This article written after an interview with Yeongene was edited by Philip Gowman and first published on London Korean Links.
If you’re into Korean music and have a thing for cute pop you are probably already familiar with Linus’ Blanket. And if you are, you are probably well aware that the name of the band’s adorable vocalist is Yeongene (연진) . It has been a few years since Linus’ Blanket last released a CD of their own, and it has also been a few years since Yeongene had her name on a front cover. But this is all about to change next year. Yeongene was kind enough to provide a few details on the future as well as answers to my questions on the past in an e-mail interview.
Let’s start with Linus’ Blanket. The band formed in 2001 after Minsung, the former guitarist, had gathered four of his friends to make “sweet and adorable music”. After covering several songs, they eventually came to make songs of their own and released two EPs: “Semester” (2003) and “Labor in Vain” (2005). Since then the quintet has been reduced to a trio with a change of guitarists, both following some musical differences. The three recorded a song called “Don’t Call It Puppy Love” for last year’s “Story of Dogs” compilation showing fans that their warm and heartfelt music was left intact. Now that Linus’ Blanket is working on the first full length album, however, there might be a slight change of style: “More matured and less childlike, more relaxed and funny music.” Some older songs might be re-recorded to reflect the new direction. As of yet there is no date set for the release of the album, but the band is hoping to finish it by mid-2009.
But Yeongene had been making music even before Linus’ Blanket. She learned classical piano for ten years and has been listening passionately to music since she was a teenager. Listening to great music, or going to a great concert, is what motivates her to make music and do gigs herself. She is also inspired by ordinary life: “Sometimes melodies pop up in my head when I’m walking on the street and of course, not to mention, when I go through some special events in life, I feel I’m inspired.” And her life, and current musical taste, is also reflected in the kind of music she is eager to make. Before becoming the paragon of sweet and cheerful indie pop, her music was best described as melancholic with a touch of rock. Sadly, Yeongene is too shy to release her early works, but she still likes melancholic music and wants to make some new songs to release eventually. She also wants to try other moods of music as well challenge other genres – not too long ago she recorded a song called “Wgirl” with electronica act Apls.
Making music with different people creates different kinds of musical chemistry and this, says Yeongene, is the biggest difference between making music with Linus’ Blanket and other people. Those that don’t generally listen to Korean indie music might be more familiar with the work she’s done together with Scotland’s BMX Bandits, and together with them many fun and memorable ideas have been put on record: “For example we brought paper wrapped salt after our lunch and use it as a shaker. There’s a drink called ‘Irn-Bru’ in Scotland and people always drank it, they said Scotland is the only country not possessed by Coca Cola because they have Irn-Bru. So we used Irn-Bru cans as percussion.” How Yeongene came to collaborate with BMX Bandits in the first place is explained in the booklet for Yeongene & BMX Bandits’ “Saveoursmiles” – they had become instant fans of her after seeing her with Linus’ Blanket, wanted to write her songs and ended up making some of the best BMX Bandits’ tracks ever.
An extended version of Saveoursmiles is expected to have a European release in 2009. So far the extension consists of a new song called “Love, Look at Me” and a couple of Rod McKuen covers (“Ally Ally Coxen Free” and “Jean”). Though Europe has more to expect from Yeongene next year. The Burt Bacharach songbook – recorded with a couple of BMX Bandits’ members for producers – too should get released here before long. Covering Burt Bacharach was not her first choice however, and she would like to re-record the vocal tracks to improve her performance. The idea came from Beatball Records that wanted to make a series of songbooks with their all time favorite composers, starting with Burt Bacharach. Had Yeongene gotten it her way there would’ve been a The Beatles cover album instead. With a couple of European releases planned already, naturally one is curious to know if it’ll be possible to catch Yeongene on stage in this region too. “Well, it might be someday. Let’s hope it happens. ” was her response. And hope we do.