We Need Surgery – Up and ComersTweet
The latest edition of Up and Comers takes a look to the further regions of the globe, with a band who formed in South Korea but now split their time between Tokyo and Vancouver. We give James a sledgehammer and ask him to break them down for you. Here’s his thoughts.
We Need Surgery are a multi-national band originally formed in Seoul, South Korea, and currently splitting their time between Tokyo and Vancouver. They consist of Miso Stafenac (vocals/ keyboard), Valentino Avignoni (bass), Brandon Butler (drums), Paul Johnson (guitar) and Korean rock legend Jungkyu Lim (guitar), the latter of whom was a late addition from Korean punk legend Mineri.
We Need Surgery formed from the ashes of another Seoul expat band, Sun Radio, and quickly rose to a position of dominance on the South Korean expat scene back in 2007 and 2008, playing a host of relentless, sweatbox shows in the capital’s popular dive Club FF. Their local success soon saw the band playing gigs as far afield as Japan and Taiwan before they relocated to Vancouver, and eventually back to East Asia for a crack at the Japanese market. Their style is a hefty, infectious brand of electro-rock with a grimy underbelly but plenty of hooky lyrics. Perhaps the three most successful early tracks, Simon Says, Go Go Go and Sisters And Brothers were all strung together on the very first day they jammed as a band, but outside Korea, their success has come largely after the move to Canada, a period of near bankruptcy that ended with an impressive success story.
The quality of the band was quickly apparent: Vancouver’s record labels fought over them, with the unlikely combination of differing backgrounds contributing to a pop-rock ready but notably different sound. The eventual result was an unlikely three-album deal with Vancouver big shots 604 Records. The days of hanging out in Korea with Lasse Lindh were a thing of the past, but with worldwide record deals falling into place and a growing Asian fan base, things are looking bigger and better.
K-Pop might be ‘trendy’ now (I include the quotation marks, as having lived in Seoul for two years I find the constant comparisons to be slightly daft – in most cases there’s very little similarity – check out the diabolical Wonder Girls for an idea of typical K-Pop), but the western viewpoint is a huge simplification of what’s really going on. See this latest… erm… gem, Gangnam style, which has done the rounds a couple of weeks now. The thing is, that’s a little like judging Irish music on Westlife, Jedward and The Script: it’s simply ignoring everything but the most prominent examples, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. We Need Surgery are one of a stunning array of Korean acts covering less obvious genres. The country’s particularly strong in the rock area, with bands like Galaxy Express, Rocktigers, Pink Elephant, Nell and Crying Nut holding up a top-class scene. And you wouldn’t want people judging the Irish music scene on Westlife, right? Exactly…
And the flip side?
Despite all the international attention, it’s hard to see a We Need Surgery performance in Europe as being anything but a thing of the distant future: it’s rare enough that we see even the biggest name East Asian bands, so that shouldn’t come as a shock. Asian-based rock bands tend to be incredibly musically tight, and WNS are no exception; the poppy groove that’s occasionally reminiscent of The Killers won’t be for everyone, but it tends to induce euphoria in those it does win over.
By flying to Tokyo, joining up with their growing fan base and having a technology loving alternative holiday at the same time. Or there’s always Youtube…
Up & Comers is jointly produced fortnightly by Goldenplec and