Posted on May 31, 2015
What does an artist owe their audience? Once an artistic statement is released into the world, how does it define its creator? When an artist decides to create in a new direction, one not anticipated by their established and expectant audience, the innovations of the new idea may act more as a liability than an asset. Potential hostility from historical fans to radical departures is a factor many artists take into account when considering fresh perspectives and endeavors, sometimes allowing this possibility to limit the scope of their creativity. In more experimental genres, such branching is usually more readily accepted or understood by the audience; the music began strange so it’s not exactly a surprise when the producing artist suddenly gallops off to unexpected horizons. However in the hallowed halls of pop music, certain codified standards are demanded by entrenched listeners. So when a pop artist takes a major genre leap, all who watch hold their breath with trepidation wondering if they’ll stick the landing. When vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jeongim Kang (often referred to by her stage name “Flowing”) and guitarist/electronic musician Hogun Ryu began dabbling in the synthy electro-80s pop sound that defines the music of Electricity Flowing, they were certainly entering uncharted waters. Previous work from their group Flowing was decidedly more stripped-down, acoustic fare, a popular and adored, if not especially innovative or exciting, style throughout South Korea. Their major departure from this well-trod ground with their 2011 album “Leisure Love” pulled the rug out from under their fans, confusing those expecting a continuation of the more traditional ballad format. Rather than retreat, Kang and Ryu boldly continued down this new road, playfully altering their name to Electricity Flowing, refining their sound, and releasing a new album “We Live By Night” earlier this year. The new album offers more perfectly poppy, 80s-feeling tracks boasting influences both within and without their home country, from classic British synth masters to modern glam-pop stars. Electricity Flowing would be equally appropriate in a chill, smoky lounge for comfortable, cocktail-sipping patrons and in a kinetically charged club fueling the tangled masses of swaying and whirling dancers. These are the type of dance tunes one can also relax to, with a sound that contains a depth which reveals itself post-dance floor escapades. When we caught up with the members of Electricity Flowing, we were curious how this transition has affected their career and their reception throughout the music scene as well as future plans for their own artistic development.
Flowing : This is Hogan, the other member of the band. Together we make all the music. He takes responsibility for the overall sound and also plays guitar.
Hogun Ryu : This is Flowing, she is still not married [laughs]. She takes care of all the vocals in our band, she also plays the synth.
Hogun : Before she released her second album she was looking for session musicians to play live. At that time I was playing in a band called Frenzy and one of the members of that band knew Flowing. So the drummer from Frenzy and I ended up being session musicians for her. Around that time I had also begun to take an interest in electronic music and as it happens, her second album had a more electronic flavor to it. When I was a session musician for her, I was in charge of the laptop and the guitar parts, but after a while we began to speak in earnest about teaming up permanently and Electricity Flowing was born.
Hogun : Actually, from from the start there was never much overlap with the things we liked. So I guess we both had our own inadequacies. I was used to only doing the performing part and so didn’t have any experience of writing melodies and vocals. Instead I’d made lots of electronic music on my own. I brought a lot of performing and sequencing experience to the table as well.
Flowing : One lucky thing was that neither of us are stubborn to the point of affecting productivity. We both recognise the things we are not good at or confident about and learn from each other. Because we also take a lot of care on the things we are good at and listen to each others opinions it doesn’t matter that our tastes are different. In fact, I’d say that rather than it hampering us it is an advantage.
Hogun : We have almost never said to one another that we hate something they other one has come up with.
Flowing : I don’t worry about that at all. Simply speaking if I worried about what fans wanted or being popular I would still be writing folk songs & ballads. Actually, on the first album as well I wrote songs with electronic tendencies. I first started out writing folk songs not because I loved that kind of music particularly, but more because it was something I could do quite easily. At that time folk was just a way I could play the guitar and sing. I never once thought of myself as a folk singer really. Originally I had an affection / love for band music. I liked electronic music too, but it is hard for a beginner to start out doing that kind of music. There is a lot to study and lots of gear to get ahold of. It’s really hard. After I changed my style, I did lose some fans of course. Even these days I get asked if I will do any more solo stuff as Flowing, but, really I just want to just keep making the music I love for a long time.
Flowing : Jeonjayang (전자양) was just the producer of that album. Electricty Flowing is a band. People often compare my music with Jeonjayang with what I am doing now with Hogun. In my mind it isn’t really something that can be compared easily. One of them was producing my album while the other is a full time member of the band. When I was doing my stuff as a solo artist, it was pretty lonely so I really wanted to make a band. I also wanted someone to help decide the direction the music should take in the future.
Hogun : It is so different. I guess there is a common feature too. Both are bands! But when I was playing in Frenzy and other bands, I only had to concentrate on playing the guitar. All I had to do really was make a part that the other members liked as well. But when it is just the two of us making music, there is so much more I have to worry about. I make the drums and the bass lines and have to check the overall balance of the sound as well. Thankfully, I like being involved with and seeing the overall picture like that. It’s really different to the other bands and much more fun.
Flowing : When I started out making music for Electricty Flowing I wasn’t thinking about that at all. I have always been a massive fan of 80s / 90s synth pop. I started Electricty Flowing because I wanted to make my own interpretation of that kind of music. I’ve never really thought about this kind of trend at all, but one day I suddenly realised that electronic music had become trendy.
Hogun : Around three years ago loads of electronic bands suddenly started appearing. Our songs tend to be easy to listen to electronic-pop, I don’t think there are any other bands around like us. That is one of the unique characteristics of Electricty Flowing.
Hogun : I mainly like foreign bands. My favorite band is Daft Punk, right after them would be Boards Of Canada. I also like Mouse on Mars, Kraftwerk, and Deadmau5
Flowing :We both like electronic music but both like different kinds of electronic music. Hogun likes electronic music with a post rock flavor while I like more the more poppy style.
Flowing : When most people think of K-Pop they think on big commercial music companies and idol stars. To most, it looks like the idols represent everything that is K-Pop. But, in my opinion the concept of K-Pop is more fluid than that. Actually, if the target audience is the general public then I think you can label it K-Pop. We don’t make the music to listen to by ourselves, we make it for other people to listen to, that is pop. Our base is Korea and thus we are by default making K-Pop. When I think about it like that I have no issues with being defined as K-Pop. However, I am critical of the way the big K-Pop music companies commercialize and earn money from their musicians. Not so much the music they produce, but the other things outside of music.
The way we go about writing and performing our music is different than the idols, but at the end of the day it’s hard to say we are really that much different. It is something for the listeners to decide I guess. I find the whole concept of indie a bit vague as well. There are some really famous artists here in Korea who still like to label themselves as indie. I think indie is more of a state of mind rather than a fixed genre. The same can be said for K-Pop as well.
Hogun : Flowing often says that the EP <Guilty Pleasure> is like our business card. When you meet new people you give them your business card right, well we think of our first EP like that. It is a good introduction to our music. We did everything on that album apart from the distribution ourselves and used some pretty simple gear. It was a home recording, but it showed our identity well. So we already had our business card and wanted to make a proper album. We put a lot of effort into getting the sound right and also worked with a producer on the album and made lots of changes based on his feedback.
Flowing : When we were making the EP I didn’t think about needing a full length album as well. But after we had been playing for some time it felt a little like we needed something else to present to the world.
Hogun : I have been in several bands that have split up and disappeared without ever recording anything. It is a real shame when that happens. I don’t want to make songs that suddenly won’t exist anymore. So I think it is important to make albums.
Flowing : The biggest difference is that when we made the EP we had no money at all. This time around though we had some financial support from the Korean Creative Content Agency.
Flowing : It is not a name we made ourselves. We saw the name of a movie <그들은 밤에 산다 (They Live By Night)> in a magazine. It really appealed to us for some reason so we wanted to use that name as well. Also, by chance a lot of the songs we’d made were about night time. When people see the title of the album they might think about the typical stereotype of a musician, up all night working and playing and sleeping all day, but actually it is not that, nighttime is the time when you finish your daily work and have nothing else you absolutely must be doing. This is the time you can meet your true self. I think it is a time that is just for you. It is a time of great possibility. The title is not talking about the actual definition of night time but more a ‘fun’ contextual meaning of the word.
Hogun : I like the first track <Empty Night> and the 7th track <Super Moon>. Empty Night was the only song we’d made before we decided to make the album. It was a really simple song at first and after we played it a couple times we realised it wasn’t good enough, so we spent a lot of time fixing it up. There are a lot of sounds in that song that we made ourselves and so it means a lot to us. <Super Moon> is a song with more of a band feel to it, we were really excited when we put it together. It’s also a really simple song, but it has a ‘full’ feel to it as well. I reckon we did a good job on that song.
Flowing : I really like the title track and the track called <Berlin>. The song is an adaptation of my real life experiences. It is about when I arrive in Berlin airport on a really cold, damp, and snowy night. My friend came out to meet me at the airport and the song is about how I felt at that time.
Flowing : We played all the songs at our showcase. As a performer it is hard to be objective about the audience’s reaction, but the songs are not as down tempo as we imagined they were, judging by the audience they are quite dynamic.
Hogun : For music like ours I think the role of the drummer is quite important, perhaps more so than other bands. On the album there is no drummer, so it gives the songs a bit of a different feel. It makes the songs more powerful and gives them more of a live feel. Since we added the drummer lots of people have told us that we have gotten better.
Flowing : Everyone is just working hard. It’s not easy to make noticeable differences over a short period of time, but people are putting in lots of effort to make changes. Indie musicians, even without the support of big labels, are fighting for a fair music market.
Hogun : It was much smaller before. At that time everyone knew everyone. These days there are loads of people I don’t know!
Flowing : In terms of quantity it has gotten a lot bigger, there is more support and financial investment as well. However, the presence of more money has not always lead to better results. But basically I don't think the presence of resources is a bad thing for the scene.
Hogun : In the past there was almost no pay for the musicians. These days most places give at least a little something.
Flowing : In the past the indie label system was not very well developed, but nowadays the system has got a whole lot better. I think there is a much bigger variety of music around now as well.
Interview : J-Myon Kim / A-Lim Lee / Hyewon Lee
English Translation : Patrick Connor / Doyeon Lim (임도연)
Edited by : Alex Ameter
For more information on the band, check them out at the following sites :
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/elecflowing
Twitter : https://twitter.com/flowingseoul
DoIndie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/bands/electricity-flowing