On September 5th, ahead of The Barberettes’ second concert at The Forge, I had a chance to conduct a round table interview with the ladies. It was an insightful and interesting one; sadly only Shinae was fluent in English, so she answered most of the asked questions. With the big smiles on their faces we began the interview.
VOTA: (Question for Shinae) You are The Barberettes founder, producer, guitarist, main composer and writer. When did you start writing music and who were your influences, and where does your passion stem from?
Shinae: I wrote my first song when I was in 11th grade, it was a good experience. I really liked to listen to Cho Won Sun a singer-song writer of Roller Coaster. I think thanks to her influence I kind of started to write my own songs. There are so many other artist, which have influenced and inspired us as a group, everything from 1950s to 1960s, mostly female artists from that era.
BEYOND HALLYU: Talking about 1960s and The Kim Sisters. They have been catching people’s attention recently. As you know, they had been forgotten for a while, however, they are more active now, particularly Mia Kim. Are they one of you biggest influences?
Shinae: The Kim Sister? Yes of course! to all of us. They were one of our first and main influences when we started as a girl trio. We were very lucky meeting Mia Kim at the opening ceremony of the Jecheon International Film and Music Festival in August 2015.
KPOP KORNER: So how did you all meet? Were you friends before you became a band?
Shinae: Kind of (laughs).
KPOP KORNER: Were you in different bands as well?
Shinae: (points at Grace)Yes, Grace was in a different band before the Barberettes.
Grace: I was in a jazz- funk band. I was a lead vocalist in a 12- piece group called Just Hip’n Groovy. Remember funk band not a punk band (laughs)
KPOP KORNER: Funk yes, not punk band. Not like No Brain right? (Laughs). How about you SoHee?
SoHee: No, I wasn’t in a band.
KPOP KORNER: (Question for SoHee): So how did you get involved with The Barberettes then?
Shinae: SoHee and I met in a music school, which I worked at and SoHee was a student there. We practised for a year, and then she got into University to study music. After a few years I invited her to play in The Barberettes and now here we are, performing together in London. When it comes to Grace and I, we met at a jazz club where I was performing. We began to hang out and, after a while, we became friends and, I than asked Grace to join the group. Now as a trio we enjoy our time together as a band as well as friends.
BEYOND HAYLLU: So today is your second night, how was last night’s gig?
Shinae: It was fun and interesting.
VOTA: You are relatively new to the music scene, however, you have travelled to Canada, US, Hong Kong and now the UK. Is there anything that has surprised you about western audiences?
SoHee: It really depends on the crowd and stage.
Shinae: The big difference is how the audience reacts to our music, it seems like western crowd reacts faster to our music.
KPOP KORNER: Do you think that they are lively here?
Shinae: Personally, I think it has more to do with the kind of music we play, western audience seem more familiar with our music, compared to the Korean audience. The 1950s and 1960s sound is more a part of the European and Northern American music culture. So here we bring the past to life, but when in Korea we bring a new sound to the table.
BEYOND HALLYU: Let’s talk about your vintage taste in fashion. I don’t know if you know that Camden is famous for its vintage fashion? Did you get a chance to have a look and did some shopping?
Shinae: Actually we haven’t had a chance to walk around Camden yet.
BEYOND HALLYU: How do you choose your outfits? That help you stand out as a group.
KPOP KORNER: Is there a particular person who designs them for you?
Shinae: We usually choose them together, we always discuss it via kakaotalk (laughs), we share photos of what we like and exchange our opinions then decide later. However we now have a very good friend of ours who has now become our stylist, she chooses our outfits depending on our personalities.
KPOP KORNER: You do a mixture of cover songs and original songs of your own, how do you think the reaction to your original songs compere to the reaction of the cover songs?
Shinae: Obviously people know covers more than our original songs.
KPOP KORNER: Do you find that a little bit difficult? You spend a good amount of time writing your own songs, but it seems like people appreciate covers more. Do you get disappointed sometimes?
Shinae: To be honest with you, I do not write music for people’s appreciation! I enjoy the process of making music, and if people like it that’s great. If not that’s bad (laughs).
VOTA: In May 2015 you were nominated for three Korean Music Awards, how did you feel about being nominated for those awards?
Shinae: It was definitely a big honour, we were grateful for being nominated. Even though we didn’t win we still got the change to play our music in different countries such as U.S, Hong Kong and UK.
BEYOND HAYLLU: Korea has become famous for its idol groups. Do you think, because you are a different kind of a girl group, that’s part of the reason why people are interested in you and your music?
Shinae: You know this could be our strong point. From the beginning of our careers we have been introducing ourselves as a girl group, but some people reacted in a negative way, saying “really? A girl group?” We are not very young girls, like some of the KPOP girls group, but we do our best. We also read comments on social media, some of it was slightly unpleasant “what, they don’t look like a girl group”, “they are not a girl band” etc. But then we came across Wikipedia, which stated that “(…) time slip girl group who travel back to the times of barbershops music and harmonizing girl groups”. We felt good that some people appreciate our originality and music.
BEYOND HALLYU: Do you think that your harmonies are your strongest point as a group? What made you decide on singing this type of music?
Shinae: Singing in harmony is like a magical moment. It is very hard to do it though. However, this is what we always wanted to do.
It was a very short interview, however, a fun one. We wish the girls all the best in the future.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Interviewed by VOTA, KPOP Korner and Beyond Hallyu
Edited by Yemi Fola
NOTE: A few days ago we received a message that Grace has left the band. She was replaced by the lovely Sunnie.
All the pictures courtesy of the photographer and The Barberettes.