5 best indie rock bands in Hongdae

5 best indie rock bands in Hongdae

Auto-tuned music can get old quickly. Head to the most youthful part of Seoul to check out these five best Korean indie rock bands

The music scene in Hongdae, whether it be hip-hop, punk or indie rock, is growing at a rapid speed with more music clubs now than ever before.

These five best Korean indie rock bands are reason enough to drag yourself out to a club in the most youthful part of town.

1. Pink Elephant

pink elephant "Seeing pink elephants" is a euphemism for drunken hallucinations. Look it up if you don't believe us.

The Band: Anyone who is new to Seoul or just starting to explore the Korean indie rock scene in Hongdae may not have heard of Pink Elephant, as the band has been on a temporary break while guitarist and back-up vocalist Yim Hyung-Jun “Gwang-Hee” completed his military service.

Luckily for you, the band is preparing to return to the stage in early 2012.

Influenced by garage rock from the U.S. and Britain, the band formed in 2003 after vocalist Seo Seung-Taek and guitarist Gwang-Hee met in high school. What started as some kids covering Libertines songs morphed into a well-oiled machine playing in clubs all over Hongdae.

Lead vocalist Seo Seung-Taek says their music tends to stay away from love songs, though of course there are a few, and focuses on the “invisible, frustrating future” for Korean youth today.

While on hiatus, the guys have been doing their own thing, whether it be bassist Park Ji-Won working or drummer Choi Wook-No making music with other bands such as Seogyo Group Sound or Summer Here Kids.

The Music: Catchy post-punk. Like a less polished, brighter Saves the Day.

The Song You Need to Hear: “The Romantic” (낭만가) is the song that gets everyone dancing.

More on CNNGo: Korea's month of rock continues with Pentaport Rock Festival

2. The Pony

the pony The Pony is the fashion icon of the Hongdae indie scene.

The Band: The four guys of The Pony have graced the pages of "Elle Korea" and "Vogue Korea" on several occasions. However, that's no reason to judge -- there’s substance behind their rock star looks.

Vocalist Choi Sang-Min describes their music by saying they want to "deliver attractive points of unclear things and roughness like a runaway car to audiences”.

Choi says the idea of “one nation” and “one family line” in Korea is conflicting with the “young people’s obsession with the capitalist lifestyle. The Pony's lyrics reflect “the mutated Korean society where tradition is disappearing and has been struggling with self-contradiction," says Choi.

The Pony is currently working on a new EP that is expected to come out in late August or early September, and will be the culmination of the band’s solo efforts after leaving their record label. Choi said fans should expect big changes on the upcoming EP with a “noisier, colder, confused, moody sound” that is “the truest sound” for the band.

The Music: A sound not dissimilar to The Strokes but definitely with their own spin. There’s even a hint of Morrissey in the Choi’s voice on the track “Crazy Night Love Split Up” (“밤새 미친 사랑을 나뉘요”).

The Song You Need to Hear: Every song on their album is great but “Disturbance” (소란들) is the stand-out track.

Where You Can Catch Them: Club FF (underneath Gogo’s) and Club Crack (near Hapjeong Station) are probably the two places you’re most likely to see The Pony perform. The shows at Club FF pull a better crowd.

More on CNNGo: 5 best Hongdae cafes

3. Seogyo Group Sound

Seogyo Group SoundMoshing is required at Seogyo Group Sound shows.

The Band: Going to club rock shows in Hongdae can sometimes leave you feeling a bit underwhelmed, as crowd response tends to be a little on the lukewarm side compared to rock concerts overseas, but the vibe at a Seogyo Group Sound show is guaranteed to be a blast.

“Hongdae is the most vigorous place where independent musicians have gotten a chance to perform and as we performed together with many rock bands, we affect each other consciously and unconsciously," says vocalist Kim Se-Yong. "And this is a fabulous thing.”

Seogyo Group Sound is currently working on an album with an anticipated fall release.

The Music: Rough vocals backed with solid post-punk music; think The Strokes meets The Ramones.

The Song You Need to Hear: “Nightless City” (불야성)

More on CNNGo: 5 best clubs in Seoul 

4. The Black Skirts

The Black Skirts. We can't quite believe that anyone sporting this hair-do is from New Jersey.

The Band: Bryan Cho (Cho Hyoo-Il), from New Jersey, is the sole member of The Black Skirts and as a singer-songwriter, he appears live on stage backed by a session band. The Korean indie rock "band" has become popular around Hongdae for its dance-rock sound.

Their debut album “201” was released in 2008 but the latest album, "Don’t You Worry Baby (I’m Only Swimming)" carries quite a different feel to the previous more dance-rock vibe with a few mellow tracks.

The Music: Older music has a Weezer-ish vibe to it while the new album has a lot more acoustic tracks.

The Song You Need to Hear: "An Oldie but a Goodie."

More on CNNGo: 5 best low-key jazz bars in Seoul 

5. The Koxx

The KoxxTroublemakers. All of them.

The Band: Previously features on CNNGo, The Koxx’s international appeal can be seen on their Facebook page, where their wall is plastered with adoring comments and posts from fans in the U.S., Germany and Britain begging them to come play Korean indie rock in their respective countries.

“The Koxx is something the Korean music industry needs to push more into the mainstream," says American fan Joy Nickens, who first heard “Jump to the Light” on a Korean TV program. 

Having recently returned to Korea after playing shows in Japan, this self-proclaimed electro-garage rock band has made quite an impression on the Hongdae music scene and is the newest band on this list. The Koxx was also one of the main acts for the Jisan Valley Rock Festival at the end of July.

The Music: Synthesized keyboard sounds intermixed with the typical rock guitar sound make this a band you can dance to while still maintaining your rocker cred.

The Song You Need to Hear: “Troublemaker” is the best track on the album.

Catch Them Live: These bands tend to frequent clubs in Hongdae like Club FF, Club Crack and Bbang.

More on CNNGo: Mud and mayhem at Jisan Valley Rock Festival 

Alicia Buchanan has spent most her twenties living in the land of kimchi, working, earning a Master’s degree and like a true Korea University student, taking part in the makgeolli tradition too much.
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