EE is more than a two-piece band. Hailing from Seoul, South Korea, the husband-and-wife duo of Hyun-joon Lee and Yun-joung Lee call themselves a ‘total art performance group’. They create and play music, yes, but their performance is also about visual elements, dance, fashion, and art. Their background explains why this quirky and unique pair took their art stance: Yun-joung used to be the vocalist for Pippi Band, a pioneering act in Korea’s alt-rock scene, back in the mid-1990’s. She has also released some solo albums. Hyun-joon is an installation artist and DJ/producer. They met in late 2007, and in spring 2008 EE was born.
EE released their first CD single, Curiosity Kills, in 2008, and in September that year they held a three-day art exhibition as a celebration. The next year, EE marched on: they played at the World DJ Festival in Soul in May, and released their full-length debut, Imperfect, I’mperfect in August. In 2011, EE got the honour to perform at the world-renowned festival Coachella in California, remaining the only Korean band to have ever been invited to the event to date. They played their first gig in the UK in the next year.
April 2013 saw the duo releasing the long-awaited Unprdctvprdct, followed by their most recent offering, Weird People We R Da People, in August 2014. Next month, March 2015, EE will return to the US for a live appearance at South by South West (SXSW). We talked to Yun-joung about their art, experience, and further plans.
Please choose five words that begin with the letter E that describe EE best.
Eternal, Entertainers, Enemy, Exciting … EE!
You call yourself ‘a total art performance group’, and visual elements hold a very important part in your performance. Your music videos are also always artistically fascinating. How do you usually develop the ideas for your stage performances and music videos?
We grew up as part of a sub-culture that was heavily affected by art, fashion, and music. EE came from us discovering our shared love of all these different things. We mix those things with our ideas from our normal life, different writings, pictures, and other things and then design a plan for what we want to do in our performances and videos.
The masks in the ‘Banging Till I Die’ music video are interesting but at the same time disturbing. You’ve also hidden your faces, and even bodies, in Zentai suits. Do masks and suits help divert the audience’s attention from your faces so that they can focus on your performances and messages instead? Or do they serve other purposes?
This is a very interesting question! In our performances, there are always other things which we’re trying to say and the masks help us represent these things. For example, sometimes the masks help us show some painful things. The masks also represent that the stories EE tell could be ours, other human beings’, or even yours.
Some of your songs like ‘Curiosity Kills’ and ‘High Collor’ show a heavy influence of ‘80s music. Who are your favourite musicians/artists from that era?
We have many favourite artists from that era. Some of them include Kraftwerk, New Order, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Pink Floyd, and David Bowie.
Meanwhile, the music on Weird People We R Da People incorporates hip-hop sounds. The two of you blend genres together very well! What do you think about music genres? Are they real or just labels?
They are just labels. Genres don’t matter at all to us. We grew up listening to lots of different music and that background is the foundation for our work. When making something new, we always consider the overall concept including the sound, visual, and artistic aspects we want to explore and then set out to create our vision. When doing this, we don’t pay much attention to which genre the sounds fall into. It’s more about just doing what we want to do and what fits the concept.
Because you are husband and wife, your private life and your work must inevitably be very close to each other. How do you manage to keep both separated – or are they one and the same to you?
It isn’t easy, but we try to give to each other some private time. We spend a lot of time together because of our work and our marriage and sometimes we argue. But without a bit of arguing sometimes, things wouldn’t be very fun or interesting!
You played at the huge Coachella festival in 2011. Do you guys think that’s your best achievement so far?
In terms of size, Coachella is the biggest thing we’ve done so far.
How are you preparing for your upcoming SXSW performance? What can the audience expect from EE’s show in Austin, Texas?
We’re excited about going to Texas in March for SXSW. We’re making a special performance for our showcase at the festival and are still getting everything ready for it now. We want to make people who come to see us perform at SXSW feel wired and excited and give them new energy.
lease share some tips on how to properly party with EE at live shows!
Jump, scream, dance, and stamp your feet! That’s the best way to enjoy an EE live performance.
EE will play at SXSW in 405 Club, March 18, 2015