When you come across the term ‘a punk trio’, most likely you will think of a drummer, a bassist, and a guitarist, with either the bassist or the guitarist doubling as the vocalist. But Seoul-based Patients are different: their current line-up doesn’t even include a guitarist. Instead, since 2013, they have a keyboardist. It was not the first change they had experienced; before, they used to be a quartet when they emerged in Korean punk scene in 2006 with their debut EP Hanging Revolution. Bassist Sumin Jo assumed singing duties when they became a three-piece in 2007 and released their second EP All the Patients Let’s Go the year after that; in 2012, another major change happened when they parted ways with their then-guitarist, leaving only Jo and drummer Jaehyuk Lee in the band. They turned into a trio again when keyboardist Hyuckjang Kwon joined in 2013. In between preparing for the UK tour, finishing their 4-song EP to be released this year, and taking care of their Steel Face Records, Jo answered our questions for the band.
How would you describe your band in only five words?
If I have to describe Patients in only five words, I’ll say we’re “Hybrid punk rock from Seoul.”
Who would you say is the biggest influence to your music as a band?
Our biggest influences are Sex Pistols, Ramones, and Beethoven.
We are looking forward to your new record with your new sound. Can you give us a hint of what it will sound like?
Our new four-song EP is called Let’s Drive, Let’s Go! The EP will be released in Korea in June through Steel Face Records, the indie imprint owned and operated by Patients. But we’ll be selling copies of the album in May during our UK tour, so people there will get the first opportunity to buy it.
Since our last album, we’ve replaced our guitarist with a keyboardist. So musically, our new songs feel brighter and more upbeat. And lyrically the album is much lighter and happier too. This time we didn’t include any serious stories at all. Instead, we decided to include enjoyable songs people can listen to when they go for a bike ride, go for a drive, or do whatever they think is fun to.
How different is the working process with the lineup that includes a keyboardist than when you were still a trio with a guitarist?
Our new keyboardist Hyuckjang Kwon is very talented. I think having him in the band gives us more freedom to experiment with different sounds. When we had a guitar player in the band, we were more in love with classic punk sounds. But now we can play a wider array of music, which I think makes us a much cooler punk band.
Is there any special ritual that you guys do before you go and rock it out on the stage?
We don’t have any special rituals. But before each show I remind Hyuckjang to be on time. So that has kind of become a pre-show ritual that we always do!
Let’s talk about fashion a bit. Just from looking at your pictures, people can guess that you are a punk band. Has the music you play also influenced how you look in daily life, off stage, away from cameras?
I love the classic punk look, so I always wear punk-inspired fashion regardless of whether I’m performing or not. My style is always the same. Jaehyuk thinks it’s important to be different from other people, so he’s always looking to do his own thing and have his own style when he’s not performing. Hyuckjang has developed more of a punk look on and off stage at my urging.
Isn’t it difficult to run a band and run a record label (Steel Face Records) at the same time?
It’s definitely challenging, and I’m often swamped with work. But we love the DIY attitude and being able to do things on our own. At first, Steel Face Records started only for promoting Patients, but since then we’ve started working with other indie bands too. Now we’re looking for more staff to help us run the label since Steel Face Records is continuing to grow.
Please tell us more about Steel Face Records. Why did you decide to start the record label?
In 2010, I was looking for a label for Patients. The labels I wanted to work with weren’t interested in our band. And I didn’t trust the labels that were interested in us. So I decided to start Steel Face Records as Patients own label. I thought the best situation for us was for us to be in control of everything related to our band and our music.
And you are going to play UK! You guys must be excited! What are your hopes for your upcoming UK tour? Any special things fans in the UK can expect at your shows?
This is our first UK tour, so we’re really excited. I’ve visited London three times in the past, but I’ve never had the chance to perform there. We’ve been working really hard to get ready for this tour, and I’m confident our live shows are going to be really good. And as I said above, we’ll have our new EP with us in the UK too. So people there will get the chance to have the new Patients album before anyone else in the world!
And we can’t help ourselves. Pick one: The Clash or Sex Pistols?
Definitely Sex Pistols!
The band played their first international gig back in 2008, in the Japan/Korea Oi! Punk Festival in Nagano, Japan. Now if you live in the UK, you can see this fun-loving punk band in their full-fledged 2014 spring tour! They will also showcase their new material from the new EP in the tour. Here is the full UK gig list:
May 1 Liverpool, England @ Brooklyn Mixer (Liverpool Sound City)
May 3 Liverpool, England @ Kazimier Gardens (Liverpool Sound City)
May 7 Bristol, England @ The Hatchet Inn
May 8 Southampton, England @ Unit Club (WTFest)
May 9 London, England @ AAA
May 10 London, England @ Astbury Castle