Hyun- joon Lee (Big E) & Yun- joung Lee (lil E)
EE are an imaginative, vigorous and “total art performance group”. The husband-and-wife duo, who hail from South Korea, have been rocking their audience’s socks off since 2008. Yun-Joung Lee and Hyun-Joon Lee effortlessly merge art, music and dance together and then formulate it into a one of a kind, high powered performance.
Yun-Joung is no newbie to the music business. She started her career almost two decades ago when, in the mid 1990s, she was a vocalist for Pippi Band – “a pioneering act in Korea’s alt- rock scene”. After a while she became a solo artist and released Evolution in 1997 followed by 2001’s Sixth Sense album. A few years later she met her husband Hyun-Joon, an installation artist and DJ/ Producer, and in 2008 they formed EE and released their first CD single Curiosity Kills. Their popularity grew rapidly and in 2009 the group played at the World DJ Festival in Seoul. They also presented to the audience their full-length debut album entitled Imperfect, I’mperfect which was positively received by the critics in both South Korea and abroad.
In September 2009 they played material from their debut album at the Global Gathering Festival. Two years later EE were invited to play at Coachella Festival in California. It is worth mentioning that, to date, the band remains the only Korean artists that have ever “earned an invite to play” at such a well- known festival. In 2012 they toured in the UK for the first time and we hope not the last time.
The group’s most recent offering entitled Weird People We R Da People was released in August 2014. On this particular 3 track EP they experimented with hip hop, adding it to an existing electronic sound. After listening to it I can easily say that Hyun-Joon and Yun-Joung display a high level of creativity and sophisticated understanding of the concepts of music as well as a personal style.
It seems like 2015 will be a productive year for the band starting with an exciting live appearance at South by South West (SXSW) in March. We do hope everything goes well for them. Here is the interview we conducted with EE; we hope you enjoy reading it.
VOTA: Hyun-joon Lee and Yun-joung Lee did you both grow up wanting to play music? How and when did the whole making music thing come about?
lil E: Growing up, I was exposed to lots of music by my brother and sister. They both listened to a lot of diverse genres and there were always lots of LPs and CDs in their rooms. I first started making music when I joined Pippi Band.
Big E: I’ve loved dancing since I was young. As I got older, I began choosing and editing music for dancing and performances. I officially started making music after I met lil E.
VOTA: When you first met, did you ever imagine yourself playing together as a married couple?
lil E: I don’t think we were thinking that far ahead. We were so busy and enthusiastic about making art together when we first met that we never thought about the future. We naturally stepped into each other’s lives, and then suddenly became husband and wife.
Big E: Maybe? I can’t remember if I imagined us playing together as a married couple or not. But I do remember asking her why we weren’t married. That happened not long after we started dating.
VOTA: Yun-joung you have been in the music business for almost two decades, is there a specific period of time that you are particularly proud of?
lil E: Hmm … I don’t know! But there have surely been moments when I think my energy has been stronger. Those were when I joined Pippi Band, made my first electronic album, and when we made EE’s “Curiosity Kills” EP.
VOTA: You call yourselves a “total art performance group” why is that? How would you describe your music?
lil E: I always tell people the same thing – that the description isn’t as grand as it sounds! It’s just an easy way to try and explain what we do. With EE, it’s not just about making songs. It’s about how everything – sounds, lyrics, videos, art, costumes, performances, etc. – fits together. It’s about the total package.
VOTA: Who chose your band name? Why did you like the name “EE”?
lil E: “E” is the Korean pronunciation of our family name, it’s easy to remember, and can include many different meanings using words that start with “E.” So I thought using “EE” as our name would have lots of open possibilities.
Big E: I thought the name was something that I’d never get sick of. But I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing! And like lil E said, the letter “E” has many uses. But sometimes “EE” is a bit too common so it makes it a little challenging to search for us on the Internet.
VOTA: Your latest EP entitled Weird People We R Da People was released in 2014. After its release, the website Korean Indie wrote: “Rappers would kill for beats like these and that EE were the ones to create them shows a glimpse of this group’s genius”. What is so unique about your sound?
lil E: I don’t know. I think we’re not trying to be cool. But maybe we’re just naturally cool? Who knows? The important thing for us is just having the ability to create what we want.
VOTA: Which song truly represents you as a band?
lil E: “Curiosity Kills”
VOTA: In what ways does the place you live, or places you have lived, affect the music you create or your taste in music?
Big E: We live in Seoul. Seoul has many people, many accidents, and moves very quickly. But I’m not sure if any of that affects us at all.
VOTA: In 2011 you performed at Coachella in California. To date, you are the only Korean band who was invited to play at such a well-known event which showcases popular and established musical artists, as well as emerging artists and reunited groups. How did you feel when you received the invite to the Coachella Festival?
lil E: We were really honored and felt happy. But I felt a little sorry because many Koreans don’t know about this great festival.
Big E: Playing at Coachella was a lot of fun. That was our first time to play overseas. I’m very thankful for the opportunity they gave us.
VOTA: In March you will be going to the US again for a live appearance at South by South West (SXSW). What do you expect from your performance at the SXSW?
lil E: I’m expecting to see people’s eyes open wide and for their jaws to drop. That’s what usually happens when people first see our performances!
Big E: We’re bringing some other performers with us and will have a drummer too. I think our shows are going to be a lot of fun to do. We’re excited about going to Texas for the festival.
VOTA: Have you got any new projects coming up?
lil E: We’re going to be releasing some new songs hopefully just before SXSW. They’ll be weird!
Big E: We have plenty of other things we want to do too. If we get lucky, we’ll be able to tell more about them soon.
Here’s the band’s schedule during SXSW:
March 18 Austin, Texas (11 pm) @ 405 Club
March 19 Austin, Texas (10:30 pm) @ Elysium (K-Pop Night Out)
Interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Jess Murray
Pictures courtesy of the artists