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Featured Artist: Monni

Previously on Electric Ground, I gave you a sneak peak into the artist known as Monni. Below is a profile of our featured artist…

PERSONAL BLURB

I first heard of  Monni when I was in Korea a few years back, in an extremely overpriced café with crappy coffee in Hongdae (mecca for new music artists in Seoul). I initially fell in love with the song “소나기” (“Shower”) as it was playing in the café, and I recently rediscovered them as I was cleaning out my hard drives.

HISTORY BLURB

Monni is a band comprised of four members formed in 2000. The article below was from June 2010 and is a great retrospective look at the release of their first album in 2005 and their years leading up to 2010. Their recent follow-up album, “Just One Trip,” was released this year.

INTERVIEW WITH MONNI

“Here, in this moment of time, despite the melancholy, it is still precious”

Published June 14, 2010
Reporter: Lee Hyun Woo
Photographer: Kang Young Gook
Translated by Bella012

After 5 years, the modern rock band Monni is back with their 2nd album “This Moment.” With each and every one of the 14 songs, Monni recorded and imbued it with all the varied and trivial feelings associated with the pursuit of daily life. One day in June, we met with Monni’s members Kim Shin Eui, Lee In Kyung, Gong Tae Woo, and Jung Hoon Tae at a cafe in Hongdae.

“Five years, was it too long (the break)?” Monni’s leader Kim Shin Eui laughs shyly and explains, “The company [the record label] we had before went under, we searched for a new company, quietly wrote songs, had some really exciting performances, one member left and returned from the army, and still another member was replaced.”

A period of 5 years was summarized in 5 minutes. And many moments in life are thus easily omitted or forgotten.

“Even if it has been 5 years, it has not been that much of a burden. During this time, we wrote a lot of songs. Since we thought that each song explains Monni of the past 5 years, we pondered over which song to designate as the title song to showcase first.”

The title song for this album is “나를 떠나가던” (“You Who Have Left Me”). It’s relatively a mainstream song, and the producer of the album, Lee Seon Gyu of Jaurim, recommended that it be used as the title song.

“Actually, the song ‘일기’ (‘Diary’) seems to better fit the theme of the whole album. Like the title of the album itself, the album is like a diary that records each and every moment, even as in this moment, time continues to move on.”

Monni’s music is to some extent, melancholic and gloomy. At first, the lyrics hide the emotions and approach the subject very carefully. It’s rather difficult to find any sensational or blunt choice of words or expressions in their songs.

“Most people who make music will think alike after all, but our goal is to make music we can share. In particular, we want to make music that people who are in their 20~30s and of similar age as us can relate. It’s quite apparent that you can get a momentary reaction with sexy and thrilling things, but it is not like you can always live with just the thrill in everyday life. Aren’t those sentiments universal and rather ordinary?”

Even if there is no special meaning, there is no doubt that the emphasis on the significance of this very moment is the subject that pierces through Monni’s music. At a comment that their lyrics are rather depressing, Kim Shin Eui, who wrote majority of the lyrics, carefully raises his hand and says, “It’s my fault.”

“Past wounds, such as a beloved friend’s passing, seem to govern a large part of my emotions. Sometimes, it is when those feelings arise again and the sadness comes that I feel most acutely that I am living.”

Although leader Kim Shin Eui is leading a fair part of Monni’s music, a band music is after all the outcome of the unified musical direction of each member. Guitarist Gong Tae Woo explains, “It’s true that since I’ve mostly done cheerful rock music in the past, it took some time to adjust to Monni’s music.” However, the guitarist plays a tremendous role in the energy and fever on live stage that can’t always be felt in the recorded album.

Bassist Lee In Kyung says, “I like fairytale-like music, like that of Danish band, Mew. I want to make music that makes you feel you’re in another world at least while you’re listening to it.”

On the album, the recorded song “My Girlfriend” has a different kind of feeling. This song was made by Lee In Kyung and Gong Tae Woo. Its unique arrangement, sensible melody, and lyrics add to the joy of listening to the album.

The newly recruited drummer Jung Hoon Tae says, “Actually, I like music with a funky style. I came into Monni with the same goal- to make music that people can empathize with- but what I want to express (through music) may also be different.” It is highly anticipated the change that Jung Hoon Tae’s drum will bring forth to Monni.

Lastly, they spoke about the band’s name “Monni.” According to the lexicon, “monni” is defined as the “nature of becoming cross to assert his privilege when not receiving proper treatment or acknowledgement.” Kim Shin Eui laughs, “Our musical greed and jealousy is extreme. If we can’t get judged as the ‘best modern rock album of the year,’ we don’t know the kind of ‘monni’ we will pull next time.”

Via Star Today, Lyricsmoon

**********

SAMPLE LYRICS

And due to the popularity of certain songs featured in the teaser, below are the translations of two of the songs featured on the second album, “This Moment.”

“Don’t Cry”

As time passes on by, it leaves me behind
Leaving behind special memories of you

Please don’t cry, please don’t be sad
My heart is breaking, I can not breathe

How much time must pass for me to forget your lingering presence that remains all over me?

Please don’t cry, please don’t be sad
My heart is breaking, I can not breathe

I loved you so much and I do not have any regrets
I will try to laugh now, I will really make the effort…
The days we spent together were really precious
And as sleep is coming upon me now, can we meet again?

Please don’t cry, please don’t be sad
My heart is breaking, I can not breathe

I love you and miss you dearly
I am grateful for the time we spent together
Please don’t cry, please don’t be sad
My heart is breaking, I can not breathe

“Together With You”

Together with you, I just want to take a train to a deserted place
Clasping our hands tightly together, I want to wander around aimlessly laughing with you

If I smell your scent, even now, thoughts of you still linger
If I can spend the entire day, I want to go away on a trip with you

Together with you, I just want to take a train to a deserted place
Clasping our hands tightly together, I want to wander around aimlessly laughing with you

Now I just want to forget the times we laughed and the times we cried

Together with you, I just want to take a train to a deserted place
Clasping our hands tightly together, I want to wander around aimlessly laughing with you

The time that you left me and the moments that passed in between
The time that I hated you and the time that I missed you so dearly
Together with you, let’s forget everything and go towards the vast sea
And without words, let’s just spend all night looking into each other’s eyes…

REVIEW

Perhaps it was just my mood that day in Hongdae or perhaps it was simply the weather, but the song, “Shower,” really resonated with me. There are numerous comparisons of Monni’s music to other K-indie bands out there – the more famous being Nell, now defunct Bluedawn, and Lucite Tokki.

The comparisons are, no doubt, attributed to the rather melancholic and depressing nature of their songs. But for me, there is a level of sincerity and genuineness to the lyrics that I can empathize with or relate to on some level. In consideration of the tempo, beat, or the lyrics, one has a tendency to warp themselves into a particular mood. Depending on how I feel on a particular day, if I want to pump myself up, I will only play fast upbeat songs, or if I am in a pensive  mood, I will skip all around my playlist looking for slow tempo songs. However, I think Monni is different from the bands that I’ve listed above because most of their music, or rather the melancholic nature of their lyrics, is actually masked through fast beats, crescendos, and up tempos. A perfect example of this is illustrated in “Shower,” a song written by Kim Shin Eui after his girlfriend passed away. Judging by the beat of the song, one would have never guessed the inspiration behind it.

The first album is probably a great introduction to any band, but more often than not, it lacks the polish and refinement of subsequent albums. But before a band is stripped of any originality and the similarity is all too clear to everyone else once it gets popular (before the money and fame kick in), it is at this stage that a band is probably more “real” than any other time. The first track, “기억” (“Memory”), starts the album off with a bang and Kim Shin Eui’s (lead vocalist) voice against the backdrop of the tempo induces a dream-like, mellow effect.

Almost all the songs are rather sad in nature, with a mid tempo beat. It’s a great album to listen to when the weather is absolutely miserable outside and you have a warm drink in your hands. It’s not necessarily background “noise” music where you can just play it and do other things at the same time, but it is music that you listen to and can appreciate the story the singer is trying to convey through the songs.

The second album I think is what really sealed my love for them. There is definitely a level of refinement and polish to this album, from the arrangements of the songs to the general experimentation of funky beats.  However, it’s the rather reflective nature of the lyrics that brings a level of cohesiveness to the story the band is trying to tell. I actually listened to this album prior to finding and translating the article. And I was pleasantly surprised because I, too, thought that the songs on the album were like the diary entries of one’s life – entries of hope, regret, of longing, reflection, great moments, ramblings, and reminiscence. Like the mental kicks that you give yourself after a stupid mistake or your mutterings to pep yourself up before a big presentation, the lyrics and tone reflect our growing pains.

If “This Moment” was an exposé of our growing pains, “Just One Trip” is probably an ongoing journal of us as “adults.”  The sound is mature and levelheaded, projected by the mellow and soothing tone of the album. And the song, “Sunshine” is perhaps my favorite. There are certain songs that I don’t particularly care for, but I can appreciate that in this album, each member found its footing to make perfect harmony of their different musical styles and tastes.

Finally, I leave on this note. I really love the title of their albums and I like to relate it to the three stages of life: from childhood, to our adolescent/teenage years, and then as adults. If anything, the “feel” of each album is a reflection of me at a certain point or time. None of the albums are perfect or an absolute revelation in terms of ingenuity or even sound. Instead each of them are like a work in progress – much like ourselves as we grow and mature through our life experiences.

So what do you think of Monni?

6 comments

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  1. acinam17

    WoW! I like Monni :D I discovered this group through this blog and from then on, I started listening to their songs. They are really great artist.

    1. bella012

      I’m glad you enjoyed it and more opportunity to give Monni some extra love.

  2. Fanderay

    Never heard of them before, but I really like them. I have two main playlists I listen to, and my “mellow” one is definitely in need of some love, especially since I’ve been listening to it the most (my upbeat playlist is mostly for dancing around the house while I cook and clean). I seem to like your taste in music and I hope you keep doing more posts like this!

    Also, the new format of your website made me notice that you’re watching PM (since your current dramas are right below the reply box). I was going to watch it because it looked so pretty and like it would have lots of great scenes to paint, but I watched the first episode and it kind of disappointed me. I literally just laughed in the beginning when PSH’s dad is dying and they’re reaching for each other all melodramatically. It also wasn’t as visually impressive as I had hoped. Is it worth picking up? And how depressing is it? They’re not actually going to pull a Romeo and Juliette and kill themselves are they?

    1. bella012

      I certainly will. Once you get a chance to hear the albums, please post your thoughts!

  3. Melissa

    I love the song “together with you”

  4. june

    It’s sad that i have only discovered about them earlier this year. It was love at first sight. I’ve listened to a lot of modern rock bands but none ever strike me like how monni did. Compared to the other’s opinion, i thought their albums after the first one are much better. Since im such an emotional and depressing person, their music fits me in so many ways. Not only the music is sad (well not always) but also the lyrics are beautiful. I cant remember how many times i cried when im listening to them. The emphaty of the lyrics is no joke. And i like how their songs are light. The type that u can enjoy when u are walking in the park, in the subway n etc n makes u think of your life.bands like nell, zitten n etc are great but none could top monni for me. But i noticed lately the drummer arent always with them. I wonder what happened though. Anyways thanks for the article. I enjoyed it ^^

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