Fresh off of a virtual Australian tour, Korean indie duo Wedance chat to Tone Deaf about their music, philosophy, and much more.
With the year that was 2020, music was sometimes the last thing on people’s minds. After all, who has time to think about dance and music when all we wanted was a minute’s peace?
And yet, in the controlled chaos of their album Dance Pop, Wedance’s WEVO and WEGUI made us believe that sometimes, music helps make sense of things when they don’t anymore. In Dance Pop’s retro-futuristic cadences was a comfort, a hint of saudade for the summers we lost and the friends we couldn’t meet. All of this was topped with an old-school-cool style, making Dance Pop one of the albums you had to listen to.
In fact, everything about Wedance is “old-school”, in many ways. The Korean ‘indie-tronic’ duo has been a staple on the rising Korean electronic underground scene for years, flying under the radar thanks to their physical-only approach to music. Seriously, until last year, the duo only released music through vinyls, cassettes, and CDs, which you could only get your hands on if you went to one of their shows… and got lucky during the ensuing scavenger hunt.
It was ironic that they decided to go digital with the album that quite literally took us back in time, even more so in a time when the world came to a standstill. Turns out, however, that their hand wasn’t forced by the pandemic. Yep, they still prefer the old-school way.
“I often go to the bookstore and library to read books. Some of those books I buy and keep at home. There are many books that I buy and never read.” says WEVO.
“There are many ways to consume books, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each way. One method cannot replace the other. I think it is the same with music. This is just one other way to get it out there that we had not tried before.” she continues.
Now, fresh off of a virtual Australian tour, Wedance sat down with Tone Deaf to talk about this charm, their music, and the state of Korean indie.
Tone Deaf: Earlier this year, Dance Pop became the first album that you put up digitally. Prior to that, you only carried a few copies of your albums at live shows. Why the shift to a digital medium? Did COVID somehow play a part, or were you considering going digital even before that?
WEGUI: No, we had decided to do that before the COIVD-19 crisis started. We just wanted to try out something new.
WEVO: So far, all of our precious songs have been produced in physical form (CD & TAPE). This time around we have made it in the form of CDs and LPs as well. The decision to add digital to the mix was not made with COVID in mind.
I often go to the bookstore and library to read books. Some of those books I buy and keep at home. There are many books that I buy and never read. There are many ways to consume books, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each way. One method cannot replace the other. I think it is the same with music. This is just one other way to get it out there that we had not tried before.
TD: Who came up with the idea of the scavenger hunt for your albums, and why? I heard that fans could only get their hands on a few limited copies. As a young act, anyone would imagine that you’d want to make use of the digital age, so why this manhunt for your albums?
WEGUI: It was both of our ideas. Actually, I never even really thought about making any kind of release at first. The basic idea was that people would have to come to the show if they wanted to listen to our songs. Also, since we never did any social media at the start either, people just came to our shows through word of mouth.
And of course, we also enjoy buying albums and listening to music as well, so in the end we thought about making physical releases as well. Naturally, people who watched the performance at the concert could buy an album that contained the songs they liked before they left.
WEVO: After we started playing live, people started asking us for physical releases of our music. They wanted to listen to the songs that they were hearing live at home. So we decided to hand make them, each one was designed by hand and we burned them ourselves. We decided then to only sell them at shows. We started to get loads of people to our shows.
I don’t know if they were here to see our live show or to buy an album. I sold the album and made an album for the next performance. Aside from potentially getting more people to our shows it also ensures that they get the full Wedance experience. That way, when they listen to the music at home, they will enjoy it more.
TD: Speaking of Dance Pop, when did you start working on it?
WEGUI: I think it was almost around 2 years ago not. We made the songs and were trying to decide how best to release it when we were approached by our friends at Beeline Records, and we decided then to work with them on it. It took a bit of time to get it all planned out and prepared. I am happy with how things turned out.
WEVO: The songs themselves were made ages ago. Aside from a couple of them we kept tweaking little things here and there, right up until just before it was all mastered. The recording of guitar and vocals was done at Union Studios in Seoul early this year.
TD: It’s kind of natural for us to speak about the pandemic at this point, so in that light, I feel like Dance Pop was the album that we all needed. We saw a wave of retro-esque, old-pop influences in a lot of music in 2020, and Dance Pop was a brilliant collection of all those sounds. In a larger sense, its retro influences made it sound very old, and familiar, which was comforting and took us to simpler times. Was that your intention, making it sound like a slice out of time?
WEGUI: This is a really interesting question. Thank you for asking. I never really set out with the explicit aim of making something retro. I did intentionally try to make something a little more pop infused that we normally do. I think this ‘pop’ aspect of the record is what gives it the ‘old, and familiar, which was comforting and took us to simpler times’ feel.
That English sentence you have used is very interesting to me. To explain a little more. We don’t want it to ‘just’ give a feel of comfort to the listener. That feeling of sitting in a warm room, on a comfortable chair with nothing to do and tired eyes … I don’t like that feeling. I think that we want to elicit the feelings of a book and a cup of coffee in that warm room. The book is the one that contains sharp and thought provoking sentences, the coffee is the kind that helps clear the brain.
WEVO: This interview has been so much fun to do. We tried to include things that might seem a little unfashionable in this album. Things about the mind, things about senses, things that burn hot, things like writing on paper and sending it to you. The melodies, lyrics, guitars, and synths contain many such elements. There’s even a track that intentionally contains unfashionable sounds in the intro.
What are some of the acts that influenced the sounds on Dance Pop?
WEGUI: I think a lot of things from day to day get tangled up like a dough, as they are rolled they change shape, and in the end become some other shape.
WEVO: Like, more primitive things. Things that are the ingredients for something. Things before they were processed iron, iron, stone, fire, sunsets.
TD: Carrying on from that last one, Dance Pop is such a multiplicitous album. ‘Big Fuss’ reminded me of AHA’s ‘Take on Me’. There were direct takeaways from grunge rock in some places, and heavy psychedelic influences in others. With so many influences jammed into one album, how did you decide that a particular genre/style was the one to go with a track, especially when a lot of them are kind of opposite to each other? Like, did you ever go: “This doesn’t make sense, because it is this one genre or these many genres?”
WEGUI: Wow. That is a really fun comparison. Big Fuss & Take On Me. I hadn’t even thought about that. Let me think about Big Fuss…
For example in the song there is the lyric ‘온통 빛과 소리의 잔치’ (Translation: a feast of light and sound)’. That line made me excited and it made me want to play the guitar hard. Then the line 연한 분홍의 신이 어깨에 내려왔는데 그 신을 맞이하고 그렇지만 동시에 함부로 날 휘두르거나 뻔뻔하게 만들지 말라는 (Translation: A light pink god came down on my shoulder, I greeted him, but at the same time, I said, “don’t wield your power on me”).
Those words made me feel brave and excited, and I immediately thought of the buzz-filled roar of an electric drum. I didn’t worry too much if the combination was good or bad. I think we all have a sense of balance in our bodies, so in the end whatever I do that balance will come out naturally. We don’t really care about any specific genre or style, but I think the reason you came up with Grunge rock and Psychedelica is because they are both original and direct kinds of music.
WEVO: A completely different feeling in one song. We like this progression because it resembles a flow of emotion. To make a spark, you need to hit two hard things together. Just hitting things is not enough, they need to be hit with power and for that there needs to be a drastic disconnect before they make contact with each other.
TD: WEVO, as for Wedance’s origins, we know that you spotted WEGI and his unique fashion sense in the street and demanded that the two of you start a band. That is a very odd question to ask: what made you so sure that WEGI was the perfect fit for the vision you had in mind?
WEVO: In fact, it might have been the opposite way (laugh). It is not clear how our first meeting went. We had beautiful conversations about many different things without getting tired. The conversation was unlikely to end forever. I had a certain confidence after meeting him. My hunch is always right after all.
WEGI, likewise, what WEVO asked you was an odd question to be on the receiving end of. What made you agree to what she was saying?
WEGUI: WEVO is one of a kind, there is no one else like her.
TD: I read that Wedance wants to “help people dance through their boundaries (whatever they maybe) and to experience life fully on the other side”. What are some of the personal boundaries that you’ve overcome through your music?
WEGUI: There are so many things. I feel like I’m a completely different person before and after Wedance. Sometimes I forget, but thanks to your question, I will try to cross some boundaries today.
WEVO: Life is precious enough to devote your whole life to it. If you want to be able to lick, hug, bite, crawl and roll in it, you need to cross back and forth over the boundaries you have set yourself. Once you are conscious of these things, the boundaries are closer than you think they are. They are just one step in front of you. We are boundary hunters.
TD: You’ve been a staple on the Korean indie scene for so long, especially live music. Despite South Korea faring better than most countries, the live music scene certainly has taken a hit. How did you see yourself adapt/change with the times?
WEGUI: This might be a different answer to the question, but I have just had a thought. ‘Are we just waiting for this to end?” That might be why we feel this mysterious depressing energy? I would like to talk more about this thought with Wevo next time I see her.
WEVO: I’m observing the new routine in my life that began as I tried to reduce my interactions with others. More than ever this is a time when you have to make and observe the big and small rules in your life. Otherwise, you could be brutally swept away by unexpected external tides. It was like this before COVID struck, but it has been accelerated since the beginning of the pandemic. This situation is likely to lead to more and more people to have the same thoughts as I do. Wishful thinking, isn’t it.
TD: Now that you’re embarking on a series of virtual live performances, do you think that is something that indie Korean acts can successfully adapt to?
WEGUI: Yes, loads of people are trying out this and that online at the moment here in Korea as well. Everyone seems to be trying to figure out new ways of doing things.
WEVO: When I think about a solution deeply, I am almost always wrong. I have to work on sense. Under a small stone, there are living creatures moving round.