The South Korean rockers consist of members Hwang Soyoon, Park Hyunjin and Usu. They have turned listeners into die-hard devotees through the soulful rasp of Soyoon’s vocal performances and their ability to fluidly switch between musical styles like city pop and psych-rock with grace.
SE SO NEON exploded on the music scene with their debut 2016 LP Summer Plumage. The stunning six tracks distilled the clashing feelings of angst, hope, and hazy ennui of a generation adrift in a sea of societal pressures. Since then, they have pushed their creative boundaries into exciting and experimental territories, including 2020’s Nonadaptation and a solo effort from lead vocalist Hwang Soyoon titled So!YoOn!.
The band is back with their latest single joke! which sets aside their usual laid-back dispositions for something far more bold and eccentric. The opening lyric has them cheekily sneering the threat “I don’t wanna kill you” before erupting into crunchy guitar riffs, funky licks and thumping drums. For SE SO NEON, the single playfully dances on the fine line between sincerity and subjective truths, holding up a funhouse mirror at our inward selves.
We caught up with SE SO NEON to talk about their creativity, gaining global attention and joke!, which should be going on your playlist ASAP!
HWANG SOYOON: Cathartic. It was like exchanging letters with lengthy intervals, but it’s nice to have it all written down and sent off.
PARK HYUNJIN: it feels good to finally share something new. I’m hoping to share it on stage as soon as possible.
USU: I think it came out at a rather good timing, just as we needed to freshen things up.
HWANG SOYOON: The release of Summer Plumage was the moment when my music was shared so publicly for the first time. So it mostly felt surreal. In a way, who I was and what SE SO NEON was then is what allowed us to keep sharing more and better music up until now so I’m really appreciative of it. It sits in me very dearly personally because Summer Plumage is the first thing I put out in the world as a musician.
SE SO NEON: [We] don’t try to experiment or show new things on purpose, really. I just have a quite versatile personality and that shows in our music. Someone’s said this about me before that I am like a coarse canvas: whatever paint lies on it, however thickly or thinly, the texture of the surface shows through. That perhaps explains how I work fairly well.
SE SO NEON: We wanted to be a bit more flexible – working on Jayu, it felt like being entrenched in this rather heavy thoughts so we felt it was about time to take a deep breath, relax and have a cheeky laugh. So far, we’d mainly explored inner energy like the roots of things and the core of being, so to say. And now we are sort of channelling that energy outwards so that what we had brought with us thus far takes shape as its own character and narrative.
Music is in the realm of sense after all. So we do normally put a lot of thoughts into visualising our work and especially given joke! was this pinpoint in our discography of moving towards a different angle so we made sure it was special.
HWANG SOYOON: It is unreal still. It’s especially interesting to see how people all over the world, speaking different languages, feel for what we do. We can’t wait to go on tours and play in front of fans from all different countries.
PARK HYUNJIN: We’ve been receiving more attention from abroad with this single joke!, it’s a nice surprise and I hope there will be more surprises to come.
USU: it’s amazing how our music reached all these places and I’d love for it to go even further.
SE SO NEON: In a way it means independent music scene in Korea is not very vast, and in that setting we’ve been trying to do something fun and different, and I guess that sort of naturally attracted attention.
People are always on the outlook of finding something new and unprecedented and obviously Korean musicians and music are something different to what international audiences were already familiar with. We’re all born and raised in Korea so whatever we do will have its own distinctiveness and that probably appealed to them.
HWANG SOYOON: I think those are very seminal concepts in life that you gotta put your mind into constantly and consistently. I place my focus on bettering the life I’m living. And for that I believe everyone should keep those two things close to their heart, peace and freedom.
HWANG SOYOON: We haven’t got a chance to meet our Australian fans yet which is a shame. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it especially the music there as well. I’d love to go places in Australia and have fun with you all. We’d love to go over whenever it’s possible and in the meantime we will keep getting better at what we do, so take care till then!
PARK HYUNJIN: I am ready right now. (haha)
USU: I know there are a lot of gigs put up in Australia – I’ve seen live footages of other musicians there too. I’d love to play in Australia when the circumstances allow.
Thanks to SE SO NEON for taking the time to chat with us! Follow @se_so_neon, @sleeep__sheeep (Hwang Soyoon), @hyunjinbass (Hyunjin), and @usuforusu (Usu). Special shoutouts to the good people at Magic Strawberry Sound for making this happen! They are currently one of the most exciting labels in Korea who have dedicated themselves to pushing alternate music to the forefront of pop culture. You can follow them across socials @msbsound and find more info here.