Last month, I interviewed the US electronic jazz group Japanese Los Angelos (which you can read here) before they traveled to Korea and played at Zandari Festa. Now that they’ve returned, I was able to interview them a second time about their experiences at Zandari Festa!

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Now that you have played in and attended a Korean indie music festival, what are some of your takeaways and observations about the Korean music scene?

Lex: There is no shortage of interest in music; both within and without Zandari I was always seeing masses of younger people moving around music venues every night.

Jihoon: There are a lot of fresh artists! People’s way of making music is clearly different in Korea, though they must take a lot of influence from other countries too through the internet.

Julian: There was a huge prevalence of music and culture throughout Hongdae, and it seemed that the youth culture there was extremely aligned with art, be it via fashion, music or dance.

Andrew: People are very good listeners! At every show we saw, everyone was focused on the performance and the music.

Can you tell us about the vibe at Zandari? What was the audience and energy like, what were some of the things that made this festival different than other festivals you have attended, etc..

Julian: One of the aspects of Zandari that was the most surprising and exciting to me was the selection of venues.  Each was pretty confined, with the audience right up front with the performers.  Because of this, it felt like all of the performances were able to be extremely personal, and it definitely helped the audience connect to the artists.

Jihoon: I loved how friendly everyone was.  I got to meet a lot of people and they were always welcoming.

Lex: It was clear that they went out on a limb by selecting JLA to play there, because it seemed like most of the other bands weren’t focused on things like improvisation or genres far from indie rock. It felt good to represent that kind of music in a place it’s not usually prevalent.

Andrew: The venues were spread out, so we walked a fair bit and got to check out a lot of Hongdae, which was a plus for me since I’d never been there.

What was it like playing for a foreign audience?

Julian: It was pretty intimidating to be slightly barred from interacting from the audience through speech, as it seemed that there weren’t many fluent English speakers present.  Once we started playing, though, I think we essentially just did what we typically do, and I felt that the audience enjoyed the music!  We’ve seen a few positive reviews of our performance since we returned to the States, which definitely was reassuring.

Lex: I didn’t know what to expect but I actually focused all my energy on making the same high energy music we always do, no matter what vibes I got. Knowing that the audience may react differently, I didn’t want to get psyched out from the bandstand so I decided to give it my all and then worry about reactions at the end. I think we played an incredible set and that the people who were there to see us had a good time.

Jihoon: I was scared; I did not know at all what to expect.  I think social etiquette bleeds into how a foreign audience reacts to music, which is strange to someone who expects certain reactions when we do certain things, haha.

Andrew: It was hard to gauge from the stage whether people were enjoying themselves, but I saw a few phone videos being taken! That was a pleasant surprise.

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What were some of your favorite acts at the festival and why?

Jihoon: I think it was on Saturday night that Yukari and a DJ afterwards played. Both of them were amazing! Yukari was relaxed but still grooved. Then a techno DJ turnt up for the rest of the night. Not many people were dancing at first, but this awesome lady I didn’t know and I danced so hard alone for so long that eventually everyone got down by 1 AM.

Andrew: Yukari is a great performer as well as a producer of electronic music, and her live set was something else!

Julian: Yukari blew me away – from her sound design to her compositions to her stage presence, she really brought it!!

Any places in Hongdae that you’d like to recommend to our readers?

Julian: I loved all of the shops, bars and restaurants that we visited in Hongdae!  The area is thriving, so any and all of the above were incredible.  Also, we got some great Korean Fried Chicken and Beer at Outdark, another cool haunt to check out!

Lex: We ate at an incredible, authentic (I think?) barbecue place called Joseon Barbecue, a block northwest of Yangwha and Hongik. Definitely my favorite food I had in Seoul and the coolest venue in Hongdae I visited.

Jihoon: If you like to demonstrate your physical strength (for all you doods), there’s a really loud arcade punch machine on the corner of Jandari-ro and another main drag that I forget the name of.  If you want to keep guest house people up until 7 AM, just play that game until 7 AM.

Andrew: Agreed. And also there’s an arcade around that corner somewhere with jubeat and some other rhythm games. It’s open late and the lady who runs it is super cool.

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