As K-pop continues its rise in stature, South Korea’s small but prolific indie scenes are beginning to gain some recognition abroad as well.
K-punk, which mixes American-style punk sounds with soju-fueled attitude and shenigans, looks to get an extra boost with Crying Nut and Yellow Monsters both doing separate tours in Japan this month. Recognized as punk pioneers in their homeland, Crying Nut first surfaced when Seoul’s indie-rock scene began in the mid-1990s and are South Korea’s best-selling independent act of all time. The quintet incorporate elements of ska, reggae, and even a little polka into their raucous party anthems. In July, they played Okinawa’s Peaceful Love Rock Festival and showcased not only their tunes — some of which were reworked with Japanese lyrics — but also their love of classic punk fashion.
“We knew it was going to be bloody hot there, but I still wore my leather jacket onstage,” says accordion/keyboard player Kim In Soo. “I left it on until the show ended. I thought I was going to die, but it was for rock ‘n’ roll, so it’s OK.”
Crying Nut and Yellow Monsters toured North America together in the spring. “The hardest times of that tour came right after gigs,” laughs Yellow Monsters’ drummer Choi Jae Hyuk. “Crying Nut are crazy rock ‘n’ rollers on stage and off, and they love to drink a lot. As each show ended I got a bit scared about the long and usually wild night that would follow.”
Yellow Monsters was formed in 2010 by members of Korean punk group Gumx and rock bands Delispice and My Aunt Mary. The trio’s 2011 sophomore full-length album “Riot!” features a potent mix of SoCal-influenced melodic skate punk and hard rock. It was nominated for best rock album at the 2012 Korean Music Awards in February and is also up for South Korea’s inaugural Imagene Award, a new prize that will be handed out on Aug. 25 for album of the year as chosen by the country’s top music scribes.
The group are currently touring in support of their “We Eat Your Dog” EP, which was issued by Tokyo imprint 773Four Records in July. The highly charged offering opens with guitarist/vocalist Lee Yong Won howling “Let’s go motherf-ckers,” and doesn’t let up after that. “We wanted the EP to be more aggressive and hardcore sounding,” says Lee. And although his lyrics are only in Korean and English, at gigs the engaging and very entertaining Lee relentlessly eggs on crowds with rock poses and repeated calls of “hey” and “oi” — universal chants that local punks can easily follow.
Crying Nut play Varit in Kobe on Aug 29 (7 p.m.;  392-6655); Janus in Osaka on Aug 31 (7 p.m.;  6214-7255); and Taku Taku in Kyoto on Sep 1 (6 p.m.;  351-1321). All shows are ¥2,800 in advance. For more information, visit www.smash-jpn.com. Yellow Monsters’ nine-date Japan tour starts at Chiba Look on Aug 31 (6:30 p.m.;  225-8828) and finishes at Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa Shelter on Sep 10 (7:30 p.m.;  3466-7430). All shows are ¥2,000-¥2,500 in advance. For more information, visit www.773four.com.