While the topic of idols as artists is hotly debated, it is often within the confines of music specifically. EE, a husband-wife performance art team, goes beyond just music. Using it as their vehicle, they bring in costume design, video editing, choreography and more, making their music, both live and recorded, more of a multisensory experience.
A couple of days after their great performance at SXSW K-pop Night Out, Seoulbeats had the opportunity to sit down with EE for brief interview.
Can you give us an introduction of who EE is?
Lee Yun-joung: We are EE–he’s big E, I’m little e. (laughs) We are EE [Total Art], a performance team. It sounds massive, but it’s really not like that. We do everything, we organize everything and make songs, costumes, visuals, videos, album design, everything. That’s why we call ourselves EE Total Art performance team.
So you take care of everything from dance to costumes? Do you go into everything with a set idea or is there a lot of improvising?
Yun-joung: Well, first of all, we fight a lot. (laughs) We think about the work first and then we organize and develop everything. Like with “Wiggy Dawn,” he [Hyun-joon] does doodles and sketches, and I make lyrics. We work together to make it as a song, and I think about the costumes and choreography. Then we go into the videos and visuals from there.
Which usually comes first: concept or details?
Yun-joung: We talk a lot, the issues of the day, the news, the issues and problems in society, and we put that into our work. We try to do a commentary on what’s going on.
You must be tapped into what’s going on. Is that where most of your inspiration comes from?
Yun-joung: Yeah, definitely.
Any specific artists that influence or inspire your work?
Yun-joung: This is a very hard question. We like artists like Joy Division. We like ’80s musicians a lot.
You cover a wide variety of media. Does it ever feel difficult to do all of that?
Yun-joung: The work just comes from our ideas and just kind of pops out.
You guys are unique and crazy in such a great way, and your performances are incredibly engaging. Is each one different?
Yun-joung: I think so. It depends on the stage so we make a new set to fit each one. It’s always changing, the performance, set list, styles, costumes. It just depends on the stage.
What’s your favorite part? Do you prefer the performance or creation part?
Yun-joung: It’s hard to decide. I think it’s all the same because it’s all fun.
How did you decide to start all of this?
Yun-joung: I don’t know. It just happened. It’s like living. What do you think? (turns to Hyun-joon)
Lee Hyun-joon: It just happened.
How does your work influence your relationship as a married couple?
Yun-joung: It’s separate. When we go home, we’re just husband and wife, mom and dad. We just open the door, and we’re just partners. Our personalities are totally different. We’re just a normal, happy family.
How long have you been working as EE?
Yun-joung: It’s been seven years maybe.
Have you ever thought about doing just visual art or do you like doing everything?
Yun-joung: Actually he [Hyun-joon] does his own work as an installation artist so he’s going to go to Venice for the Biennale for an exhibition. And I’m doing stylist work for a living so it’s kind of separate work as well. When we meet together, we work as EE, but separately we have our own work as artists.
What kind of styling do you do?
Yun-joung: I do styling for celebrities and musicians. Do you know MFBTY? I style for them.
What kind of installation art does he do?
Yun-joung: He actually studied in the UK. He did a small exhibition in London, and he’s done a solo exhibition in Seoul and in Germany. Plus, this May in Venice.
What did you study in university?
Hyun-joon: Fine arts.
So your work as artists was separate first, and then you decided to collaborate.
Yun-joung: Yeah, I’ve been doing work as a stylist for 14 years, and it’s just my job. He’s been doing fine arts since he was, like, 12 or 13. We met and talked a lot about subculture and pop with art, everything together, and we started EE.
What kind of audience are you trying to attract?
Yun-joung: This is also a hard question. (laughs)
Hyun-joon: Actually we really don’t think about it–the audience.
Yun-joung: I think the Korean audiences think we’re kind of freaky, and I think international audiences like us more. Like we were invited to Coachella. All the comments on our videos are from international fans so we feel they’re more accepting.
So were you excited to be invited to perform at SXSW?
Yun-joung: Of course, yes. It was amazing news, and it’s kind of different festival for us. It’s been crazy.
Did you prepare something special for SXSW?
Yun-joung: Yeah, it was a special performance even though we always make a new stage.
Do you have any message for your international fans?
Yun-joung: Okay, you make think we’re trash, but some will think we’re treasure so we’re weird, but weird is good sometimes. So, yeah, come feel our beats…like SeoulBEATS. (laughs)
Check out some of EE’s music below and spot them in MFBTY’s “Buckubucku.”
“Banging Till I Die”