this south korean surf-rock album is a spirited ode to friendship

Say Sue Me's vibrant new record, 'Where We Were Together,' premieres in full on i-D. The album was written after one bandmember suffered an accident.

by Ilana Kaplan
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Apr 10 2018, 2:17pm

Busan, South Korea isn’t exactly a music hub. Not like Seoul. But it’s perhaps it’s what has helped surf-pop band Say Sue Me get the attention they deserve. The band was formed by friends since 5th grade, Jae Young and Kim Byunkyu, and high school friend Kang Semin. The trio then met Sumi Choi at a tea shop and asked her to be their singer after liking her speaking voice. Choi ended up being a perfect fit with her talent for songwriting and breezy vocals.

The band’s latest album — Where We Were Together — stands as a tribute to Semin, who suffered a trauma from a fall and has stepped out of the band temporarily. Influenced by 90s acts like Pavement and Yo La Tengo, Say Sue Me blends indie-rock and surf pop together seamlessly. Through wistful melodies and Choi’s sweet lilt, Where We Were Together is a longing for the band to be together again and the way they were before. Five of the songs on the album were written with Semin before the accident, while the remaining four (“Let It Begin,” “Funny and Cute,” “B Lover,” and “About The Courage To Become Someone’s Past”) were written post-accident. The combination of tracks deal with the emotional toll a tragedy like this can take on bands, but even more significantly on friends.

Where We Were Together’s first single, “Old Town,” demonstrated the spirit of the record — a lonely pop anthem that serves as both extremely personal and universally relatable. “B Lover” is a tributed to Semin: a song originally written for his other band Barbie Dolls, showing off his Type B personality and his love of living in the moment.

Premiering below is Say Sue Me’s Where We Were Together, due April 13, alongside a chat with lead vocalist Choi, who gave some insight into the band’s evolution.

What’s the meaning behind your band name?
At first when we started this band, there were three members who have “S.M.” initials: Sumi Semin (former drummer) and Sangmin (former bassist). So we tried to make a band name using S.M. One of our friends who is also a musician gave us this name and we liked it. I wasn’t a musician when we started to play, so other members wanted to cheer me up?

How did Say Sue Me form?
Our guitarist Byunkyu and bassist Jaeyoung were friends since they were in elementary school, and played together when they were in middle school. They met our former drummer Semin when they were in high school. I was a fan of theirs and became friends with them. They were tired of their bands — there aren’t many music fans in Busan. They wanted to do something different and make it fun, so they asked me to sing in the band.

What music have you been influenced by?
We’ve been influenced by 90s American indie rock like Yo La Tengo, Pavement, and Seam. They’re our all-time favorites.

How has the Busan music scene influenced you? What about the scene is unique?
Maybe we’re far from the trend because Busan has no audience. There are many good musicians, but they’re really happy to make music for themselves and not an audience. I mean, they want to make fans, but we almost gave up that kind of scene.

In addition to this record, you also have a cover album coming out. Tell me about that.
We had always thought about a cover album, so we had agreed to make a small album aimed at releasing at Record Store Day 2018. We started to record as soon as we finished recording our second album. It only took one month from idea to record.

How did you decide on the covers?
We thought about Yo La Tengo or Pavement, but we chose to take the music of legendary bands from earlier times to cover in our style.

What’s your goal as a band?
To keep the band forever and have everyone be healthy and happy. Keeping this band forever means that we’re already successful.

Tour Dates:
04/17 Glasgow, UK @ CCA w/ Otoboke Beaver & Leggy
04/18 Leeds, UK @ Brudenell w/ Otoboke Beaver & Leggy
04/19 London, UK @ Scala w/ Otoboke Beaver & Leggy
04/20 Coventry, UK @ The Tin Music and Arts
04/21 Chester, UK @ Telford’s Warehouse
04/22 Cardiff, UK @ The Moon
04/23 Leicester, UK @ Soundhouse
04/24 Colchester, UK @ Arts Center
04/28 Dordrecht, NL @ DOOR
04/29 Nijmegen, NL @ Merleyn

05/01 Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
05/02 Groningen, NL @ Vera w/ Vacations
05/03 Trier, DE @ Ex-Haus
05/04 Schorndorf, DE @ Manufaktur
05/05 Freiburg, DE @ Swamp
05/06 Augsburg, DE @ Grandhotel Cosmopolis
05/08 Hannover, DE @ Kulturpalast Linden
05/09 Berlin, DE @ Schokoladen
05/10 Munich, DE @ Import Export
05/11 Offenbach, DE @ Hafen 2
05/12 Colmar, FR @ Le Lavoir
05/14 Paris, FR @ Supersonic w/ Japanese Breakfast + Paws (solo)
05/16 London, UK @ Brixton Windmill w/ Billy Carter
05/17 Brighton, UK @ The Great Escape Festival