Korea – home of K-pop, the most formidable pop cultural offering outside the Western world to vie with it for world domination. But there’s another realm that exists in tandem with the one where shiny, coordinated outfits and synchronised dancing are unironic and de rigueur. There’s a burgeoning indie scene in Korea and Hongdae quartet ADOY is amongst its esteemed ambassadors. Juhwan, Zee, Dayoung and Geunchang make the airily sweet, electronic-kissed pop that’s perfect for night drives where soul-searching and head-clearing happen.
In November, the band will unspool songs from its two EPs CATNIP and LOVE live at the Esplanade Annexe Studio but ahead of that big day, it shares some crucial insight into its inner workings and what it means to be an indie band in Korea.
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Where are you now and what’s kept you busy lately?
We are currently in Seoul, Korea, and more specifically, in our studio in Hongdae. Nowadays, we're just busy playing shows, rehearsing and preparing for our next album, which is due out next year.
Besides playing the show, what are you looking forward to the most about playing in Singapore?
None of our members have been to Singapore, so it will be a new cultural experience for all of us. We're heard great things about Singapore, and can't wait to experience them in person. Also, whenever we play shows abroad, we go all out on food. We’ve already begun Googling the food there.
Congrats on the success of CATNIP. What’s the genesis of the project?
It was kind of an experiment, at first. All of us were doing some other musical projects at the time, but we thought it would be cool to see what could come out when we did a collaboration. The first we made was 'Runner's High,' and we liked it so much that the experiment became a full-time project. Almost all of the music for that album was made in Juhwan's house, along with his cat Yoda, which is how we got the band name ADOY, as well as the album name CATNIP.
You released your second EP LOVE this year. What would you say is biggest difference between the two projects?
In terms of sound, LOVE is much more compact and focused. We tried to do as much as we could in CATNIP, in order to find a specific colour that ADOY fits the most. In a way, you could think of CATNIP as a rainbow of some sort. After the EP was released, we found a direction we wanted to go in, and straightaway, we began work on LOVE. Since the scope of the music was much more focused, we think the second EP is a bit more polished than the first.
LOVE and CATNIP have both been critically acclaimed by fans and critics alike. Does this add any pressure on the band for the upcoming releases and if so, how do you deal with the pressure?
Not really more pressure. Since we all had previous musical projects in the past that did not pan out the way we wanted to, we had a lot of pressure even when we first started this band. We sort of knew how easy it was to 'stumble' in the music scene, and thus wanted to make every step right, and not make any mistakes or regrets. That pressure is still ongoing, and we think it's a good thing for us. Musically, we're confident the next album will be better than the first two.
Every member of the band was previously in other bands. How do you think having that prior experience has shaped the band and helped the it musically?
Probably a lot was learned from our previous experiences, but most importantly, we learned how to live together as a band. How to come to musical conclusions with your bandmates and how to deal with the highs and lows of our journey. The relationship between the members is one of the hardest aspects of creating music as a group.
What’s the Korean indie scene like?
The year we debuted (2017) was probably one of the more vibrant years in recent times in the Korean indie scene, with lots of new rookies including Se So Neon and Shin Hae Gyeong jumping in along with us. But the scene has a lot more room for growth, and great potential. As the Asian indie markets come closer together, we're sure that the indie scene will grow, not just in Korea but all over Asia, including Singapore.
Coming from a country where K-pop is such a massive global export, what are some challenges that indie bands go through?
Probably money. Compared to K-pop, the indie scene has way less money to go around. So smaller bands usually have a hard time just trying to keep creating music. For example, in our previous bands we all had to have separate jobs just to pay rent for our studio. So basically a band has to become one of the top two or three breakouts of the year just to continue producing quality sound. That's why a band's first release has never been more important.
What are your plans for the near future?
We're planning to spend more time creating new music for our next album, and to keep polishing our live performance. And, of course, we're ready to reach more countries in Asia. As one of our first stops, we're so looking forward to Singapore.
ADOY is set to perform in Singapore on 29 November at the Esplanade Annexe Studio from 8pm onwards. Tickets for the highly anticipated show are now on sale for just S$45. Tickets at the door will cost $55. Get your tickets here.