The Hyundai Card ‘Korea Rocks!’ tour is almost at an end (nooo!) with the last gig happening today in Liverpool as part of the Liverpool Sound City Festival. As this exciting UK tour comes to an end, we’ve got one last interview to bring you, with the amazing band, Gate Flowers! Gate Flowers is a four member band made up of vocalist Park Keun-hong, guitarist Yeom Seung-sik, bassist Ryu Jae-in and drummer Yang Chong-eun. To find out more about them, you can read our previous Gate Flower interview here. Before the Korea Rocks gig in Camden started, we stopped by Gate Flowers’ green room to have a bit of a heart to heart, talking about what they’ve been up to during their time on the tour, the rock scene in South Korea and their experiences together as a band.
KCM - How have you found the tour so far? Has it been hard constantly performing and travelling or are you used to this by now?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - We’ve been enjoying the tour. It’s our first tour in the UK and travelling to all these places. We’ve been to Wales and Kent already, and are getting used to the travelling and we enjoy it. It’s fun and wonderful. We’re learning how to communicate with different audiences. British people are fantastic and know how to enjoy music better than Koreans. The attitude for rock music in the UK is really nice, a lot of people in Korea, unless you’re a fan of rock music, think rock is just loud. We love being here and playing here.
Gate Flowers (Park Geun-hong) - Absolutely!
KCM - Have you had much of a chance to sightsee or is your schedule too tight?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - In London we’ve been to Trafalgar Square and Big Ben, also the London Eye. We went to Southbank, where we had Korean food. That was around a day after we arrived here and we went to the Korean Cultural Centre. The people there gave us food and it was Korean! We wanted to have fish and chips or something! But it was Korean food. But yeah, we want to do more sightseeing too. But playing in front of UK audiences is more of a true cultural experience, so it’s really good.
KCM - How do you normally prepare for your gigs? Any special traditions?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - We try not to fight. Haha, just kidding. Hmm, we talk about the set list which is the main and most basic thing. How to connect songs because we have a 20 minute set, so we look at the different songs and try to make it into an organic set. We want the whole show to become as one. We talk about how to start and how to lead and what’s going to happen. Sometimes we don’t even rehearse, we just get on stage.
KCM - How did you choose your songs for tonight?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - The songs that we’ve chosen are a little heavier than we’d do in Korea and for Korean audiences. We have one cover by The Rolling Stones, which is the song we played during ‘Top Band’, the Korean TV program, ‘Paint it Black’. We are very, very proud with what we’ve done with the song. We’ve tried a couple of times to play this song on the tour, but think we’re going to definitely do it tonight.
KCM - Are you choosing heavier songs because you think British audiences are more used to rock?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - Yeah, sure. And, you know, there’s more energy when we play our heavy songs. I mean, these songs aren’t much different, the heavier songs. Like last night, we only had a 20 minute set, and the songs we chose were among the heaviest songs and people liked it, so we figured why not try it now, try it today too.
Gate Flowers (Park Geun-hong) - Some Korean people say Gate Flowers is a death metal band.
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik)- Yeah, we’re nothing close to death metal! Give me a break! We don’t even call ourselves a hard rock band, we just want to be known as a band. The songs we make and play, it’s not hard rock, it’s not metal, it’s not punk rock. But Korean people aren’t very used to these kinds of music so they think it’s all metal or rock, and that’s it.
KCM - How would you like to see Korean bands progress in South Korea? Would you like more people to be exposed to bands?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - Definitely, yeah. We want more attention and popularity than Korean pop, if that can ever happen. In order to do this, we need management and money professionally because Kpop didn’t just happen in a day, it took a long time for entertainment management like SM Ent, YG, JYP to come up. They really put a lot of money and effort into creating this sort of new kind of Asian culture. But for a band it’s a little bit different, because we create our own music, so it’s really hard for management to have influence over the artist. It has to start from inside Korea first. Even with Kpop, it started inside Korea, that’s how it got bigger. People had the money to invest and try something new in Korea. The popularity of Korean rock music in Korea is inevitable. It has to be the first step.
KCM - If people want to listen to rock music in Korea, is there only really access to live performances in Seoul? Is there much of a rock scene outside of Seoul? Do bands have to travel to Seoul to perform?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - There is a rock scene outside of Seoul, but very, very small. Maybe in Busan, but it’s not big compared to Seoul. Even in Seoul, there’s only a small part of Seoul that it’s big in. You know, maybe a vibe like Camden, a small area – Hongdae. This area is the only place where there’s rock music going on in Korea. Other than Hongdae, there isn’t much. There were some attempts to create that atmosphere outside Hongdae or Seoul or in other places but none as successful as Hongdae. Because in Hongdae, people just started to do things there, not like some corporation or some government was trying to make things happen there and make the atmosphere. Every attempt by the government always fails in Korea and we hate that. There was some kind of attempt in Hongdae too by the government, but it didn’t really go well. So only in the small area of Hongdae do we have the movement of rock.
KCM - So in South Korea the popularity of rock has to be a natural thing?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - Yeah.
KCM - Is it easy to form a band in South Korea?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - It’s getting easier. Like 10-15 years ago when we started listening to rock, we could hardly find any kind of small institutions which help you learn how to play instruments like guitar, bass and drums or keyboard. We didn’t have that. Now I would say there’s hundreds. Now in Korea, people learning instruments is an equal thing, but when we were starting, being in a band was like you’re going to have a terrible quality of life until you’re dead. I mean, you may like the music, but you don’t want your children to pursue it as a career. They wouldn’t even consider it as a career. But things have changed a lot.
KCM - So, I have a 14 year old cousin who’s trying to start his own band. What advice would you give him?
Gate Flowers (Park Geun-hong) – Don’t do that. It will be crazy!
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - Yeah you’re making a big mistake! Haha. Nowadays there are thousands of kids in Korea who have bands at school or middle school, but what are the chances of being able to do things like going abroad and performing? It’s really rare. I mean, playing an instrument and being in a band is a cool thing but especially in Korea, playing in a band and making money, you have to have a side job. These two things [bands and money] don’t really go along very well and it’s very tough in Korea. We don’t really have a good role model for a band in Korea. What we’re saying as a role model, it has to be someone like AC/DC of Australia. We have YB, Yoon Band, they are great guys but do you know YB?
KCM - ….
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) – See you guys don’t even know of them so they’re not a good role model. But if your cousin’s in the UK, it’s ok.
Gate Flowers (Park Geun-hong) - Make his own music.
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - Yeah make your own music, I envy you! For being in the UK! Yeah, make your own music. Just do what you want to do. But if you don’t like what you do, do different things. You learn from every experience with people musically, but if you have to move on, move on. In our case, it’s good that we didn’t move on. We sort of missed each other. We had a couple of recesses….. The drummer and the vocalist, they wanted to restart the band again, so we basically had a break up but they wanted to start again so they asked me, I hesitated a little because this kind of music was heavy, too heavy for Korea I thought, so we thought we wouldn’t succeed later. I mean, I never expected I would be here as a band, but the reason why I rejoined and why I wanted to play with these guys again was because of the music, not the popularity or whatever, the music itself and playing in a band. This Gate Flowers, it’s a great experience.
Gate Flowers (Park Geun-hong) - That’s all you can really do.
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - Yeah that’s what we can do. So that’s why we started again. We missed the music. Sometimes we fight and we fight all the time but we love the music.
KCM - So what’s it been like spending 24/7 together? Are you guys ok being with each other all the time?
Gate Flowers (Yeom Seung-sik) - I’m starting to love these guys more. Being together makes us get really close, we have to trust each other because otherwise there are enemies, even you guys could be the enemies! I’m just kidding. We are like a family. It’s a really great experience for all of us. We have to trust each other and sometimes let things go for our band or individuals.
We have to admit that before the Korea Rocks tour, we weren’t totally clued up on the Korean rock and indie music scene as we didn’t know where to look for current and up to date information. Because of this, it was a real eye opener to be able to talk to Gate Flowers about their struggles as a band in South Korea. Even though the UK also has tonnes of struggling musicians, we’ve always had the luxury of having a nation that appreciates band music as we’ve had so many successful bands such as the Beatles, Radiohead and Oasis to pave the way. But in South Korea, bands such as Gate Flowers are still trying to get people to just acknowledge their style of music.
While Gate Flowers obviously have realistic views on how hard it is to be successful in the Korean rock scene, it’s good to see that their love of music and performing drives them onward leading them to amazing opportunities such as taking part in this UK tour. It would be great to see Korean rock and indie music getting the recognition it deserves, both inside South Korea and internationally. We have heard nothing but good things from this Korea Rocks tour and it’s certainly gained many new fans for Korean indie and rock music; hopefully this success will persuade South Korean’s to take a look at the amazing talent they have on their own home soil and more investment is made into the Korean rock music scene. If the success of this Korea Rocks tour is anything to go by, Korea should definitely look at helping bands to develop as it’s obviously very popular with international audiences; rock will always be cool. This tour has managed to get a lot more people to take Korean music more seriously as it’s proven to the British public that South Korea is not all about pretty pop bands and funny dancing. And this will hopefully get more people to discover Korea and it’s other cultures.
It’s great to see that the members are obviously really close and have a great relationship with each other, and even after recesses from the band, their love for music brought them back together. The members are all very chilled and down to earth with differing personas but on stage, their different personalities really come together and the amazing chemistry within the band is obvious as we watched them perform later at the Camden Korea Rocks gig. Watching them perform, you really see the members get lost within their own music. Gate Flowers’ performances are intense, powerful and you can see why they would miss performing together.
We’d like to thank Gate Flowers for talking to us, at points it almost felt like a therapy session as we sat on comfy sofas. We’re very thankful they were so open and honest, just like their music. We hope they really rock out their last UK gig and we wish Gate Flowers many successes in the future, they really deserve it and if anyone was capable of being great role models that will help expand and push the Korean rock scene, it would be Gate Flowers!
If you’d like to see more photos of the interview with Gate Flowers, you can see them on our Facebook page, here!
Finally, we want to say a MASSIVE thank you to Hyundai Card for working with the Korean indie and rock scene, helping them gain more exposure. We hope people all over the world will get the chance to experience more Korea Rocks soon!