We’re back with dream pop/electronic post-rock duo, HEO! This award-winning act first caught our eyes (and ears!) at Zandari Festa last year, with a captivating performance that stood out from the rest. The changes they made to their tracks for their live performance were something special. Even as a duo, they managed to express their sound in a powerful manner. The music that they make has predominantly an electronic basis, with a mixture of strong guitar and hypnotic and dreamy vocals added to it. That unique blend and distinctive style attracted us to listen to more of their music.
We caught up with members Junhyeok and Boyeong for an interview at the beginning of the year! Thanks to them for helping us with this article and allowing our readers to get to know HEO better.
Please support HEO by buying their music via their Bandcamp page, iTunes or alternative music platforms. You can also stream via Spotify.
1. Can you introduce HEO to our readers? How did you meet each other? Junhyeok – how did HEO change into a band from a solo project? Boyeong – how did you feel about the change from the folk music that you were doing, to electronic rock at the beginning?
Both: Hi everyone, we are HEO and we are doing electronic and rock music.
We met each other at a rock music club in university.
JH: I was looking for a female vocalist since I had changed my music style and I happened to meet Boyeong. She could play bass guitar and keyboard as well and it was just at the right time. And one of my friends, he played guitar and did some engineering work on my album. He joined with the HEO team, and we eventually started with three members. Now we are working as a duo.
BY: At first, I was a little bit worried about the music style (I thought it would be esoteric and only likely to attract a small number of people). Even doing some kinds of popular music is not so easy to make a living.
2. What kinds of electronic-based music do you like? And in what direction do you hope your music and sound will go to?
JH: I yearn for IDM (intelligent dance music) or music in the ambient electronic genre amongst the whole of the electronic music field. Also, experimental music is not bad.
BY: I enjoy listening to danceable synth pop.
JH: Same here.
Both: We’ll keep experimenting and tweaking our sound. Personally, sound itself is the most interesting part of music for us. But essentially, what we have been working on is a song with a melody, so it is important to mingle the melody and sounds together. Someday we want to make some music which can transcend even the melody.
3. What kind of albums do you like? And what is your favourite HEO track so far?
Both: If we limited our choices to recent releases, we think our choices would be the albums of Clark, Anohni, and My Bloody Valentine.
JH: As to HEO tracks, I would pick ‘Mono Sand Hill’
BY: I choose ‘The world is calm again’
4. Did winning a Korean Music Award with ‘Structure’ help your music careers at all? Did your fanbase grow?
JH: Nothing has changed after winning the award. The music that we do is hard to have popular appeal in Korea, and only a few have sought out and listened to this type of music. There doesn’t seem to be any media channels which could help in giving us wider publicity either. Winning the award can’t sort these things out and what it means really depends on the award-winning musicians themselves. I think that the merits of such an award don’t have to be discussed as each person reads something different from it. I feel that any awards that have too much authority associated with them aren’t appealing.
5. How do members work together to make music?
Both: Though it depends on the individual song, in general, we mainly start with the sound work. It could be made from a synthesizer, electric guitar, or effects from scratch. Of course sometimes we start by making simple melodies from time-to-time, but above all, the most important thing about our music is the feeling and image created by sound. Our second and third albums were made with these kinds of values. The first one was focused on melody.
6. JunHyeok, you have done collaborations with other musicians, produced and arranged other bands’ music and made music for movies in the past, is this something you enjoy? What projects would you like to do in future?
JH: I want to do a film score when I get a chance. I’m still learning these days. Hopefully, I could make music for horror and thriller movies someday.
Mostly collaborative work was done with close musicians, purely for the reason to enjoy ourselves.
7. What do you think is the best way to learn and improve as a musician?
JH: The only way is by listening to tonnes of music and learning from them on my own.
8. We saw a recording of HEO performing at Zandari Festa this year and were very impressed by the sound you created. Do you think the special effect from a live performance is lost or can be captured in your CD recordings? Or is it the other way around; is it more difficult to try to create that sound on stage compared to the studio?
Both: In the case of normal rock bands, they can go onto the stage and have a rehearsal that involves repeatedly playing songs. Once they’ve done that, they’re ready to recreate that sound for the performance. On the other hand, we complete the music first via studio work and producing, then mostly take forward another version for a live performance. While we do rehearse the original version, new guitar phrasing or synthesizer sounds which aren’t in the album version are often added. We’ve gotten used to this way of working since we are duo. We think this brings something special to a live act because there is something different.
Due to the characteristics of electronic music and our setup as a duo, it is much harder for us to perform a live show. We have a lot of devices to control, and of course there are so many unexpected problems. I thought that our live setup system was pretty stable and consistent, but lately we’ve had serious problems with a certain device during a big live performance!
Also, it wasn’t that easy to recreate the feeling of sounds exactly as you hear it on the album, while on stage. Every venue has a different sound system, so the live sound depends on what the venue is. And to conclude, we have learned a lot by trial and error to build a stable live setup. Memories of so many f**ked up gigs are our booty. Those are what we get.
9. Do you have a favourite venue?
Both: Freebird, which has now been changed to Convent. We performed there a lot, so we feel comfortable.
10. How do you feel festivals are developing now in South Korea? Are there enough of these local events to showcase your music? Or is it better to try and play abroad? How did you feel about Zandari Festa 2017?
Both: Yes, there are lots of festivals these days. It wouldn’t do musicians any harm to increase the number of festivals they play at, if only the contract could be fulfilled by right. There must be some sort of market principle, but I wish that things could be much better to give more opportunities to unpopular musicians. I mean, nothing is popular at its beginning.
Of course we think that striving for international expansion as much as we can is necessary. The world is getting smaller and nobody knows what may happen tomorrow. We believe we should do everything we can to try wherever we can, whenever it is needed.
We really enjoyed Zandari. The performance and whole process were all enjoyable. I’m pretty sure it will become a much bigger forum for music and cultural exchange in years to come.
11. You have composed longer songs before; how do you decide on how long a song will be and how much editing is required?
Both: For ‘Hard to Keep’, we wrote five songs that shared a common theme and then linked them into one. We wanted to express every genre into one song at that time. But later, we divided it into three parts so that they could be heard as a separate song in each part. We thought that the core value of the album titled ‘Structure’, should be expressed formally. Actually it was a little long to begin with, we did lots of editing. The most challenging work was to cut and link the parts of the song which had different tempos and keys. Mixing work with our friends was not much different, so now it is not so easy (due to time) for us to try that kind of work again. We think it was possible then as we were a little younger than we are now.
12. Tell us about some projects that you are working on! What can people look forward to from HEO in the months to come?
Both: At the time that this interview is published, everyone will be able to listen to a compilation album that we are part of, called ‘Winter Dreams’. Under the theme of winter sports and the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang 2018, close musicians got together to make this album. So we hope everyone will show lots of interest in it.
13. Are you excited about your track for the ‘Winter Dreams’ compilation album? Have you tried something new for the song or will you remain with your original style?
Both: Releasing new music always makes our heart pound. This song is the slowest one we’ve ever made, and it is sort of dark and dreamlike. To add this type of withdrawal mood into the song sonically, we agonized over different elements whilst watching sound mixing tips on YouTube.
14. What do you do when you are not working on music? In your free time?
Both: Listening to music and watching movies. You know, there are such vast numbers of great movies and music that we can’t possibly watch and listen to them all in the time that we breathe on this earth. We have no time to idle away our days. We like to read books too. And we go travelling.
15. What is the best way for new international fans of HEO to support you?
It isn’t that easy to go to perform in foreign countries purely on your own efforts. Korea is kind of like an island country in a sense. So please buy our music on Bandcamp or iTunes and any other source that you feel comfortable with! We think that this is the only way to support musicians.
(Responses have been partially edited for clarity)
That brings us to the end of our interview with HEO – a big thanks again to both Junhyeok and Boyeong for their help! We hope you check out their impressive music!
Featured image source and in-article images source: © HEO. 09.12.2018. All images were provided by HEO for use in this interview and should not be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved.
© Interview with HEO. 20.02.2018. Inspire Me Korea
electric guitarelectronic duoelectronicaHEOInterviewK-spotlightK-spotlight specialKorean music awardslive performancelive versionpost-rocksongwritingsynth popsynthesizerWinter Dreamswinter olympicsZandari Festa 2017