This article written after an interview with Noeazy was edited by Philip Gowman and first published on London Korean Links.
One of my very first evenings in Seoul, I found myself at Club FF checking out a bunch of hardcore bands. Although I had a pretty good idea of what the roster would treat me to, one band in particular impressed me a lot – with Noeazy on the stage I couldn’t look away! Unlike the other bands that night Noeazy had a lot of metal to their sound, and as if their stage presence wasn’t remarkable enough in its own right another thing that made them stand out was the two female members. Now, women in metal might not be all that rare – if you’ve ever been in contact with that kind of music I’m sure you can think of at least one female fronted metal band – but what makes Noeazy seem special to me is that both of the girls were playing instruments. Thanks to Kyono from GMC Records and Noeazy’s kind cooperation, I was able to learn more on the band and what it’s like to be a girl in a Korean metal band.
The five members of Noeazy met while playing in a core and punk music school band called Sturgeon. After a couple of years in Sturgeon Noeazy was formed, though until then the members had been playing in two different Sturgeon teams, drummer Yuna explains. At the time Noeazy was playing emocore style music, but as they improved their techniques their music became more complicated and half a year later they had changed to metalcore. Although saying that each member has different influences, vocalist Gursong suggests bands like As I Lay Dying and All That Remains from the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement and metallic hardcore bands such as Hatebreed and Throwdown as important influences for riffs and sound. As for himself, when writing songs for Noeazy he takes note both of classic metal and the latest ditto, but the Swedish brand of melodic death metal as presented by Soilwork and In Flames as well as the music from progressive bands like Opeth and Dillinger Escape Plan too serve as inspiration. “We try to make a full and heavy sound”, says bassist Hayoung before Yuna continues: “Our goal is to use many different ideas and serve it straight up with no time to be bored”.
Yuna and Hayoung both learned the basics of playing their instruments in the school band, and have now been practising for six and five years respectively. In addition Hayoung has learned about picking from the guitarists, which is something she describes as a big part of bass playing for her. Yuna likes the drumming beat and style of Chris Adler of Lamb of God and Jason Costa of All That Remains and learned how to use a twin pedal and handle blasts from the drummer of Korean death metal band Doxology. Both point to a a lack of stamina compared to guys from being physically smaller as something they experience as girls on the metal scene. In response to my attempt at adding a gender twist to the interview, Hayoung presents a refreshing perspective: “People do show interest in the fact that I, as a girl play metal; but I don’t think just being a girl should be a reason for people treating me and looking at me differently. I’m a bassist just like bassists in other metal bands, and I just happen to be a girl, nothing more.”
Still, Yuna points out that almost all metal listeners are guys so many fans like Hayoung. Hayoung thinks the explanation might be that she, unlike what other, usually quite attractive, female band members may do, is “not afraid to look ugly and concentrate on stage actions” – something she’s trying to make her strength. A plausible explanation, I’d say, given that her performance is still what I remember the most from that visit to FF. Addressing the low number of women in Korea’s metal scene, Hayoung offers her opinion: “K-Pop dominates the music market leaving close to no space for musicians like us in Korea, and not many people listen to band music. Out of that small number of people, small minority of people listen to metal, and out of that tiny percentage, it’s very hard to find a girl who wants to be in a band.” Further opinion on Korea’s metal scene is provided by Gursong: “There are many bands with great talent and potential but they aren’t promoted too well and the number of fans aren’t that high, so it’s hard for the scene to grow.”
Ever since getting into music of the kind where the screaming vocal style doesn’t really allow for lyrics to be heard easily I’ve been curious as to how the bands themselves relate to what at first may seem like a conflict between musical effect and lyrical contents. Gursong acknowledges that since the lyrics can’t be heard well, melody comes first for him. Most of the time the lyrics will be written after the actual song – for Noeazy that balances screamed vocals with singing, this means that which parts of the song will have screaming and which will be sung is roughly decided beforehand. Even so he stresses that contents of the lyrics are important – with rhymes coming as a close second – thus it happens that the initial screaming/singing plan is changed to “fit the flow”. Regarding the desired end product, Gursong says that “we try to blend and integrate various elements to make it sound natural and in place”, putting forth ‘Down with the King’ as a song that while not perfect contains both the metal and hardcore elements that Noeazy pursue.
On April 15th, Noeazy are set to release their first full length album, ‘Discrepancy’. Though I had previously enjoyed the band’s debut EP, ‘The Mirror’, their most recent effort is unusually well put together and something I can listen to for hours on end. This time they have been able to pay more attention to “the overall construction of the album”, Gursong explains. With the exception of a few songs the material for ‘Discrepancy’ has been written during a concentrated period of time, and with more songs on the album they’ve been able to experiment without getting that sense of a lacking connection between songs one could get from ‘The Mirror’. Yuna clarifies that although Noeazy is still in the process of finding their own style, ‘Discrepancy’ is much closer to what they’re aiming for. Asked what changes Noeazy have gone through from the beginning until now, Hayoung expresses her enthusiasm: “To me, it feels like everything snowballed! When we first got together, we wanted to write and play our own songs, in front of actual audiences (not our friends), and that was about it. I never would have guessed we would release an album and perform in so many shows.” “I hope that we can continue to do so for a long time” adds Gursong.
The girls express further wishes for the future. Says Yuna “I want to knock the audiences off their feet with our stage actions and techniques!” “I hope that we can become the first band that come into mind when people think about bands with kick-ass, energetic performances” Hayoung follows. And me, I hope Noeazy will get all the success they deserve with ‘Discrepancy’ and whatever follows. Maybe then guitarist Hyeongki will have his wish of participating in England’s Download Festival granted.