When discussing retro in relation to music, synth-pop comes to mind immediately. Familiar names like A-ha and Duran Duran stand out, with the signature synthesiser sounds driving their tunes. Many bands have turned to this particular genre to produce a different sound from the electronic modern beats today. However, it is no easy feat for a band to go retro while preserving their own character. The Funcity manages this balance exceedingly well, integrating synth-pop into their own 21st Century compositions.

The four-member band, consisting of Park Jun-young, Lee Sun-hwan, Kim Sug-do, and Burn, started performing in 2010. They first released three songs in 2016, having “Like A Dreaming” standing as a tune reminiscent of the later 70s and early 80s. The song’s heavy synth-pop influence might make it hard for the band to integrate their own colour into the music. With “Like A Dreaming,” the band overcomes this obstacle by pairing the synthesiser with a sturdier electric guitar melody. At the same time, the main vocals does a charming job of leading the tune, preventing the instrumentals from overwhelming listeners with its nostalgic sound. The product is a fusion of old with new, creating a base personality that The Funcity would go on to evolve in their later tracks.

Their first album, Kitch Works, moves away from a strong synth-pop sound, allowing the band more freedom in experimenting with rock riffs. From power chords to pulsing drum lines, Kitch Works runs with a dominant rock sound. This is most prominent in the album’s first track, “Fly,” where its intro goes full out with the electric guitar chords. However, The Funcity’s vocal line pulls the band back from being just another rock band. The thinner vocal timbre and its melancholic tinge incorporates a weightlessness in the melody. Suiting the song title, “Fly” presents an experience of being caught in the moment of being carried away by the wind.

Being driven by a more predominant rock vibe does not necessarily mean tucking away the synth-pop character the band started off with. The synthesiser creeps back in with “Why” and “Waiting For.” Unlike “Like A Dreaming” which delves far deeper into the trenches of musical history, these two aforementioned tracks moderates between a more synthesised sound and intriguing guitar riffs. “Why” might begin with a familiar synth-pop sound, but the song transits into a more modern indie rock sound. The electric guitar solo bridge shines a spotlight on the masterful melodic work of the band’s guitarist. He delivers an extended play on composition as he goes from a stable melody into a more experimental tune.

If 2017 was characterised by their venture into rock for the Funcity, then 2018 brings an entirely new journey for the band. “B.E.A.utiful” can be considered as a shift from indie rock into more musing and melancholic melodies. The Funcity then released “Purple City,” incorporating electronic beats into their band sound and bringing back a tinge of the synth-pop flavour they began with.

The band’s earlier releases might be more playful, but they also reveal an attempt at trying to concretise a personality for themselves. “Purple City” arguably articulates the band’s more stabilised musical sound, reflecting the relevance of their music while preserving the unique flavour of their earlier pieces. The band delivers a more reassured sense of their standing in terms of musical composition, evident in how they no longer groove with a single predominant genre. Instead, “Purple City” takes advantage of the band’s more layered instrumental delivery and backs it with a modern electronic sound.

Subsequently, in December of 2018, The Funcity put out their latest single, “Over And Over.” As with “Purple City,” the band manages to deliver the same sense of confidence in their music. The song’s places a stronger focus on the band’s vocals, allowing the tune to be a comfortable listen. The finger snapping they include in the first half of the track also brings in rhythm without having the more oppressive sound of actually using drumbeats. And the track itself is a more diverse play of percussions. Instead of relying solely on a set of drums, as with most rock bands, the track incorporates tambourines, softer electronic beats at times, while intentionally dampening the use of drums.

“Over And Over” even comes with an MV which amplifies the sense of serenity delivered by the track. The MV focuses on a solo female dancer grooving along gently to the tune, never moving away from a room in dimmed orange lighting. The entire aesthetic of the MV is a calming visual experience, yet one that does not bore. The quirky doodles layered upon the scene adds a slight playfulness without disrupting the overall vibe. This perhaps best embodies the character of The Funcity themselves as a band – welcoming while also retaining an element of good-natured mischief.

The band’s title itself, The Funcity, so astutely encompasses the band’s musical personality. Starting off with synth-pop already demonstrates their tendency to go off well-trodden paths. But they are even more worth applauding for being willing to fuse genres and create a continually evolving sound. Indie bands might find it hard to shine in South Korea, with its large pool of talents and booming underground scene. The Funcity sets a good example of how to grow musically to find a sound that bridges old and new, taking advantage of both a technology and a more rustic band sound.

(YouTube. Images via The Funcity)