…Whatever That Means will be heading to the US West Coast for a tour starting July 23rd. They previously toured in 2011 and are returning to support their new split with Burn Burn Burn called Blowing Minds & Melting Faces. …Whatever That Means are an interesting band with strong ties to the Korean punk scene and feature members from outside of South Korea. The band has been around since 2009 and continue to impress with each release.

Jeff, lead vocal and guitar, answered some questions about the upcoming tour, World Domination, Inc, and planning Full Garage‘s tour and acting as tour manager.

Photo by Jon Dunbar

Photo by Jon Dunbar

It has been a couple years since Sixty-Eight, Twenty-Two. What has …Whatever That Means been up to?

Unfortunately, a lot of that time has been spent just trying to find another stable lineup. We had a few friends help out on a guitar for short stints and changed drummers, and every time that happens, you pretty much have to start over. All the new guys have to learn all the old songs, and you have to go back through all the details to make sure everything sounds really tight. Thankfully, we came out on the other side of it all with the best lineup we’ve ever had, and now, we’re ready to start getting stuff done.

…Whatever That Means is releasing a split with Burn Burn Burn. How did the idea of the split happen? Are the songs on the EP new?

Trash and I met Drew, Burn’s singer, back in 2011 on …Whatever That Means’ first US tour. He was one of the people running a place called Nemesis House that we played out. It was an awesome house venue in Tacoma, Washington. We really hit it off from the start and stayed in touch over the last few years. On a number of different occasions, we talked about doing something together, but when we finally decided to pull the trigger on our US tour this year, it seemed like the right time to finally do a release together. We have three tracks on the record, and they’re all new stuff. It’s really exciting to finally have new songs to release and play live.

You’re playing tour manager for Full Garage and then performing in …Whatever That Means. A lot of the venues overlap, was that on purpose?

Yeah. Full Garage is playing at eight of the nine venues we’re playing at. That was definitely done on purpose. When I agreed to book Full Garage’s tour and go along as their tour manager, part of the deal was that they had to go just before the …Whatever That Means tour. I pretty much tried to book the same tour twice in a row, and we got really close. That way, while I’m there helping out Full Garage, I can do a little hand-to-hand promotion and try to get people to come back out two weeks later to see …Whatever That Means.

Was there a reason to only have shows on the West Coast?

Flying into LA is pretty much the cheapest route into the US from Korea. I’d love to get to the East Coast because that’s where I grew up, but it’s just a lot more expensive getting out there. Also, I’m a big fan of touring in the same place more than once. Going to new places is a lot of fun, but I like going back to places we’ve already played, seeing the people we met last time, and seeing the crowds and fan base grow.

Is there a specific stop that …Whatever That Means is most excited about?

It’d be impossible to pick one. We get to play at the historic 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley again, which is awesome. And we’re having album release shows with Burn Burn Burn at The Kraken in Seattle and Real Art in Tacoma. We played in both cities back in 2011, and they were some of the best nights we’ve ever had. We’re playing in Reno, Nevada for the first time at a place called PB&J’s, and the owner has one of the biggest concert poster collections in North America so we’re really looking forward to going there too. Really, there are good reasons to be excited about every stop along the way.

…Whatever That Means toured the US in 2011, was there a specific reason to come back now other than the new EP?

We never intended for it to take this long to get back. After our 2011 tour, Trash and I stayed behind in the US for a year while I was in graduate school. We had actually talked about doing another tour that summer, but I was just too busy with classes to make it happen. Last year, we opted for another Southeast Asian tour instead of heading to the US. So I guess it was just time, or maybe past time, to get back to the States.

Since the band has previous experience with an US tour, is there any pre-tour nervousness?

I don’t know how much nervousness there is, but there’s definitely stress. For me, I just finished my first semester teaching at a new university and had to get everything booked and organized for both bands’ tours. Trash has been doing all the graphic design for both bands, so that’s posters, album artwork, tshirts, etc. for both bands. Plus, our label just released a new compilation album called Them and Us 2, which was recorded at the studio where I work, so that took a ton of time. Really, we’ve just had our plates full, and just like whenever you go on vacation, you worry you’ve forgotten something. So it’s definitely more stress than nervousness. Once we’re in LA and sitting in our rented van, it’s gonna be a huge relief, and then we can just focus on playing great shows and enjoying the tour.

Photo by Jon Dunbar

Photo by Jon Dunbar

Along with …Whatever That Means, Jeff, you also run World Domination, Inc, a record label and booking agency. What’s the history behind that?

Well, I’d get in trouble if I didn’t make it clear that Trash and I both run the label. Back in 2009, when we were just getting started with …Whatever That Means, Trash and I started booking a lot of our own shows. I guess we were pretty confident in what we were booking, because we wanted to brand our shows in a way where people could look at a poster and know it was a show we booked. The idea was that if they had fun at one of our shows, they’d probably want to come to another one. That’s how we first started using the name World Domination, Inc., and that was pretty much it at first. We also used it as a kind of faux record label to self-release our own albums. We’d always talked about making it into something a little more “real” and this year decided to do that. I work at Thunderhorse Studios now, so I’m able to help bands get their albums recorded. We’ve also built up a decent contact list for touring throughout Korea and abroad so it just seemed like the right time to take the next step.

WDI is most visible (outside of Korea) running Second Saturdays, a monthly concert series. The series has moved venues a lot recently. What has been happening?

Unfortunately, it’s pretty much impossible to keep a punk rock venue open in Hongdae these days. Second Saturdays actually started as “Spot Second Saturdays” back in February 2011, but Club Spot closed in October 2014, so we had to move. We went to Club Ruailrock and were there for a year, but then they closed. Rent prices have skyrocketed in Hongdae in the last few years so it’s been harder and harder to find a stable place to have shows. Last month, we kicked off the new Second Saturdays at Seoul’s newest punk club, Club SHARP in Mangwon. It’s the first time the event is being held outside of Hongdae. Mangwon is still pretty close to Hongdae, which is nice, but it’s far enough away that rent prices are reasonable, so we’re pretty hopeful that this will be the home of Second Saturdays for a long, long time.

Is there an overall goal with WDI?

I mean, we don’t really have a mission statement or anything. We just want to help promote the bands that we really love. I think Trash and I have built up a lot of knowledge playing in bands over the last 15 or so years, and it’s nice to be able to share that with people. I’ve always said that Korea has some of the best underground bands in the world, and we want to help them get their music out to as many people as possible. I guess we’re kind of following the Asian Man Records model: help bands as much as you can until they can find someone higher up the food chain to help them out more.

…Whatever That Means is well connected to the Korean punk scene, has it continued to grow? Or is there a plateau that has been reached?

There are always bands coming and going. I definitely think the scene has grown over the last few years. It’s still not as big of a scene as you’d expect in a city the size of Seoul, but I really love what we have here, and hope it continues to grow.

Photo by Jon Dunbar

Photo by Jon Dunbar

If given the chance to put together a Korean punk festival in the United States, who would be included?

Off the top of my head, SkaSucks, Full Garage, and Burning Hepburn. I’d definitely want some great hardcore bands like Chain Reaction and The Geeks. I’d want to throw in some more garage-type-stuff too like National Pigeon Unity or Galaxy Express. Oh, and …Whatever That Means. I almost forgot about us.

Outside of playing shows, what are the band’s plans for downtime?

We’re not actually going to have much down time on this tour. We weren’t able to find a roadie to come with us this time around, and I’m the only person in the band with much driving experience so most of that falls on me. We were limited to ten days this year, so we have a lot of long drives. We have one day off in the middle of tour, but it’s an eleven-hour drive from Fresno, California to Corvallis, Oregon, so we’ll spend most of that day on the road. The plan is to find a small park to camp in that night though, so that’ll be fun. I’m hoping to find us a place somewhere around Crater Lake. Other than that, it’ll be the normal tour schedule. Wake up. Drive. Explore the town we end up in. Play a show. Sleep. Repeat.

What should people expect if they come to a …Whatever That Means show?

More than anything, we just want to have a good time. We love playing our music, and I think people can see the energy we bring with us to the stage. We love hanging out and meeting new people before and after the shows too. The whole thing is just a big party.

Anything to say to readers?

Just thanks for taking the time to check out a local band from Seoul, and I hope we get to meet you while we’re on the road. Please check out our new album and the Them and Us 2 compilation album from World Domination, Inc. 🙂

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Korean Indie Editor-At-Large The person in the background watching over everything.