SXSW 2014: GRMLN Interview

GRMLN
Photo by Janelle Abad

 

Interviewer: Janelle Abad

Interviewee: Yoodoo Park

I’m Janelle with KTSW the Other Side of Radio and here I have Yoodoo Park also known as GRMLN.

How has your SXSW experience been thus far?

Yoodoo Park: It’s been stressful, long, and tiring. And my voice is gone. Yeah, it’s been fun though. We had a showcase yesterday with Carpark, the label. At the showcase we saw Cloud Nothings, Speedy Ortiz, Teen, and Saint Pepsi and Greys.

So where did the name GRMLN come from and why no vowels?

YP: Well I came up with it in High School or like, the beginning of College. I didn’t even think of the movie first. I just thought of this creature kind of thing. If you type in Gremlin the movie comes out, so then I just took out the vowels to make it easier for people to find. It was just for accessibility.

If you could label your music as any ice cream flavor what would it be and why?

YP: I just say like any dirty flavor; like nasty flavor.

When you were younger did always picture yourself pursuing music at this degree, with a music label and touring?

YP: Not at all. I still don’t think that’s a thing for me yet, at the moment. Oh, I was really into mixed marshall arts in High School. I wasn’t a kid, but I didn’t really have a dream which is kind of bad.

So Empire was released last year; how as your sound in this album evolved in comparison to your EP Explore?

YP: Well, the EP I recorded at my house by myself during High School and the beginning of college. So it was half recorded in my dorm, actually and then half recorded at my house in Orange County. The album was more abrasive and I recorded in an actual studio in San Francisco. But yeah, the EP is definitely more mellow and chilled out.

The album art for both are very contrasting; Explore having more natural, green tones whereas Empire is more grungy with the dripping down font. Was this supposed to represent the change between the albums, or the change of sound?

YP: When I come up with the concept of the album, it just turned out that the EP was more mellow. It was a picture of the Palei islands, I’m not really sure, but it was a picture in Hawaii that I took. So that was for the EP, and the Empire one is more drippy. One of my label’s art work guy did the font and it just turned out to be like that. I was proud of it so yeah.

You mentioned that you did some of your recording in your dorm – was that difficult for you at all? I know there are people around.

YP: My roommate, Brian was really super supportive. So when I’d be recording sometimes he’d just step out and let me record and stuff, which was really cool. I mean it was actually not that hard. Actually two of the songs that I recorded on the EP were recorded within the span of two days, completely finished, like mixed and everything. I think it was during like Thanksgiving break, everyone went home and I was the only one, the only freshman in the dorms that stayed. So my parents didn’t want me to come home for that weekend because it wasn’t worth it. So I was just really depressed and I was like “Oh man, what am I going to do?” And I just recorded for those two days. I definitely didn’t think I was going to get picked up by a label, for sure. Todd from Carpark was just like “Oh yeah, do you want to put out your songs on our label?” I didn’t even know it was a real label. I thought I was being messed with or something. I looked it up; I researched it to check if it was real and I saw Chaz from Toro was on it. I mean it’s a real label. I’m pretty stoked on it.

How did they end up finding you?

YP: During college my freshman year, towards the end of the year I guess, I was kind of getting over school and blogs and stuff started picking up and writing about my music. With that momentum I guess – that’s what led to the rolling of it and eventually got signed.

Do you feel like you’ve found your sound? Or do you think your sound is still being developed?

YP: Yeah, I’m definitely still changing my sound. It constantly changes. I’m kind of A.D.D. so I can’t really stick with one sound at the moment. For my EP it was way more experimental, but now for the next album that I’m going to be recording it’ll be more constructive in structure, opposed to just like jamming and taking what sounds good. So I mean, my song structures and everything are constantly changing as well.

Do you find more pressure on you to write structured songs now that you’re with a label?

YP: I think it’s more for myself, like pressure on myself. My label is super supportive. They’re really cool, backing me up with everything that I do. They’re more hands-off with the creativity part or aspect of my music. Maybe I should feel pressure, but it’s more for myself actually – to make music that I want and hopefully people like it.

You said you’re currently in college; if you could go back in time and give some advice to your pre-college self what would it be?

YP: Probably not to eat as much in the dining halls. I binge ate a lot. I think I gained like maybe 20 pounds Freshman year

Freshman 20?

YP: Yeah, it was actually Freshman 30 for some people, but I was the Freshman 20. The Santa Cruz dining hall is actually pretty good too.

You’re from California – does that have any influence on your sound as well?

YP: It did a lot. The transition from high school to college I went surfing a lot. That’s why I was going for the relaxed scene, like beach sound I guess. It just subconsciously seeped in. But after school started I just got so busy. I used to go hiking a lot too in Santa Cruz cause that’s the thing; it’s all naturey and exploratory I guess.

Like your EP?

YP: Yeah! Just advertise it right there – like exploring, yeah.

You said you were studying Psychology; why Psychology?

YP: Initially, I was undeclared coming into college. It was actually really stupid because I was really into Natalie Portman during the application part of college. I read somewhere that she was like “Oh yeah, I’m a Psych major at Harvard” or wherever she went to. I was like “Oh that’s cool” and then that’s what pretty much pushed me to become a Psych major – which isn’t a good thing, to base off one person.

So college can get rough, balancing everything; how do you manage your time between school and your music life?

YP: So, as of now I’m actually taking some time off from school. When I was in school last year, I didn’t manage it. I was so focused on music at that point. I mean I still got all A’s… I mean I don’t know how I got all A’s, I just did. Luckily I didn’t have to stress out too much. I had a lot of fun at school – in school, but outside of the educational aspect.

Your family’s Korean, you grew up in Japan, now you’re here in the states – how have these different cultures influenced you both as a person and through your music?

YP: I still have an identity crisis. I went to Korea two years ago maybe? I personally like Japan because I was born in Japan. I went back every summer for 18 years or something so I have this gnarly connection towards the cultural aspects of Japan. I speak Japanese fluently. I have Korean blood, I just associate more with Japanese. And coming here, I’m just a cloister, a cloister kid, I guess. I don’t know how to describe it – it’s just so weird with being exposed to all these different cultures. But it’s definitely like a good thing, like a good experience to go back and forth between the countries, because they’re so different to, politically and everything. Japan’s so conservative in their thinking and having Asian parents as well. If I were to describe it, our family is pretty Americanized. I mean what kind of Asian parent lets their kid take a break from school to tour and stuff, you know?

Have they always supported you with your music?

YP: They were okay with it as long as my grades were up, and my grades were pretty high, so they didn’t really care. They weren’t really serious about music, but once I got the label signed then they were like “Oh okay, if you want to push it, then go ahead”. So they were really supportive, yeah. I really appreciate that.

So where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? You’re still pretty young; will you still be making music?

Yeah, I think I’ll for sure be making music. It might be different. If I do stop making (music) or touring and doing that kind of stuff, I’ll still definitely be recording or definitely still be doing something with music because that’s just such a big part of my life. It depends on how everything goes with albums and touring. I mean hopefully I can have music in my life. If not I’m fine with it either way, yeah.

If you could collaborate with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

YP: I’d probably say Michael Jackson. All of his songs are really good. Musically, I think I could sample his voice or something –  his high pitched screechings.

Do you do remixes at all? Or do you plan on doing any?

YP: I want to! I’ve been getting into fooling around with electronic stuff. I’ve been getting into more beats kind of thing. It’s not rap though, it’s more singing, more melodic, I guess. Yeah, I’ve been into that kind of music. Not at the remix level yet, though.

What are your plans for the rest of 2014?

YP: Recording an album, and moving out of my parent’s house which is right after South By actually. And touring. And after tour, go back to school, finish it up, get a degree and get a mediocre job.

You mentioned that you’re getting into more electronic stuff; will we be seeing more of that in your future works?

YP: That’s the thing – my A.D.D. kind of thing is musically as well. I can’t really settle with one project. I’m always recording. I’ll have these ideas that I want to project depending on how I feel. As of lately, I’ve been writing more of electronic stuff, because it’s so much easier where I can just make beats. But my GRMLN stuff is always my priority. It’s just a side thing that I’m doing. But hopefully in the future. You know, whatever happens.

 You can find more of GRMLN at facebook.com/GRMLNBand, or you can follow him on twitter @GRMLNBand

Intro song: Night Racer” / Outro song: “Handpistol”

 

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