Within the first few seconds of listening to SellinSellySelline’s debut album, 검은아이, I knew that I had come across a gem. The album isn’t imposing; it’s a simple folk album with nothing more than a guitar and vocals. But it speaks boldly and with great depth. 검은아이 is essentially a collection of musical poems, ones that depict significant themes and emotions through fable-like scenarios. The album is sorrowful, but also cathartic because of its rawness.

I had connected with SellinSellySelline a while back and realized that he had some valuable things to say about the musical process and art in general, so I thought it would be great to have him share those things through an interview.

SellinSellySelline 검은 아이

Can you please introduce yourself?

Hello! I am the musician SellinSellySelline. It is nice to meet you!

안녕하세요 “셀린셀리셀리느” 라는 뮤지션입니다. 반가워요!

How would you describe your musical style? 

I once thought very deeply about music’s genre/style, and I decided it would probably be “Art Folk.”

언젠가 한번 내가 하는 음악의 장르가 무엇인지, 어떤 스타일의 음악인지 깊게 생각해 본적이 있는데,
아마 “아트 포크” 가 아닌가 합니다.

How did you get started with music?

When I was a teenager, I came to know about Metallica, which made a deep impression on me. That was my first experience listening to rock music. I later discovered Nirvana and began playing the electric guitar. I was inspired to begin writing music upon realizing how magnificently Radiohead’s music was written.

When I was teenager, 메탈리카를 알게되었고, 그것은 너무나 충격적이었습니다.

그래서 롹음악을 찾아듣기 시작한것이 처음이었고, 너바나를 알게되면서 전기기타를 치기 시작했고,
라디오헤드를 접하면서 훌륭한 곡을 만들어야겠단 생각으로 곡을 쓰기 시작했습니다.

What draws you to continue with music?

I think the beginning was definitely a product of my own will, but anything afterwards was the result of having followed the goddess of music – Muse – wherever she chose to lead me.

Muse gave me frustration and enthusiasm, made me feel inferior or superior to other musicians, and occasionally allowed me beautiful songs.

(In retrospect, I don’t think it was my freewill that guided me to music, but rather the Muse’s plan. Maybe I’m just a “planned” musician.)

Frankly speaking, I did have a desire to appeal as a “cool guy” to others through my music, but I feel that such desires are significantly less than those of other musicians.

시작은 나의 처절한 의지에 의한 것이었다고 생각하지만, 그 이후는 음악의신이 이끄는데로 이끌렸을 뿐입니다.
나의 여신은 나에게 좌절과 희열, 다른 뮤지션에 대한 열등감과 우월감을 적절히 주었고, 간간히 나에게 아름다운 곡들을 허락했습니다.
(어쩌면 시작조차, 나의 의지가 아닌 것이 아니었나 하고 느끼기도 합니다.)
솔직히 음악으로 인해서 멋진 남자로 어필되고 싶은 욕망도 있지만, 내 음악을 유지하는데 그러한 욕망의 비중이
다른 뮤지션들에 비해서 현저히 작은 것 같습니다. (웃음)

What are some of the common themes or emotions you like to portray in your lyrics and music?

There isn’t anything in particular. When I write songs, I try to not fixate on one single type of feeling. For instance, I don’t try to convey sadness, or happiness. Above all, I just convey what feels cool to me.

So I guess my music’s main theme is … whatever I think is cool? (laughs).

Finally, the music goddess, Muse, unravels my lyrics.

특별히 그런 것은 없습니다. 하지만, 곡을 만들때, 너무 한쪽 감정으로 치우지지 않으려는 강박이 있는 것 같습니다.
예를 들어 너무 우울하지만은 않게, 너무 밝지만은 않게. 그리고, 무엇보다 멋있어야 합니다.
제 스스로 “우와 좀 멋진데” 하고 생각하는 것들이 제 주된 곡의 테마랄까요? (웃음)
결국에 저는 음악의 신인 뮤즈가 주시는 곡들을 풀어낼 뿐이겠죠.

Your lyrics are like poetry in themselves. Are there any authors or poets that you take inspiration from? 

Shamefully, there is no poet that I take inspiration from. I do appreciate the Korean poets that people assume me to — Ki Hyung do, Yi Sang and the like. Although I like them, I don’t take musical inspiration from them.

Instead, I read many novels and watch many movies. As for authors, I think Maruyama Kenji is the best and also that Haruki Murakami is fascinating. I am not picky with movie directors, because I don’t believe that an entire movie relies on the director; I think the synergy that evolves between scenarios and actors is most important.

Although many people ask me to recommend poets, I’m unfortunately pretty ignorant in that area.

부끄럽게도, 시인에게서 특별한 영감을 얻은 적은 없습니다. 타인들이 내가 좋아할 거라 예상하는 한국의 시인들, 기형도, 이상 등을
물론 좋아합니다만, 음악적인 영감을 얻지는 않습니다. 오히려 소설을 많이 읽고, 영화를 많이 봅니다.
마루야마 겐지를 최고라고 생각하고, 무라카미 하루키는 멋있다고 생각합니다. 영화는 감독을 특별히 가리지 않는데,
어떠한 감독이 영화 전체를 만들어낸다고 생각하지 않기 때문입니다. 배우나 시나리오 등의 시너지가 영화마다 매우 독특하기 때문입니다.
사람들은 가끔 나에게 시인을 추천해달라 말하지만, 부끄럽게도, 저는 시인들과 시에 관해서는 잼뱅 (바보) 이라고 해도 과언이 아닙니다.

Do you face “writer’s block” often? If so, what type of things do you do to help you find inspiration? 

Well, the term “writer’s block” is so terrifying, so even if I am in the middle of one, I obsessively think, “I am not!”

In my opinion, these blocks are a result of the disappointment or depression that emerges when a certain situation does not meet your expectations.

I think there are different types of writers’ block; types when you feel down because you can’t write a song as you wished, or when you’re not popular, or when the show didn’t go well.

At that point, I think it’s crucial to examine what is going on objectively; are these things my desire or reality? Is it me or something around me? Then, slowly, the solution seems to come to me.

I think my ability to think objectively is made possible by my loyalty and devotion to music, as well as my self-trust.

글쎄요, 슬럼프라는 말은 너무 무시무시해서, 설령 슬럼프라고 할지라도, 강박적으로 슬럼프라고 생각지 않으려고 하기 때문에…
우선 제 생각에는 슬럼프라는 것은, 어떠한 특정한 상황이 자신의 기대에 못 미치는 “실망”에 대한 “우울”이 아닐까 하는데요.
예를 들어서, 곡이 안써지는 슬럼프, 인기가 없는 슬럼프, 공연이 잘 안되는 슬럼프. 그럴때 철저하게 객관화된 분석이 필요하다고 봐요.
내 욕망과 현실, 그리고 실제로 내가 처한 상황이 나의 요인인지 아니면 환경적인 요인 때문인지.
그러면 대게, 뭔가 해답이 나왔던 것 같네요. 그리고 이 모든 객관화를 가능하게 하는 것은 음악에 대한 신앙과 같은 믿음과,
나에 대한 믿음이 바탕에 깔렸기 때문이 아닐까 합니다.

What is your process of writing a song, and how long does it usually take you to finish a song?

Usually musicians write all of their songs though similar processes, but for me it is different for each song. I often begin with the melody and accompaniment. It takes me weeks to create suitable lyrics — at times even months and years. While I wait for the lyrics, I “ripen” the melody and arrangement.

Also, I try to perform some of my unfinished songs. It is during performance that I can get in touch with my emotions, and this brings the song to completion.

I do enjoy a serendipity-like process, too, in which I complete a song over a few days. However, I can’t escape the feeling that those songs are not mature enough, so I tend to put them on the shelf while continuing to monitor how I feel about them.

I make sure I truly love the song, and truly accept it.

At one given time, I am working on many songs. Instead of just focusing on one song, I like having multiple projects at the same time, so I consider myself to be a multi-tasking musician

대게, 다른 뮤지션들도 마찬가지일 거라고 생각하는데요, 곡마다 다릅니다. 대게의 경우는, 반주와 멜로디가 먼저 나오고요,
적당한 가사가 나올때 까지 수주일, 길게는 수개월, 혹은 몇년에 걸쳐 기다리면서 멜로디와 반주를 숙성 시키는 과정을 거칩니다.
그리고, 미완의 곡들을 공연에 살짝살짝 해보고, 실제 공연할때의 내 감정을 참고해서 곡을 드디어 “완성” 시킵니다.
몇일에 뚝딱하고 나오는 곡들은 작업하면서 즐겁긴하지만, 결국에 깊이가 약하지 않나 하는 느낌이 계속들어서, 계속 보류시키면서 제 스스로를 지켜봅니다.
내가 이곡을 진정 사랑하는지, 받아들일수 있는지 검증을 합니다. 곡 당 시간은 많이 걸리는데,
한곡만 붙잡고 있지는 않고, 여러곡을 동시에 그런식으로 풀어헤쳐놓기 때문에, 나름 “다작” 하는 뮤지션이라고 생각하고 있습니다.

What is your favorite song on your album?

As is often the case with musicians, the songs that I prefer are different than the songs that other people like the best. In my first album, my favorite song would be the long track, “Queen’s Sea.” Also, I’d like to note that I always like my newest songs the best (laughs).

다른 뮤지션들도 그런 경우가 자주 있겠지만, 사람들이 좋아해주는 곡과 제가 좋아하는 곡은 다릅니다. 1집에서는 “여왕의 바다” 라는 긴 곡을 가장 좋아합니다. 그리고 한가지 더 말씀드리자면, 저는 항상 신곡이 제일 좋습니다. (웃음)

What do you think of the current Korean indie scene/what makes Korean indie music different/unique?

Since I am just one musician, I feel like I cannot make broad comments about Korean indie music. Nowadays, there are a lot of indie bands that lack “indie-ness.” They forget the independent nature of industry and think of indie music as a sub-genre of industrial, popular music.

Like old times, there are still many musicians who are following their journey to music but the audience’s interest is wavering. Every generation of indie musicians seem to say that their era was most challenging. On those grounds, I also think the current era isn’t too bright.

Personally, I think the biggest and most exciting strength of Korean music are the sentiments “han” and “heung. “Han” refers to a suppressed kind of sadness, and “heung” refers to the joyous actions that help us forget such things.Korean indie has this note of seriousness that is hard to find in other indie music. But these are just my personal thoughts (laughs).

제가 한국의 인디에 관해 코멘트하기엔 여러모로 모자라기 때문에 말씀드리기 조심스럽네요. 양적으로 늘어난 인디밴드들에게서 “인디스러움”을 찾기가 힘들어진 것이 안타깝습니다.  “독립”을 잊고 대중음악의 하위장르 쯤으로 전락하고 있는 것이 아닌가하는 생각이 듭니다.

예나 지금이나 자신의 음악을 꾸준히 키워나가는 이들은 여전한데, 대중의 관심은 점점 왜곡 되고 있는 것 같습니다. 저마다 자신의 시기가 가장 힘들다고 말할 겁니다. 그런 이유로 저도 지금의 인디씬의 상황이 그리 좋아보이지 않습니다.

개인적으로 한국 음악이 가진 가장큰 장점을 “한”과 “흥”이라고 생각하는데요, “한”이란 어떤 종류의 억압된 슬픔을 말하는 것이고, “흥”은 그런것을 잊게 해주는 즐거운 행위를 말하는 것입니다. 다른 인디에서 찾아보기 힘든 “진지함”이 한국의 인디에 있다고 생각합니다. 순전히 제 생각일 뿐이지만요 하하하

What other musicians do you recommend?

As for Korean musicians, I respect Kim Doo Soo, and I also recommend Unchained’s recent album. I also like Ironic Hue, Manggakhwa, and No Reply.

 한국 뮤지션으로는 “김두수” 님을 존경하고, 최근 앨범을 발표한 “언체인드”도 추천합니다.

“아이러닉 휴”, “망각화”, “노리플라이” 라는 팀도 좋아합니다.

What can listeners expect from your upcoming album?

I’m anxious about my next album, and am still in the process of completing it. Expectation may lead to disappointment, anticipation, or shock but all these emotions mean a lot to me. All I’d like to say is to please wait for it!

2집에 대한 고민이 많고 아직 진행중입니다. 무언가 기대되고, 그것에 의해서 실망이 생기든, 놀라움이 생기든, 제 입장에서는 즐거운 일일 것 같아서,
마음껏 기대해주시라는 말만 드리겠습니다.

Anything else you would like to tell the readers? 

For those of you who have found interest in a sort of boring musician like me, thank you (laughs). Although I don’t write my music for the sake of others, I am very grateful if it is helpful to you in some way.

저같이 다소 지루한 뮤지션에 관해 관심을 가져줘서 고맙습니다 (웃음).
누군가를 위해 만든 노래들은 아니지만, 그래도 나의 노래들이 누군가의 인생에서 짧게나마 요긴하게 쓰여지면 좋겠네요.

Lyric Translation:

There was once a boy who lived in a village,

and behind the village was a deep forest.

The boy was very curious about the forest,

But the adults told him that it was forbidden.

One bleak day, the boy entered the forest.

As he wandered between the dense trees for a long while,

He met a black, shadow-like girl. 

The girl said to him that she would wait for him

The boy said to the girl that he loved her. 

Their times together were very happy

But one day the girl disappeared. 

The calls of the people looking for the boy

Became buried in the deep forest

Time passed, the people lived on, and forgot about the boy

But in the deep forest, the boy is still…

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A composer of music myself who has been inspired by Korean indie music for many years, specifically rock, electronic, and experimental music.