BUSAN, South Korea – What first comes to mind when you think of Punk? Loud, stripped down, high energy songs, a ‘f%$* you’ attitude, high emotion and raw energy? Maybe the word conjures images of tattoos, leather, insane hair, studded belts, and giant safety pins? Well, Busan’s own, ‘The Southbay’, spew these standard qualifications of punk and take it to another level.
The Southbay: Hyun Mino, Choi Byung-Hyuk, Ham Jinu and Kim Shin-young
The Southbay isn’t simply knocking out two-minute songs and abusing power chords. Sure, you’re gonna hear hints of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and Rancid, but their sound is more multifaceted. The Oi and street punk of NoFX, Cocksparrer, and early Dropkick Murphy’s shape a style that is pure Southbay. Along with the traditional sounds, ska and reggae undertones come out, eliciting comparisons to names like Operation Ivy and the Clash with a touch of Dick Dale for good measure.
And if that weren’t enough, they also throw in the early rock and roll guitar grooves of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, and their version of Johnny B. Goode brought down the house at the Battle of the Bands last year.
Guitarist Vocalist, Hyun Mino
According to The Southbay guitarist and vocalist Choi Byung-Hyuk, the band doesn’t want fans to put them in any particular box. “We’re genre-less. We’re the only punk band in Korea that incorporates ska and multiple other genres into the music. We’re blending a lot into our sound.”
They’re breaking other rules as well, applying solos and a few instrumental tunes into their mix, usually unheard of in the fast-paced world of punk. Guitars are front and center with Byung-Hyuk sharing the lead with fellow guitarist, Hyun Mino. While shredding away, they frequently duel in unison, blending together into a hard-core, yet melodious rhythm. Mino and Byung-Hyuk perform the majority of the vocals, but everyone comes into the mix for the creative process.
Guitar and Vocalist, Choi Byung-Hyuk
According to Byung-Hyuk, everyone takes part in putting the tunes together. “The songwriter comes in with about 80% of the individual song and we each help fill in with some of the instrumental and back-up parts.” The guys have all been playing for 10 years or more and collectively as The Southbay going on five years. And when the four of them are together on stage, as Mino proudly announces: “We play dirty!”
So why the name The Southbay? Sure, Busan is in the southern part of Korea, but “bay” isn’t referring to water. “Look up ‘bay’ in the Oxford English Dictionary and it also means howling or barking dogs,” explains Mino. These guys are tight knit — so much so that the drummer, Ham Jinu, doubles as a tattoo artist and he and bassist, Kim Shin-young, sport his ink.
Drummer (as well as tattoo artist and Ol'55 bartender) Ham Jinu
The punk scene is steadily growing in Busan, as venues such as Monk and Interplay in PNU or Ol’ 55 in Kyungsung are filling up, but Byung-hyuk feels that the expats are largely missing out. “Westerners in Busan are looking for good shows, but they don’t know where to find punk.” He then added unabashedly: “They need to come to our shows because they are the most fun.”
Punk was difficult to find for kids growing up in Korea. The guys in The Southbay are all in their late 20’s and early 30’s now, and when they were teenagers, the only hard stuff hitting this country was metal, due to the global popularity of Metallica and Guns ‘N Roses. Punk hit the peninsula in the mid to late 90’s, and by the early part of the new millennium, unscripted jamming at the original SoulTrane in PNU brought them together. Since then, The Southbay has honed their identity with solid sets of nearly all original music.
Bass and Vocalist, Kim Shin-young
Next time you catch their show, pick up their extended EP disc. Look for a nationwide tour with Burning Hepburn starting in March and their sophomore EP release this summer, as they are currently in the studio hammering it out. Although they are unsigned at the moment, Dope Records out of Seoul is kicking in with sales and distribution.
Check The Southbay out at: www.myspace.com/southbaypunx or become a fan on Facebook: “The Southbay”