Posted on May 17, 2014
As was the case for many expats living in Seoul, The Rocktigers were my gateway into the Hongdae band scene. I first fell in love with them at a festival in 2008, charmed by their 50s-esque pompadours, biker jackets and double bass; by vocalist Velvet Geena’s sexy, snarling theatrics; and above all by their swinging rockabilly beat—later rebranded as “kimchibilly”, better suited to the band’s uniquely Korean take on the classic genre. Since forming The Rocktigers in 2001, leader and guitarist Tiger has had to weather many a storm, in trying to ignite in young Korean audiences a passion for an unknown and seemingly outdated western genre, which he had seen happen in Japan. Over the years, however, local expats, particularly Americans, started flocking to their shows, perhaps longing for a taste of home, to the point where “Kimchibilly Night” became a monthly event, and The Rocktigers played to packed houses at every show. Yet, like every band leader, Tiger has also had to deal with personal strife within his own band, meaning fairly frequent changes in the lineup of members. The departure of Velvet Geena in late 2013 is arguably the most dramatic such change, and for a while The Rocktigers simply seemed to have disappeared. But I came back from my winter vacation to discover that Tiger and his band (Roy on bass, Jeff on drums, Eddie on lead guitar) are back, with a new vocalist, a new energy, and a new, more aggressive name—Street Guns. They will play their very first show this Saturday, March 1st, at FF, appropriately. Ahead of what promises to be an exciting gig, and hopefully renewed success, Tiger kindly answered some of my questions about the new version of a very familiar band.
Tiger : First of all, I want to say thanks and sorry to the fans who love and support The Rocktigers. However, this is not the end but the beginning, so I ask for your support. Geena has made people happy as the front woman of The Rocktigers for 12 years. We each decided to go our own way in order to make more people happy with better music. Especially, her beginning and end both live within The Rocktigers’ music and every single Rocktigers album. Please wish Street Guns and Geena good luck.
Tiger : We renamed it for the new beginning. Please consider that it is all for the sake of making better music, and not being bound to the past. Our members have always wanted to play in a band whose name includes ‘Guns’, so we took on this name.
Tiger : First, we sound quite different because the vocalist has changed from female to male, but our music will sound familiar, as we still play Kimchibilly based on rockabilly. We also perform some existing songs which I sing, as well as some of Geena’s songs. However, more than half will be new songs. Just as there used to be songs which perfectly suited Geena, now we are going to play rockabilly which suits our new vocalist ‘철수’ (Chul-su).
Tiger : The rest of members are still here and we play rockabilly, so our fashion and moves on stage will be the same. But the new vocalist can show you some new masculine charms!
Tiger : His name is ‘철수’ (Chul-su). He was the vocalist and bassist of the rock n’ roll band, ‘끝내주는 오빠들’. I chose him based purely on his face, LOL.
Tiger : We chose FF because it is the place where The Rocktigers played the most and we feel comfortable there. We want to appeal to not only foreign fans but also Koreans. Also I want my foreign male fans not to leave us because of Geena’s departure.
Tiger : Regarding ourselves as a rookie band, we are so excited! Enjoy Rock n’ Roll! That’s it. I want to play joyfully with a new attitude this year. We anticipate your support, and remember that The Rocktigers is not over! It has just evolved, and will continue to do so, so look forward to it!
Interview by: Rock ‘n Rose