Top Band 2 Auditions: Nickea, Guten Birds, The United93, Nabi:mat

With the first week over we’re ready to take on the next. Here is batch no. 8 with bands that made it through the first round of auditions for KBS band survival show Top Band 2. Sharing their opinions on the bands together with me and fellow Korean Indie editor Chris are Lightinthemind of Korean rock is real and Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle. If you’re up for some new music, give all the bands a listen yourself and let us know what you think in the comments!



Nickea started out as a singer-songwriter, releasing her first EP Girl On The Bridge in the US in 2010 after being a member of bands with other fellow Berklee students, including some time as keyboardist for The Young Republic. In 2011 an extended version of the EP got a Korean release through Ruby Salon and with that Nickea the band was formed. Nickea was up for Hello Rookie of November 2011 alongside Patients and Electric Visor.

Nickea – “Deep End”

Anna: I was very surprised to see Nickea on the list since I had missed the transition from just Nickea to an actual band. Judging by November single “Naked” the change hasn’t affected her/their sound much, leaving it at very agreeable songs sung by a unique voice. I like Nickea, but am uncertain on how well a soft sound like this will hold against more powerful rock.

Chris: I listened to an EP Nickea released when she was solo.  I thought the music was very coffee shop.  With this performance, I think the expanded sound adds another layer of complexity, but I agree that the style the whole band plays is a little too weak.

Lightinthemind: What a great comparison! Very coffee shop^^ I agree. As for me I can’t expect too much in competition, not too much in the future. I think such singers get their audience not for a big scope of musician tricks but for being as they are.

Dahee: What a lovely voice. I have a major weakness for female singer-songwriters, and I think she has a lot of charm. Sure, they’re still pretty raw, but I think they have potential. They probably won’t do too well on this show with their soft sound, but I for one will definitely be paying attention to them from now on.


Guten Birds

Somewhere between a Sino-Korean 9 and an English 10, rock band Guten Birds formed during the summer of 2010. They released a demo album the same year and are set to release their first EP some time this year. Just like Black Bag they were put into Sangsang Madang’s 4th Band Incubator.

Guten Birds – “You, In The Mirror”

Anna: I had never heard of Guten Birds before and wasn’t terribly impressed with their audition video. Looking them up on YouTube I could find a few songs such as “I’ll Have Nothing” and “내이름을불러” that I liked better, but even so I’m not convinced. I’ll acknowledge that they have a good thing going and will probably come to like them very much sooner or later, but they don’t seem ready just yet.

Chris: The audition video is very telling.  The major message it sends is: “We’re a new band.”  I think even though they formed during 2010, the audition video looks more like an attempt to show they have different chops as musicians.  For the style their playing, the song is too long and I kind of lost interest mid-way through.

Lightinthemind: I heard about the band a while ago but didn’t listen them. As for the audition video I found the sound somewhere bad-ordered and messy and not on purpose but due to lack of experience. But I like the vocalist’s voice, really, such a rare thing and reminds me a bit of No Brain in a lighter version. To add proper arrangements for the voice, find a way to spin it together with other sounds to end with recognizable style and who knows.. maybe will see a bright gem in the future. But as for audition I’m not sure they will pass to the next round.

Dahee: I’m…not impressed. Indeed, they sound very messy, and like they don’t quite know what to do with themselves. I do give them chops for having a vocalist with a unique tone though, and I’m sure they’ll have something more clear-headed and solid to offer in future, even if I find them to be just too “rookie” to make it very far in this competition right now.


The United93

Taking their name from the movie with the same name The United93 formed in 2010 with the goal to become an international band. They released an unofficial EP the same year and after taking part of Hello Rookie in August 2010 became nominated for Hello Rookie of the year. The United93’s first official EP Yellow Fever was released end of 2011 and won them Best Rookie at the Olleh Music Indie Awards of January 2012.

The United93 – “Yellow Fever”

Anna: I never got around to listening to The United93 before, but I like what I’m hearing now from both audition video and YouTube. It took me longer than it should’ve to figure out that all of their lyrics are in English–something that’s quite unusual among Korean bands with similar sound–and I’m gonna put the blame for it on them. I don’t think I could become a diehard fan of The United93, but I could definitely listen to them every now and then and would consider catching them live if given the opportunity.

Chris: I’m a big fan of their unofficial EP.  Hearing their audition video, I feel like they’ve lost something.  The sound presented in the video is much more pop than punk.  I think they have a good chance to make it because their style is very energetic, but it’s possible I missed something by not listening to Yellow Fever.

Lightinthemind: When I listened to their unofficial EP of 6 songs I had a feeling music was so American that I wasn’t able to get rid of the feeling of returning to my alternative metal and nu-metal days. Not in the US but in China  the members of the band gathered as far as I could understand and one of them even lived in Australia, maybe that is the cause to use English lyrics.  Yellow Fever was possibly made to show the range of abilities:  from Whiteholic mixed with synthetic sound and voice to headbanging Radio Junk. Overall I found this band quite mature and able to pull out interesting show.

Dahee: I recall briefly listening to their unofficial EP a year or so ago, but they didn’t leave much of an impression at the time. Listening to them now, I think they’re fun and kind of interesting, but they aren’t very…sticky? I’m not sure how to describe it, but really, the bottom line is, I like them, but I don’t think I’ll ever love them. I’m pretty sure the viewers will, though.



Nabi:mat started out as a project band in 2003. With the release of their first album in 2009 they branded their semi-acoustic sound ‘human rock’ and shortly thereafter they left Busan in favor of Seoul. Nabi:mat were up for Hello Rookie in July 2009 and proceeded to join Soundholic where they released an EP in 2010. Last month Nabi:mat left the label making them a currently unsigned band.

Nabi:mat – “온코마우스”

Anna: There’s always been something about Nabi:mat that makes me uncomfortable because I don’t know how to relate to them. I don’t dislike their music by any means, but there’s nothing about it that makes me want to go back and listen again. I’m strangely neutral about them. Watching the audition video there were a few occasions where I felt like ‘yeah, I like this’, but at the end of it it didn’t affect me in any way. They’re definitely a decent band though and I wouldn’t mind seeing them go far in the competition. Perhaps then I could finally learn to feel something about them.

Chris: Listening to this song, I got the feeling that Nabi:mat are trying to make their pseudo-acoustic-slightly-heavy-rock too complex.  The song takes ballad rock, post-rock/math-rock, and acoustic melodies and slams them together into something I don’t really understand.  They may play well, but they’re going to lose people with their music.

Dahee: After watching several YouTube videos of theirs, I feel a bit…confused. Listening to some songs, I thought, “Oh, this is interesting. I like this.” And with others, I struggled not to fall asleep on my keyboard. Once or twice these reactions occurred in the same friggin’ song. I don’t know, I think I’m going to have to just keep watching them in order to form a solid opinion.

Lightinthemind: Finally I caught an explanation to my feelings after listening to nabi:mat. Have you ever been at exhibition of modern artists where there are many pieces of arts, strange but beautiful installations, thought-provoking compositions making your head going round? While you are watching them closely one by one everything is great. But as soon as you take a wide look at the whole exposition your head begins aching. So for me it is the same while listening Nabi:mat. Just hoping they could show smth outstanding at the competition, who knows.

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