On The Loop: SURL - Local Wolves


Korean indie-rock band SURL made the third stop of their North American tour in Dallas, Texas on April 6th. Kaz Moon being their opening artist was a special affair; since he is from this city, the crowd at the Deep Ellum Art Company was extra happy to have him perform. SURL’s setlist was fun—they played high energy songs like “Rope” from their new album along with softer fan-favorites like “Dry Flower” and “Snow.” The show felt warm and intimate, the space of the small venue filled with laughter and conversation between artist and crowd on more than one occasion. 

The week following the show, I had the opportunity to ask the band some questions about their debut album of us, their tour, inspirations, and more.

You’re about halfway through your U.S. tour! How are each of you feeling?

SEOL HOSEUNG (Vocal/Guitar): Hello, I’m Seol Hoseung! It’s already been a while since I came to America! Actually, I was worried about many things before coming here, but I was surprised that there were a lot of fans in North America. I thought I should work hard for those who came to see us until the end.

KIM DOYEON (Guitar): The tour is really hard, but I feel it’s an important experience.

LEE HANBIN (Bass): I really appreciate that there are people who like SURL’s music and come to the concerts in America. And I traveled across the U.S. by van, and I feel really good.

What was the most surprising thing about touring the U.S.?

HOSEUNG: There were so many things that surprised me but if I have to choose one, it was surprising to see those who live in the U.S. and speak English sing our songs with us. I was already extremely surprised with the fact that there are people listening to our songs on the opposite side of the world but I was very touched that they sang along with us while knowing the meaning of the lyrics. To a couple of them, I asked if they learned Korean separately but they said that they taught themselves. Thanks to K-POP, I knew that there were lots of people abroad that are interested in Korea, but it was such an unbelievable moment and thanks to the U.S. fans, we were able to motivate ourselves into working hard and continue the tour. I want to give back by making even better songs and rather than getting help in something else, I want to become someone who impacts others. 

How does it feel to have an American audience come to your concerts and sing your Korean lyrics with you?

HOSEUNG: I was so touched. Usually, when other famous foreign artists perform in Korea, all Koreans sing along, and I was wondering how the artist would feel when they listen to it. I had an amazing experience with this opportunity and I don’t think I can forget it. And I felt with my body that people in North America liked our songs and listened to them a lot, and once again, I felt that music is an influential medium that can bring people together regardless of age or gender.

What is your favorite anecdote from your tour?

HANBIN: The most memorable scene for me was when we stopped by the gas station for a moment to get gas and a local asked Myeongsuk, “Is this Mexico?” then asked for directions.

What has been your favorite song to perform on tour?

OH MYUNGSEOK (Drums): Personally, the songs I had fun performing were “People” and “Walking in Dream.” It’s the most fun to play and before playing “People,” I get to think about how to play the drum solo part.

What has the most challenging part of the tour been?

DOYEON: It was my first time experiencing being abroad for a long period of time, so the most challenging thing for me was being homesick.

Congrats on releasing your first album! How did you go about choosing which songs to include on the album?

DOYEON: I listened to about 100 demos and selected 10 of them. We included them considering the organic nature of the songs and the advantages of individual tracks.

What were the biggest challenges throughout the process of making the album?

MYUNGSEOK: I think it’s the hardest when the four of us don’t agree in the process of writing a song. However, when we agree, it creates a very good synergy effect.

Where did you find your biggest inspirations for the album?

HOSEUNG: I think I get a lot of inspiration from each member’s experiences. I think about everything I’ve experienced in my life and make songs while talking about it. And these days, I’m thinking about what more people can think and relate to. I want to see more things and get inspiration from them. I think I’m going to think of a lot of those inspirations during this U.S. tour.

Are there times when you have writer’s block and have trouble working on new music? How do you approach such situations?

MYUNGSEOK: When that happens, go eat something delicious or take a rest. You need to take a break to get better results.

In Korea, solo artists and K-Pop groups are the most popular with the public. Slowly, though, bands like SURL are starting to grow in popularity. How does it feel to start gaining more recognition and love as a band?

HANBIN: It’s amazing. When I started the band, most of the teams that people liked were American or British bands, but now there are many popular bands in Korea, so I’m looking forward to the future and I think I can try more fun things.

Who were your musical inspirations as teenagers and who are your favorite artists these days?

HOSEUNG: When I was a teenager, I liked artists like Jimmy Hendrix, John Mayer, Gary Clark Jr., Coldplay, Nothing But Thieves, and King Rule. There are more, but I got a lot of inspiration from these people. I’m into the Sex Pistols these days. I fell in love with how they treated the world and what they wanted to say honestly. I don’t think SURL is a punk [band], but I think it can be melted to some extent, and I think it’s important to melt those attitudes.

HANBIN: When I was young, I liked the music of Motown musicians the most. Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles. My favorite musicians these days are Daryl Hall & John Oates.

DOYEON: I think it was Led Zeppelin who dominated me as a teenager. These days, I try to listen to what I hear without thinking about the artist.

MYUNGSEOK: Musically, I think Nine Inch Nails’ music helped me a lot to give me a lot of current band sound ideas. You may feel [their music is] dark and cynical, but there are so many things in Nine Inch Nails’ albums.

While SURL can be called a rock band, your music also mixes multiple different genres. Musically, is there any specific direction you are chasing? Or are you more focused on what you feel in the moment?

DOYEON:  In fact, I don’t know what direction we’re pursuing. The work continues on the premise that it considers the public aspect. Usually, work begins with impromptu inspiration, such as a jam [session]. 

Which artist would you want to collaborate with the most?

MYUNGSEOK: I want to collaborate with Drake.

DOYEON: I want to collaborate with Andy Shauf.

HANBIN: Currently, I want to work with Kaz Moon who has worked hard with us throughout the tour.

HOSEUNG: I think it would be fun working together with an artist named Dijon. He’s an artist that Kaz Moon, who was with us during this tour, recommended. I listened to Dijon’s songs and he has tremendous energy. If I get to work with him, I think I would have lots to learn from him and be able to grow.

What are your thoughts or concerns while performing live? What is your biggest goal at concerts?

MYUNGSEOK: Personally, I think a lot about how to play and what kind of heart the audience will like more. I think I’m a cooler person if the audience likes me more. I want all the audience to go crazy. That’s my goal.

What are your goals as a band for the next year?

HANBIN: Starting with the tour in Korea last year, we are on a tour in North America this time. I hope that next year’s SURL will become cooler and make better music than now and tour around the world!!

Do you have anything else to say to your fans reading this interview?

HOSEUNG: Hello, everyone! We only have half of our North American tour left! I want to stay longer and meet more people at the concert! We still have a concert left, so I think it’ll be good to meet a lot of you then! And we’re writing new songs these days. It will be released soon, so please look forward to it. Even if we can’t see each other this time, we’ll come back next time, so let’s meet again then! Thank you!

DOYEON: Thank you. See you again when we have a chance.

HANBIN: Dallas, I love you!! It was a really fun performance, and I hope we can visit often in the future. See you next time!

MYUNGSEOK: So far, I think my schedules in the U.S. will remain the most impressive in my life! Thank you America!

Interview & Photography: Uma Snow
Translator: Chan Hee Jeong

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