[Recall 2007] A Meeting with Tearliner

This article written after an interview with Tearliner was edited by Philip Gowman and first published on London Korean Links.

There’s a consensus among Korean indie music lovers that Pastel Music offers high quality music. One of the main reasons why this consensus arose is Tearliner. Thanks to orienkorean and his cousin I was able to make contact with Liner, who kindly agreed to answer my numerous questions on Tearliner and his other projects.

Liner, who’s real name is Park Sung Hoon, says he never got any musical education and that he doesn’t even read sheet music. Instead, his listening habits have given him a natural sense to understand and write music – his love for music isn’t bound to specific genres, and today he consumes about 30 new albums each month. The inspiration for Liner to write music comes from life, often moments in the past, and everything he’s listened to and watched while growing up has influenced him.

When asked whether lyrics or melody is more important, Liner leaves no doubt that his answer is melody. Not until all instruments are already arranged is it time to add lyrics. Though if the lyric “hurts” the melody, he gives up what he wanted to say and changes it into something that allows for the melody to be maintained. “Lyrics can limit the area of imagination”, he explains. His intention is for people to feel the same song differently, in their own way. This is also why most of Liner’s songs have English lyrics – while they’re much harder for him to write than lyrics in his native tongue, they just don’t harm the melody as much as Korean lyrics would. When it comes down to it, vocals are just another instrument.

Onto Tearliner then. In January 2004, Tearliner formed as a six member band but it was soon reduced to a duo. Before the first album was finished, Tearliner had become a one man band. Nowadays it’s still just Liner, but his ‘liners’ – four back up members, sometimes an additional cellist and a violinist – help out when needed. Liner concludes that the music of Tearliner is some kind of dream pop after an attempt to describe Tearliner’s sound: “Music is like an oil painting on a canvas. Rhythm is the sea with smooth waves, instruments fill the air with a softening atmosphere, and melody is a ballerina dancing beautifully on the sea.”

Tearliner’s first album and single, “작은방, 다이어리” (small room, diary) and “Letter from Nowhere”, were released in 2005. Almost two years later, after some delays, it was finally time for the follow-up: the “Polaroid Life” EP. Split into an A and a B side there’s a total of 24 songs from the two MBC dramas where Liner has been the music director – “태릉 선수촌” (Taerung National Village) songs on the A side and “동네 한바퀴” songs on the B side. Fortunately the wait for another release won’t be as long. Liner will be the music director for another drama by the director of 태릉 선수촌 and that soundtrack should be released in July. In addition, 40 songs are already picked for Tearliner’s second album, with the temporary title “Ashy Garden”, which hopefully will see its release in November this year.

Besides Tearliner, Liner is also involved in Low-End Project with former Tearliner lead guitarist Jihoon Kang. They started out in 2005 “to make a masterpiece of folk rock”, but so far all that’s been recorded is the song 연애를 망친 건…바로 나라는 걸 알았다 (I notice it was me…who broke the love) (on Tearliner’s blog here) which was featured on last year’s Cracker comic soundtrack. They are, however, going to record another song soon and have plans on making “a beautiful album”. When asked what he thinks distinguishes Low-End Project from Tearliner, Liner answered that Tearliner sings about feelings, the inside of humans, whereas Low-End Project sings about relationships between humans. With acoustic guitars and harmony, they want their listeners to get warm feelings and be reminded of good memories.

For Liner, this is not all. It’s impossible for a full time indie musician to earn a living, he explains, and so he’s got a full time job as well. And then there’s Heroin Underground, a group he’s made for fun together with Jihoon Kang and Jaguar, bassist of The Hi-lights.

Currently, Tearliner is performing in the shape of an acoustic duo with just guitar and percussion at various clubs. There are two Tearliner songs on the “Siamese Flowers” compilation, which is awaiting a release in the UK from Robot! Records, so I asked if there’s any chance of seeing Tearliner on a European stage too: “It’ll be hard unless they invite us. But I’d love to. It is like dreams come true.” was Liner’s answer, then he continued: “My final dream is standing on stage at the Glastonbury Festival.”

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