Annie Ko and Toby Hwang make up South Korean duo, Love X Stereo. They have been building a strong reputation in South Korea, as well as over in the US, and recently came over to the UK for the first time. After successful performances in London with the likes of Ooberfuse, as well as at the FOCUS Wales festival alongside fellow Korean bands 57, PATiENTS, and Say Sue Me, K-Pop Korner’s Adam Riley caught up with Annie to discuss how it all went, as well as to get her and Toby’s thoughts on the different songs included in their new album release, 37A, the first compilation release from the ambitious ‘37’ project over on Patreon, where they plan to release 37 songs in one year.
K-Pop Korner’s Adam Riley: You just finished your first tour in the UK. Can you tell us about where you played and some of the highs/lows from your time here, and will you come back again soon?
Love X Stereo’s Annie Ko: We played at FOCUS Wales in Wrexham, and then at both Windmill Brixton and AlleyCat in London. We enjoyed the vicinity and the vibe, but it was a bit challenging for us to present the right sound. Next time when we come back, we’ll probably bring a session drummer for a much better sound. We hope the wait won’t be too long, and we’ll get to see you guys again in the near future!
Adam Riley: You’ve just released your first album from the 37 project on Patreon, called 37A. Can you please take us through, track-by-track, and explain more about the songs?
Annie Ko: Sure thing, it’d be my pleasure! Let’s start off with Maybe I, the first song from the ’37’ project. It is actually the inspiration of the whole project. 2016 was quite the year for us – we released our best album ever (We Love We Leave, Part 2), we went to SXSW and stormed it, and we performed at KCON LA – these were all great achievements. However, to be honest, we also made some stupid mistakes along the way, especially by saying something on our social media accounts, something we shouldn’t have done, and we let a lot of people down. The whole debacle on our social channels made us feel super lonely and hopeless. I guess we’re all fragile inside. Let bygones be bygones, though, and now it’s time for us to acknowledge the fact that we make mistakes, and we should take responsibility for our own actions. This is our way of saying “sorry.” If those involved have accepted our apology or not is up to them but we needed to do this. We’re sincerely sorry if we ever hurt anyone’s feelings in the past. Hope this song eases things for all of us.
Dark and Light is a very peculiar song. Brace yourselves… it’s our very first R&B song. Yes, you heard me. R&B! We never intended to make such a song, but one thing led to another, and all of a sudden, it just magically happened! Well, I was actually supposed to debut as an R&B singer many, many years ago. Like, light years ago! Ultimately, that career never worked out for me, and I’m gracious for that because now I get to do what I really want to do. Back then, it was more like, “You’re a singer, not an artist” type of thing. I had no choice about what I was supposed to sing or not. I hated that so much, and the music back then was all “BALLAD.” If you know what “BALLAD” means in Korean, you can imagine how much I would have hated it. Ironically, we ended up writing this R&B type ballad! Ha! I can assure you, though, that it’s not like the generic style of Korean ballads at all. It’s actually very ‘us’ and the sound, vibe, and everything is Love X Stereo, and nobody can take that away from us.
The lyrics are inspired by a real couple. My best friend, Roa, got married to a wonderful man recently. We wanted to celebrate their love and wanted to make a meaningful story out of it, so it’s a very special song for them and us. We hope you like it as much as we do!
Lemon Spark is one that we were super excited to release. It’s a straightforward, happy, synth-pop tune for everyone to enjoy. I remember it was last year – we were playing along with some synth beats and came up with this cool riff. We started from there, but never got to finish it. To be very honest, we were planning to give this song to a very special singer that we admired for so long – but that didn’t work out, sadly. We always loved the overall tone of the song, though, and wanted to finish it for you guys.
The inspiration of Lemon Spark was really just a random call, because at that time I was drinking way too much lemon sparkling water. Purely for good health, people, for HEALTH as I’m not getting any younger (haha!) and drinking still water all the time really isn’t easy. Anyway, we hope you like this “poppy” side of us. You know, because we’ve got lots of layers. Anyone know any sparkling water companies that want to use this song??
Bring Me Back to You was supposed to be a big beat/techno-style tune, but it turned out to be a dance pop-style song instead. Oh well, what are you going to do? With the lyrics and all, people might easily think this is a love song. Yes, it is a love song – that’s correct, but it’s not about a person. It’s about our love for Los Angeles; the pink-blue sky, cool breeze, dry air – basically everything! The original version was actually called City of Angels because of that LA love, but we changed it along the way. We used many synthesisers and many beats, but the ultimate goal was to make it clean cut and simple, rather than overdo it.
Like I told you before, I have a soft spot for LA because I grew up there. Our trip to LA last year just opened up so many great new memories. I really hope LA likes this song as much as we do.
Battle Wings is easily the fastest song we’ve ever created. It starts with a drum-n-bass inspired beat, and just goes all the way from there. We almost felt like this song might actually work really well for a Japanese anime. What do you think? This song is about sticking together, no matter what. We’ve been through a lot, and still experience many, many difficult situations on a daily basis, especially nowadays – so many things just happen so fast. It can be very worrying. I guess that’s life, though, isn’t it? Fight, stay strong, and never give up. We want this song to take you to that warm and fuzzy place within your heart; a place that we can call “home.” Stick to the ones you love. That’s all that matters.
White Noise is another LOVE SONG – YESSSS!!! More of a traditional one this time, though, AND it’s written in KOREAN. We may be a South Korean band, but those that know us will realise our songs are always in English, so this is a big change. This song is about two people living in a different time and space, connecting in their own ways. The back-story is quite interesting. We got a call from the production team of a Korean drama series called Let’s Fight Ghost, and at that time they wanted us to write a song based on their storyline, so we wanted to dedicate this song to loved ones who can’t be together in the same time period and space. We’re always interested in life and death, and this one was perfect for that theme. However, the song was rejected just because our song was “not gayo” (‘gayo’ being a Korean term for a typical Korean style song – either dance or ballad). They said they like the tone, but they wanted us to change the hook of the chorus, and we said HECK NO! You listen for yourself – and let us know if it’s drama worthy.
Paradise Lost is another one written in Korean. I know. It’s really unusual for us to do this, but it’s all good. I never said that we’ll be only writing English-written songs forever! I wrote about two people in love, running away from reality. The title of the song was Toby’s idea, though. Whenever I feel like I’m stuck in a bad place or something, I always think of Los Angeles, the place I grew up, where it’s sunny and warm, full of grass, and has no rain. Back then, I was so excited when it rained, actually. I was like a puppy running around, licking the sky with my little tongue. I remember when I first came to South Korea – I saw snow and I went CRAZY. Such a delightful kid I was. Now? I kind of hate when it rains. I hate when it snows. It’s the city life that drains you, I think, and I always somehow want to go back to LA at some point. LA is, and always will be, my paradise. Hope this song gives you that longing feeling for your own personal paradise.
Parallel Universe is intense, to say the least! This song might be our biggest homage to the 1990s. It’s dark, loud, and very serious. I was always interested in subject matters like “parallel universes” or “alternative universes.” The older I get, and the more I think about life choices bringing different outcomes, it has become a very important topic for me that made me want to write a song or, better yet, a whole album about it. It’s a deeper approach to me and myself – how our different egos and self-beings connect to one another, then, now, and in the future. Toby absolutely shredded the guitars like a demented person, haha! It was super fun because we didn’t really think much about our “electronic” aspects – we just went with the flow. Massive thanks to DISQO VOLANTE’s mad sax solo at the end, as well; I can tell you it’s one of the loudest songs we’ve ever made.
Like a Waterfall in the Sky – well, to be very honest, this whole ‘37’ project has meant we’ve had a crazy schedule. We do it all with love, though. This track is indeed one of our most minimalistic songs ever. Yes, it does have some crazy guitar riffs, but the overall song is very clean and simple. We intended this one to be one of those “lullaby” songs. The title came out of nowhere, actually. I was writing lullaby-esque lyrics, and suddenly Toby just said something in Korean that translates roughly as “like a waterfall in the sky” and the rest, as they say, is history.
Rage is Not Enough, the final track on our 37A album, is all about taking action. Plain and simple. There’s a lot of raw emotion in it, but it is mostly about how just thinking, or merely saying words, really isn’t good enough.
Like what you heard? You can buy Love X Stereo’s 37A album on iTunes today: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/37a/id1229950059 and support the band’s Patreon campaign here: http://patreon.com/lovexstereo
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