Indie rock band Huckleberry Finn takes a step back in time

Indie rock band Huckleberry Finn. [KWON HYUK-JAE]

The music industry has introduced an array of technologies and services over the years, from vinyl, audio cassettes, compact discs (CDs) and MP3 players to today’s digital streaming services. But experts say that only vinyl, which was the first to be introduced, and the latest streaming services will survive.

"In the future, music will exist only in two extremes — the first analog vinyl records and the most recent digital streaming," American guitarist Jack White said in an interview with music magazine Rolling Stone in 2018.

People continue to buy turntables and vinyl, but not CDs or MP3 players. Why?

Vinyl long-playing (LP) is an analog sound storage medium made for music playback, but the production declined after more portable mediums entered the market, such as audio cassettes and CDs, starting from the 1960s. Now, even CDs are outdated, and most music listeners make use of digital streaming services to listen to songs.

But vinyl lovers, seeking the analog sentiments that are hard to come by today, still remain.

To provide a wider spectrum of choices for vinyl collectors, Kwak Chang-sik, CEO of record label LP Collector, wanted to produce LP records for modern artists.

Kwak decided on Huckleberry Finn, a Korean indie rock band that debuted in 1998, to be the first he would reproduce an entire album of into LP form.

Noticing that two of their albums — their debut "Wednesday 18th" (1998) and their third album "Star of Olympio" (2004) — were listed in the 100 Greatest albums of Korean Pop Music organized by Kyunghyang Shinmun and the music webzine Sound Network in 2007, Kwak decided that five of Huckleberry Finn’s albums were worth making into LPs.

Huckleberry Finn's "Wednesday 18th" (1998). [CHILI MUSIC]

Starting with its first album "Wednesday 18th" this month, LP Collector will release one LP record every two to three months. They will take preorders for two weeks and produce them according to the amount they receive.

When the JoongAng Ilbo recently sat down with Huckleberry Finn to talk about their upcoming production of vinyl records at a studio in Yeonhui-dong, western Seoul, the members seemed excited to recall their first LP-producing experience when they released their sixth and most recent album, "Aurora People" (2018).

"Listening to LP provides a much more special experience than using a streaming service maybe because it takes extra time and effort to take out the vinyl and put it on the turntable,” Lee So-young, who is the band's vocalist and plays keyboard, said. "Listening to LP also has an effect that stimulates nostalgia as you can watch the LP spin," Sung Jang-kyu, on guitars, drums, and programming, added.

After the first album, two out of three original members Nam Sang-a and Kim Sang-woo left the group, and Huckleberry Finn made many changes to its lineup.

Songwriter of the group, Lee Ki-yong, was the only constant and continued producing albums in the distinct color of Huckleberry Finn.

While Lee Ki-yong may have been the only one of the current members to work on the band's first album, it still had an impact on the others.

Lee So-young, who joined the group after the second album "A Man Who Looks Like Me" (2001) was released, was a fan of the band in the early days.

“While listening to the first album to extract the music from the CD, it reminded me of old memories,” Lee said. “It was the very album that sparked a fire in my heart to pursue music.”

Sung, who joined the group after the release of the fifth album "Black Tiger" (2011), said he was just an ordinary teenager when the first album was released.

"I happened to listen to this album when I didn't know much about indie music,” Sung said. “The album reminded me of the famous American rock bands Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins.”

Lee Ki-yong, the only one who actually worked on it, had the least enthusiastic response toward the first album.

"If you work on an album for several years, it is reproduced so many times that the person who actually made the songs won't want to listen them anymore,” Lee, the producer of the first album, said. "Simply speaking, it's like only eating one country's food for three years. Won’t you get tired of eating Indian food after three years straight? You’d naturally go and try different tastes. That’s why the tempo of the first album is very fast while the second and third albums are acoustic and lyrical; the fourth and fifth albums are again, full of strong and fast beats.”

Lee said he made the sixth album after living on Jeju Island for four years, and it was heavily influenced by nature.

The seventh album, which is scheduled to be released in the second half of this year, tells the story of his return to Seoul.

"I put everything down and went to live on Jeju Island after getting so sick of being hurt by people. But then I starting missing people again, which is why I came back to Seoul," Lee said. "A single touch was more comforting than a hundred words of consolation.

"But after coming back from a quiet place, I feel I’ve become more sensitive to the busy and noisy city. So I'm working mainly on electronic sound," Lee said.

Huckleberry Finn's "Sunlight" (2020). [CHILI MUSIC]

The group’s most recent song "Sunlight" released in May acts as a preview for their upcoming seventh album, Lee said. "Thanks to your warm touch on my shoulders, my long sadness has faded away,” the lyrics read.

"I wanted to make the song simple, but because every performance scheduled for the first half of the year was canceled due to the Covid-19 outbreak, we had extra time to work on it,” Lee said. “With the extra time we had, the song changed and ended up showing a lot of ups and downs and contrast — it’s just like human relations that have multiple sides, not one.”

The group’s promotional schedule, which was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, will resume slowly.

They initially planned for a British tour in the spring, but as the pandemic continues they instead decided to head to Jeju.

The group is planning performances at all the places that inspired their songs, such as Gimnyeong-ri in Jeju, which inspired Lee to write the title song of the sixth album, “Aurora People.”

"When I arrived in Gimnyeong, I wondered how there could be a place that suits Lee Ki-yong so perfectly," Sung said. "It is a place with bleak beauty where darkness and light contrast sharply."

They are also planning a series of performances with other musicians. After holding "Huckleberry Finn X Stage" with Cacophony, Hoegidong Danpyunsun, and Gonne Choi last year, the group is planning on performing with band Platform Stereo on Aug. 29.

"I've been doing music for more than 20 years, and yet haven’t had much interaction with musicians of my age," Lee said. "It was meaningful to see how our songs can be reinterpreted according to other artist's taste. We are looking forward to working with more diverse musicians in the future."


LP 전집 내는 허클베리핀 “사람에 지쳐 떠났는데 결국 사람에게 위로받아”

“앞으로 음악은 극단적인 공유와 극단적인 소유, 즉 스트리밍과 바이닐(LP)로만 존재할 것이다.” 미국 기타리스트 잭 화이트는 2018년 음악전문지 롤링스톤과 인터뷰에서 이렇게 말했다. 카세트테이프, CD, MP3 등 기술의 발전에 힘입어 많은 음악 저장 매체가 생겨났다가 사라졌지만 가장 먼저 등장한 LP와 가장 최근 나타난 스트리밍만이 살아남을 것이란 뜻이다.

“LP 시대가 아닌 다른 시대의 아티스트 음반을 제작한다면 시장의 저변을 넓힐 수 있지 않을까” 생각했던 LP콜렉터 곽창식 대표는 1998년 데뷔한 인디밴드 허클베리핀을 선택했다. 2007년 발표된 ‘한국 대중음악 100대 명반’ 목록에 1집 ‘18일의 수요일’(1998)과 3집 ‘올랭피오의 별’(2004) 등 2장의 앨범을 올린 이들이라면 전집(1~5집)을 LP로 만들만한 가치가 있다는 판단에서다. 2주간 예약 주문을 받고 정해진 수량에 맞춰 제작하는 방식으로 이달 1집을 시작으로 2~3개월에 한 장씩 발표할 계획이다.

최근 서울 연희동 작업실에서 만난 허클베리핀은 7년 만에 돌아온 6집 ‘오로라피플’(2018) 발매 당시 처음 LP를 제작했던 기억을 떠올리며 설렘을 감추지 못했다. 이소영(보컬ㆍ키보드)은 “LP를 꺼내서 턴테이블에 올려놓는 것 자체가 시간과 정성을 필요로 해서 그런지 음악을 듣는 마음가짐 자체가 달라지는 것 같다”고 말했다. 성장규(기타ㆍ드럼ㆍ프로그래밍)는 “LP는 판이 돌아가는 것도 볼 수 있어서 아날로그 감성을 자극하는 효과가 있다”고 덧붙였다.

각각 허클베리핀의 팬과 연주자로 시작해 정식 멤버로 합류하게 된 이들은 1집에 대한 회상이 남다른 듯했다. 2집 ‘나를 닮은 사내’(2001)부터 함께 한 이소영은 “마스터 음원을 추출하기 위해 1집을 쭉 듣는데 처음 음악을 하고 싶다고 마음에 불을 지폈던 음반이라 그런지 감회가 새로웠다”고 말했다. 5집 ‘까만 타이거’(2011) 발매 이후부터 호흡을 맞춰온 성장규는 “인디 음악을 잘 모를 때 처음 접했는데 너바나, 스매싱 펌킨스의 계보를 잇는 듯한 느낌이었다”고 거들었다.

작사ㆍ작곡을 담당하고 있는 이기용은 “한 앨범 작업을 몇 년씩 하다 보면 수백번, 수천번씩 들어서 저절로 재현이 되기 때문에 정작 곡을 만든 사람은 잘 안 듣게 된다”며 쑥스러워했다. “쉽게 말하면 한 나라 음식만 3년간 먹는 거랑 비슷해요. 인도 음식만 3년 동안 먹으면 질리잖아요. 그다음엔 자연스럽게 다른 쪽으로 가는 거죠. 그래선지 1집이 완전 질주하는 느낌이라면, 2~3집은 좀 어쿠스틱 하면서도 서정적인 편이고, 4~5집은 다시 비트감이 넘치는 식이에요.”

4년간 제주살이를 한 끝에 나온 6집이 자연이 주는 위로를 담았다면, 올 하반기 발매 예정인 7집은 다시 서울로 돌아온 이들의 이야기가 담을 예정이다. 이기용은 “사람 때문에 지치고 마음의 병이 심해져서 다 내려놓고 제주로 내려갔던 건데 사람이 그리워서 올라오게 된 것도 있다”며 “백마디 말보다 손길 같은 촉감이 주는 위로가 더 컸다”고 말했다. 그는 “다만 조용한 곳에 있다 돌아오니 긴장감도 높아지고 소란스러운 도시의 특색이 더욱 선명하게 느껴졌다. 그래서 아날로그보다는 전자음을 주로 사용해 작업 중”이라고 덧붙였다.

코로나19로 차질을 빚었던 일정도 차근차근 다시 진행한다. 당초 지난봄 여행사와 함께 비틀스를 주제로 뮤지션과 함께 하는 영국 투어 상품을 준비 중이었던 이들은 제주로 눈을 돌렸다. 소규모로 김녕 등 ‘오로라피플’ 수록곡이 탄생한 장소를 돌아보며 온더로드 공연을 펼칠 계획이다. 성장규는 “김녕에 도착하는 순간 어쩌면 이렇게 형이랑 어울리는 곳을 찾았을까 싶었다”며 “어둠과 빛이 극명하게 대비돼 스산한 아름다움이 깃든 곳”이라고 말했다.

후배 뮤지션들과 함께 하는 시리즈 공연도 준비돼 있다. 지난해 카코포니ㆍ회기동 단편선ㆍ최고은 등과 차례로 ‘허클베리핀 X 스테이지’를 펼친 데 이어 올해는 8월 8일 플랫폼 스테레오와 함께 첫 테이프를 끊는다. 이기용은 “20년 넘게 음악을 했는데 동시대 또래 뮤지션과 너무 교류가 없는 게 아닌가 싶어서 기획하게 됐다”며 “고집스럽게 자기 음악 하는 분들이라 친근하기도 하고 아티스트의 취향에 따라 우리 곡이 어떻게 재해석될 수 있는지 볼 수 있어서 뜻깊었다. 더욱 다양한 팀과 함께 해보고 싶다”고 말했다.

민경원 기자