This isn’t your grandma’s music, nor is it the music of your average Korean tween. It is powerful, violent, emotive; and it is very loud. Far from the world of Hello Kitty-adorned cellphones and trendy KPOP girl bands of Tehran Street, Juck Juck Grunzie is the genesis of energy somehow magically re-engineered into the exasperated sounds of the Korean underground. It is the absolute indulgence of everything. Ahreum, Jeehye, Hyojeong, and Kyunghyun are explorers of sorts. Their songs seduce and drag willing participants across a fiery bed of thorns as they explore themes of obsession, fear, and the madding habituation of life.
The band was quick to point out that they are most certainly not servants of convention, they are in this business to represent the sounds of danger. The soldiers of layered, complex music, where to fully appreciate the music one must surrender themselves as they board the roller coaster blindfolded.
I sat down with the members of the band to discuss their past, the plans for the future, and the music of modern Korea.
Sabrina: What does the band’s name mean, where does it come from?
Kyunghyun: “Juck Juck Grunzie” is actually Korean. I guess if you were to translate it, you’d say it has to do with being lonely, but there is a bit more of a nuance that’s hard to translate.
Sabrina: How do you describe your music to people?
Jeehye: We play psychedelic rock music. We make all our songs together and every member contributes their thoughts and opinions to them so there is a wide range of influences for us to draw from. But we try to express a definite idea or style in each song. For example, for one of our new songs, we tried to work with the concept of how danger would sound.
Sabrina: What draws you to your particular style of music?
Hyojeong: We were influenced by noise, post-punk, and grunge in our early days and I think those sounds come through on the EP we released in 2011. But then we got more into electronic sounds and ‘70s rock and those influenced us when making our 2013 “Psycho” full-length debut. We make music that we like and that’s interesting to us.
Sabrina: Do you feel pushed back from the Korean music scene, or the need to conform or be more KPOP-esque?
Kyunghyun: No, not really. We’re an indie band that plays with lots of other indie bands in similar situations as we are. We operate outside of the realm of popular music. There are popular Korean groups whose fans stalk them to try and get pictures, or choose a specific member to fall in love with. But people who listen to our music don’t usually behave like that. So there’s no pressure on us to act any certain kind of way.
Sabrina: How would you define the word “success” in the Korean rock music scene?
Ahreum: I think it all depends on what your purpose for making music is. If you want to be a real rock star and live off your music, you need to make commercial-sounding music or K-pop. But I think this is the same around the world and is not something that is unique to Korea. My goal is to not give up on being a musician and to continue to make music with good people that I respect. If I can keep doing that, I’ll feel successful. Unfortunately, I’ll only know if I was successful when I’m like 60 or 70! So until then, I’m not going to focus too much on the idea of success and instead will focus on doing cool things and making music I love.
Juck is raw, their message, their existence, [is] an indictment against the system. It’s about not giving in. The members work collaboratively to express the sounds and themes interesting to them in the moment. Living in the now, there is no ‘forever Juck-sound,’ the foursome finds inspiration through the constant exploration of past musical masters and plays ‘what feels right’ for them.
The group exists in a region outside the realm of traditional musical fare for Korea. Their melodies, coarse; their message untreated. The pop scene in Seoul may be filled with generic, music-by-numbers foolishness, the drivel of the East, but Juck Juck Grunzie, along with others, form a small army of resistance and add a splash of black in an otherwise over-saturated world of vamps. Juck; they are storytellers and explorers; they are the outliers.
The band will be tramping across Europe this summer. Here are their tour dates:
- June 25: Pilton, UK @ Glastonbury Festival (Pussy Parlure)
- June 26: Pilton, UK @ Glastonbury Festival (Gully Outernational)
- June 30: London, UK @ Windmill Brixton
- July 1: Berlin, Germany @ Kantine am Berghain
- July 3: Berlin, Germany @ Trixster