I’ve been a fan of The Black Skirts since the very beginning and as so many others I’m very excited about his second album coming out in just a matter of days. Of course I was curious to find out more and Bryan quickly agreed to follow up our first album interview with one covering the new album:
In spite of your initial hesitation 201 and The Black Skirts did turn into quite the success. What are some of the most exciting things that have come out of it?
Exciting. Hmm let’s see. I became a Hongdae local celebrity? Haha but that’s hardly exciting. It’s quite the opposite really.
Fortunately, I am in a position now where most korean indie fans will give my new album a try at least once just because of the success of my previous album 201. And they will probably give my 3rd album a try even if they hate this one, thanks to 201. I am like that too with a lot of bands I like. I find it pretty dramatic when you see a good successful band go to shit for a couple of albums and then redeem themselves with one epic album. In that case, I end up liking the shit albums as well. Not that I want to take that career path but usually there’s a landmark album that keeps a band alive through their shitty years. And I am excited that I have 201 to keep me afloat for at least a couple of albums.
You were taking some heat after signing a deal with Sony. How has that worked out?
“Haters be talking but they ain’t walking” ha. People like to talk shit so I didn’t really care.
So basically some fans found it irritating that I released a deluxe version of 201 with 3 bonus tracks through Sony when they already own the original (although I don’t see why this would be irritating for some people). They didn’t have to buy it because I wasn’t out to make quick bucks off my fans with the deluxe version of the same album. I was fully aware of what I was doing.
I never liked those deluxe double CDs with an extra disc filled with 12 different demos of one song. That’s so pointless to me and I hate that shit. But this is different. I had to take the original 201 off the market when I parted ways with my former label Rubysalon as things didn’t work out between us. Once I had left the label, I had to repackage 201 in order to have it sold in stores again and Sony was my best option (and only option) at the time. The idea of having bonus tracks and the new album cover was kinda forced upon me by Sony but I don’t hate em for it. I thought it was a brilliant idea and most of my fans were smart enough to understand the position I was in. All of those bonus tracks are fan favorites now. So I guess it’s all worked out now.
What can we expect to hear from Don’t you worry baby (I’m only swimming)?
In early 2010, the fall out with my former label Rubysalon sent me to a pretty deep depression for a little while but at the same time i found it inspiring. Around the same time I went out and bought a classical guitar purely out of impulse and retreated to my grandma’s house to live as a recluse for about a month before finally going back to the states to “work on my next album” which totally didn’t exist at the time. But that little bit of isolation gave me a chance to come down from all the excitement that was around me for a really long time since the release of 201. So for that entire month I sat infront of my muted tv set, noodling on guitar, I reevaluated all the events that had happened to me in 2009 and the people I had met during that time.
Long story short, I was left with a long list of enemies a batch of songs about love and betrayal when it was time for me to go back to the states. Emotionally, leaving Rubysalon was almost as bad as my first break up ever. Backstab’s a bitch.
What more can you tell us about the new album?
Initially, I didn’t think they were good songs at all. Well, I thought that they weren’t even good enough to be B-sides because the approach I took this time to songwriting (not the sound) was really crude and punk. Same 3 chord progression for half the songs on the album, no intros, no teeny bopping sugar coated lyrics, and no catchy melodies. Fans of 201 will know how much I try to be catchy or hooky or whatever with my melodies. I don’t always succeed but that was always my main focus in songwriting. This time I put my focus on storytelling rather than melodies by being more honest than anyone in the Korean indie scene can afford to be
The whole writing process was like a practice to get my songwriting chops back before “writing for real”. It was purely recreational. And at the same time therapeutic for me because I was writing about very personal events. I didn’t have to filter anything out because I wasn’t gonna use these songs on the album anyway. But I did. These songs just grew on me after a while and I basically made an album out of scrap songs. Haha. I think people will like it because it’s a good album. I just happen to have high expectations for myself.
Lastly, the album is a loose concept album about a lone captain who’s sailing the sea of Hongdae trying to survive. Of course the captain’s ship’s named ‘The Black Skirts’.
Though I had been expecting grandeur à la Prince things just turned even more interesting. As anyone that’s spent enough time in Hongdae probably already knows the Korean indie music scene is far from as pure and innocent as it may seem from the outside, but it is unusual for anyone to talk too openly about it – I’m getting more curious by the day to hear/read those lyrics! As for the different direction in sound I’m personally not the least bit worried. There is a brilliant songwriter behind those songs and with those vocals on top of it not much can go wrong.