Posted on June 21, 2015


Every once in a while, you find yourself catching a band at a show that just makes you wanna move, no matter what mood you were in before they started. With their exciting and refreshing blend of dance and electronic pop-rock, WHOwho is definitely one of those bands.  After taking a break from live shows to record their first full-length album, the band recently came roaring back to the scene, playing to a packed house at V-Hall on May 15th for their album release party.  Shortly afterward, DoIndie had the opportunity to sit down with JunYong (vocals, guitar), Yohan (bass), JinChul (drums) and YoungKwang (synth) to discuss their music, their much-anticipated album, what to expect next from the band and even a harrowing backpacking story or two.  Read below to get to know this band better off the stage, and be ready to fall in ‘love at first sight’ the first time you catch them on it. Dance. Rock. Who? WHOwho!

# Firstly, please would you each introduce another member of the band to our readers?

Yohan : JunYong has the best facial features in the band. He puts a lot of effort into composing songs; he’s a genius. He is the focal point of the band. He is amazing at playing guitar.  

JunYong : YoungKwang loves eating. He likes things like candy and snacks, and he really likes chicken, pickles and ketchup too. He was the last member to join the band, but he always works hard and makes it really good fun for us.

YoungKwang : JinChul plays the drums and is the oldest in the band. He is like a sponge: he listens to everyone's problems and gives advice. If there is ever a conflict within the band he’s always the one to resolve it, in that respect he is like an older brother. He is a really great drummer and pretty much our road manager as well.

JinChul : Yohan is the bassist of WHOwho. He has a holy name but he has a tendency to be the opposite of holy. He is a good friend of mine and so he’s corrupted me a lot. I learned a lot of evil things from him. He is one of the most important members of the band, because if anything goes wrong, ever … he is the first person to jump up and solve the problem. He is a great bass player too and he looks really handsome in pictures. His ears, eyes, mouth and nose are really well defined.

# In the three years you have been playing you have released one EP and a single. This full length album has been a long time in the making, so it must mean a lot to you to finally have it done. What’s been happening all this time?

JunYong : Well, firstly, we had a member change in the band. WHOwho first formed in March 2012. If you look at other bands, you will see there are some who have taken 7 or 8 years to release an album. If you look at it like that, I guess it hasn’t taken us too long, really. We put a lot of effort into it, and we even stopped playing gigs last year to concentrate fully on recording. We feel really great about it because the album has come out really well and it shows how hard we worked on it.

# Do you think there is a difference in feeling when compared to either of your earlier releases?

JunYong : Firstly, the obvious difference is that there are more songs on the full album. It was the first time we had recorded for such a long time. It took about two months to record everything; it felt almost like we were living in the recording studio. Also, we had to worry a lot about things like the overall composition of the album.

Yohan : We were all involved in the whole process right through to the mixing. If you listen carefully to the new recordings you’ll be able to hear the wide variety of sound elements that go into each song. Because we always tried to listen to and respect each other’s ideas I think the album came out almost perfectly. I also think that during the recording process each member developed his own ability. 

# Right from the start you used to play shows all the time. When you started recording you stopped playing almost completely. Didn’t you want to be performing at that time?

JunYong :Of course, we really wanted to be playing. Actually, even now we would love to be playing three times a week. But you can’t always do what you want, so we are always itching to play. In the past, the most shows we played in a single week was 6. The only day we didn’t play was Monday, when the clubs were closed. Sometimes we even played 2 shows on the same day. So when we suddenly stopped playing, we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves on weekends!

Yohan : At that time, when we’d stopped playing, we would send each other messages asking, ‘What shall we do?’ It felt like we were unemployed!

# You have changed your synth player twice; has it been difficult to cope with these changes?

JunYong : Actually, we have only changed members once; the second person was just a stand-in session player while we searched for a full-time member. We had to practice all our existing songs with each new person, and we have a lot of songs, so that was a bit taxing. All of the band members have personalities that fit together well, so other than that (re-learning all the songs), there were no real problems.

# Where do you find inspiration for your songs and lyrics?

JunYong : Rather than getting inspiration from one concrete source I think I get inspiration from people. Sometimes from people I know and sometimes from people I don’t. I write lyrics about different relationships between people I meet and things that happen between us; mostly they are about girls. Ah, I got a lot of inspiration from my favorite novel, called <갈매기의 꿈 (A Seagull’s Dream)> for the song ‘Aviation’ on the new album.

# Is there any one song that holds a special meaning for you?

JinChul : I joined the band as drummer a little late. I’ve been here almost since the start but actually for the first two months they had another drummer. I told them I would help out for a little while. After I told Yohan I would help out, he told me to come and watch a show. That first time I saw WHOwho I really liked them and I told them that I wanted to become a permanent member of the band. ‘Sincerely Yours’ holds a special meaning to me because it brings back memories of that first time I saw the band play. It reminds me of that initial “WHOwho” feeling I had ages ago, so it means a lot to me. Usually when I see a show I sit down and watch, but when I saw WHOwho play I automatically ended up getting up out of my chair. At that time I had just come back from military service and I didn’t have much to do, so I really wanted to play with WHOwho.

YoungKwang : For me, I really like ‘Meteorite’. This song is probably one of the slowest tempo songs in our repertoire. Originally I was really interested in pop music, so I like songs with good hooks and melodies, but this song has a much cooler feeling to it than those songs. It has a lot of the elements I like in it; I think that musically it is very complete.

JunYong : I like all of them! If I had to choose one I would say ‘CityLight’. Originally this was going to be the title track of the album, but the other guys in the band don’t know what good music is! Haha! We put a lot of hard work into all the songs on this new album, and honestly, I really like them all.

# Does it feel more natural for you to write lyrics in English?

JunYong : All the music I listened to and grew up with when I was young had English lyrics. Since I was young I had lived abroad, and although it was never my intention it just seemed to happen naturally that I ended up making songs with English lyrics. Also, it’s just more comfortable for me to sing in English. Looking at the long term too, our aim is not to just play here in Korea. I think that singing in English will clearly be an advantage later on as well. My Korean pronunciation is crappy… Even if I sang in Korean, no one would know it was Korean. They would think I was singing in English, even if I wasn’t! Haha!

Yohan : Ages ago we translated some of the lyrics into Korean. A few years ago we came to know the drummer of Deulgukhwa, who has sadly passed away now. We told him we were a band and he told us to bring him a copy of our demo. So we made a demo and took it to him. He asked, ‘Why are all the lyrics in English?’. We said, ‘Isn’t it cool?’ … He replied, ‘No! change the lyrics to Korean’. After that we changed the lyrics for ‘Dance In The Rain’ to Korean and played it at a few shows … The feeling of the song was similar, but people’s reactions were a bit …   

JunYong : No, it was really different. Fucking strange.

Yohan : Anyways … after trying that I think English just suits us better.

JinChul : I can’t bear to listen to it. We did it for ‘ByeBye’ and ‘Dance In The Rain’, right?

JunYong :  Don’t talk about it, people will try to find them!

Yohan : There is a video of it somewhere. Anyhow, JunYong’s pronunciation is better in English!

JunYong : I sang in Korean but people kept asking me if the lyrics were English! Everyone!

# Of course, we looked it up, so you don’t have to!

# The album release show was a success, but how did you feel about it?

Yohan : It’s been a long time since we prepared a show like that and faced people in that kind of situation. So, before we went up on the stage I was nervous. Now that the show is over I can barely remember anything about it. I think it was the first time I had been nervous like that before a show. It was the first time I had released a full album in my life. It still hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a show that I can’t find the words to describe.

JunYong : It was the first time we had played a show in ages, so I think we were all in a bit of a daze when we started. At the start we felt really daunted, as if we were in the wrong place.. Haha! It was really great fun though. It was the first show we had played with the new arrangements and new sounds for the songs, so the feeling was really different to before. It was fun. When we played the song called ‘4/10’ I wanted the audience to do a performance with their cell phone flashlights, like I had seen at Paul McCartney’s concert. We led them into it and they all followed suit. It looked amazing from the stage.

JinChul : When we play club shows there are always other bands in the waiting room and there is not much time to prepare for the shows, so we usually just go, play and then leave… This time our label had prepared everything for us and we had our own waiting room. It was a stage just for us so we felt really excited about it.

YoungKwang : I was the last member to join the band. I didn’t want to hold anyone back so I practiced really hard. As a result, rather than thinking of shows as being ‘fun’ I was always thinking that I had to be as good as the rest of the band. At the start of the showcase I was really nervous but 1 or 2 songs in I was really enjoying it; it was really exciting. From that moment it was just fun. Actually, I think it was a bit of a culture shock for me. People were suddenly moshing and jumping about. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to respond, I was worried someone was going to get hurt. But from the stage I could see that if anyone fell down, people were helping them get up again. I don’t know if they were all friends or strangers.

Yohan : After the show, there was lots of feedback... It might be just because YoungKwang was wearing nice clothes ... but everyone was talking about how pretty he looked. I wondered what on earth everyone was going on about so I looked at some pictures of him from the show… he really did look good. People who don’t know WHOwho well were saying, ‘Aren't they a three piece band?’ and ‘Who is that guy?’. We said, ‘He is a member of the band’. They were all just saying, ‘He is really pretty’. I’m proud of him for that.

JinChul : I think YoungKwang gained a lot of fans after that show. He was just wearing simple clothes, a white t-shirt and black pants that day, so I don’t understand how he looked so good in them. He has the gift of the gods.

YoungKwang : JinChul brought some good makeup with him him that night.

JinChul : My sister had some liquid Estee Lauder powder. She said it was expensive so we were not to use it, but I just stole it and took it to the show. I told YoungKwang to put some on, which he did, and he became much paler.

Yohan : That’s probably the biggest reason he was so popular that night!

# You had a pretty late slot at Ansan a couple of years ago. How did you feel about that performance? What are your hopes and expectations for Pentaport this year?

JunYong : As usual, we won’t play a long set... I guess we will only have about 30-40 minutes, but I hope everyone has a good time at that moment. It will be a new place, new people and a new experience for us, so I really hope it is a fun one. I think the weather will be good.

Yohan : Before when we played shows we were ‘rookie band WHOwho’, but now we are the WHOwho that have an album under their belts. Haha! Hopefully people are more aware of us now?!?

# You have a good collection of really faithful fans who can be found at nearly every show and who keep the audience’s energy up throughout the set. Do you feed off that energy from the stage as well?

JunYong : There are a few … they are are really unusual people. The whole atmosphere of the show changes depending on whether they come or not! If you look at the highlight videos those fans appear in them more than JinChul does!

JinChul : 3 of them made McDonald's french fry costumes that they wear to shows. They lead the other people in the audience. They are always the first to mosh. It’s always special when they turn up.

JunYong : We bow down to them. Thanks! There is one really funny story about when an alumnus from my middle school came to see his first ever WHOwho concert. It was also the first time he had ever been to see a show in Hongdae. When it finished he sent me a message. It said this: ‘Why do those guys keep on bumping into me’?

Yohan : Actually when you are playing shows up on the stage you can not see all that much because of the lights. If the lights next to me dim for a while, it is only then that I can see what the fans are doing. That makes me more excited and I play better. So I really want to thank those fans who get so excited when they watch us play.

# What one word do you think describes WHOwho best, and please explain why?

Yohan : Not the ‘whowho’ application! The band WHOwho! If you search for our band name in Korean using Google, the first thing that comes up is a spam blocking application. If you search in English though, we are first on the list!

JunYong : It is a really famous application. Everyone says it is the best!

JinChul : I’m thinking about using it too.

JunYong : No! Don’t use it. Have some pride!

YoungKwang : 금사빠 [Love at first sight]? None of my friends are concert goers. When I tell friends I play in a band they are always surprised. When I play them our songs they always doubt me and ask ‘How do you play these songs live?’. I tell them to come and check out a show, and after they see us play they become fans! So Love At First Sight seems like a good word.

Yohan : ‘Dance Rock’ Also, remember, not the ‘whowho’ app. I did the search on the web and was upset to see the results… If we get a bit more famous, we will move above them on the list, right?

# JunYong, you took part in the <4.16 REMEMBER : We will never forget the Sewol Ferry> concert. Why did you do that as a solo performer? How did it feel to be playing at the memorial concert?

JunYong : I had a lot of interest in that show. I think everyone should do what they can to help with things like that. I am good friends with the manager of GoGos2 (a live club in Seoul) We were drinking together and I suggested that we play the show. He was really positive about it. Later, after we were confirmed for the show they contacted me and told me it was to be a show involving three clubs, but they wanted it to have an acoustic atmosphere. So I ended up doing it alone. I think that artists should do more to speak up about things like this. Of course, there isn’t all that much we can do, but we should do what we can. If there are other things like this in the future, I will take part again.

# What have been the happiest and most difficult moments you have had as a band?

JinChul : This is the band I have wanted to play with the most, so there have not really been any difficult moments. Difficult things are just part of the process anyway; they don’t feel all that tough to me. I am a member of WHOwho, I play the drums for the band, which is a fun thing in itself; it is something special.

Yohan : There are four members in our band, and we all have different personalities and different ways of thinking. When we clash sparks can fly. However, we are all working towards the same aim. We all want the band to do well. Also, the way I look at it is that all the members of the band are perfect professionals musically. Playing music together is a real joy. Practice is fun, and playing shows even more so. It is not a perfect reply to your question, but it’s truly how I feel.

JunYong : Playing music in this band makes me very happy.

YoungKwang : There have been so many good moments. We put an incredible amount of effort into the album … Of course there were problems, but I think we handled them wisely. Playing shows, rehearsing and even eating together is always enjoyable. It feels like we are a small tight-knit group, and all the members are people I feel like I can trust. I have moved about since I was young, so there are only a few friends I can say that about. I work with the guys in the band, but we are really close as friends as well. It’s pretty amazing.

# You went backpacking in India; what do you remember the most about that?

JunYong : YoungKwang, you can tell them about this.

YoungKwang : I became the thing I hate the most, an illegal alien, while I was over there. I didn’t check my visa dates properly.

JunYong : It was not our mistake. It was the chief officer, he got the dates wrong. We were on our way back and the visa had expired. If we had all been together I guess it would have been ok, but we had all gotten our tickets separately. He was alone when he got arrested at the airport. They said, ‘You are an illegal alien. You are not a terrorist, are you?’

YoungKwang : In the movies you see people going into some place to be be investigated. They took me to that room and asked me 10 or so questions to try to identify whether I was a terrorist or not. With some kind of herculean effort I managed to answer 9 of them. I can’t understand English really, just a bits and pieces. But the 10th question? I couldn’t understand a word of it. It was the first time I had heard any of those words in my life.

JinChul : What were those words?

YoungKwang : I just said, I don’t know!

JinChul : No, but what were they asking you?

YoungKwang : I said I DON’T KNOW! I still don’t have any idea. I am still curious about it even to this day! I didn’t understand, so I couldn't answer the question. I just said ‘I don’t know’ and suddenly their expressions started to harden. I guess it was a really important question. After being like that for ages they sent me to Asiana Airlines to go and find another Korean person to help me. Ah, I was crying. There was no one for me to talk to … In the departure lounge there were loads of people, so I shouted out in Korean, ‘Are there any Koreans here?’ It’s funny. I could tell who the Koreans were because when I shouted out for help in Korean, they all turned the other way, while all the Chinese and Japanese people looked in my direction. (Everyone laughs). They understood what I was saying, and probably thought that if they responded they would be dragged into an annoying situation along with me! Anyways, I went straight to the first person I saw turn away and asked for help. I had tears in my eyes, so when he saw me he felt bad for me and helped me.

JinChul : And was he a Korean?

YoungKwang : Yeah, he was from Busan. So, first he lent me money to pay the fine. I wanted to make a call at that time but I had no cash on me. I had no debit card either, just my credit card. I thought I could withdraw cash with it abroad, but it turned out I couldn’t do that either. I needed to call home and tell my parents that a problem had arisen, but I had no money for that. Without thinking about it I went off to make a phone call, but the guard was following me everywhere. He was with me even in the investigation room. He was there to stop me escaping. I really cried.  

JunYong : You were having all these problems, but we had no idea what was going on. Yohan and I had already disembarked from the plane to transfer in Delhi, but YoungKwang didn’t turn up. The flight kept being delayed.

YoungKwang : It was because of me. Haha.

# It is a really funny story now. But at the time it must have been really serious.

YoungKwang : It was really serious. It is written in my passport that I was an illegal alien. But the staff there were really funny. One of the local Asiana staff members looked at me and asked in Korean, ‘You came here with no money?’. He was teasing me a lot.

JunYong : You’ve got no money!

Yohan : You’ve got no money!

YoungKwang : That guy kept putting his arm round me and saying in Korean, ‘You’ve got no money … it’s ok”. He said, “You will be able to go home, it’s ok”. Oh, right! And I lost my bag in New Delhi Airport too. So I asked the staff if they could try to find it for me. They kept telling me they would be able to find it, but they never went to look for it. So I got a bit angry and told them to go find it, so they finally started looking for it. I should have been transferring to the other airplane, but it took, like, an hour to find the bag. I went to board the plane, but they told me the boarding time had already passed. I tried to get past them and board, but they stopped me again and said, ‘Your visa has expired’ ...

JunYong : You don’t have a bag? Really suspicious!

YoungKwang : Right. I had stubble on my face, my hair was a mess from sleeping on the plane too… Also, because it was winter in Korea, I was already wearing my sweater. Everyone else was wearing short sleeves. I looked like some kind of beggar. At that time I was thinking I should perhaps sell my sunglasses and other possessions to pay the fines. Haha. Anyways, despite all that it was fun.

Yohan : It was fun?

YoungKwang : Despite it all, I really want to go again. The seaside there was amazing. The beaches in Korea are all really artificial, they were made really just for the tourists, but the beaches in India are more natural. It was really comfortable and I liked it a lot. Yohan and JunYong really like booze. They were just drinking and hanging out but I don’t like drinking all that much, so I was the only one with nothing to do in the evenings. So I wandered around looking at this and that on my own. It was a really fun vacation. At first, I had said I didn’t want to go there at all, and then when I came back to Korea I said I didn’t want to go again, but now … I really want to go there again.

Yohan : JinChul was the first to go back in Korea so the rest of us went back to the beach. I went for a walk in the evening. It was really dark and something touched my leg, and I stood on it. It was a crab. I took it back to the guest house to show everyone what I had caught, but YoungKwang started preparing a fire to cook it. ‘Let’s eat it’, he said. I said ‘No, no, let’s let it go’, but in the end YoungKwang ended up eating it. He ate it all!

YoungKwang : It was delicious.

# You have a lot of experience playing at clubs in Hongdae and at Korean festivals. Apart from those shows are there any gigs or stages you really want to play at? Also, are there any plans for a tour here or abroad?

JunYong : For me, I want to play at some bigger venues and with some new people. We don’t have any gigs secured abroad at the moment, but I hope we will be able to do something like that in the next year or so. Our album just came out, so we should focus all our energy into our Korean activites for now. Next year we will try to spread our wings further afield.

Yohan : I have had a dream for ages of playing on a stage at Glastonbury. I think we are getting nearer to realising that dream.

JunYong : If we keep working hard, we might just get bigger opportunities than that as well.

JinChul : I want to go on an American talk show. What’s it called??! The one with some old guy presenting it. Musicians go on there and do interviews … Ah! Letterman! I want to be on that show.

# What are your goals for the next five years?

JunYong : How old will I be then? That’s gonna be a big problem for you, JinChul. You might be married with kids!

JinChul : I don’t know if I will be able to play the fast songs then; even now it can be hard work.

JunYong : In 5 years’ time, I will still be playing the music I love. We will be a long-running band. Personally, I want to continue for a long time.

Yohan : I think we have grown a lot as a band up to this point. I think we are busy achieving all the dreams we had when we started out as a band, one by one.

JinChul : 3 albums! I think we will have three albums by then.

Yohan : Let’s try to make it to 10 albums!

Buy 'Oh Yeah’ (Digital) :

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Interview : Doyeon Lim, Ilhwa Choi, Jamie Gilbert
English Translation : Patrick Connor, Doyeon Lim
Edited by : Rock N Rose

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