North America’s largest convention of “all things Hallyu,” KCON 2016 sponsored by Toyota, wrapped up this past weekend in Los Angeles. Boasting performances by some of the industry’s top stars, KCON 2016 LA attracted the attention of fans the world over. But idol groups and actors weren’t the only artists to make an appearance at this year’s convention. Several of Korea’s most popular indie bands showed up to perform on the convention stage over the course of the weekend. For many of these bands, this would be the first time they’ve performed at a convention such as KCON. Among these, the indie rock duo, Dead Buttons, tops the list.
Despite their hectic schedule, the duo, comprised of guitarist Hong Ji Hyun and drummer Lee Kang Hee, managed to find a moment to sit down and talk with us about their music, their inspiration and their experience at KCON 2016 LA. KPZ: You have such a wide variety of sounds in your music it’s almost impossible to describe your style. How would you describe yourself to someone who hasn’t heard your music before? Ji Hyun: We’ve been inspired by classic rock and country music and punk rock, especially. KPZ: Who are some of your favorites? Ji Hyun: Personally, Johnny Cash. Musically, there’s too much. I like a lot. KPZ: Your sound is also incredibly rich and a joy to listen and a bit unexpected for a duo. Tell us a bit about your creative process when creating music. Ji Hyun: Actually, we started out as 3 but when the bassist left, I tried to fill the bass part but now days it doesn’t matter. There’s no limits. KPZ: Are there certain artists who have inspired or impacted your work? Ji Hyun: I was really interested in US garage rock scene. We’re in the 3rd revival now. I’ve been really interested and inspired by that. KPZ: Would you say your sound is more similar to this style or have you just used this as inspiration to go off and do your own thing? Ji Hyun : I’m into a lot of music, I watch a lot of music videos, and I’m inspired by all of that but I don’t want to be that. KPZ: When you started out as Dead Buttons, there were 3 of you but your bassist left… Kang Hee: That happened on Korean independence day, actually. KPZ: Oh really? That’s kinda crazy! Both: Yeah. It was. KPZ: Most groups, when they lose a member, would either replace that member or just completely fall apart. You two did neither. Instead you scratched all your old music and started completely over. What inspired you to take such an unusual path? Ji Hyun: After going through 2 different bassist, we got pretty tired of dealing with them so we just decided to do without them. KPZ: You recently wrapped up a 23-stop European tour that included stops in the UK, Switzerland, Denmark, France and Spain. How was that? Do you have any favorite memories or experiences you’d like to share? Ji Hyun: Primavera Sound, that is the best festival ever! Both the musicians and the audience were the best. They were great. KPZ: You’ve played at a lot of music festivals and such over the past few years and now you’re getting ready to perform here at KCON, later today. As an indie band, did you ever see yourself performing at a convention such as this? How has your experience been so far? Ji Hyun: This is our first time at a place like KCON. I don’t really know what to call this but whatever it is, this is our first time at a K-Pop thing. KPZ: Do you think your time here will bring in more fans for you, will your appearance broaden people’s musical interests? Ji Hyun: We don’t know. We just play. We’re just here for the music and to have a good time. KPZ: How has your experience been here so far? Ji Hyun: This is my first time visiting the US. So I’m going crazy because instruments are so cheap here. It makes me mad! It’s cool though. Kang Hee: It’s too big! Ji Hyun: Yeah, it’s too big. [I like] a lot of American musicians, I was inspired to see them in their own country, so this is really exciting. Despite the fact the duo was a little unnerved by the number of fans attending KCON this year, they didn’t let that stop them from giving a stellar performance this past weekend. To give you an idea of what Dead Buttons is really like, be sure to check out their video for “16-22” below!