The Two Koreas
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The Two Koreas

Band Alternative Rock


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" Pop Montreal preview"

Pop Montreal. It's where the cool kids who wear itchy sweaters even in the dead of summer go to get down to the red-hot beats of the music industry's "next big things." With its blend of well known tastemakers and newbie indie darlings, the festival celebrates great music from Canadian and international melody makers. is invading this year's festival to bring you interviews with some of the best bands at the fest, photos from all the biggest performances and video clips of some kick-ass guitar windmills and hypnotic high-kicks.

Here, Two Koreas singer Stuart Berman talks about what it's like to play in a band made up of critics, his patented Bob Barker onstage maneuver and his unconventional approach to penning the band's bass-loaded brand of garage-rock tunes.

You're performing at this year's Pop Montreal. Why should festival goers forgo wandering off to chow down on poutine and delicious smoked meats to check out your performance?
Our show (Oct. 4, 10 p.m., at Saphir, 3699 St Laurent) is actually within short walking distance from both Schwartz's and The Main, so you need not forgo your daily poutine and smoked meat requirements to enjoy The Two Koreas. If anything, our low burbling drones will expedite the metabolic process.

You're a band made up primarily of critics. Have you ever had run-ins with bands that you perhaps gave poor reviews to?
No run-ins, just walk-outs. Though admittedly, I have politely declined offers to play with certain bands whose music I had rated less than favourably. It would seem a bit disingenuous to go on the record saying their music sucked and then ask to borrow their bass amp.

What do you think when Two Koreas music is critiqued by others now?
I see it as a restoration of the karmic balance in the universe. I am a Libra, after all.

You,ve obviously heard all the rock music clichés being in music journalism. Do you ever find yourself falling into them now that you,re on the other side of the stage?
Yes, particularly the one about how all lead singers suffer from a crippling combination of ego and insecurity.

I read in an interview you did that you can,t write music at all and had just spill it out through a series of "nah nah nah nahs." How do those crude ideas get honed into actual songs?
It was actually a process of my actual ideas getting turned into crude songs - since I lack the ability to convey my brilliant songwriting ideas in a tangible form that other people can understand, I was reduced to communicating in onomatopoeic outbursts. (Have you ever tried to convey a Piccolo arrangement using just your voice? Harder than it seems.) Fortunately, as this band has evolved, we've started working the other way - the other guys will come up with a spontaneous jam and I'll try to find a place for a melody within the noise. Mostly because I have nothing else to do while they're thrashing away.

What,s your favouite onstage move?
I hold the mic in the left hand at its base, and then emphasize certain crucial lyrical sentiments with a right-arm swing. I call this move "the Bob Barker."

What can people expect from a Two Koreas gig?
Punctuality. And quality footwear.

Do you have any recommendations for other bands should check out at Pop Montreal?
Absolutement! Quest for Fire are an awesome new stoner-rock band from Toronto featuring former members of the Deadly Snakes. They've only played like 2 gigs, but that's because they've been practicing for a year. I'm also excited to see Jay Reatard, who sound like the Buzzcocks fried in chicken batter. And our Unfamiliar Records label mates The Paper Cranes from Vancouver are a godsend for those of us who have been waiting patiently for a Dexy's Midnight Runners revival. The young soul rebels have returned!

Is there anything else you,d like to add?
Yes: the numbers 2 and 2. -

" feature"

The Two Koreas Aren't Going Anywhere
Wednesday June 06, 2007 @ 06:00 PM

Known since their inception in 2003 as "the critics' band," The Two Koreas have survived the labels and judgments to become jangly post-punk mainstays on the Toronto indie scene. Eye Weekly senior editor Stuart Berman (vocals), film editor Kieran Grant (guitar) and music/film writer Jason Anderson (keyboards) intend to keep it that way. The group have eschewed pressures of hitting the road and focus instead on their families and their craft.

"We've never had much of an interest in touring," explains Grant. "Ian [Worang], our bass player, also plays with Uncut and The Diableros, and Jason is very busy with his job as a writer, and Stuart and I — I've got two young children and couldn't possibly tour — we're on the younger side of 30 and we got into this a little bit too late."

"I always felt this band was a bit of an experiment to see, especially in this day and age, how far word of your band can go without actually leaving your own nest," adds Berman. "And if anything, this sort of Toronto indie explosion in the last few years has shown that you don't have to chase it, you don't have to tour across Canada until you die."

It's not due to nepotism that the band have gotten to this happy stasis, though Berman admits they've had a hand from the community.

"I'd be lying to say that we didn't have certain connections that have helped us get good gigs and whatnot, but the music scene is all based around connections and friends helping friends, and I don't think that's anything novel.

"There was a little bit of cheekiness involved in starting the band, but it's just another way of expressing your love for music. Either you start writing about it or you play it."

Berman gets to do both. Luckily, people now take the group a lot more seriously and the judgments over the members' day jobs have become moot. Their sophomore disc, 2006's Altruists, was released nationally and added to radio playlists across the country. That's not to say that the Two Koreas have won over all their critics, but they're OK with it.

"The band we're most often compared to, The Fall — people either love them or hate them — so we know we're not for everybody," says Berman. "If people don't like us because of how we look or the music, then that's fine, 'cause that's taking us at face value."

Everyone will have a chance to judge The Two Koreas for themselves when they play a North By Northeast showcase at The Silver Dollar on Thursday as part of maverick promoter Dan Burke's NXNE-affiliated NeXT series.

"The Silver Dollar is sort of our home base," says Berman. "We've played there like six times.

"Our dealings with Dan predate our band. He's really supportive of us and really enthusiastic and really means it. He always dances at our gigs. He's a bit of a cheerleader.

"Last year we had a really good show there. We received a 90 on our Chart report card, so we'll see how we do this year."

—Nicole Kai -

" interview"

The Two Koreas Have Been Approved
Friday July 20, 2007 @ 11:00 AM

by Nicole Kai

They started out as a tongue-in-cheek social experiment and developed into serious Toronto mainstays, eschewing van tours for frequent high-octane gigs at the Silver Dollar. Two records and quite a few unbiased accolades later, The Two Koreas — featuring well-known music experts Stuart Berman (vox), Kieran Grant (guitar), Jason Anderson (farfisa), David Gee (drums) and Ian Worang (bass) — have eked out a solid reputation, proving themselves as talented musicians and not nepotistic opportunists.

ChartAttack: So everyone in Toronto used to know you as the "rock critics band." Has that changed?
Stuart Berman: People used to say, "Yeah, it's an inside job," and yeah, we work at papers and we have friends at other papers, but I think it became a moot point.
It's also discriminatory against the non-music writers in the band. Our bass player, Ian, he works for the 211 phone number — and I'm not sure what it's for — but also, Kieran's actually the editor of a film section.
I'd be lying to stay that we didn't have certain connections that have helped us get good gigs and whatnot, but the music scene is all based around connections and friends helping friends and I don't think that's anything novel for us.

How does it feel to be on the other side of the critics' pen?
Kieran Grant: If people don't like us because of how we look or the music, that's fine, 'cause that's taking us at face value.
SB: …and the band we're most often compared to, The Fall, people either love them or hate them, so we know we're not for everybody.
Our first record was only released in Rotate This and Soundscapes, but this new one [Altruists] was released nationally, and we were added to playlists across the country, where people just liked what they heard and added us.

What kind of things do you look for in a band when you watch them perform?
SB: Whenever I go see a band or even listen to a record, I always focus on the sequence of the tracks. I always feel like you need to open a set and close it in a certain logical manner. And my favourite part of a show is when you think, "Oh man, I wish they'd play this song," and they go into it. That's the best.
KG: For me it's the gradual dissolution between the audience and the band. I started writing about music because I was obsessed with it and I wanted to be in a band. But there came an instance when I was writing about indie bands where I was interviewing them and I was earning more money writing about them than they were for playing their music.
SB: Making a living writing about music — on the one hand you're hanging out with these bands that are working three bartending jobs to make ends meet, and you feel bad for them, but then you find yourself at some record party with some idiot who's making hundreds of thousands of dollars getting drunk on the company credit card. KG: My guilt is always assuaged by the fact that those artists would probably have less people at their gigs if it wasn't for us.

Do you feel your sound's changed from inception to now?
SB: Our first show was like writing an exam. It was like, "OK, we got 16 days… 15 days." but the second you start writing it, it's OK and same with our show. This nervous energy — the second we started, it melted away. But alcohol is a great stabilizer.
KG: A friend told me after one of our first gigs, you know, "People were excited to hear that you were good, but they were also kinda relieved that you're not that good!"
SB: I think our sound has matured — ripened. At the start we were pretty much just a two-chord garage band and really just ripping off The Fall — that's all we were physically capable of. Whereas now I think our songs have become better and I think some of them have three or four chords!
KG: For the third record we wanna make an album that sounds like it was recorded in New York City by professionals in the depth of the winter of 1976. And we're all gonna start wearing silk scarves and jackets. -

" interview"

In the second installment of [sic] we ask the “prog-obsessed” drummer from Two Koreas of Toronto some of the same questions we asked Pony Up! last week. So they’ll be different. The answers that is, not the questions. Unless Pony Up! and The Two Koreas are the same band, which I can 99% assure you they are not.
The Two Koreas are a Toronto band. They site both the Fall AND Steely Dan as influences (don’t they cancel each other out?), they cover Swell Maps and they made $313.56 at their very first gig (which is pretty good). Their newest release is called Altruists and it’s on the Unfamiliar label.

What goes on?
Whatever's on top.

Do you want new wave or do you want the truth?
Whatever hurts the least. The truth, probably.

What movie am I thinking of right now?
“Carry on Cleo”
(Wrong, I was thinking of “The Devil & Max Devlin” starring Bill Cosby and Elliot Gould”)

Name three of your favourite albums.
Collectively, anything from the pre-Brix era Fall, Slanted and Enchanted, anything Nick Cave touches with a ten-foot pole and in theory, Sparks.

Favourite defunct Montreal band?
Tied for first: Deja Voodoo, Men Without Hats, Offenbach.

Any good recipes?
Two parts beer to one part cigarette. Mix well.

Describe any hot tub experiences you’ve had.
Our keyboard player Jason goes to Cannes every year so you'd have to ask him. He now knows who’s gay in Hollywood and who’s a natural blonde.

Give me a limerick about Michael Moriarty.
No. He’s in cahoots with The Equalizer. (What the…that not on his website….

Worst current fashion trend?

What were some other band names vetoed before you settled on your current moniker?
Sun Ra and Cher, Bing Crimson, Blood, Sweat and Palmer. The list goes on.

What Montreal celebrity most looks the like they’re “bad in the sack”?
Robert Charlebois.

What shouldn’t you do but do anyway?
Leave the prog-obsessed drummer to fill out this questionnaire.

What is your favorite Alec Baldwin film? Give me a line from it.
Glengarry Glen Ross: "First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize... A new set of steak knives! Third prize... You're fired."

Name one of the best guitar solos of all time.
“TV Set.” (The Cramps)

Favorite record label of all time?
Cherry Red. Creation, Mute, 4AD, Anthem.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen?
Geddy Lee walking his dog.

Best film tagline that could describe your band.
“From the people who brought you Van Wilder!”

What would make Montreal just a bit better?
A little less political apathy.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?

Who has the most annoying habits in your band?
Ian. He has a habit of going off with his other bands. Plus, he's flatulent.

Any recordings coming up?
Yes. We're planning an E.P. Actually, our de-facto manager, Greg, is planning an EP. We'll lay down five or six songs, possibly including a couple of tunes off of our first release, maybe a cover or two. I'm pushing for a version of “Close to The Edge.”

The Two Koreas play this Friday, April 6th at Le Divan Orange with Harvee and The Same Colors. Doors at 8pm. -

"CBC Radio 3 interview"

Listen here: - CBC Radio 3


2005 - "Main Plates & Classic Pies" (Independent)
2007 - "Altruists" (Unfamiliar)
2008 - "Sessions EP" (Unfamiliar)



Oh my dears, it has been a long horrible winter -- some of us were under the weather, some of us just couldn’t stand it. But like soggy cigarette butts in a melting snow bank, The Two Koreas are ready to show ourselves again. Whilst we reconvene in closed quarters to plot future triumphs (funny how it takes the coming of spring to make us hibernate), we offer the audio equivalent of, well, a blog-post update in the form of the "Sessions EP," compiled from two radio performances originally broadcast last year on XM Satellite Radio station The Verge 52. Included on this collection are new recordings of various "Altruists" insta-classics, a couple of reheated "Main Plates and Classic Pies" for the purists and exactly 2.5 previously unreleased songs.

"Sessions EP" will be released June 13, 2008 on Unfamiliar Records in glorious vinyl and somewhat-less-glorious-but-wholly-practical mp3 format, as no one in the band actually has a functioning CD player hooked up at this point.