFSB Kollective President, Bernie Cho, “With the who’s who of music industry influencers from across the region and around the world attending Music Matters, we could not think of a more perfect time and place to launch the international premiere of Galaxy Express’s amazing new album.”

The recipient of Best Rock Album of the Year accolades at the 2009 Korean Music Awards, Galaxy Express will be showcasing the latest tracks from their sensational sophomore release, ‘Wild Days’. After producing, mixing, and recording the entire album in a blistering 30 days, the band will be performing for 3 straight nights at Music Matters Live (5/27 Hotel LKF, 5/28 Backstage, 5/29 Beer Bar).

The press release also says that Galaxy Express will have a North American tour this fall, so even if you are not in Korea or Music Matters, you could have the chance to see Galaxy Express soon.

Wild Days will also be available internationally on iTunes, beginning May 25. And, of course, there is always Youtube and Facebook and Soundcloud. Big congratulations to Galaxy Express. - Korea Gig Guide

"Galaxy Express - A Few Wild Days Ago…"

Galaxy Express - A Few Wild Days Ago…

Rock ‘n’ roll has always been about simplicity - kickin’ music and a kickin’ live act are the only two things that’re really needed. And if that’s any standard to go by, Galaxy Express have it all. All the way from Seoul, they graced (though with a minimum of grace) LKF during both nights of last month’s Music Matters Live, winning numerous gawkers-plus-fans by their conscientious ripping up of the stage-type activities, they’re not a band to be trifled with. They very generously gave us some time from their schedule so we could find out a bit more about them, just after their soundcheck on May 28th (we couldn’t talk to them before because two-thirds of the band were asleep in Backstage while they waited for their turn!). Here’s the conversation between the Underground (U) and the band (GE) as it went down…

You guys have been through some quite major changes in the past few months - like leaving your record label, creating an album in merely 30 days; how did these things come about, and what is you guys’ mindset now?

GE. Basically what happened is that we got tired of being told what kind of music to make by the record company. It felt like we were being used by the executives, at times. But, we did not want to compromise on our sound, so we were unhappy with that situation. We went through some hard times, definitely, because of our decision, but the freedom is very liberating.

And yes, we did make a record in just 30 days - Wild Days, which came out recently, and we’re it releasing internationally here. We just wanted to connect with the people, our fans, with the music, so we almost spent all our time writing and recording. Initially it was somewhat difficult, because you get used to one method of writing songs.

U. You mean, the conservative way of mulling over things and doing the whole process slowly?

Yes. It’s difficult to unlearn that. We had to decide that in this case, sound wasn’t important, which is another thing you have to keep reminding yourself about. We had a lot of fun making it, and we were able to get back to the essence of rock music. We were very happy about that. We removed all the distractions, and just did our thing, which has come out in the album.20100527-IMG_6352.jpg

So how do you all feel about being able to use a platform as international as Music Matters to release your album?

GE. We are, of course, very excited. It’s a big opportunity that doesn’t come by often. We hope that people will like it, but also that they’ll understand the context of the album - we didn’t always sound like this!

U. And how has the reaction to the album been so far, in Korea?

It’s been quite positive in Korea so far. We’ve found that because we were making music more naturally, in a form that is more ‘us’, we are able to connect with the audiences through it better than ever. Of course, while we were making the album, we kept our fans informed of every development through the internet, so that really helped. But, if someone listens to the album and thinks that ‘they sound like crap’, it won’t really bother us, because they clearly don’t know all the facts.

U. But, so far people have really liked your music in Korea, right? I mean you guys have gotten many awards and nominations - has that affected your career in any way?

GE. Well, it’s very motivating for one - it’s good to know that your work has been appreciated. But, it’s really not much more than that for us. Like at the Korean Music Awards, where we did win - it’s nice to get the honour, but it didn’t affect the music. The thing we look for most is to be able to communicate with the audience and make them have a rockin’ time, to give our energy to them.

So, how do you fit in with the Korean music scene - what’s it like?

GE. [All three laugh] It’s like a joke sometimes! There’s so many idol groups, and that’s all people outside Korea seem to have heard about. You say ‘rock music’ and ‘Korea’ together, and people go ‘whaaaat?!’. But it’s changing, there are a few bands around, and they’re trying to shift the focus. We’re one of them, and we just hope we can contribute in some way.

So, how has the band progressed through the years - in terms of sound, performance, or just how it feels to you guys?

GE. Well, we haven’t changed our live show, or our music all that much - it’s always been pure rock ‘n’ roll. But, we have progressed a lot as a unit. We’ve had a lot more freedom of late.

U. Because of not being shackled by record company demands?

GE. Yes; and we’re really enjoying that. We can now make music even more in our own style, so that’s great. Also, the recording for Wild Days was fun and new - we just used 2 mp3 players for most of it!

U. You can’t be serious…really?

It’s true! And that was a real learning experience - finding out how much we could do with limited time and limited facilities.

U. Moving away from the studios a little, your performance style can only be described by words like frenetic and wild - did you consciously think about it when you started out?

GE. Well, we just wanted to make our shows like being in a dream. There are so many ways to express yourself, and the best we knew of doing that was to just go for an all-out, no-holds-barred approach. We don’t like to stand around on stage like statues, and neither does anybody watching - they like you to jump around and stuff, and we do too. It’s all about communicating with the audience honestly with the audience, and we can’t pretend. People tend to be more reserved in Korea, but we like to use the music we play to put up a good, no, a great show.

And where does the inspiration for the music come from - who are your main influences?

GE. They’re mostly all rock ‘n’ roll bands; it’s kind of hard to do justice to all of them by trying to name them. One of our main inspirations, though, are the MC5.

Yeah, I noticed that you guys do renditions of Kick Out the Jams and Rambling Rose - I highly approve!

GE. [Laugh] Yes, we love them. It’s just great to channel all that rock ‘n’ roll music from all of the great people who have been part of it. But, we like other stuff too - HeeKwon [drummer/shout-alist] like traditional Korean music too.

And finally, what’re your plans for the future?

GE. Well, to continue playing music, wherever we are. We want to connect with more and more audiences through our music. We want to make Korea a wild, wild country! [Laugh] Yeah, we want to turn it into an animal planet!! - The Underground

"ROK Heavy"

This spring, some of Seoul’s finest indie sensations will leave Hongdae to plug into America. Not only will four Korean bands play at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in March, there will be a Korean act at the renowned Coachella Festival (April) for the first time. Oliver Saria introduces you to the most popular bands you probably don’t know and takes you inside Korea’s indie music scene.
• • •

THIS MONTH, a handful of prominent South Korean music acts will tour the United States for the first time. And none of them will perform choreographed dance pop numbers with multiple costume changes. And “rock hard” won’t describe the band members’ abs, but rather what they do on stage. K-pop might be Korea’s biggest export besides economy cars, cell phones and female golfers, but an established indie rock scene is using social media to expand beyond Seoul’s eclectic Hongdae district to prove to the world that there is more to Korean music than just bubblegum ballads.

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Media and Music Conference in Austin, Texas, slated for March 16 to 20, will showcase the largest contingent of Korean acts in the event’s history. Four bands are scheduled to perform, including the atmospheric shoegaze of Vidulgi OoyoO, the electro-dance, high-energy rock hybrid of Idiotape, the wild party-rock of Galaxy Express, and the post-punk, post hardcore sonic assault of Apollo 18. Additionally, in April, the electronic performance art duo EE will be the first Korean act to perform at the renowned, days-long Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California.

Vidulgi OoyoO, Idiotape and Galaxy Express will visit various cities as part of the Seoulsonic North American Tour, which kicked off in Toronto on March 9 during Canadian Music Week. Meanwhile, the ballsy band Apollo 18 plans to independently tour the South with stops in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

In other words, for the first time, American audiences from coast to coast will have a rare opportunity this spring to sample some of the best live acts in Korean indie music today. Depending on how well they’re received, the eyes (and ears) of the music world might very well turn towards Hongdae, the mecca of Korean indie.

• • •


For all intents and purposes, “Korean indie” means anything outside the mainstream K-pop idol factory that dominates South Korea’s music industry. And there’s really only one place to find it. On any given night in the arty Hongdae neighborhood of northwest Seoul, one can find a club that caters to almost any musical taste.

According to Hyunjoon Shin, a professor at the Institute for East Asian Studies at Sungkonghoe University, the music scene in Hongdae started to take off in the mid-1990s as a result of globalization and increased access to Western culture. Bands like Nirvana in the States and Oasis in the U.K. influenced a generation of young musicians; soon, rehearsal spaces, recording studios and music venues began to spring up in the area, where rent was relatively cheap. The students attending Hongik University—arguably the country’s most prestigious art school and the area’s namesake (Hongdae is short for Hongik Daehakgyo)—provided a ready and eager audience as well as a fair number of budding musicians. Hip-hop and electronica spawned an explosion of nightclubs, and soon, the expats, artists and young people came flocking.

Unlike here in the United States, Hongdae has largely escaped the “hipster-fication” that has overrun indie music hotbeds such as the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, where the streets are rotten with skinny jeans and hipsters sipping on Pabst Blue Ribbon. In Hongdae, hip-hop heads, jazz fans, rockers, ravers, salsa dancers and clubbers co-exist. Mark Russell, who in 2008 launched, an English-language blog about the Korean indie music scene, notes that Hongdae embodies an interesting aspect of Korean culture that he observed during his 10-plus years as a Canadian expat there. “One thing Seoul is very famous for is clustering,” says Russell, who is also the author of Pop Goes Korea: Behind the Revolution in Movies, Music, and Internet Culture (Stone Bridge Press, 2009). “If you want to buy bathroom fixtures, all the bathroom fixture stores are in one part of town. And it seems to have happened with the arts as well.”

So while the concentration of arts and music gives Hongdae its unique vibrancy, it also can make Hongdae feel very claustrophobic. And bands are often eager to break out beyond its confines, driven by both want and necessity.

• • •


It’s two weeks prior to the start of the Seoulsonic tour and Bernie Cho, the president of DFSB Kollective, the creative agency producing the tour, is “crazy stupid busy” figuring out travel visas and work permits. On top of that, DR, Idiotape’s drummer, has just given himself whiplash from head-banging too hard during a recent performance. Ever the optimist, Cho insists, “The neck brace actually doesn’t look too bad as part of his stage outfit.”

Over the past two years, Seoulsonic has evolved from a quarterly concert series to an international tour and now a hub for Korea’s breakthrough music via the newly launched website, As Cho states, “These dynamic and diverse music acts have a wide range of options and opportunities to break out and break through whether it’s in Seoul or Korea or beyond.”

The fact of the matter is, Korean indie bands—in particular “alt-rok” bands, as they are dubbed in Korea—practically need to build an international audience in order to succeed beyond Hongdae. In Korea, the rock genre is still the obscure cousin of pop, dance and hip-hop, and other revenue streams such as product endorsements and television appearances aren’t readily available to its musicians.

More importantly, Korea’s dirty little secret is that the music industry often chews up its artists before spitting them out. In January, three of the five members of the hugely popular female idol group Kara announced they were suing their management agency over exploitative contracts. And South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission has recently ordered one agency to shorten the length of its 13-year contracts. The FTC has also investigated the country’s largest music portals amid allegations of price fixing. Sadly, the recent death of indie folk rocker Lee Jin-won from a brain hemorrhage in his tiny apartment has underscored how difficult it is for Korean musicians to survive off their art.

Cho and his fellow cohorts at DFSB’s wanted to do things differently, and hopefully better. They unabashedly formulated an artist-friendly, export-focused business model, squarely targeting international audiences through iTunes, which allows DFSB to pay artists a larger percentage of the profits. “The reality is,” states Cho, “we’re paying 15 times more per profit per download per artist.”

The key to success therefore is global exposure, but in the end the music speaks for itself.

• • •


The members of Apollo 18 have attacked their self-produced regional tour the same way they’ve attacked their music: fearlessly. Bassist Daeinn Kim has said in previous interviews that the band wants to experience a bigger musical playground. When asked if they’re worried there might be bullies in the bigger playground, Kim states emphatically of his fellow band mates, guitarist Hyunseok Choi and drummer Sangyun Lee, “We’re not afraid of anything. On stage we enjoy our music, our sound. We don’t care about anything else, so we’re not afraid of anything.” They have reason to be confident. Last May they won Rookie of the Year at the 2010 Korean Music Awards. And Anna Lindgren of music blog has said of their virtuoso live performance and aggressive post-punk/math rock sound, “If there’s one Korean indie act that could tour the world today, Apollo 18 is it.”

They were actually invited to play SXSW last year, but could not afford to go. This year, however, they’re doing something a bit unprecedented in Korea: throwing a fundraiser. Korean culture generally frowns upon asking for money, but Apollo 18 has embraced a do-it-yourself approach, raising funds any way the band can, booking its own tour and finding innovative ways to promote its music. At SXSW, the band plans to hand out 500 iPhone covers with their band logo and contact information. Kim hopes to inspire others. “Any band in Korea can do this,” he advises. “Don’t be afraid!”


Dguru of Idiotape has a similar sense of bravado. The band’s deejay says of their North American debut, “Americans will be shocked! We are not K-pop. Americans won’t think there is anything like us. It will be raw.” As the only electronic group on Seoulsonic’s rock-heavy line-up, he’s not worried that audiences won’t dance. They’ve proven their mettle opening for luminaries like Fat Boy Slim at the outdoor Korean music fest Global Gathering and impressing SWXW organizers at the Pentaport music festival with their brand of live electronica complete with full drum set and six or seven thoroughly thrashed synthesizers. Dguru is unapologetic when he states that he’s bored with Hongdae and ultimately wants to tour the world with his band mates, DR on drums and ZEZE on synth. But in the meantime, he’s content to have the North American crowds go completely crazy.

Galaxy Express knows a thing or two about going nuts. The party rockers pride themselves on playing each show as if it will be their last. Cho, of the DFSB Kollective talent agency, describes them this way: “They bring the sex appeal of The Killers with the slight psychosis of Spinal Tap.” They are considered the wildest live band in Korea. “When we take these guys abroad,” Cho states, “people were just floored. They do some sh-t on stage that people are just like, what the f-ck?”

Stage antics notwithstanding, the trio—JuHyun Lee (vocals/bass), JongHyun Park (vocals/guitar), and HeeKwon Kim (drums)—has also garnered a ton of critical praise. They won Rock Album of the Year at the 2009 Korean Music Awards, and this year they’re nominated for three more: Musician of the Year, Rock Song of the Year and Rock Album of the Year.

Vidulgi OoyoO (which means “pigeon milk”) is also a critical darling. JiHae Ham’s lush vocals and soaring guitar compliment her bandmates’ aural sound, which include JongSeok Lee (guitar/vocals), Ok Jihoon (bass/vocals) and YongJun Lee (drums). Their shoegaze style might be a bit more subdued than the other bands on the Seoulsonic tour, but their live music is mesmerizing. Though the band has recently hit a string of bad luck—(JongSeok broke his wrist slipping on some ice, and JiHae’s guitar was stolen days before her father was hospitalized)—they’ve bounced back with an even fuller sound for the Seoulsonic tour with the addition of backup guitarist Seunghoon Choi.

The electronic duo, EE, (E. Hyun Joon and E. Yunjung) blurs the line between music and performance art. The husband-and-wife team often presents surreal works with gaudy fashion and strange theatrics. But don’t expect Lady Gaga. Their work is a bit more challenging à la Grace Jones or Yoko Ono, but with more danceable beats.

Korean indie will perhaps never eclipse K-pop, but these bands, which represent some of the best of Korea’s independent music scene, will plug in for some of the most renowned music festivals and events worldwide. Though it remains to be seen if any band can make it beyond Hongdae on a grand scale, this spring, some could very well blossom on the American stage. And a slew of great bands in Hongdae are itching for a turn. As Bernie Cho puts it: “This is the first wave of cream of the crop artists that will have an opportunity to turn stereotypes inside out.” - KoreAm

"Summer Sonic prepares for an Asian invasion"

Amid all the rivalry between Japanese and South Korean pop groups and the contrived debates about whether the manufactured crap from one country is better than the manufactured crap from the other, fans of independent or alternative music have been left scratching their heads.

Surely there's more to Korean music than just K-pop?

The Asian Calling Stage at the Chiba leg of this weekend's Summer Sonic Festival will provide a definitive answer, sticking two fingers up at the slushy ballads and choreographed personalities that dominate the charts across Asia.

That's because, over two days, 16 fresh-faced bands from Korea, China and Taiwan will commandeer the Island Stage (which this year has been moved from its usual tent outside Marine Stadium to inside the Makuhari Messe complex).

"I think the recent K-pop boom will help independent bands from around Asia to find an audience in Japan," says stage director Shinji Taniguchi, an employee of Summer Sonic organizer Creativeman. "Also, the idea behind this stage is for us to capture the attention of Asia — and by extension, the world."

Working with partners in each territory — Bad News, which operates live houses in China; Yescom Entertainment, organizer of the Pentaport Rock Festival in South Korea; and Taiwan's The Wall Music, an integrated agency for independent bands, Creativeman has cherry-picked a strong lineup of bands, some of whom have the potential to go on to big things in Japan.

Many of the acts have already played at international festivals such as mega-conference South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, as well as at regular club shows around the world. Some, including Taipei's neon electro-punk lasses Go Chic and Seoul's centrifugal psych-rockers Galaxy Express, have played shows in Japan before, too.

"The Japanese live scene is much more advanced than ours in Korea, so it's a great learning opportunity for us," says Galaxy Express vocalist/bassist Lee Ju Hyun.

Creativeman, a Tokyo-based agency that operates festivals and tours throughout Japan for domestic and international acts, is open about its reasons behind creating the Asian Calling Stage. Taniguchi cites several, including a hope to bolster Creativeman's presence in those countries with a view to one day possibly booking shows there. But more immediately, he aims to raise the profile of this clutch of pan-Asian bands at Summer Sonic so they will be able to come back for club tours over the coming years.

"We already get a lot of visitors at Summer Sonic from China, Korea, Taiwan and also Hong Kong and Singapore," Taniguchi adds. "By putting on bands from those countries, we think more people will be enticed to come to Japan for Summer Sonic, and that they'll be delighted to see bands from their own country alongside artists from all over the world."

Of course, by segregating all the Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese bands into one corner and not mixing them up on stages around the festival with other international bands (which this year include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Image Ltd and The Strokes), there is a risk that the Asian Calling Stage will become a ghetto. Indeed, a cynic might regard it as a hollow gesture designed to placate partners in territories that are growing in importance.

On the other hand, it could put these bands, most of whom are unknown in Japan, into a more attractive context and give them a better shot at getting seen.

"I think it's fine that all the Asian bands are on one stage together," affirms Galaxy Express' Lee. "Sure, it would be fun to appear on a stage with bands from other parts of the world, but the thing is, very few people know who any of these Asian bands are, so I think putting us all on one stage is a good solution."

"There are many good Asian bands who people might like, but it's hard to discover them," echoes Sonia Lai, guitarist/keyboardist with Go Chic. "This stage could be a good way to introduce them to the media and to the fans."

Kazutoshi Chiba, founder of Bad News, knows all about this. He opened the music venue Mao Live in Beijing and Shanghai with the express aim of helping to raise the quality of independent bands in China, where rock 'n' roll is a relatively new concept and where a shortage of equipment and know-how has made it hard for bands to progress.

Chiba selected all eight of the Chinese bands appearing on the Asian Calling Stage. He says he feels grateful to have this chance to put bands from China together with bands from Korea and Taiwan here in Japan.

"We should combine our power as Asian neighbors and work together to take the sound of Asia to the rest of the world," he says. "It's all about cultural exchange; the bands need to help each other in their respective territories to succeed."

Japan is a difficult market for foreign bands to crack. Its music business operates in a unique way; over 80 percent of music sales are made by domestic artists; and even the rock charts are dominated by bands backed by a major label or management company. Few concert agents or promoters are willing to take a risk on an unproven artist, and the DIY route involves ludicrous costs.

"Getting hold of a visa to perform in Japan is quite difficult for a Chinese band," adds Fu Han, vocalist with Queen Sea Big Shark, an electro-rock crossover band whose overseas tours have included the United States and South Korea. "Also, we don't know how the Japanese music industry works yet. I think it would go more smoothly for us if we had a management company in Japan."

Of course, if these bands didn't believe there were opportunities for them in Japan, they wouldn't bother coming. There's the allure of playing in one of the world's top-three music markets, for one thing. Japan was the first Asian country to integrate a Western music-business model, for better or for worse; and the huge J-pop section you'll find in music stores around Asia attests to the fact that Japanese pop culture is plenty influential.

"I've been to see some festivals in Japan before, which made me want to show the Japanese festival-goers how a Chinese band does it," Fu says. "It was my dream to play at Summer Sonic."

"Have any Taiwanese bands been successful in Japan before?" Lai asks rhetorically. "In all Asian countries, to some extent, people and the media tend to follow Western culture and pay less attention to their neighboring countries' culture. Fortunately, some people have started to notice that and they're trying to make something different." - The Japan Times

"Sophia's Rock Beat: SXSW 2011 edition!"

We went to a panel on the Asian music market and we found out about a showcase of Korean bands that night and so that was our first stop of the evening we caught a really awesome band from Seoul called Galaxy Express - they were by far one of my favorite discoveries at SXSW - leather jackets and Misfits t-shirts- they rocked so hard the power literally went out (I saw the sound guy flip the breaker back!) -

"Bands We Like: Korea’s Galaxy Express are Noise on Fire"

At this year’s SXSW, Korean punk rockers Galaxy Express powered through their set so hard that they literally blew a fuse. Luckily, the tech just pulled the circuit breakers, turned them back on again, and the band never let up its tsunami-gale performance.

Of the wave of Korean indie bands that took SXSW by storm this year, Galaxy Express are the truest rockers: the most ass-kicking, dog-whistle-shrieking, tearing-their-shirts-off of the lot. With their shaggy hair and motorcycle jackets, they are the Ramones, if the Ramones knew how to tear up some karaoke (check out their no-holds barred noraebang performance of single “Jungle the Black”). Soundwise, their songs are a guitar feedback riot with vocal harmonies between guitarist Park JongHyun and bassist Lee JuHyun punctuating their snarling. In sum, Galaxy Express is a feel good (I mean, feel bad), jump-up-and-down-and-shriek-til-you-drop sort of band.

Even though they’re animals onstage, they’re not kidding around with their music. Their first album Noise On fire, was a 26-track double CD that won Album of the Year at the 2009 Korean Music Awards. In 2010, they dumped their label and at the same time wrote and released an album in 30 days. Now represented by independent management collective KSFB, they’re still on fire – last year’s Wild Days was nominated for 2011 Album of the Year.

With their amped emergy and stage exhibitionism, they’re the best live act to come out of Korea since…well, maybe ever. - MTV


2011 Naughty Boy EP (Split EP with Crying Nut)
2010 Wild Days
2009 Come On & Get Up! EP
2008 Noise on Fire
2007 Ramble Around EP
2007 To the Galaxy EP



Award-winning South Korean rockers Galaxy Express formed in 2006 in Seoul. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Jonghyun Park, bassist/vocalist Juhyun Lee, and drummer Heekwon Kim immediately attracted attention with their infectious blend of tightly wound garage rock, punk, and psychedelic sounds and explosive performances.

Receiving high praise for their 2007 EPs (“To the Galaxy” and “Ramble Around”), anticipation was high for Galaxy Express’ 2008 “Noise on Fire” full-length debut. The scorching double album did not disappoint and was honored as “Best Rock Album” at the 2009 Korean Music Awards. That summer the trio wowed audiences at South Korea’s Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, Taiwan’s Rock in Taichung, and France’s Le Fete de la Musique.

While debuting with a double album is certainly an ambitious move, it was nothing compared to what Galaxy Express had planned for their sophomore offering. The group announced on April 1, 2010 that they planned to write, record, and release their next album in just 30 days. Dubbed the “Wild 30” project, band members tweeted and blogged their entire creative process with fans eagerly following along and offering comments and suggestions. As promised, the end result surfaced on May 1 and was fittingly titled “Wild Days.” Galaxy Express celebrated its release by performing in Hong Kong at the Music Matters festival, and at large-scale local summer outings the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival and the Jisan Valley Rock Festival.

In January 2011, “Noise on Fire” was ranked #22 on's 100 best Korean CDs of the 2000s. A month later, “Wild Days” netted Galaxy Express the “Musician of the Year” prize at the 2011 Korean Music Awards. In March 2011, the band toured North America and performed at Canadian Music Week (CMW) and South by Southwest (SXSW). That summer they also appeared at Japan’s famed Summer Sonic festival and opened for Linkin Park in Seoul.

In March 2012, Galaxy Express embarked on their second American tour. Performing 17 shows in as many days, the act made stops at SXSW and Arkansas’ Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival, and garnered accolades from the likes of the New York Times and the Austin Chronicle. Filmmaker Seunghwa Baek (who also plays in the Korean band Tobacco Juice) traveled with the group and filmed a documentary about the tour called “Turn It Up to Eleven 2: Wild Days” (Baek previously made a 2009 flick about Galaxy Express and Tobacco Juice named “Turn It Up to Eleven”). The movie is being screened at Korean film festivals in 2012 and will be shown overseas in 2013.

The act are currently hard at work on their third long-player. Set to surface in November; expect it to be brimming with more of the raw and raucous rock ‘n’ roll that has helped push Galaxy Express to the top of South Korea’s music ranks.

Press Quotes:
"With their amped energy and stage exhibitionism, they’re the best live act to come out of Korea since…well, maybe ever." – MTV Iggy

"Galaxy Express are on the fast track to success with no sign of that train slowing down." –

“Galaxy Express, from South Korea, harked back to the crashing, roiling protopunk psychedelia of the MC5, slamming away with conviction.” – New York Times

" ... leather jackets and Misfits t-shirts - they rocked so hard the power literally went out (I saw the sound guy flip the breaker back!)" – Sophia's Rock Beat

"These guys can perform and rip up a stage like no other, and they’re certainly proving themselves to be worth the buzz that precedes them." – Allkpop

“The kings of Korean indie.” – hellokpop

"Pure rock awesomeness ..." – Smashing Mag

"(Galaxy Express) unload balls-out rock and roll by the boatload ... " – Busan Haps

"If you are ever asked who are one of the best Korean rock bands, you can safely say 'Galaxy Express'. They rock the house whenever they play, are tight with catchy songs, and do some amazing & fun things on stage." – CG Weekly