Like wild live shows? South Korean rockers Galaxy Express definitely do! They kicked off their U.S. tour in Houston earlier this month, playing Texas almost exclusively. The trio, formed in 2006, blends garage rock, punk, psychedelic sounds and killer on-stage presence to create a can’t-miss, fun live show.
The band came back again this SXSW in full force, playing eight shows around Austin. Other stops on the tour include San Antonio for The Big Spill Festival; Denton; Lufkin; Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival; and Dallas. The tour ends with one more show in Austin on March 25 at The Mohawk.
Galaxy Express is Jonghyun Park (guitar/vocals), Juhyun Lee (bass/vocals), and Heekwon Kim (drums). They sit down with us and talk about what they have in store for Texas; putting together an album from start to finish in only 30 days; and the energy and passion of music.
You’ve kicked off the current tour in Houston a few days ago…how did that go?
Jonghyun: Super Happy Fun Land in Houston is an interesting and unique place. They have all of these crazy toys and dolls everywhere. It really is a “super happy fun land” inside! It rained that day, so there weren’t a lot of people at the gig. But the people who were there seemed to enjoy our show a lot.
What interesting things have you guys seen in Texas so far?
Jonghyun: Our tour schedule is pretty full, do we haven’t had a lot of down time. We had a free afternoon a few days ago, though, and went to Zilker Park in Austin. We had a blast there.
What are y’all looking forward to the most this SXSW?
Jonghyun: Eating lots of delicious tacos and hearing lots of good music!
Juhyun: We’re playing eight gigs during SXSW and we’re really looking forward to meeting lots of new people and sharing our music with them. Austin is a really cool city, and there is such a great atmosphere during SXSW. We experienced it for the first time when we played the festival in 2011, and we couldn’t wait to come back this year and feel it again.
Now, let’s go into what the band is about. Why do you guys like to make music?
Jonghyun: We think making music is the most exciting and fun thing someone can do. The band’s passion to make music comes from just loving music and the energy it gives to people.
What do you like best about being on stage and playing a live performance?
Juhyun: We feel alive when we’re on stage. We love jumping around and doing other wild things. We love the atmosphere and the feeling of togetherness between us and the audience.
Take us back to the first ever Galaxy Express performance, and how does it compare to shows now?
Jonghyun: Our first performance was in Seoul and there were barely any people there. The only people in the club were the bar manager and the band scheduled to play after us. We’ve become one of the most popular indie rock bands in Korea, so now in Seoul we play to full clubs. And while we love feeling all the energy that bigger crowds give us, those early empty room Galaxy Express shows hold a special place in our hearts too.
The band has won “Best Rock Album” at the 2009 Korean Music Awards and, more recently, ”Musician of the Year” at the 2011 Korean Music Awards. What other achievements would the band like to meet? And how would you guys define success?
Juhyun: We’re really thankful that for the recognition at the Korean Music Awards in 2009 and 2011, but awards are not so important to us. What’s important is that our passion stays on fire and that we keep making good music together for a long time.
Heekwon: We’ve performed in France, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, the United States, and Japan and had a great time in each place. Taking Galaxy Express to more countries is something we’d love to do.
Jonghyun: Being able to make a living making exactly the kind of music that we want is our definition of success. We’re very appreciative for all the success that we’ve had so far.
Tell us about the “Wild 30” project, and how did you pull it off?
Jonghyun: After we decided that we would write, record, and release an album over the course of only 30 days we began to question if we could actually pull it off and if the album would be any good. Galaxy Express fans helped us a lot with the project. We had our MP3 recorder running while we were working on ideas and each day we posted what we had recorded to a special blog that we made for the project. Our fans put up many comments and suggestions for things we should do. It was really cool having direct communication with our fans while we were making on the album.
Heekwon: Other than a few live gigs we played during that period, we basically didn’t have time for anything else other sleeping and eating.
Sounds like y’all must have crazy, busy schedules a lot of the time…do you guys find time for your other interests?
Jonghyun: Heekwon loves eating and drinking, but he’s not a very strong drinker! Juhyun likes to watch movies. But he’s usually pretty busy writing music and lyrics and playing gigs so he doesn’t have time to watch as many films as he’d like. I love going for long drives around Seoul at night. I usually don’t have much time for doing that either.
You guys have been putting something out every year since the band started and will be working on a new album after this tour for release later this year. Amazing! How important is it for you guys to keep this flow going?
Juhyun: It’s a really big priority for us to keep turning out new albums. It gives us direction in our lives and keeps us driven. Writing new songs and working hard to perform them well helps keep our passion for music alive and strong.
What should Texas expect from Galaxy Express during this tour?
Jonghyun: Texas should get ready to experience a wild case of Korean rock band fever! We like to play with a lot of energy and our live shows are a lot of fun. We’re excited to give people a crash course in Korean indie rock music and to show them just how strong Korean bands are.
And finally, what else is in store for the band in the future?
Jonghyun: As you mentioned before, we plan to start work on our next album after we finish our American tour dates. We’re not sure when it will be finished, but we want to have it out before the end of the year.
Juhyun: Other than the new album, we’re not sure what else will happen in the future right now. Whatever we do, though, passion, excitement, and wild and noisy rock ‘n’ roll music will definitely be involved.
Catch Galaxy Express on remaining dates of USA tour:
March 15 Austin, TX @ (6–6:45 pm) Aussie’s Grill & Beach Bar
March 16 Austin, TX @ (1:30-1:55pm) Casa Chapala (S.T.P.P. Does! Does! Does! Showcase)
March 16 Austin, TX @ (4:15-4:45pm) The Grackle (Grackle Rock!!)
March 16 Austin, TX @ (11–11:40 pm) Soho Lounge (Official SXSW Showcase)
March 17 Austin, TX @ (2:30-3pm) Tom’s Tabooley (Freddie Steady’s 12th Annual Frontier A Go Go Rock & Roll Hootenanny)
March 17 Austin, TX @ (8pm – 8:30 pm) Pearl Street Co-op
March 19 San Antonio, TX — The Korova (The Big Spill 2012 Festival)
March 21 Denton, TX – Ol’ Dirty Basement (J&J’s Pizza on the Square)
March 22 Lufkin, TX – The Factory
March 23 Hot Springs, AR – Low Key Arts (The Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival)
March 24 Dallas, TX – Double Wide
March 25 Austin, TX – The Mohawk (Inside Stage)
Galaxy Express also rocked their in-studio performance, taped for SMAG and Austin Underground. The performance and interview will be available to watch online and on Austin local channels 15, 16, and 29.1 (antenna). Be on the look out for updates and on our Twitter.