This month, we interviewed a four member post-rock band called Dabda (다브다)!
Dabda are right up there in our list of favourite bands due to their talent for making music with amazing depth and colour. They can craft a dream-like atmosphere like no other, and meld rock sounds to suit their own particular brand of storytelling. You never feel lost in a haze with a Dabda track; there is something about the combination of hypnotic rhythms, gently captivating vocals, and colourful guitar playing that anchors you through – like a helpful hand that navigates you through a musical journey. You are transported to a space wider than your own, with music that is wonderfully balanced, introspective, and filled with dreams yet still grounded in reality. In fact, there is often an air of melancholy intertwined within the lyrics, which becomes a nice contrast to some of the crashing sounds that they generate.
There is a lot of beauty there too – no song ever feels ordinary which is a credit to their strong song-writing ability. Every member is given time to shine, and Ji-ae usually adds magic touches here and there, lyrically, vocally or with her guitar lines (a triple threat!). Seung-hyun is an energetic and magnetic drummer, while Joseph and Hui-Soo expertly rock up a storm. All these factors keep their music so interesting! This is why we are going to have a K-SPOTLIGHT music special article for them on the blog, so make sure to give it a read and discover some of our favourite Dabda tracks to get you started!
If you ever get the chance to watch them live, we would definitely recommend jumping at the opportunity, as their strengths truly shine in their live performances, and their talents are expressed well on a stage. It’s not that they are over-the-top but there is an innate intensity and purpose attached to their playing. We always love what they do with riffs and melodies too! We do urge you to give this band a chance since all too often bands are overlooked, which can be quite discouraging to both musicians and fans alike.
The members of Dabda made time for us during a busy period in their schedule, which was very much appreciated! Thanks to Dabda for being their wonderful selves and for working hard on this interview. Shout out to Joseph in particular for helping with translations. We hope you enjoy this one!
Please remember to support the band and buy their music! Dabda tracks and albums are available to purchase on Bandcamp, iTunes and Google Play. You can also stream their music on Spotify and of course watch their music videos on their YouTube channel. The band also mentioned their social media links during the interview so you can follow them!
We are going to embed the Dabda track which first captured our attention and made us aware of the band to provide the perfect background music to this interview. It’s called ‘Look of a Dream’. When we heard this song, we just knew that Dabda were doing something very special. We’ll have to stop heaping on the praise here due to space restrictions, but remember to click on our music special article on the blog to read our full thoughts!
Can you introduce yourselves and your style of music? How long have the members been together?
After coming out on top of several prestigious competitions such as the “2017 Sangsang-madang Band Discovery” and “Pentaport Super Rookie”, Dabda is currently noted as the most interesting post-rock band in South Korea with our deep, azure-colored, immersive music.
We are best known for expressing dream-like strolls within our music. We have poetic lyrics and a unique playing-style which allows us to expand and diversify our own sounds, and this is best shown in our live performances.
Dabda consists of two starter members, Kim Ji-ae (Guitar/Vocal) and Lee Seung-hyun (Drums), and two who joined later on, Lee Joseph(Guitar) in 2016 and Park Hui-soo (Bass) in 2018. We officially marked the start of Dabda with our 2016 EP [Island of Each] and are currently very active. We express ourselves in ‘pastel psychedelic’ colours.
Can each member say something interesting about another member of Dabda?
Seung-hyun: (about Joseph) He is the only member who has lived overseas. It seems like he adopts different personalities while speaking other languages. He seems to change his character with every language.
(about Ji-ae) Her face tends to get really red when she gets angry.
Hui-soo: (about Ji-ae) It’s amazing how she can live such a busy life. She does her regular desk job, attends band practices, yet always has spare time to do her personal stuff. The way she maintains a busy lifestyle is just amazing.
Joseph: (about Ji-ae) I always wonder why she never plans on changing her desk job. She has such amazing talents that could be used elsewhere but just seems to suffer with her current job.
(about Seung-hyun) He sets up our studio mic to voice chat while playing Overwatch and just leaves it hanging around angering Jiae which always starts up a funny fight between them.
Ji-ae: (about everyone) They all look like different characters from cartoons all around the world.
What is the meaning of the name of your group? Did you find it challenging to come up with a unique name since there are so many artists nowadays?
There isn’t a specific meaning to our name. We came up with it one day after thinking about different emotions that we liked and rearranged the first letters of those emotions so that it would become more readable. Later on, we found out that there was something called the DABDA model but it was a surprising coincidence and has nothing to do with our band name.
How many instruments can each of you play? Did you have lessons or were you self-taught?
Seung-hyun: Just drums. I started out practicing by myself but had a couple of lessons recently.
Hui-soo: Bass and guitar. I learned how to play the guitar by watching other people play. I received lessons for the bass while I was starting out, for around 2 years.
Ji-ae: Vocals and guitar. I, too, started out by myself and I’m currently getting guitar lessons, but I’m always sorry to my teacher for not doing my homework properly!
Joseph: Guitar and various instruments. I come from a musical family which allowed me to get hold of various instruments such as piano, cello, violin, etc. But now I’m just stuck with my trustworthy guitar, which I self-taught myself to play. I can hardly remember how to play any other instruments now.
Can you remember the day when you bought your first instrument?
Hui-soo: I had a difficult time while choosing my future path. When I told my father that I planned to do music, he didn’t hesitate to buy me an instrument. So he bought my first bass which was a Korean-made Swing BSB Jazz Bass. After using it for 2 years, I sold it to buy a Fender bass.
Seung-hyun: When I moved to Seoul with plans to start a band, I ordered my first drum set online but it came in a different colour to what I ordered! After a while, I grew fond of the new colour and I’m still using it today as practice drums. Our 2016 EP “Island of Each” is recorded with the same drums.
Ji-ae: I started out with an acoustic guitar that my ex-boyfriend bought me right when I started out with this band. After that, I just used whatever I could get hold of until recently, when I fell in love with a Fender Mustang. After two days of deliberating, I borrowed my friend’s credit card to buy it in installments.
Joseph: While looking for my first guitar purchase, somehow I fell in love with a very unusual and ugly-looking guitar. I was on the verge of buying it until my friends stopped me and made me buy a normal Korean Les Paul clone. Now that I think about it, if I had bought that guitar, it would now be impossible to look back at old pictures of me playing shows with that guitar!
Which Dabda tracks would you recommend new listeners try first?
Seung-hyun: Our most recent single “Look of a Dream”. We began making this song during winter while hoping for a warm spring and we feel that this warm feeling was expressed well in this song. It is also special due to the song being our first proper studio recording. Other than that, “Surfer” from the 2016 EP would be our other recommendation. Ji-ae was thinking of the wind surfers she saw on the Han River as inspiration for it. I think the first guitar chords she plays expressed that image and feeling very well. I hope you get the same feelings too.
Ji-ae: “Look of a Dream”. I really like the production quality of this song compared to our other songs.
Hui-soo: “Look of a Dream” and “Polydream”. I tend to think of the space drawn out by each song which makes me love the spaces these two songs create. “Polydream” is not released yet but you can look it up on YouTube for a studio live version.
Joseph: “Last Month” from our 2016 EP. Recently, one of our fans (incidentally also a photographer) made us an awesome music video to accompany the song. We were so surprised about how the video came out that we had to make it our official music video. You can also check it out on YouTube. Kudos to Dan.
What are your thoughts on the pace of music release in Korea compared to the West? Western artists seem to take years to release an album compared to Korea where music releases are more frequent (but sometimes only a single or mini album).
We’re not entirely sure about how Western indie bands work but we think ‘major’ bands tend to have the assurance and power to be noticed even after couple of years of absence which gives them a relaxed period and enough time to work on a project. Also the West tends to work on a single project with great care and concentration but in Korea, change is way too fast and has to be considered as a factor due to fear of being forgotten. Groups try to expose themselves more frequently which leads to releases being more consumptive.
How do you keep things fresh when you are composing music? Are you influenced by other groups/bands/artists?
We don’t usually think too hard about making something fresh. We think the factor that distinguishes our music from others is the source and lyrics our vocalist Ji-ae brings to the table. These things contribute the colours to our band. We don’t consider our song-making process to be specifically unique but it’s the filtering that each of our members gives to a song that makes it special. We all have different tastes in music too which leads to different interpretations within the songs.
Before writing the 2016 EP, we mostly wrote gloomy songs but we obtained a bit of brightness while listening to Bombay Bicycle Club. After the EP, our songs tend to be a bit brighter!
We don’t usually think too hard about making something fresh. We think the factor that distinguishes our music from others is the source and lyrics that our vocalist Ji-ae brings to the table. These things contribute the colours to our band.”
What experience made you grow the most as musicians? Has there been anything that has happened in your lives that made a big impact on you and helped to improve either your skills or mentality?
Seung-hyun: Playing shows. People spend money to come to our shows and I always try to make them feel that their money is well spent by showing them a great time. Regarding my playing skills, I didn’t take much interest in anything technical due to the fact that, for me, playing drums was a necessity for starting a band, which was my long-term plan. However, I’ve been listening to the Japanese band “toe” recently, and their fluid and unconventional drumming skills really got me interested in studying the technical part of drumming.
Ji-ae: I got myself into full-fledged songwriting by being in Dabda but felt a lot of pressure and internal troubles due to my lack of skill back then. During our 3-year hiatus, I gained a relaxed mindset about composing freely without putting pressure on myself to make something work.
Hui-soo: I always had a mindset to try to be completely professional even when playing in school bands. Recently, during my mandatory military service, I kept thinking about making something cool and awesome after my service was over which became a good motivation throughout my time there.
What kind of performances do you enjoy the most? Do you play at any festivals?
Ji-ae: Anywhere with great vocal monitors is always fun. It stresses me out mentally when I’m not able to hear myself sing.
Seung-hyun: We haven’t had a chance to play at a festival before so I’m very excited that this year we are to play two festivals in August. It makes me excited from just thinking of our songs blasting out in an outside environment. Other than that, any shows with a lot of people in attendance is always fun.
Joseph: We usually agree that the best shows are the ones where we can feel the crowd’s energy and feedback directly. I tend to get a bit nervous while playing but when I can hear a crowd singing along, it calms me and I find that I enjoy the show much more.
Is there a particular idea or theme that you like to revisit when writing songs?
Even though a song may sound fun and explosive, we try to embed a sad and touching feeling within it. We feel that people always feel that way too. Before writing a song, we gather up certain keywords to give definition and characteristics to each song. We wish that the ideas behind these keywords, such as warmth, comfort etc., can be felt in our songs.
In your opinion, which artist/band gives the best live performance in Korea?
Seung-hyun: Dabda. We’re the best. (Laughs)
Ji-ae: “Life and Time” and “Hellivision”. The energy felt by both the guitarists are so awesome.
Hui-soo: Eastern Sidekick. I personally think they were the best garage band Korea had to offer.
Joseph: There used to be a band based in Korea called ‘Visuals’ with none of the members being Korean. They are officially not in the business anymore. It’s hard to put their music into words. It was sort of similar to video game music with rock instruments; the first time I saw them live was truly unforgettable.
What do you do with the sections of music or demos that have not been developed fully? Do you keep working on them or have they ever become new parts of other songs?
We try to finish up any sections or demos we have. If we’re having troubles with anything, we just take some time out from it and come back later to finish them. During that process, they tend to transform into a completely different song.
Ji-ae: There are some sections that lie dormant inside me.
Seung-hyun: They’re hard to wake.
Hui-soo: She puts them into other songs secretly.
Do you still buy CDs or vinyl? Or do you prefer streaming or buying digital music? Which format would you encourage listeners to choose?
Ji-ae: I try to buy CDs but mostly use streaming services due to the fact that I can listen to something right away. Convenience is best.
Hui-soo: The only way to listen to music during my military service was through CDs so I have accumulated around 70-80 CDs, which are now lying around. However, my new MacBook does not have a CD drive so I will no longer be able to buy them often. I still like to listen to whole albums though.
Seung-hyun: Unless it’s for collecting, I don’t buy them often. I really like the convenience of organizing my playlists with streaming services and the randomness during play-throughs. If it weren’t for streaming services, there would have been certain songs that I would have never known or discovered.
Joseph: CDs or LPs are now considered collectors’ items – just like artist merchandise. I prefer streaming nowadays but any method is fine as long as you’re supporting the artist. Go with what you like.
How do you motivate yourselves when situations become difficult?
Ji-ae: When things get out of hand, I don’t even try to motivate myself. Trying to do so during hard times makes me feel worse. I just try to wait it out until it calms down. After I see it getting better, I will gradually feel calmer.
Seung-hyun: Being in a hard spot due to music activities has never happened to me. My problems usually come from outside of music, like having to spend most of my free time working due to financial difficulties. Even then, playing shows really motivates me and takes me back to a happy place. When our band was having a tough time a few years ago, we won the 2017 Sangsangmadang Band Discovery competition which motivated us for the future.
Joseph: I just try to practice when I get the chance. I want to prepare myself for any small opportunities we might get. Being ready when the time comes really matters most as a musician.
Hui-soo: The Army.
Do you have any other hobbies besides music?
Ji-ae: Listening to podcasts, reading, and drawing.
Hui-soo: Watching movies, surfing through YouTube.
Seung-hyun: Taking a walk, gaming (specifically playing Overwatch), watching football (soccer) leagues such as EPL.
Joseph: Console gaming.
What places would you recommend visiting in Korea that are not filled with tourists?
Ji-ae: Yangdong Village in Gyeongju. It has been around for 600 years since the Joseon Dynasty and it is considered a marvel even to locals. The way of life during that period is still being maintained today. But it’s not well known so there aren’t many tourists there.
Hui-soo: The Army! (laughs) There is a small island called Udo next to Jeju island. The water is clear and is great for hikers.
Seung-hyun: Travelling to the outskirts is always good. Songnisan National Park is great too. If you wish to stay inside Seoul, the best place would be Inwangsan Mountain. It allows you to take a breathtaking night view of the whole city. They say that tigers used to live in the mountains but they’re gone so no need to worry!
Joseph: Due to the fact that I’ve lived overseas for 15 years, I consider myself a foreigner in Korea so many things are really new for me. Even the streets just outside my house feel cool. Thanks to my members for the recommendations. I’ll have to check them out too.
Being ready when the time comes really matters most as a musician” – Joseph
How do you normally promote yourselves in Korea? How can international fans support you?
We just use our social media to promote ourselves. There’s not much else you can do here other than that. You can stream our songs through Spotify or purchase our songs through Bandcamp. Also search for Dabda on YouTube for our live performances and music videos. We’ll put the links below:
What have been your biggest successes together so far?
There isn’t a specific event that we look upon as a success but recently we would say…participating in the most sought out Korean festival, the 2018 Pentaport Festival purely by our own merits without any external help or a label being involved.
What are your short-term and long-term goals for Dabda?
August will be our busiest month as Dabda. We hope that there will be no bad omens and that we will have fun at its purest. We’re also preparing our first merchandise with our name on it! We hope that you’ll look forward to seeing them.
After the autumn season, we’re planning to shorten our performing schedules to concentrate on creating our first full-length album.
(Responses have been partially edited for clarity.)
Thanks again to the members of Dabda for making amazing music and being great interviewees! Please remember to support them and to check out our Dabda music special article on the Inspire Me Korea blog 🙂
Feature image and in-article image source © Dabda. 02.08.2018. All images were provided by Dabda for use in this interview article. All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.
© Interview with Dabda. 11.08.2018. Inspire Me Korea
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