Similar to South By Southwest, Zendari Festa is South Korea’s largest music showcase festival. Taking place in Hongdae, the epicenter of youth culture in South Korea, Zandari Festa 2015 spans three days and will feature performances from 261 acts from all over the world. The festival first began in 2012 and has now become a global event with 2014 including acts from over a dozen countries.
In honor of the upcoming event, we spoke with a few bands participating in the festival to learn a little more about them and their music. We managed to talk to Yukari, Wasted Johnny’s bassist Nils Germain, Diealright guitarist and vocalist Chae Song-hwa, Phonebooth vocalist Laser, Fizzy Blood guitarist Paul Howells and Japanese Los Angeles synthesizer player Andrew Hintzen.
For those who don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself and your type of music?
Yukari: Hello, my name is Yukari. I make music by myself and perform it solo. I released my self-produced first EP Echo in December 2012.
Nils: We’re a three-piece blues rock/garage rock sounding band that can be powerful or dark and mellow or combination of all of those.
Song-hwa: We’re a trio from Seoul. Our musical style is hard to pin down. Our music is influenced by garage, punk, alternative, and other things.
Laser: I think our music isn’t typical rock ‘n’ roll. We talk about the world in our songs with energetic sounds and young boy’s voices.
Paul: We’re a five-piece band from Leeds in the UK. We never know how to describe the music to people who haven’t heard it so the best thing we can say about our type of music is to just go listen to it and make up your own mind.
Andrew: We’re Japanese Los Angeles, a four-piece electronic jazz group from Ann Arbor, Michigan. We started playing together in January of 2014, and back then we were mostly playing my jazz-fusion compositions and covers of our favorite electronic producers like Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, Squarepusher, etc. After a few months of playing locally we started exploring free improvisation and taking a more experimental approach with how we organize our tunes and our sets, and now we have a pretty wide range of material.
What song(s) from your discography would you recommend to first time listeners?
Yukari: “Marginal Man” and “Just Friends”
Nils: “Crossroad Meet the Devil” because it’s one of the first songs we wrote as a band and probably the one we enjoy the most live. It’s a simple and catchy yet powerful bluesy rock song.
Song-hwa: I think our song “Satellite” is the most accessible song we have. It’s on our first EP.
Laser: We released a new EP in May called “Prank” and recommend that people listed to the song “Flowers on the Waves” from it. It’s about the tragic Sewol ferry disaster in 2014 and is the song that shapes our new musical style.
Paul: If you want to have a bit of a boogie, “Patience.” If you want to have a sing along and nod your head then “Black Sheep” or “January Sun” are the ones for you.
Andrew: “Db” is the most catchy I think, and it’s also the song we’ve been playing together the longest.
What song are you most looking forward to performing at Zandari Festa?
Yukari: I’m looking forward to playing some new songs and some songs from “Echo.”
Nils: We haven’t made our set list yet, so I’m not sure what we’re going to play. But if I have to chose, I’ll say “Dirty Woman” or “Run Away!”
Laser: We’re going to fill our showcase with very energetic and powerful songs including some from our new EP.
Paul: Probably the new ones that we haven’t released. We’re still working those out to be the best they can be live and enjoy playing stuff that people haven’t heard yet.
Andrew: We recently finished writing a new song two weeks ago that has a ‘90s trance/modern gospel influence, two genres that we haven’t really experimented with before, so we’re excited to have the opportunity to perform it outside of the U.S.
With the wide variety of groups performing at Zandari Festa, are there any acts you’re hoping to check out?
Yukari: I want to watch performances by many of the overseas artists coming to Korea for the festival.
Nils: Lots of our friends are also playing at Zandari Festa and we’re hoping to can get over to see Streetguns, A’z Bus and Diealright.
Song-hwa: There are so many showcases happening, so it’s difficult to just choose a few bands. But I’m going to try and catch as many showcases as possible and am most interested in trying to catch acts I’ve never seen before.
Laser: We’re excited to watch Galaxy Express and Jambinai!
Paul: Dead Buttons. We saw them at Liverpool Sound City 2015 and love some of their tracks. We’re obviously going to go and show our support for the other UK bands out there as well, especially Tea Street Band.
Andrew: I’m hoping to check out November on Earth, Yukari, Kernelstrip, and as many others as we can see while we’re there!
Fizzy Blood and Japanese Los Angeles are non-Korean bands. Are you excited to be traveling to Korea to play at the festival?
Paul: The chance to go to any country and show people your music is amazing. But with somewhere as far away from the UK as Korea and with such a rich culture, you can’t not be excited. We would probably never have got the chance to go and do that if it wasn’t for Liverpool Sound City and their support so we’re just real excited to get out and show Korean people what we do.
Andrew: This is our first show outside of the U.S., and for most of us this will be our first time in Asia, so we’re stoked to be able to perform our music in a totally new setting while experiencing a culture very different from our own.
Andrew, what made you want to apply to play at Zandari Festa?
Andrew: Our saxophonist Ji-Hoon was planning on visiting some family in South Korea during September and October, and he found out about Zandari Festa and told the rest of the band that we should apply, since he’d already be in the area. It seemed like a unique opportunity, so we sent in an application and crossed our fingers.
We had a great time learning more about these artists, some of which we’ve covered in our Indie Gem segment! Stay tuned for more coverage from Zendari Festa 2015 and in the meantime, check out the full line up of artists here.
Are you going to Zendari Festa? If you can’t, which group would you like to see live?