Hyukoh emerged on the scene in 2014 as the voice of a new generation of Korean youth. Within a year, the band’s popularity exploded in Korea and its momentum spread like wildfire from Asia to the rest of the world. With the release of their first album “23” in 2017, they kicked off the world tour. They performed at the Akasaka Blitz in Tokyo, and I remember being astonished by how much traction this Korean band was gaining among the Japanese youth. I happened to interview them at the time and recall how the leader Hyuk Oh carefully proceeded to answer as he glanced down slightly, and slowly chose his words. I was struck by his humble demeanor. Three years have passed since—now at the age of 26, Oh is no longer an up-and-coming music artist but an artist showing his presence in the world with a wide range of creativity in music, fashion and other fields. In January of 2020, Hyukoh released a new album titled “through love”. At the top of the 42-city “Hyukoh 2020 World Tour”, the band’s biggest-ever tour, was Japan. They kicked it off in February—then coronavirus happened. The rest of the tour was cancelled, and restrictions disabling musicians to fully function were ushered in.
“If there were no pandemic, we would still be touring now. After the Japan tour, we were forced into taking a break. There was so much anxiety in the beginning; I felt like everything we had prepared for were all up in the air and collapsing,” reflects Oh. However, as a leader of the band Hyukoh pushing non-stop between releases and tours for the past several years, this pause gave him a mental turnaround just like it did for many other musicians. “It was the first time since our debut to have time for myself. I realized how exhausted I was. I often get trapped in my thoughts and can’t give myself a break by letting go. So, I focused on relaxing during this period but got bored of it and started working again recently. Going for a walk in-between work, playing with my dog, cooking at home, and chilling in my living room—it’s been great”.
Oh’s living room is filled with products collected through his “furniture collection” hobby. “I get influenced indirectly by placing my favorite objects and furniture in my living or workspace. It’s been four to five years since I started collecting furniture and objects while browsing interior design shops in different cities I visited on my travels and for work. I don’t collect things that I particularly like, but rather for placing them in harmony with each other to achieve a good balance,” explains Oh who probably hardly had any time to spend at home until now. He produces and records in studios around the world, including locations such as Seoul, England, and Berlin, Germany. He chose these studios for the simple reason of them being equipped with exactly what he needed for his production. Because he heads to studios after fully planning his production and process, in the case of Oh, locations don’t affect his creativity at all. In this sense, the fact that he is currently creating at home may not be so different to how he worked for some time.
“If I had to choose, I would say the Fender Telecaster from 1953. This is one of the most cherished things I own, although I’m generally not the type to be particularly attached to things. Then there’s the LG TV. I’m so impressed by its technological development,” answers Oh. This LG TV model is an ultra-thin OLED TV that is not wall-mounting, but rather uses the magnets located on the back of its panel to attach itself. There is a good reason why he chose TV as his work tool. As he has mentioned in numerous interviews, he finds a lot of creative inspiration in films and videos. Therefore, the quality of TV at home is important.“I love films and was influenced in various ways but lately I’ve changed the way I relate to them. In the past, my songs reflected the details I found in films, like the weather, temperature, lighting, etc., and I would reflect those images in my visuals too; I kept some visual remnants in my mind after watching films during my creative process. But nowadays, I’m not so much looking for direct inspiration for my work as I am for the emotions that are left behind after watching them. I’m a fan of Francis Ford Coppola and Sofia Coppola, but lately I’ve been watching a lot of films by the Coen brothers and Gus Van Sant. I’m impressed by their sense of color, the hues used in their films, and their overall visual direction,” claims Hyuk Oh. His latest work titled “through love” is the result of his long mission to create psychedelic music. “We’ve always wanted to produce psychedelic music, and this is our interpretation of what psychedelia is. We focused on stripping away everything unnecessary to keep things simple as possible and finding balance within,” explains Oh. This thought echoes the idea behind arranging objects in his living room and watching films for inspirational purposes.