YouTube continues to be an excellent discovery tool for artists. That was how I discovered The Barberettes. I saw a video in my feed and instantly got entranced with the sound of the trio. As they released their first album, I thought it would be a perfect time to have The Barberettes introduce themselves because it appears that a lot of people want to know about them.
Can you introduce The Barberettes?
Hi, We’re The Barberettes, Korea’s one and only classic 3-piece girl group. Seoul-based. We sing 1950-60s Doo-wop style harmony with Korean traditional twist. Member names: Shinae An Wheeler, Grace Kim, Sohee Park. Started for fun in late 2012, been performing in many places from young and hip indie scene to shows for older Korean generation audience. We just released our debut album on May 27th 2014.
Obviously the first thing people will notice is that The Barberettes’ music is reminiscent of 1960s doo-wop. How did the three of you decide to explore this genre?
Personally we think 1950-60s was the era when the best pop melodies & lyrics & harmonies were made. It’s the genre of music that has no haters. In the history some things never change its value, regardless of taste. Like good food, or good book, and things like that.
People just need those things to live. We think in pop music Doo-wop is in the place like that. Since we weren’t born in the right time to grow up listening to it as much, we discovered it more around the time we started the band. We watched and listened many videos and music from the internet. And fell in love madly. Big time.
With melodic trios and quartets, members focus on specific vocal melodies, like soprano or alto. Is this also the case with The Barberettes or do you switch depending on the song?
We switch depending on the songs. Over a year and half together each of us learned a lot about ourselves, not only musical but many other things. And that blends in our voices. It took a lot of journey to do that and we believe that we’re still on that page.
So by understanding each other leads us to share the right parts of the melody which will make the song sound the way it should be. Each of us have different color and range of course, so we experimented in many ways until we find the right sound for the song.
Listening to 바버렛츠 소곡집 #1, the doo-wop sound is present for the first few songs, but “봄맞이” sounds like a Korean folk song. How do you compose songs? It seems difficult with three vocalists.
Well, “봄맞이” is a remake. The original song was released in 1930s, sung by legendary Korean folk singer 이난영. Usually I (Shinae) write songs and bring it to the girls and we work on harmonies together. Writing is actually the most fun part for me. Before The Barberettes I used to write different types of songs, like indie folk or blues, pop, but writing with a certain concept and filling it in was a very fun new experience.
Honestly I think our music isn’t something that was never tried or created. It is some kind of mixture of repeating what’s done really well already back in the day. What we really tried though through making this album was how the mixture should be done. And we thought the best way is using things that already exists deep in our root. That’s how “봄맞이” is a very special track for us. It is Korean Doo-wop done in 21st century.
When The Barberettes starting performing live, what was the response from the audience? Has that changed at all now?
We could see the audience reacting to the music instantly from the beginning. That’s how we thought this could be way more than how we started this band just for fun. The very first gig was a guest gig at an event, with diverse generation of audience.
We thought this could really work regardless of any kind of class of people. Most of all, we enjoyed ourselves so much while performing. The joy of performing has been expanded for us, so it directly led to audience response.
It’s interesting to hear songs expanded on the album with instrumentals, do you think that’s the direction The Barberettes is heading toward? Or is there a difference between album recordings and live performances?
In the album there were so many talented musicians helped us reaching to the level that we didn’t think we could be. We always love to play with different musicians who knows how to enjoy what we do. It’s always a great feeling to communicate with others by playing music. We did that a lot in live gigs with our good musician friends and that straightly went into the album and it elevated its quality so much.
Especially in the album we were lucky enough to have those incredible sound engineers, B.A Wheeler and bk! of Astro Bits. So since the album making process it became “not having them in live performances” makes it a lot more different I guess.
Matching melodies between three vocalists sounds difficult, do members of The Barberettes have formal vocal training?
Well I (Shinae) and Sohee met in a music school as teacher and a student. All of us have vocal training experience. But solo singing and harmony is totally different world. Even if you’re really good singer, you could suck at singing harmonies.
Since we didn’t have any coach for singing harmonies, we went through a lot of practices and mistakes. We’ve been together only for a year and half. I think as a harmony group, the more time you spend together the more you blend well and sound good. That’s why many great harmony groups are related.
Did The Barberettes have any expectations with 바버렛츠 소곡집 #1? How has the response been in South Korea?
Since we’ve been playing many shows for a year and half without an album, people who know us have shown expectation to our debut. Especially after we got over 6 million views on Vube.com we had many people asking us about our album online.
After a day of release our title song “가시내들” went on 6th of MNET indie chart. And people sent us really nice support messages from different places in the world. Since the album’s release our manager’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing. We are kind of dazed of response. We are really thankful.
As international people are being introduced to The Barberettes through YouTube, what kind of message would you want people to take from your songs?
Being yourself, enjoy what you do…no matter where you are, you can always have fun with music. And the beauty of harmony made out of human voices that love understand each others.
Is there a favorite song on the album? Which song is The Barberettes’ favorite to perform live?
Every songs have different parts that we enjoy, favorite song changes all the time. Last weekend when we played at Rainbow Island Festival we performed “비가 오거든 (When It’s Rainin’)” with our choreography, full band with horn sections. We really enjoyed performing that song. It cheered us up so much.
What are The Barberettes plans for the rest of 2014?
Hopefully having second album release! Actually there are more songs that we want to release. And achieving our dream from the beginning, traveling to have a show in different country.
Anything to say to readers?