Everyone knows that when traveling to new places, the best spots to visit aren’t the ones easily found on the web. It’s all about local favourites – those true hidden gems that make the place unique for its own inhabitants. In our new Hometown Hotspots series, we’re catching up with musicians around the world to find those gems on a personal tour through their own cities.
Glen Check is a fun electronica-tinged indie rock duo from South Korea who recently released their new album Bleach and the music video for “Sins”. Having debuted with the Disco Elevator EP in 2011 before releasing their first album in 2012 titled Haute Couture, it has been nine years since Glen Check’s last album, Youth, making the new 13-track album Bleach all the more anticipated.
Comprised of singer and guitarist Kim June-one, and bassist and synthesizer player Kang Hyuk-jun, Glen Check first solidified their position as one of the most exciting indie acts to come out of Seoul by winning the Best Dance Electronic Album at the Korean Music Awards in 2013 and 2014. Glen Check has even performed at international festivals such as Summer Sonic in Japan, Nuits Sonores in France, and SXSW in the States with their brand of electropop and synth-pop.
Even having spent their early years in both USA and France, Kim and Kang chose at the beginning of their career to return to their roots in Seoul, which kicked things off creatively. Let’s find out some of their favourite go-to spots and songs that remind them of these places.
Life in Seoul
June One: Growing up in various countries and cities, I’ve never had the feeling of being ‘home’. However, living in Seoul for more than 12 years now, I’m starting to feel like Seoul is my home city. Although I don’t have any childhood friends around nor memories of growing up here, I’m pursuing my dreams and my career in Seoul, and I now feel like I’m somebody important in this city. I’m getting used to certain areas, feeling comfortable and confident with Seoul city life.
Hyuk Jun: Being in Seoul as a musician means always staying in touch with the latest trends. Seoul is a very fast-paced city and is always changing. Living in Seoul for 12 years has kept us wary of the newest trends not only in music but in other media as well such as photography and film. We are constantly inspired by what is going on in and out of Seoul and living here allows us to stay creative.
An eatery you’d feel homesick for
Samcheong-dong, Credit: J Shim / Unsplash
June One: 삼청동 (Samcheong-dong)
Hyuk Jun actually introduced me to this place a couple of years ago. 삼청동 (Samcheong-dong) is an area very near where I live, so I pass by 삼청동 수제비 (Samcheong-dong Sujebi) numerous times on my way back home from practice. The first time I tried it, I was quite shocked by how good the sujebi at this place was. Now it’s my favourite spot to go to, especially when I have a hangover. Sujebi (수제비) is a Korean traditional soup with dough flakes roughly torn by hand, with various veggies in them.
Deftones’ “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” is not a song that reminds me in particular of this sujebi place, but rather of the ride to that area from my place. There’s a small mountain in between my home and Samcheong-dong, and the views during the drive are so beautiful. I remember playing this song in Hyuk-Jun’s car with a bad hangover – good times.
Hyuk Jun: Mudaeruk (무대륙)
Mudaeruk is a cafe but they also have some live performances. I remember taking FKJ with us to Mudaeruk when he was in Seoul and jamming with him on stage in the basement area. I enjoy Kimchi Bokuem Bap (김치볶음밥) in general, but Mudaeruk’s recipe is quite unique and I love how they include various spices that make it more interesting.
Ohia’s “Farewell Transmission” is one of my favourite songs. I never expected I would hear it being played in a cafe or restaurant in Seoul but I was delighted to hear Mudaeruk playing it one day. Their playlists are always so good.
Your favourite place to perform
June One: Greenplugged Festival 2011 서울 난지 한강공원 (Seoul Nanji Park)
Greenplugged Festival 2011 at Seoul Nanji Park was our very first ‘proper’ show. I remember not taking this show that seriously before being on stage, considering it similar to the shows we’ve played in high school. Now, we’re the most serious and passionate people when it comes to live shows.
Ever since Greenplugged, “Vogue Boys & Girls” has become our first song on every set list. I literally remember the sound of my heartbeat when we started to play this song for the very first time in 2011.
Hyuk Jun: Greenplugged Festival held at Nanji Park
Greenplugged Festival 2011 was an exciting moment for us and there are fond memories of this place looking back.
We played “60’s Cardin” live at the festival and it felt so good to see the audience singing and dancing along with us.
Your go-to for live music
June One: FF (Seoul, Hongdae)
This used to be “the” place to go to see live acts – where all the cool bands play, and cool people hang out. It’s really difficult to point out one show that I’ll never forget, as I have so many good memories of this place.
They used to play records after the shows, and I freaking loved it when Kasabian’s “LSF” was played.
Hyuk Jun: Jebi Dabang (제비다방)
A lot of my friends perform here, like [rock musician] Gila Jung. You should check out his music, it’s pretty cool.
Your secret spot for new visitors
June One: 광화문 (Kwanghwa-Mun)
I just love the vibe here. Traditional yet city-like. I think it shows the cool side of Seoul and Korea in general.
I’d rather not play any song and enjoy the city ambiance of this area. Busy cars, and people, but somehow peaceful.
Hyuk Jun: Garosu-gil (가로수길)
Garosu-gil is often overlooked because it is located next to Gangnam, the more popular area. Garosu-gil is the central area for fashion and there are lots of nice shops and cafes to visit there.
I was listening to our song “4ever” when I was there recently. It goes pretty well with the vibe there.
The one place you hope will always stay the same
June One: 이태원 (Itaewon)
I’ve met so many good friends hanging out in this area. Underground musicians, artists, fashionable people, etc. I hope it stays the same.
While Hongdae is more about live acts and rock bands, Itaewon was always more about raves and underground DJs. I used to be in a DJ crew called “Alter Ego,” We threw parties at a club called Cakeshop, which is one of my favourite underground clubs of all time. I used to make my own tracks to play at those parties.
Hyuk Jun: Yeonnam-dong (연남동)
I was born in this area and it has seen a lot changes especially recently. It has a really good vibe right now and I hope it stays the same. There are some nice places to eat and small bookstores as well that I hope never disappear.
Yeonnam-dong is calm but dynamic – kind of like “Rise Above” by Dirty Projectors.
Hometown Hotspots is created in collaboration with Secret Signals.
Cover Credit: Dae Hoon Kim
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.