What exactly does it mean to expand consciousness? After looking up the definition of psychedelic one day. I found myself contemplating this exact question. The meaning refers to drugs that invoke hallucinations and those that apparently expand consciousness. So if consciousness is your state of awareness and current surroundings, would expanding this mean getting to know someone a little better than before? Say by asking them many questions over a cup of coffee?
Well if this can be considered a version of the meaning, than this is exactly what I did last June with the Korean Psychedelic Band Juck Juck Grunzie in the surroundings of a small coffee shop near to the Windmill in Brixton.
I had heard the band were in town after having been invited to play at Glastonbury and I was contacted by their management if I wanted to interview them for the blog. As conducting face to face interviews seem rare what with emails and Skype taking precedence, I thought I would go along and chat to them before hand and also experience them playing live at the Windmill Brixton which is a little pub that caters to live music performances. I also asked a friend of mine to tag along, Jason Verney of NativeNomadPictures fame and he decided to film the interview.
On a very hot and humid 4pm in June, Jason and myself meet the four band members and their entourage; their manager Vivian Jihyun Lee and Rou Gilissen, who is their band’s photographer for the day. We meet outside the windmill venue. It is too early to go inside and we wander around looking for a quiet cosy area to conduct the interview. As we walk towards a coffee shop, Boong, (the Bassist) tells me the had just had an Indian meal at Brick Lane, the previous night and enjoyed it very much. The band having just finished playing at Glastonbury seem in laid back spirits and are very chatty. We end up finding a small but not so quiet coffee shop and we all put in orders for iced americanos. We sit down at a large table, enough to seat seven and a mother and daughter kindly relocate their tables to accommodate us.
As Jason sets up the camera, I set about asking my first question and a very loud police siren passes by in the back ground as each band member introduces themselves to me. There is Ah-Rheum Lee, who sings and plays the synthesizer and Jee-Hye Ham who plays the guitar. The two ladies initially met in Seoul and then formed a band in 2007, Hyejong Shim, aka Boong who plays bass, joined them in 2010. They were originally an all girl rock group, but it was not until Kyung Hyun Lee, the drummer, who joined later in 2014, that changed that.
We talk a bit about the groups name and the meaning. If translated rather roughly into english, it means ‘almost alone,’ Ah-Rheum says the name is difficult to explain and that I would need to understand Korean. I did say I was learning. However she explains the phrase is mostly used by Korean Grandmothers and does not necessarily have the same connoation of sadness as it does in English. Although the meaning refers to emptiness, it is not serious. It is also a play on words.
With lots of editing and subtitles, (there is a lot of coffee grinding in the background) most of the interview is captured on film. In the clip we discuss how they would describe their music, who their fans are, what their process is in writing music how they select songs for the album and other key questions like what super power they would choose if they could have just one.
There is of course footage that does not make it into the final clip due to technical reasons. One of the questions I had asked was their favourite place they had played which included both in and outside of Korea. Although the band have played in other parts of Korea and overseas in Taiwan and more recently in Glastonbury, Ah-Rheum talked about a dooribang in Hongdae, Seoul. An area that is very much associated with the arts, indie and urban culture. The band, along with other artists were staging a protest as the landlord was wanting to close down the place due to rent issues and the government wanted to turn the location into yet another tourist venture; a hotel. The protest was done in the form of a concert and even though it was not successful, it was the coming together of all artists to fight something they believed in, that the band cherished the most.
After an hour spent chatting, laughing and sipping our iced americanos, Jason and I wind down to allow the band to get their stage face on. The Windmill Brixton that they are due to play at shortly is one night only before they fly off to continue their European tour; two more locations in Germany. They are looking forward to coming back next year and raising their profile internationally.
Later at the venue, the band play songs from their first full length album ‘Psycho’ that was released in 2013. Their music is deeply moving haunting and yes perhaps psychedelic is apt. With a pear cider in my hand, I sway to the rhythmic beats and feel that my mind has somewhat widened and my consciousness deepened to understand the music and feelings of these four individuals whom together make these dreamy almost dark melodies.