Crying Nut and No Brain keep rocking
The Hongdae area in western Seoul is home to many music lovers, especially those who enjoy underground music and live bands.
Two punk rock groups, Crying Nut and No Brain, made their debut in a Hongdae club called Drug. Crying Nut had its first performance in 1995 and No Brain, 1997.
Both groups are part of the first generations of independent music in Korea and although they started out as underground bands, the two are now acknowledged to be part of the mainstream.
Since their debuts, Crying Nut and No Brain have been rivals but this month the two will appear together at the WXY Summer Party Concert.
“People say we’re radio stars,” said Han Koung-rock, the Crying Nut bass guitarist. Lee Seong-woo, the vocalist for No Brain responded, “They want us [No Brain] to sing ‘Let’s Ride a Horse.’”
The two were joking ― it was No Brain who starred in the film “Radio Star” (2006) and Crying Nut who sang “Let’s Ride a Horse.”
Since the groups both represent Korea’s contemporary punk rock culture, they are not especially different. For example, Crying Nut was supposed to be featured in “Radio Star” but couldn’t because they were in the studio making an album. Instead, the chance went to No Brain and the film became a great success.
“I’m jealous,” said Crying Nut’s drummer Lee Sang-hyok. He said that when No Brain’s vocalist came to his house in Masan, South Gyeongsong his grandmother asked “How come he is in a movie and not you?”
Crying Nut made its debut two years before No Brain, and for a while the gap between the two was noticeable. But No Brain’s drummer Hwang Hyun-seong said, “Being in ‘Radio Star.’ helped us catch up.” [“Radio Star” is directed by Lee Joon-ik and features renowned Korean actors Ahn Sung-ki and Park Jung-hun].
In the film, No Brain played fictional rock band ‘East River’ and sang “Addicted to Me,” which became an audience favorite.
“Crying Nut has the ability to spice up their songs with humor,’ said No Brain’s Lee. The group is known for its witty lyrics.
No Brain, on the other hand, has a more straightforward approach. In “Addicted to Me” Lee sings “You are wrong if you think you could control me with your arrogant look.”
“Addicted to Me” shifted No Brain’s music paradigm.
“In the past, we used to sing aggressively against society,” said No Brain’s guitarist Jeong Min-jun, “But this song allowed us to see the bright side of the world. We realized that music should contain elements such as joy and anger alongside sorrow and pleasure.”
Although the two groups have a different approach to their music Crying Nut and No Brain share the same genre.
“The essence of independent music is the freedom to create,” said No Brain’s bassist, Jeong Jae-hwan, “but people think independent bands are just underground bands.” He explained that this stereotype has to be broken down for the good of the Korean music scene.
Crying Nut’s Lee, said that his band is an independent music group. “We still hold performances at clubs because that’s where we started from.”
Both bands feel a great responsibility as mainstream independent bands.
“There’s more to independent music than rebellion and using abusive language against society,” said No Brain’s Lee. Crying Nut’s Han added, “People criticize us when we step out of line, but transformation is needed in music.” He said that change reflects the group’s lifestyle and that “it’s not degeneration but simply a change.”
Although some critics think that independent music has lost its popularity, Crying Nut’s vocalist Park Yun-sik said that clubs in the Hongdae area are still crowded with rockers. He mentioned bands such as Super Kid, Cool Age, Rock Tigers, Galaxy Express and Kingston Rudieska.
Suggesting their fame is growing, the two groups’ joint performance this month has attracted intense attention. Popular entertainment stars Ha Dong-hun (aka Haha) and Noh Hong-cheol will perform as guests singing “Luxemburg” with Crying Nut and “Addicted to Me” with No Brain, respectively.
The two bands mentioned that the upcoming performance as well as future performances are an important phase in their careers.
“Both Crying Nut and No Brain should be successful rolemodels for our junior bands,” said Crying Nut’s keyboardist Kim In-soo.
By Jung Hyun-mok, Kang Jun-gyu JoongAng Ilbo