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Say Sue Me: “It was like being naked, to express my thoughts in the language I know best”

Hailing from the bustling but relatively musically quiet South Korean port-town of Busan (where I once ate some of the weirdest seafood I’ve ever come across), Say Sue Me might sing in English, but when they drop in on Dublin in May, they’ll be a long, long way from home.

It’s rare that a South Korean act make it to our shores, and rarer still that one is backed by niche indie label Damnably, and featured on Pitchfork. They might be playing the modest Grand Social venue, then, but Say Sue Me are well worth a night out. I talked to vocalist Choi SuMi ahead of their show… 

Note: there’s a little ‘Konglish’ in the replies to this interview, which I decided to leave in, as it’s all fairly easy to understand, and adds colour to the interview, I think. 

I look forward to seeing you in Ireland – what is it like to come and play shows so far from home? 

We look forward to seeing you, too! Every time we tour overseas, it is always wonderful to know that there are people who listen to our music in such a far away place. It is difficult to go so far, but it always feels better after the performance.

Do you have any special expectations for this tour?

We go to Ireland for the first time. Trying for the first time is always exciting. 

I remember my life in Korea (I lived in Seoul for two years) as being a lot about drinking. You write a lot about drinking. Do you enjoy the feeling of fun this gives your songs? 

There was a time when I drank lots of alcohol. I can not help but the lyrics contain things that have dominated me at the time of creation. It is good to remember myself at that time.

Most of the world sees Korean music as K-Pop. You are certainly not K-Pop. How do you see that kind of music?

There is a reason for the world to pay attention. It is a great ability to grasp the taste of the public in a rapidly changing world.

Obviously most of your shows take place in Korea. What made you decide to sing mostly in English? 

At first I tried to write lyrics in Korean but it was too difficult. It was like being naked to express my thoughts in the language I know best. I chose the easy way to complete the song.

CONIFA: Football For The Forgotten – An Update

Karpatalya v Northern Cyprus, CONIFA Final at Enfield Town FC

Hi everyone,

So I’ve had a couple of people get in touch about my forthcoming book, CONIFA: Football For The Forgotten. A few things have changed over the last few months, perhaps inevitably, so I just want to fill in anyone who might be interested on the detail, especially those of you who have kindly pre-ordered the book (which you can still do here, if you’d like, though as circumstances change – see below – I might have to stop taking those orders – I will make it clear on the page if I do so).

Thank you to all those that have helped out in any way so far, from the dozens I’ve interviewed to those who’ve financially supported this – you’ve really made it a whole, whole lot easier.

First of all, I recognize some of you might not want a big long-winded update, so here it is all summed up in a couple of paragraphs…

In short: My plan was always to self-publish this book. However, I’ve been approached by a very reputable literary agent about working with me to get hold of a publisher. Her previous work includes Rio Ferdinand’s autobiography and a couple of books by Lee Price which explore similar areas of football to CONIFA. The submission process to publishers will inevitably slow down production, so while I’m all but done with my end, I’m going to hold off on publication for now.

The agent and I have agreed that if there are no takers on the book by late November, I will go ahead with self-publishing, ideally in time for Christmas. I appreciate that I had planned to publish in late September, and some of you might have considered that a factor when you bought a copy. This is too good an opportunity to pass up for me, so while I’m sorry for the delay, I have decided to go with it regardless. With that in mind, if you pre-ordered, and would prefer a refund to waiting for a later publication date, I completely respect that. Just get in touch, and it will have your money back with you within a couple of working days. You should also have received an update email from me.

In a little more detail: To be honest, I always anticipated this being an indie book. CONIFA might be growing, and articles are now appearing around tournaments in mainstream publications, but I wasn’t convinced the market was there to go to publishers, and I’m still not, entirely. People have been incredibly open with me, though, both from within CONIFA, and in terms of producing stories around the teams for the book. I think what I have is a genuinely fascinating insight into the organization. It might be a little sports-nerdy and quite political at times, but it also has some unbelievable stories behind it all.

The latest draft is about 65,000 words in length, and has some details that have really surprised me: I’ve learned a huge, huge amount as I’ve gone along. I’m not going to spill it all here, for obvious reasons, but I thought there’s no harm in telling you a bit about what I’m covering.

Working With: Story Terrace

In journalism circles, the first question anyone asks you is almost always ‘who do you work for’? It occurs to me, then, that it might make sense to start telling you, when I get the time to sort a post or two on the people who keep me so wonderfully busy.

I’m going to start with Story Terrace, a fast-growing producer of personalized, private books, who commission me to work with Irish clients from their office in London. They’re a little bit of a departure for me: I most often work with features going up to about 2000 words, but I’ve had assignments from Story Terrace in the tens of thousands, sometimes taking months to put together over a heap of different personal interviews. It’s a fantastic experience.

Typically, in my experience so far, the books come either as gift from family, or are bought by someone trying to tell a story of their life, who doesn’t feel able to do it themselves. More often than not, these people have had fantastically interesting lives. They’re often relatively late into life, and talking about some of the deeper connections they’ve made, and the experiences that shape them. At times, I’ve found it quite personally profound, too.

I can’t talk specifics, as every book I produce is private, and belongs to the person who commissioned it. If you don’t work in journalism, you’d probably be surprised to learn how much of the work we do is not credited by name, but assigned in some other, less explicit way. I don’t mind, at all: these stories are often some of the more interesting ones I get to write, and intensely personal. You can read my profile on their website, here, which I actually love in its own right. I was asked to sum up my own story in a couple of hundred words and relate it back to writing. It came out sounding far nicer than I could have anticipated.

I’m choosing now to talk about this particular work in part because Story Terrace are at a key moment in their evolution, and currently seeking crowdsourced investment, here (in fact, as I write this, they’re close to fully-funded). I’m no financial expert, but they look like a very solid investment to me. They’re currently selling books as well as they ever have, including the option to buy in Harrods. That means you can technically currently commission me in Harrods, should you want to, which I think is pretty mad.

The world moves in mysterious ways…

Check out some of my other writing clients here.

Interview: Áine Duffy

imageMaybe it’s the slightly Spanish twang of her guitar track on the intro to ‘Won’t Go’. Maybe it’s that harrowing video drama (below). Most likely it’s just the voice… Whatever hooked me, it took about one track.

There’s something fantastically refreshing about west Cork native Áine Duffy and her brand of…erm… flamenco dance-pop? Whatever this is, it’s sassy, dramatic and poignant, and you should listen to it. I caught up with Áine to ask about her album ‘With Bells On’ and find out what she’s all about… 

Hi Áine. Let’s start with the obvious. You have a seriously unique voice. What’s your background, vocally?

I have always just sang with my own voice. Maybe not knowing who Eddie Vedder was when I was younger helped! I feel it gives you more scope to be honest and hit more notes. Putting on any accent restricts you. Singing is an art form, a form of expression, so I love to hear the original accent of a person, it should be the only way.

I sang anywhere I could, especially in the car! I went to a convent too for 14 years, but they were not encouraging to me at all. They had lots of musicals and I wanted to be on stage. Still, I loved AC/DC and played gigs of all kinds of cover songs when I was 15, all the way throughout college. I made my own versions of things, and had to learn whatever songs were shouted at me from the audience. I was like a little juke box.

Do you find its more of a challenge breaking into the Irish music industry when you come from a relatively rural corner of the country? Are we too ‘Dublin-centric’?

Well sure, we are a little Dublin centric, I’d be lying if I said other, seeing as of all the controversy there is. I understand though, it’s the capital!

I love Dublin and driving up and down and staying sometimes, but the reality is, I write my own stuff and can make a lot of noise as a neighbour.

If someone said I had to stop playing the guitar at ten o’clock at night, I would be a little disappointed to say the least.
So the countryside is better for me. I’m sure there is plenty bands in Dublin who would love to have a beach and peace and quiet, but need to be in the big smoke because of the opportunities, and sometimes one would not even be considered for a project because they do not live in the city, but hey, its only a trip in the van and a small country after all!

Music Alliance Pact: April 2014.

music alliance pact

The April 2014 edition of the Music Alliance Pact sees my head turned by the ever-wonderful Neil Adams, whose latest endeavour ‘Extra Fox’ sounds like his other band The Cast Of Cheers strolling through a neon cityscape as part of a Sonic the Hedgehog cut scene. In other words, gorgeous. See the below ‘Come Together’ for a taster, or you can grab an entire album for a price of your choosing via his Bandcamp page. If you came for Neil, stay for the latest 27-track compilation which includes Peruvian rock legends ‘Bondage’ and a stunning Italian effort from the equally dubiously titled ‘Flying Vaginas’. All for free, as usual. Why wouldn’t you…

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 27-track compilation through Ge.tt here.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing
Extra FoxCome Together
Neil Adams’ Extra Fox is one of several current side-projects from Dublin scene heroes The Cast Of Cheers, a smartly bristling bedroom electronica aside. Taking elements of his math-rock mainstay’s choppy style, Adams’ charmingly skittish beats and soulful melodies nod towards the neon lights of urban Japan. The man himself credits Com Truise and “that feeling like you’re inside an 80s video game” with inspiring a new thought process. The album is available on a pay-what-you-want basis on Bandcamp.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
The PlasticosMarfil
This band from La Plata usually cites British rock acts such as The Kinks, Blur and The Stone Roses as their main influences. However, this track from The Plasticos’ new album, Kilómetros, is one of our favorites because of its grungy sound that reminds us of the new Argentine rock movement from the late 90s. You can listen to the album on Bandcamp.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
DianasDix
There are moments when all you want to do is kiss the guy who invented the internet. Such is the case when one Bandcamp tag after the other, we stumbled upon Dianas, a trio from the distant city of Perth. Dix is a dreamy drone-pop tune with all those floral notes typical of Scottish indie; kind of like what Camera Obscura might have sounded like on a hot summer’s night in Western Australia.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
IsaarTudo Em Volta De Mim Vira Um Vão
Sort of a sad waltz, Tudo Em Volta De Mim Vira Um Vão is taken from Isaar’s new album, Todo Calor (roughly translated as “All The Heat”). Originally from Recife, one of Brazil’s most prolific cities, Isaar shows her strong influences of local culture such as frevo, maracatu and manguebeat, but also flirts with pop music and other contemporary artists like Siba and Orquestra Contemporânea De Olinda.

Crime Or Punishment? – The Moral Dilemmas Of Park Chan Wook

Park Chan Wook Oldboy

How South Korea’s greatest filmmaker has twisted the nation’s black-and-white approach to the law by depicting moral violence with enthralling shades of grey.

When Korean director Park Chan-wook finally made his international feature-release debut last year with the startling, brittle melodrama Stoker, he opened its trailer with the line, “Personally, I can’t wait for life to tear you apart”. It’s a line that sums up a theme that’s not just at Stoker’s heart, but runs through the very best of Park’s past work, an oeuvre that features a collection of hugely acclaimed Korean-language movies, not least the legendary Oldboy. Whether it’s the distinctly un-Twilight-like vampires of Thirst or the infamous Vengeance trilogy, Park’s movies are dark and challengingly abrasive in character. His inspirations seem to lie in his university education in philosophy and in an apparent total lack of fear when it comes to pushing movies across the normal boundaries of what’s acceptable. Equally, though, Park’s breathtaking worldview stems from Korean society itself.

I lived in South Korea for two years, and it took me half of that time to come to grips with just how some of the complexities of Korean society work. In terms of development, Korea isn’t all that far behind Japan; Seoul is a megatropolis of overblown technology and almost embarrassing levels of luxury. As recently as the sixties, however, the country wasn’t only poor, but economically dismal – being closely comparable to Ethiopia – and Samsung weren’t much more than the noodle company they started out as. It’s often forgotten that, in the decade following the Korean War, even the ever-controversial oligarchy just north of the border was actually more successful. The result is an entire nation of nouveau riche.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that those riches come with some social consequences that sit far from the European norm. Heady modern consumerism, which peaks with an almost Milanese love of the overpriced and labelled, makes image everything. A heavy tax on imported cars has made even the modest Mini (which would cost over €100,000 in Seoul) a sure sign of a life of success. While the most modern of comforts take root, though, traditions still stand tall.

A woman should be married by 30 or considered a failure. One of the highest average alcohol consumptions on the planet is offset by a draconian stance on even the lightest of recreational drugs. No business meeting is complete without a tediously extended procession of bowing at kickoff, and pride dictates that the abundance of American military bases that allowed the construction of such a stable and prosperous nation be superfluously guarded by their Korean counterparts. Failure… well 16-18 hours of schooling per weekday for your average early teen will give you an idea of how well it’s tolerated. Korean culture is a cuttingly harsh one to live amongst if you’re unsuccessful. Park’s genius often lies in deconstructing or playing off these taboos.

Music Alliance Pact – March 2014.

music alliance pact

I’ve been eyeing Music Alliance Pact enviously from afar – and picking up plenty of great tracks from around the world – for some time now, and learnt about some great new artists from the three dozen or so bloggers who represent their countries each month. It brings me a huge amount of pleasure, then, to take over the organization of the Irish part of MAP, previously run by my esteemed colleagues Nialler 9 and Harmless Noise.

For this first month, The Rusty Fixtures have been kind enough to offer up a track that you can’t get anywhere else, scheduling for a yet-to-be-planned future record. It’s a cracking little folk song with some clever genre fusion along the way, and there’s so, so much more here to explore. Without further ado…

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 27-track compilation through Ge.tt here.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing
The Rusty FixturesWhen Ya Left Me
Strung together on beer-money budgets in the finest of Irish folk traditions, The Rusty Fixtures nevertheless throw a glance or two in the direction of reggae and blues in When Ya Left Me. The break-up track – an unreleased MAP exclusive set for their second EP – sees the progression of a bittersweet tinge that’s been ever-present since the rural rising stars saw their kit stolen, burnt and then replaced by the local community back in 2011. Now edging towards Dublin and starting to make an impact, the five-piece are paying it forward, offset harmonies, mellow buzz, cajons and all.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
PleinMadera & Fuego
Plein started almost seven years ago as an excuse for a group of friends to gather and play their favorite songs. After several years of playing live and participating in different compilation albums, this indie-rock band from Buenos Aires released their first record in 2012, with songs recorded using a method of pre-established rules inspired by Lars von Trier’s film The Five Obstructions. Madera & Fuego is taken from their 2014 EP Número Uno.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Yon YonsonCulver City
Childhood friends Andrew Kuo and Nathan Saad are Yon Yonson, an experimental pop duo from Sydney. Their sound is ambitious and unpredictable – listen no further than their latest release Hypomantra to understand. As the band designed the record to be played as a continuous set, each track on the record is incredibly malleable, both in sound and score. Culver City, with its origami beat samples, is a glimpse of Yon Yonson’s standout oddities which show that this talented duo’s output is just as diverse as their intention.

CANADA: Quick Before It Melts
The This Many Boyfriends ClubOnly Trying
“We are a mercurial bunch,” says Casimir Frederic Coquette Kaplan, guitarist and vocalist for The This Many Boyfriends Club, since by the time you hear Only Trying, vocalist Veronica Danger Winslow-Danger will have sung her last lo-fi “dandy punk” show with the band. A new single will also be up for the offering, signalling yet another shift for this ever-evolving Montreal band. I’ll follow this club wherever they want to lead me. You will too.

Dropkick Murphys – Blood Brothers.

As the only surviving original member of a 17 year old iconic Bostonian act, Dropkick Murphys snarling vocalist Ken Casey has done a whole lot of things you might not expect. There’s millions of dollars in charitable funding for a start, raised through activities like tomato launching karaoke, or possibly the least offensive VIP packages in music. Then there’s the stereotypical Irish pub business in Boston, unintended riot incitement in Mexico, Christmas songs on a January album, and a determination to carry on until Dropkick Murphys become what they’ve always been inspired by: a form of trad. Three kids, a hectic tour schedule and an heartfelt hatred of neighbour Steven Tyler don’t seem to have slowed the the ex-laborer down one ounce.

Latest effort ‘Signed & Sealed in Blood’, in fact, is a less than typical Dropkicks album. Aside from that iffy Christmas song, it takes off in all kinds of assorted directions, through straight up rock and balladry as well as Celtic-inspired punk. For Casey, it’s simply an expression of interests: “Country and rap are probably the only two directions we won’t go. We’ve always had a bit of a 50s rock and roll thing, an Americana folk influence… we’re lucky to be able to spread ourselves creatively. We can write anything from an acoustic ballad to a straight ahead hardcore song. We have a lot of space to wander, as long as we don’t go so far that the fans throw us right back. I grew up listening to a lot of trad. Nowadays I tend to wander towards mellower music, sing-songwriter stuff, but not like coffee shop stuff but punk guys. One of my favorites at the moment is a kid from Boston called Brian McPherson, who plays just with an acoustic guitar, but there’s so much power and passion behind it. It’s pretty moving, it’s always impressive to me when someone can create that kind of passion and power with just an acoustic guitar. It’s something I could never do. Being one of seven you’ve got six other guys to share the success or take the fall with you.”

There’s a lot of history in those seven guys and their heavily-emphasized Irish roots, dating back to Casey’s childhood in Milton, not far from Boston. Recalling his upbringing, Casey finds his own Irish background flooding through his early days: “When I was growing up, the census bureau told us that Milton was the town with the most Irish ancestry in America. Growing up, it’s just what everyone was, you didn’t really even think about it. Boston is one of the few places in America where a lot of family patriarchs are of Irish heritage, so you still find a lot of Irish culture. It’s a ripple effect, my parents and grandparents were from Ireland. There’s a lot of pubs. I actually own a couple of pubs. I guess it’s a business we tend to go into.”