For the Band Jaurim, Road Has Been Long,Winding － and LoudIt was late one night in 1996 in the Blue Devil club in Seoul. About 20 young people were there and instead of drinking a lot of beer they were paying attention to an underground rock band whose loud sound rattled glasses and whose female vocalist alternated between shouting and groaning.
In those clubs like the Blue Devil, near Hongik University, a Mecca for unknown rockers, numerous bands still come and go. But this group somehow seemed different to those in attendance. In time-honored fashion, the hopeful new group belted out its creations at an increasingly higher volume. The band's members surely were hoping this would lead to greater things, evidenced by their choice of the name: The Ugly Duckling.
Five years later, the vocalist Kim Yun-a, 27, the guitarist Lee Sun-kyu, 30, the bassist Kim Jin-man, 25, and the drummer Gu Tae-hun, 25, have grown up. Defying the odds, the band is still together. Furthermore, they've also moved successfully over into the the mainstream. Their four albums have sold more than 800,000 copies to date; a remarkable success for a rock band that was born "underground."
The Ugly Duckling has also grown out of its name. In 1997, the band became Jaurim, a word that consists of three Chinese characters meaning purple, rain and wood and that stands for "the wood where purple rain falls down."
In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition in a cafe in Abgujeong-dong, the band's members were asked about the new name and other matters.
"It has no specific or profound meaning," Kim Yun-a said, primly sipping of coffee. "We picked the name so that people could interpret it as they wished. Some say it suggests a kind of attractive mystique. Others say it makes them think of something dark and rather frightening."
Jaurim's music also appeals on varied levels. It has cut across the established line between underground and mainstream, and that's what makes the band stand out. "We just pursue whatever music we want," Lee Sun-kyu said.
But Jaurim is special among Korean bands for two reasons. One, the band has earned critical acclaim as well as popularity. Also, the members write, perform and produce all of their songs, something of a rarity on the local scene. Their refreshing style of music resembles the scent of peppermint, which earned them the nickname "Mint Rock Band."
In one of its songs, "Miss Korea," Jaurim derides "the awkward smiles of beauty pageant contestants － do they think they're smiling for world peace?" But Jaurim's songs aren't always cynical. "Iltal" ("Deviation") fantasizes about breaking out of the run-of-the-mill routine and having a rush-hour strip show in the subway station.
The band turns to the brighter side of life with songs such as "Ae-in Balgyeon" ("Finding My Mr. Right"). In "Sae" ("A Bird"), they sing about a broken-hearted woman who croons, "I have a present for you － a dead bird, bleeding." Some broadcasting stations found the song too outlandish to air.
But the band's breakthrough to mainstream music came with its original sound track for the film "Ggocheul Deun Namja" ("The Man With a Flower in His Hands"). The vocalist Kim Yun-a played a major role in bringing the music to the screen. She said, "I consider singing the same as acting." Sometimes, Kim sounds like a femme fatale, but she also sings like an innocent little girl. She admitted, "After I came to earn my living by singing, which was just one of my hobbies, it was so painful."
Band members are happiest when on stage, said Gu Tae-hun, the most reserved of the members. "Except," Kim Jin-man said, "when the audience is full of soldiers who are not aware of our music, but are hooked by Yun-a's beauty."
The Japanese rock band Glay has invited Jaurim to hold a joint concert in Kyushu, Japan, on Aug. 11. Jaurim also will hold a solo concert in December in Japan. Future songs? "Nobody knows," Lee said. "Whenever we feel like writing songs. Maybe tomorrow or maybe no more releases."
"But the happiest thing," Kim Yun-a added, "is that we are able to maintain our own style of music regardless of being underground or mainstream. Even if we were still underground rockers, we would be playing the music we're playing right now."
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