This month’s interview is with the captivating trio, Se So Neon! They are an energetic indie-rock band, releasing a range of music – sometimes with a psychedelic rock, blues, vintage, contemporary pop or lo-fi style. If you ever have the chance to catch them live, you are in for a treat; even recordings of live performances seem so magical that we can imagine the members’ stage presence being amplified when watching in person!
The members consist of vocalist and guitarist So Yoon, bassist Fancy Moon and drummer Kangto. So Yoon’s voice has an androgenous quality about it; charming, husky and full of depth and power. Her signature look is a pair of glasses with coloured lenses. The bass provided by Fancy Moon together with So Yoon’s electric guitar are sharp and electrifying, and Kangto’s drumming is crisp and addictive. Their music gets under your skin, at times mellow and tender, yet also full of attitude at times, with a massive potential to portray a raw and rough sound. We enjoy their songs distinctly because of their ability to combine different textures with a wonderful vocal tone.
Se So Neon have become a band that are hotly anticipated by crowds in Korea, with their reputation now spreading to other countries too. Their rapid success is a contrast to many other local bands. Despite only being formed for a period of 2 years, they have moved from playing on the streets of Hongdae, and have been catapulted to high profile performances such as Yoo Hee Yeol’s Sketchbook on KBS as well as having featured as part of Naver Onstage. Winning two coveted Korean music awards at an early point in their careers was extremely impressive but very well deserved.
We are pleased to introduce Se So Neon to our readers, and hope that you will support them! They have a full album [Summer Plumage] and a few other singles which you can find digitally on iTunes and Google Play, or you can stream on Spotify and also catch some of their performances on Vlive these days.
We also loved their contribution to the soundtrack of K-drama ‘The Return’. The track is called Black Sun and we’ve included an acoustic version to whet your appetite before reading the interview! Thanks to Chris Go of BGBG records who helped to facilitate the interview and to So Yoon, Fancy Moon and Kangto for introducing us to their band!
1. Can you introduce the band and its members? What is the history of Se So Neon?
Se So Neon is a three-piece rock band consisting of So Yoon (vocalist and guitarist), Kangto (drums) and Fancy Moon (bass). In early 2016, So Yoon performed at a live club near Hongdae for the first time and asked Gangto if he would like to start a band. He was her school senior. In the same year, Fancy joined. We released the first single [A Long Dream] in June 2017, the second single [The Wave] in September and our EP [Summer Plumage] in October. This album won the Rookie of the Year and Best Rock Song of the Year at the 2018 Korean Music Awards.
Summer Plumage album cover. Source: Se So Neon’s official Instagram
2. What was the idea behind your band name?
So Yoon: I had spotted the word ‘새소년’accidentally in a design magazine, then used it to name the band. It was only later that I discovered that this was the title of an old youth magazine in Korea. In Korean, ‘새’means ‘new’ or ‘bird’. I liked the multiple meanings created by combining with the word ‘소년’ which means ‘youngster’. When I searched for the pronunciation which was most similar to the Korean ‘새소년’, the English name became Se So Neon.
Vocalist and guitarist, So Yoon
3. What do you think is the key quality of Se So Neon? What do you think audiences like about your music? And what do you personally enjoy about being in a band together?
Many say it is So Yoon’s voice and her passionate guitar playing that is one of the main attractions of the band. In addition to music, we seem to appeal to audiences due to our work in various areas such as video, photography and fashion. And the various elements of Se So Neon’s music combine within the performance of three members on stage into one breath. We feel that the most enjoyable moment for us is when we play together on stage.
4. So Yoon, early in your musical career, did anyone tell you about how distinct your voice was? Or did you come to realise this for yourself? Which songs do you think suit your vocal colour the best?
So Yoon: When I was a child, my voice was rather complex. I had a voice like a boy so I didn’t think it would go well with music. So it’s strange and also amazing that many people now talk about my voice since being in Se So Neon. I think that Se So Neon’s musical styles are varied, and that ‘New Youth’ and ‘The Wave’ are two of our songs that demonstrate the different colours of my vocals.
5. How did you move so quickly into reaching popularity in the Korean music scene? Do you think that this rapid success is good for you as a band?
We’ve received an unexpectedly large amount of attention from many people, but we do not think it is enough. In the Korean music scene, rock music and indie music have very little weight. And we are only gaining popularity in the indie music scene. The number of people who don’t know us still outnumber those who know us, and that’s why we have a lot of activities to increase the amount of new encounters we have with potentially new fans. This leads to us having busy schedules all of a sudden, but we are enjoying it as much as we can.
6. What important decisions did you make/were made by your company that helped Se So Neon become the band that it is today?
Our contract with BGBG Records came less than a few months after the band was formed. We are grateful for the early recognition before we had even made any albums. The company tends to propose ideas rather than making decisions directly; the important decisions lay with the members. This partnership seems to fit both the band and the company. Recently BGBG Records has partnered with Magic Strawberry Sound, one of the largest indie labels in Korea, so the band has gained support by more staff.
7. Congratulations on winning two Korean Music Awards! What are your feelings about it?
We were honestly looking forward to it because we received a lot of attention from people during our first year of debuting. Especially the “Rookie of the Year” prize which can only be won once in a lifetime. But because we knew that all of our category competitors were excellent, we were nervous up until the last minute of announcing the winners, and we were really glad when our name was called out. We are going to work hard to reflects people’s expectations and to show more interesting things in the future.
8. Did you enjoy writing ‘Black Sun’ for the soundtrack of the Return (리턴) drama?
In fact, ‘Black Sun’ is a song written by another composer and we participated only in performing. It was the first time we played a song that we did not compose since our band was created, so it was slightly strange and unfamiliar. However, it was fun to perform a different style of music that we could not create ourselves.
Bassist, Fancy Moon
9. How do you feel about the future of bands in Korea? Some say that it is getting more difficult to attract new listeners because many venues are closing down. Did you ever experience these problems yourselves?
This is not an easy question for us to answer as we are still at the early stages of being a band. But it seems that the situation hasn’t improved. However, although many venues are disappearing, new venues will emerge again, and once some bands disappear, new bands are formed. We have not experienced the problem so far.
10. How was the stage at Sketchbook? Do stages that involve television appearances have good enough facilities for you to produce the best performance? Or do you need to make more preparations to reproduce the sound that you made in the studio?
It was the stage that we were most nervous about since our debut. It was also a TV appearance, but there were more than a thousand audience members watching while we were shooting and recording! It was our most viewed performance. Not many of them knew us…but, Yoo Hee-yeol, the host of the show, was very good at leading us and thought that the audience enjoyed our show. As a result of the broadcast, the number of people who became aware of Se So Neon definitely increased.
The broadcasting environment in Korea is not suitable for a live band. However, some broadcasting programmes are making considerable efforts, with any unsatisfactory parts being supplemented during post-production by ourselves.
11. How have you dealt with your increasing popularity? Are you recognised by people during your daily lives? How many more opportunities do you have now compared to last year?
The number of audiences attending our shows and concerts are steadily increasing, and sometimes we meet people who know us in our everyday lives, but it does not feel like there has been a significant change yet. Compared to last year, our opportunities seem to be increasing gradually rather than suddenly.
12. What is next for Se So Neon? Do you have anything you want to accomplish this year or next year?
This year, we plan to perform as much as possible to meet many new audiences. Over 20 concerts will be held during May and we are scheduled to perform at festivals every month until September.
We also plan to perform shows held outside of Korea every month: starting from March in Taiwan, followed by Belgium and the Netherlands in April, Japan in May, with Hong Kong and Thailand to come in June. We think it will be as fun because it will be the first time we have played in these countries!
Then we will look towards putting together our next album, our first LP. We will work on new songs during any free time we have in our busy schedule.
13. What is the thing that makes you happiest about playing music?
Playing a performance makes us happy, above everything else. It is when each member works together as one to deliver that energy to the audience and feeling their response and reaction to us.
14. What are your personal favourite songs to listen to? How do you discover new music?
Mainly through YouTube. We look for new music and videos by clicking on any appealing thumbnails that happen to be linked as related videos to our favorite music.
So Yoon: I was shocked by the video for Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’. I think it is the best music video that I’ve seen in two years.
Kangto: I listen to a lot of old music. Right now I’m into music by Neil Young.
Fancy Moon: Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going on’ is an all time favorite of mine.
15. How do you motivate yourself to keep moving forward? And who do you turn to when you encounter difficulties?
Meeting something new. It could be an encounter with a new person or music – it is very enjoyable to have a new experience. Fortunately, we have had lots of new opportunities since the band was founded, allowing us to move forward. For sure there have been many things going on, keeping us very busy, which involves a lot of hard work…now it is not only family and friends, but growing audiences who are interested in our music. The staff at the label always support us so that we are able to overcome these challenges.
(Responses have been partially edited for clarity)
Follow Se So Neon on their official social media:
Thanks again to the members of Se So Neon for their work in this interview! As an extra bonus, we’ve linked a video of them performing. We hope you listen to their music and become new fans!
Since our interview, they’ve also been featured on the programme ‘Hyena on the Keyboard’. Check out a subtitled clip below. It’s certainly going to be interesting to follow Se So Neon as they become much more well known!
Featured image and in-article images source: © BGBG records. Se So Neon. 14.05.2018. The majority of images were provided by BGBG records for use in this interview. All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.
Summer Plumage album cover: © BGBG records. 27.10.2017. Se So Neon’s official Instagram.
© Interview with Se So Neon. 20.05.2018. Inspire Me Korea
BGBG RecordsBlack SunbluesConcertelectric guitarFancy MoonInterviewK-indieK-spotlightK-spotlight specialKangtoKorean Drama SoundtrackKorean music awardsKorean music awards 2018Korean TVlive performancelo-fipsychedelic rockrockRookie of the YearSe So NeonSo YoonSummer Plumage