[INTERVIEW] The 'Vivaldi of Korean indie,' 1415 hopes to be there in every season
For anyone wishing to dive into the Korean indie music scene, folk-pop duo 1415 is the place to start.
Nicknamed the “Vivaldi of Korean indie,” singer Joo Seong-geun and guitarist Oh Ji-hyun have written a song for every season, hence the moniker, and every kind of weather with one goal in mind — that their songs become the background music for each and every scene of their listeners’ lives.
Signed under the Korean branch of Universal Music, the duo debuted in 2017 with the EP “Dear: X” and are best known for songs “Draw the Line” (2017), “When It Snows” (2018), “Surfer” (2018) and “naps!” (2021). The name 1415, pronounced "il-sa-il-o" in Korean, comes from the number of guitar chords they often use when making music together.
Just as the outside temperatures start to drop, 1415 on Aug. 23 dropped its latest digital single “Trouble” with the title track and B-side track “Coffee,” which focus on the fluttery sensations of falling and being in love. The single is the first new project from the two artists for the first time in over a year and a half since its last album “naps!” was released in December 2021.
According to the duo, “Trouble” was inspired by girl group IVE’s 2022 hit dance track “Love Dive,” especially for its flirtatious demand that people dive into their love, no matter the thoughts in their heads.
“'Trouble’ is about the exact moment when you fall in love — when you realize that you’re in trouble,” Joo told the Korea JoongAng Daily in an interview held in central Seoul on Sept. 13.
“Sometimes you fall in love with someone but it feels like you’re just one of many to them, like you’re alone in your love. But at the same time, your love is so strong that you have no choice but to keep falling in that love.”
The duo has written and composed all of its songs, but “Trouble” is the first for which the two artists worked entirely on their own, which gave them an elevated sense of fulfillment, according to the members.
For its latest music, the duo went for a dreamy vibe, layering their voices over and over to give a feathery sort of audio effect to the song. They recorded the song over 100 times to make it multi-dimensional and give it its fluffy texture — just like the emotion of love.
“You get to feel a lot of different things in your life, and they could even be about just one person,” Joo said.
“They could be a very attractive person, but you have no idea whether they’re a good person. The more you fall for them, the more you realize that you’re only in trouble. So this was the emotion we wanted to get across with ‘Trouble,’ because not all love is good and comfortable — sometimes, it could be quick and troublesome.”
The same idea also resembles the story of how 1415 came together. It was like love at first sight for the two, who first met in 2014 when Joo was working as a vocals tutor and Oh came to his studio as a student. The two hit it off immediately, and they’ve been living together ever since with their two cats and a dog. They also recently introduced another dog to the family.
To promote “Trouble,” 1415 turned to the experts of pop music marketing: the K-pop idols. Just like these "idols," 1415 made short “challenge” videos on social media for their music and had other artists feature in them, such as girl group TRI.BE, singer Kwon Eun-bi and Young K of boy band DAY6. The two artists even shot a video explaining how fans can chant along to the songs at offline concerts, which is also customary at K-pop idol concerts.
One thing that is definitely different about 1415’s take at implementing idol culture is that they’re noticeably more shy. The two are hardly able to hide their shy smile in the videos, which makes their fans love them all the more.
“It really wasn’t easy,” Joo said, smiling in reminiscence. “I’ve never been nervous on stage, but just thinking about having to shoot a challenge video made my hands tremble and sweat like crazy. I learned for the first time what stage fright feels like. But I’ve also found that the audience takes pity on us and helps us by smiling even more and cheering.”
“They’re actually laughing at us,” Oh said, jokingly. “There was this comment on the YouTube video that said, ‘I can’t watch you do this,’ and all I thought was, ‘Me neither!’”
Jokes aside, trying out a completely new style of work was not only a chance to give fans something new to watch, but also a fun experience that opened up a new world for the duo, one of commercialized music that typical indie artists aren’t generally associated with.
“I think these days, the idea of indie is different from the past,” Oh said.
“I think in the past, it really meant making music in your basement. But now, it feels like you’re indie if you make your own songs or if your songs have a certain band-like sound. I think the very fact that you can’t pin it down means that it’s just become a new genre of music rather than a specific cultural phenomenon.”
The two artists aren’t afraid of mixing their “indieness” with other genres, especially given that similar genre mixes are actively taking place around the world. But still, the way they got a contract with Universal Music Korea is “indie” in itself.
“We sent out emails to everyone,” Oh said. “We took our own photos and explained our hopes of just getting an album. But a manager [at Universal Music Korea] said that they had never seen anyone do such a thing, so they wanted to see us in person. They eventually asked us to sign an exclusive contract, which was more than what we could have hoped for.”
For now, the two artists’ goals are humble: to keep on doing what they’ve been doing, but doing more of it.
“We just want to thank everyone and keep making music,” Joo said. “I know that people will take more interest in us if they know that there’s a lot for them to enjoy with what we do. We’re determined to do a lot more so that people see more of us and our work.”
BY YOON SO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]