I’m terrible at answering absolute questions, but one question I can confidently answer without any hesitation is: “Who is your favourite indie band?”
Broccoli You Too.
They have been since I first discovered them about seven years ago.
Their lyrics hold my hands, pinch my cheeks, wipe off my tears, laugh at my ridiculousness then hug me with a smile. Their stories are humble, nothing special and complicated. Just honest words moving along a simple melody. Stories about crushes and falling in love, painful times and reminiscence of good ol’ days; sometimes walking on thin ice about to fall apart, or dancing aimlessly under the streetlights at night.
Starting off as a music group in university, they gained people’s curiosity when they performed “앵콜요청금지 / No more encore” at a university festival which was featured in their first EP in 2007. But it was officially the release of their first album a year after called [보편적인 노래 / An Ordinary Song] which grabbed the public’s attention, climbing up to “Steady Best-Seller” and selling 40,000 copies.
– 보편적인 노래 / An ordinary song
Taking on the name of one of the featured songs, this album is an antithesis to the increasing mainstream attention to dance pop and hip-hop genre during that time (which is still the same today). Their first album contains 12 songs which have all the innocent effortless elements, simple tacky sounds, and unrefined instrumental and vocals skills of an amateur band. Produced and composed by Duk-won, the featured songs render the everyday interactions and emotions that anyone can relate to, tickling you with the realization that “it could have happened, or it actually did, or it probably will happen”. The band relays all the complicated thoughts and worries onto numerous pages in a diary, often through an odd imagination or poetic metaphors, such as the ceaseless feeling of being in love in a trembling awkward relationship likened to a very long dance.
이 춤을 멈추고 싶지 않아
그럴수록 마음이 바빠
급한 나의 발걸음은 자꾸 박자를 놓치는 걸
자꾸만 떨리는 너의 두 손
I don’t want to stop this dance
So now my heart is in a rush
My busy footsteps keep missing the beat
Your two hands constantly trembling
I especially love the old-fashioned indie rock vibes throughout the album. ‘봄이오면 / When spring comes’ begins with a faded echo of Gae-pi’s voice which eventually heightens with tacky electronic sounds, while Duk-won kicks in with a stereotypical 90’s-style rap (Ref. Seo Taiji and Boys). This is followed by a fun energetic 90’s melody line of ‘두근두근 / Pit-a-pat’ (with a great kazoo solo) which I imagine the band performing it at some university spring festival. Singing about lost love or fluttering butterflies, these songs reminisce memories in some anime featuring high school love, or at least that’s how I imagine them. The band re-recorded some of the songs in this album in 2012, including these two, which doesn’t seem to have the naive young energy of the originals, especially without Gae-pi’s vocal (she left the band in 2009).
아무리 고민하고 주위를 맴돌아도
한마디 말해 볼 용기가 없어
지나치듯 했던 말 엉뚱한 행동들이
어떤 의미였는지 너는 알까
However many times I’ve worried and hovered around
I don’t even have the courage to say a word
All my passing words and odd behaviour
I wonder if you know what they all mean
Their 2nd album [졸업 / Graduation] also has a special place in my heart. The anthem to my senior high school year. Two years passed from their first, and you can see the difference. Broccoli You Too has strayed away from an innocent roaming in life, but to a more sophisticated expression and experience blistered with reality. Duk-won describes his writing process as not stuffing as much as he can, but chiseling deeply into the stories and emotions. From ‘울지마 / Don’t cry’ to ‘사랑한다는 말로도 위로가 되지 않는 / When words of love aren’t comforting,’ this album is a nice hug and a pat on the back.
I never really paid attention to the lyrics of ‘졸업 / Graduation‘ in high school, but the chorus line left me dwelling in emotions I didn’t understand. ‘이 미친 세상에 어디에 있더라도 행복해야 해…이 미친 세상에 어디에 있더라도 잊지 않을게…’‘Wherever you are in this crazy would, please be happy…Wherever you are in this crazy world, I won’t forget about you…’ Years later as I reach the end of my university, although the competitive busy work culture in Korea that Broccoli You Too imagined is different than what I’m experiencing here, I can now better understand the emotions.
난 어느 곳에도 없는 나의 자리를 찾으려
헤매었지만 갈 곳이 없고
우리들은 팔려가는 서로를 바라보며
서글픈 작별의 인사들을 나누네
I search for my seat in a place I don’t exist
Lost but nowhere to go
We watch each other being sold to others
And share a sad farewell
After their concert in 2013, they went on a hiatus. When I read that Ryu-ji joined another band, Hyang-gi went back to finish school, Jan-di got married and was busy with childcare, and then when Duk-won released a solo album in 2014 – I thought for certain, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, that the 2012 EP [1/10] might actually be the last of Broccoli You Too.
But bless. The four came back together in 2016 and invited the long awaiting fans back into their stories with a come-back single ‘천천히 / Slowly’ in June, followed by six more singles, with the latest one in April. And I appreciate how each and every single one of the single is accompanied with a beautiful music video.
돌아가는 길은 너무 멀고
눈물이 차 오는 건 참 급해
서두르면 쏟아질 것 같아
The walk back is too long
Tears are welling too fast
They’re going to pour over if I don’t hurry
I walked slowly
What I truly admire about Broccoli You Too is their honesty and energy to relate. They strip away details, but rather refine them with more ubiquitous emotions to better connect with the listeners. Instead of telling their stories, they seek sympathy and understanding from us. Maybe more credit should be given to Duk-won in regards to this. He does write all of the songs.
And let’s also not forget to mention how great their band name is. 브로콜리 너마저. A direct translation is “Broccoli You Too,” maybe with a comma after “Broccoli.” This “you too” isn’t a togetherness or an agreement, but more of a “how could you also do this to me”. In an interview on Yoo Hee Yeol’s Sketchbook, the band explained that the name has no significant history or meaning, but just a spontaneous combination of words they came up with which sounded like a cool band name. Hearing this made me laugh, because that casualness fits perfectly with their sounds and lyrics, and made me love them even more.