[Recall 2009] Another Meeting with Tearliner

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

The past couple of years, my favourite Tearliner has gone from being the loveliest of indie musicians to becoming the excellent music director that perfectly sets the mood for any scene. Working on popular dramas he’s largely responsible for making the Pastel brand of indie music as popular as it is today. But it’s as a musician I admire him the most, and so I was delighted when he shared plans for a bunch of releases of his own. The nice man that he is, Liner kindly agreed to a new interview to catch up from our first, and mrkwang kindly agreed to translate.

In June this year, Liner finally released a single called “Embrace All” which was the first release with nothing but Tearliner for more than two years. Originally planned to be the first in a series of singles, the title track used many different instruments and sounds, including vocals to provide harmony of sound rather than a lyrical message – illustrating the point he’s made previously of vocals being nothing but another instrument. Liner explains that though no message is to be found in lyrics, the title itself conveys that there should be no limits in music, and of course that everything should be embraced. However the ambitious release plan with several singles following the first became a victim of the current times, but all is not lost. The current plan is instead to continue with a single turned EP called “Love Traveler” before releasing Tearliner’s second full length album, still going by the title “Ashy Garden” (잿빛정원), including the other would-be singles.

This second full length Tearliner album was supposed to see the light of the day already at the end of 2007, but Liner has been too busy making music. Having already worked together with PD Lee Yoon Jung on “Taerung National Village”, Liner became the music director of “Coffee Prince” and suddenly everyone was listening to Korean indie music. “It’s worthwhile & I feel happy”, Liner commented after confirming that he too had noticed an increased number of k-indie fans both in Korea and abroad directly following the drama’s success. With Coffee Prince behind him, Liner devoted a full year to the film Romantic Island before working on the music for short film 인간사표를 써라. Unfortunately Romantic Island didn’t do so well in theatres, but nonetheless Liner is satisfied with the musical quality.

When it was time to find a music director for Lee Yoon Jung’s most recent drama “Triple”, Liner refused at first to prioritize the Tearliner album but joined in anyway at the last moment. During Coffee Prince he’d been assisted by Casker and The Melody, but this time Liner shared the music director assignment with Sung Yong Wook of Zitten and Starry-Eyed’s SUB and Mongu. While the working style was similar and about the same amount of songs had to be written, working on Triple was still very different from Coffee Prince. Now the four music directors all had to consult each other and make compromises – helping each other at times, competing at others. Working on Triple was a fun and fruitful job, Liner concludes.

Asked what kind of drama he would like to make music for next, Liner responded that he doesn’t care much for drama genres though he usually finds historical dramas and what he refers to as “growing up dramas”, such as Taerung National Village and “Skins”, the most interesting. Through historical dramas, he said, one can learn about and develop an understanding for another country’s history and culture, which is why he liked “Rome” and “Yoshitsune”. An avid drama watcher, Liner closely follows every season of “Monk”, “Lost”, “Prison Break” and “Sex & The City”, but the definite favourite is “Friends” – sitcom and growing up drama in one, it has taught him a lot of English.

Since he got into the drama & movie music making business, Tearliner songs commonly feature vocals from other artists. Liner explains that he enjoys working with vocals other than his own for diversity, stressing that collaborations are always meaningful even when the tone and feeling of the vocals come out differently than intended. To set up different atmospheres, featuring different vocals has proved to be a good method. Though maybe just a dream, if possible Liner hopes to be able to work with some of his favourite foreign singers – the vocalist of The Motorhomes, now going solo as John ME, in particular has a voice that he feels would go really well with his songs.

With this much success and the Korean indie scene seemingly having expanded a lot, a question from our last interview was repeated: Is it possible to support a living as an indie artist in Korea? Just like two years ago, however, Liner answered no. While he might now be able to support himself as a full time musician, music director work is still work so he does not yet consider himself the full time indie musician he wants to be. Liner would rather Tearliner be famous as an indie band instead of as a music director, consequently he kept himself from doing interviews and TV spots relating to Coffee Prince.

Although Tearliner has been a one man band for many years, Liner continues to collaborate with former member Kang Ji Hoon in Low-end Project. The folk rock duo proceeds slowly, with Liner usually being busy with dramas and Kang Ji Hoon studying and working. They did record a song for Triple recently, but find it difficult to get enough time to make an album. “If we release an album, really good songs will be featured”, Liner stated, adding that he hopes it will happen. Heroin Underground on the other hand – that’d be Liner and the same Kang Ji Hoon together with The Hi-Lights’ leader and Ruby Salon CEO Lee Kyu Young – have not been heard from for quite some time. At least they have not disbanded officially.

Currently Liner is on a two month journey through Spain, Portugal and Morocco gathering essay material for a travel book that might be getting a soundtrack. In September he finally got to play abroad during a Triple promotion event in Japan, fulfilling his dream for 2009. The dream of his life – to stand on stage at the Glastonbury Festival – remains, but before that, he added, that second full length album will have to be released.

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