The 1980s were a peculiar time for pop culture. Wedged between the sun children of the 70s and the jaded grunge kids of the 90s, there is an endearing aspect to the synth driven tunes cranked out amidst all that hair spray. While many of these songs still find their ways to the airwaves and norabongs, it is a rare occasion to experience a well-executed performance of a-ha’s “Take On Me” or Toto’s “Africa.” Luckily for you, a new group of talented Gwangju natives are hitting the local circuit with a repertoire of totally tubular material.
Retro 82 was formed in March of this year by drummer and band leader, Hakin Kim (a.k.a. Julian). He had been performing as jazz drummer in Seoul for years as he commuted from Gwangju, and was also running a steak restaurant in Choongjangro as his day job until last year. He was already friends with a handful of music majors at the local universities and approached them to see about forming a band, however, instead of continuing the groove based improvisation that comes with the territory of jazz, Julian set his cross hairs on a totally different target. “I was in high school during the 1980s, so I grew up liking pop, rock, and new wave, and still enjoy those styles even today. For our older generation, I’d like to fulfill their sense of nostalgia and longing for their youth, and conversely, for the younger generation, I think I’m giving them something fresh and new. I and other members are also enjoying playing music of this period.”
The group’s line up is completed by Yulwoo Kim (Yulu) on vocals, Soojeong Hahn (Crystal) on bass, Jinhyuk Bae (Jhee) on keyboards, and Songwung Nam (Marco) on guitar. As a band, they effortlessly cruise through songs as a well-oiled machine, providing both stage-presence and balanced arrangements of a wide range of material. However, as individuals, each member gracefully takes his or her own time in the spotlight to display a tasteful and well-seasoned set of skills.
After seeing them charm the audience at Speakeasy with a two hour, powerhouse set a couple of weeks ago, I had to ask Julian about their selection. “We just pick songs we like! Actually we don’t play only 80s music, but also familiar songs of today as well. Some of the bands we cover include Toto, The Police, Human League, B-52’s, Green Day, Jack Johnson, and Jamie Cullum.” And it really shows in the band’s chemistry. You can tell they are having fun and using their proficiency to complement one another.
The band has already played at several venues aside from Speakeasy, including Grapelli Jazz Live Pub and The Beatles (venue). You can catch them Saturday August 26th at 2:00 pm in the Chang-Jak Music Place Concert Hall, or check their Facebook page for more upcoming shows in the area. Gnarly!