The expat music scene in Korea is a rich one, featuring music from nearly every genre to suit nearly anyone’s taste. Yet, it’s not often we are treated to the down-home-folksy-whiskey-drinking-fun side of American country music. That all changed in 2012, when American-born Lauren Leach and New Zealand-native Elizabeth Cameron came together to form The Dammit Janets.
The pair played together to an enthusiastic fan base for a year until about a year ago when the lineup expanded to a full band taking to the stage. Sadly, they recently announced that some of the member will be heading back home – thus bringing to an end another fine chapter in the story of the expat music scene.
Luckily for fans, The Dammit Janets released an album in September. Haps had a chance to catch up with one of the founding members, Lauren Leach, and talk about the fun, extremely listenable collection of songs on their self-titled release.
When did you come to Korea, and how long have you been here?
Elizabeth and I started playing in Busan as a duo back in early 2012. We had both just recently moved here. We played around for a year – just the two of us – but we always wanted to flesh out the band. I put an ad on Koreabridge for a banjo player (a rarity around here), and guess who responded. Brian Kilrain, the electric bassist from One Drop East who also happens to be a phenomenal stand-up bass player. Then, we got lucky enough to meet DongHyuk and Lindsey through mutual friends. The last addition was my boyfriend, Alain, who taught himself how to play mandolin from YouTube just so he could join the band! We got really lucky with the caliber of talent from these musicians, since it all kind of came together so randomly. We’ve been playing all together in Busan for about a year
For lack of a better word, your music is very ‘human,’ touching on basic themes that have cross-genre appeal. What is the inspiration behind your music and lyrics?
I find that most of our inspiration comes from this kind of whiskey-soaked shtick that we have going on. We are two rambling, hard-liquor-drinking, sassy Southern belles. I always think it’s easier to write from that persona, because I feel like we are less critical of ourselves and can just let the creativity come. The feeling and rawness of it is still real; the shtick is just the way we get to that place.
The release has 15 great songs. At some point you had to choose what to include and what to leave off. What is the process of deciding what stays and what gets cut?
We actually started out with the intent to only record and use 12 songs. It was hard to choose them, because even though Elizabeth and I wrote an equal number of songs, we were both really attached to all of them. We ended up getting through all the songs we wanted to record in three hours, so we had time to spare. We figured we would just go ahead and record the other ones, even though by that time, we were a bit, ahem, sloshed. After listening to all of them, and having Alain (the producer) work his magic, we just decided, what the hell! Let’s use ‘em all.
Who wrote and recorded the album?
Elizabeth and I wrote all the songs on the album. We recorded with Jin-su Bae at Club Realize, and he was so great to us. He made sure to keep our levels right and our beer pitchers full throughout the whole process.
You’ve built a sizable fan base of Dammit Janet lovers here in Korea. Why is it coming to end? Any plans going forward?
Alain and Lauren are leaving in October, and then Elizabeth is leaving in December. The band is unfortunately just parting ways because of geographic reasons. We are planning on making our way back to our beloved Busan for a reunion, though. Date to be determined.
You can download the The Dammit Janets at thedammitjanets.bandcamp.com.
The Dammit Janets
- Brian Kilrain – stand-up bass; US
- DongHyuk Heo – cajon; Korea
- Lindsey Rykal – fiddle; US
- Alain Wenham – mandolin, harmonica; UK
- Elizabeth Cameron – vocals, melodica, ‘Danielle Steel’ drums, tambourine; NZ
- Lauren Leach – guitar, vocals; US
The Dammit Janets have only have 2 shows left in Busan: The album release will be this Saturday at Club Realize at 9:30, and their final show will be oct 11 at ol 55 at 10pm.
Photo by Matthew Thornton