Back in June we introduced the Korean punk rock band of mixed nationalities, …Whatever That Means. It’s an important time for the band as they are about to embark on their American tour starting on 23 July in Las Vegas. The band consists of Jeff (guitar and vocals), Trash (bass and vocals), Bialy (guitar and vocals), and Daewon (drums). The members are from Poland, America and Korea, so we were sure there would be some stories to be told. Seeing how the Korean indie and underground scene is becoming more popular worldwide, we shot a few questions to get their feelings about the differences performing in Asia compared with western concerts, as well as getting a general feel of what “…whatever that means” actually means to the members of the band.
A huge thank you to the band members and to Shawn for taking their time out of their busy and pretty hectic schedule to take part in the interview.
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Could you introduce yourselves to our readers please?
Jeff: I’m Jeff. I play guitar and sing in …Whatever That Means. I’m originally from just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States, but Seoul has been my home for almost ten years. The band keeps us too busy to have other hobbies, so I’ll just tell you what my day job is – I’m a professor at Sungkyunkwan University, where I teach Academic Writing and Presentation.
Trash: I’m Trash. I’m from Korea. I play bass and sing. I’m also a kindergarten teacher.
Bialy: I’m Bialy. I’m originally from Poland and have lived in Korea on and off for about eight years. I play guitar and sometimes sing backing vocals. I work at an architecture firm in Seoul and recently helped open a coffee shop/bar/venue here as well.
Daewon: I’m Daewon. I’m Korean, and I play drums and scream on stage between songs. I’m a drum teacher and a session musician.
The Korean music scene has a stigma attached to it that Korea only produces K-pop. We all know that’s not true, but how do you feel that outlook affects what you produce as a band?
Trash: Honestly, we just ignore the K-pop industry as much as we can. We’re not out to prove that we have value compared to them, because we know what we do is better for us. It is more authentic and a more realistic view of life in Korea.
How big is the punk/rock scene in Korea?
Jeff: Considering how huge the city of Seoul is, the punk scene is much smaller than most would expect. Most kids just grow up listening to the same pop music as everyone else does. They don’t explore much of what else is out there. That being said, the Koreans who are into it, get really into it.
What do you feel is the difference between western fans and Korean fans?
Jeff: There’s really not much of a difference between westerners and Koreans in the scene. We’re all part of it for the same reasons; we’ve found a place where we feel like we belong and can express ourselves well.
With cultural differences between the members, have there been any awkward moments between you? What input does each member have when creating a new song?
Jeff: Cultural differences have never been a real problem for us. Bialy and I grew up in different countries, but Seoul has been our home for a long time. As for writing songs, it’s pretty simple. I usually record a simple demo and send it out to the band. Sometimes all the parts of the songs are there. Sometimes there’s just a verse or chorus, and I’m not sure where to go with it from there. They all learn what’s in the demo, and then we play through it at practice and listen to the different ideas people have to kind of upgrade and finish the song – it all comes together pretty naturally.
What is it that influences you individually and as a group?
Trash: Our music is mostly influenced by bands from the American punk explosion of the 1990s. I don’t think anyone who listens to us would be surprised to find out that we love Bad Religion, The Bouncing Souls, Face To Face and The Descendents.
If you could work with anyone in the music industry, who would you choose and why?
Trash: If we could work with anyone in the industry, it’d be Bill Stephenson from The Descendents. We would love to record an album at his studio – The Blasting Room, and have him produce us. That’d be a dream come true.
“…Whatever That Means” is a very unique name for a band. How did you come up with the name, and what does it mean to each of the members?
Jeff: Trash and I had a punk rock show as the after party for our wedding reception. When we were booking that show, she was still playing in her old band, BB Lucky Town, and I didn’t have a band yet. I was in the process of throwing something together that I thought would just be a one-off project kind of thing. My buddy was working on the poster, and I still didn’t really know what my band was going to be so he just listed all the other bands and at the bottom wrote, “and Jeff….whatever that means.” Once we had a lineup for the show, we just decided to call ourselves …Whatever That Means, so we could pretend our name was on the poster. Nobody actually thought it was a good band name, but it was only supposed to be for one show, so we went with it. Now, it’s almost eight years later and we’re stuck with it. What does it mean to us? I guess that it’s important to realise sometimes you can get stuck with something dumb because of a random joke you made years ago!
When someone who isn’t so sure about the punk scene listens to your music, how would you describe your style? What sets you apart from everyone else in the industry?
Trash: The problem is that if you just say you’re “punk rock,” most people think of fast, overly simple, probably-screamy music. If they don’t listen to punk at all, they probably think it’s barely music. If we say we’re “pop punk,” people think of Good Charlotte and New Found Glory, who we definitely do not sound like. We always just say that we’re “melodic punk rock.” The idea is that we have the speed and aggression that people think of when they hear “punk rock” but we’ve also got a lot of melody and harmonies throughout our music.
You have recently released a new split 7-inch record with Burn Burn Burn from Seattle. How did this come around? What was it that made you think “We could work with these guys”?
Jeff: Trash and I met Drew from Burn Burn Burn in 2011 on our first US tour. He was helping to run a house show we played and we’ve stayed in touch and become friends over the years. Burn Burn Burn is a great band. They’re a really catchy, snarky pop punk band, and we knew our music would play well together. We had talked about putting something out together over the last few years, but the timing was never right. With our US tour this year, the timing was finally there. We’re really excited to play release shows for the 7” in Seattle and Tacoma together with those guys.
What are you looking forward to performing/doing whilst on tour in the US? What can fans expect to hear from you on the stage?
Bialy: We’ve only really played one of the new songs from the album, “This Betrayal,” live. We’ve been waiting for the album to come out before playing the other two, so it will be fun to finally play those tracks we’ve been sitting on for the last year. We have another new song titled “The Inside” that we just released on a Korean punk compilation album called “Them and Us 2” that we’ve only played once or twice. It’s going to be exciting to be travelling around the US, and really fun to have new music to debut.
Jeff: For Trash and me, it’ll be really cool to be getting back to places we’ve played before and seeing some of the same faces in the crowd and hanging out with people we met when we did our last US tour in 2011.
Is there a chance that you would tour Europe or attend any European music festivals to get your name known to a wider audience?
Jeff: We would love to tour Europe. Hopefully, that will happen in the next few years. We really want to make sure we can take more than just a week or so to do that though. We want to do a solid tour around Europe if we’re going to head over there. That will take a lot of planning though, so we’ll see.
Do you have any final words for your fans and the MYMBuzz readers?
Trash: Just thanks for taking the time to check us out. We hope you enjoy the music, and if you happen to be on the US West Coast in late July and early August, come out to a show and say hi! We love meeting new people.
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You can check out the brand new music video for “I Can’t Take It” from …Whatever That Means’ new “Blowing Minds & Melting Faces” split 7-inch record below. You can show your support by popping over to the Band Camp and Facebook pages of the band and giving them a “Like”. If you’re in the US be sure to check them out on their latest tour at the following venues:
July 23: Las Vegas, NV @ The Double Down Saloon
July 24: Sonora, CA @ Gypsy Shack
July 26: Corvallis, OR @ The Interzone Cafe
July 27: Seattle, WA @ The Kraken
July 28: Tacoma, WA @ Real Art
July 29: Portland, OR @ Foggy Notion
July 30 Reno, NV @ PB&J’s
July 31: Berkeley, CA @ 924 Gilman Street
August 1: Los Angeles, CA @ The Redwood Bar