Private Eyes: So!YoON! Reaches New Heights with Episode1 : Love. DEW gets up-close and personal with Korea’s coolest rockstar, So!YoON!, who just released her sophomore album.
This article was originally published in DEW Magazine #46 Collective Issue Spring 2023
Brave, bold and filled with attitude, So!YoON! is a South Korean based musician that’s ready to take the world on by storm. If you aren’t familiar with the name, perhaps you’re more familiar with SE SO NEON, the band where she performs as a front-person for. The band has become one of the biggest names in the South Korean band scene, known for their authentic and raw music along with charismatic performances.
However, So!YoON! and SE SO NEON are two different personas, with SE SO NEON’s Soyoon being an instinctive, sensuous front-person while So!YoON! is a sharp, persistent and meticulous performer. front-person Soyoon tells her personal stories from her rock-based music, while soloist So!YoON! is an exploration of different personas and genres. And this time, it’s So!YoOn! the soloist who’s making a comeback with her second full-length album, “Episode1 : Love.”
“The ‘Episode1 : Love’ album is about 11 tracks of different love, and if you have time, I recommend you to watch the album from beginning to end. How do I explain this? Just listen,” the musician says, in an interview with DEW. The album consists is significantly deeper, wilder and more sensual than the first album. The songwriter also explored how she can mix real recorded instrumentals with electronic sounds, and how she can fuse different pre-existing alternative genres. Amidst the album are some vintage synth-pop and ballad tracks, but in those you can still feel a misty, sultry essence in the. So!YoON! shares that she’s an artist with an affection for the blues and this natural inclination to create soulful music is what ties all the different songs together.
Throughout the album, So!YoON! worked with various artists on the tracks, and this selection of collaborators are chosen with purpose. She shares to us that the reason these artists are featured on the selected track is due to how the artists themselves have a respective frequency that aligns with the envisioned voice. “It’s hard to explain, but I think of people who are in balance with my voice. And other artists are usually with someone who has the flexibility to create new synergy while having their own world and bumping into others (me) while being sensitive, keen, and persistent,” the singer elaborates.
“I want to give more energy to people as a band. I want to try making music in a more diverse way. In Korea, I feel that there are a few options to try. And as So!YoON! I hope there is less hesitation.” – So!YoON!
For the leading title track of the album, “Smoke Sprite,” So!YoON! collaborates with BTS’ RM. “When expressing dreams, desires, unconsciousness, objectification, etc. in lyrics, I imagined the visual expressions it had,” shares So!YoON! “Smoke Sprite refers to the effect of popping and disappearing as smoke bursts, which is mainly used in cartoons, and I thought it would be a visual medium that penetrates the lyrics and the entire track. And if you imagine this image and listen to music and videos, you expect it to be shared at once.”
“He was also working on his album ‘Indigo’, and I met him while working on my album,” she tells us about the beginning of her friendship with the idol. But even prior to the collaboration announcement, RM has also been open about his adoration for the group, recommending her songs on his stories and posting photos of himself watching a SE SO NEON stage. She then continues, sharing with us the fond experience of working with a fellow artist who had mutual admiration for one another, “While sharing and appreciating each other’s tracks, they liked this track and naturally worked together. At the time, there were no lyrics, but we had a lot of conversations, and we made the chorus together, recorded it, filmed videos, released it… It was a natural, grateful, and fun time.”
The singer also collaborates with jibin of Y2K92 and parkjiyoon on the album, however she reveals that her track with Park was one that pushed her out of her comfort zone. The track marks So!YoON!’s first duet, and a soulful R&B one at that, thus ensuring the vocals had the right feel was quite a feat,”When I decide to mix [the track] with another voice, what kind of voice will I choose? What’s the meaning of mixing it with that voice? How do I want [the voice] to function in the song? What kind of space am I in? etc. There were many things that I had to ask myself, and I felt that it was my first time trying it in the process. I think it was fun.”
Outside of the title track, the album’s B-side tracks are just on par — equally captivating and alluring in their own way. Even in her past albums and EPs, the quality of the B-sides are equally exciting and enthralling as its main lead. So we had to ask the singer, when making such a thorough album, how do you decide which song should be claimed as the title track?
She then answers, “Usually, the title song seems to be considered from the process of making the song. The song that represents the emotions expressed in the album. The song that was the key to making the album. I think I don’t think about it for long and just decide it by my gut.” But the singer’s ambitious nature is also the reason as to why there’s no difference in quality between title tracks and B-sides. She elaborates, “However, I think it’s my desire to make all the tracks like title songs, but won’t I get used to and become skilled in pulling out the strength as I gain more and more experience? I think it’s still time to pour out the things I can do and want to do.”
This ambitious nature also extends to other aspects of her work as the musician keeps a close eye on how her music is being presented visually. Music videos, album covers, outfits of the era, are all ways that help strengthen the message and story that her songs try to convey, and So!YoON! is heavily aware of this importance. On the album cover, multiple versions of the singer around a sofa, each one donning a contrasting costume that represented six different personas. These personas are meant to be the personification of each track on the album, “Like the so-called parallel universe or multiverse, I specifically imagined what kind of outfit, expression, and gait they would have and made it with the visual team. Since the album itself is an omnibus-like composition with the theme of love and desire, I naturally thought that I should express them visually.“
Aside from the album cover, the music videos of the album are also a visual feast. In the video of the prerelease track, ‘Bad,’ the singer enters a dark void. While the music video for ‘Smoke Sprite’ is otherworldly, with the musician taking viewers through different surreal settings. The creative concept of the music video is based upon the concept of dreams and reality, concept and abstraction as well as going through a Deja Vu moment. “We discussed how to solve these things without being too much. It is important to be stimulating and impactful, but I focused on how to visually show these mysterious and strange things,” says So!YoON! regarding how she wants these music videos to be a visualization of the several abstract phenomenons she finds inspiration from.
A vital aspect from these music videos, of course, is the fashion. “Fashion doesn’t seem to be just dressing up. It’s an expression, a persona, and it’s like a map that tells me what kind of expression I should make. In that sense, what kind of clothes I wear is considered important as what kind of person I become, and I don’t judge people according to their costumes, but what etiquette I wear and how it is conveyed to others seems to be an important part,” the musician explains sincerely, sharing with us how the clothes she wears in videos and other appearances affect her as a performer as well. To put it simply, “It seems that the texture felt in music can be further explained through the visual and simple outfit of fashion.”
As she releases this album that was arduously made with her heart and soul, she wishes that the audience will be able to notice her growth as a musician, and as a person. Moving forward she reveals her goals, “SE SO NEON will get deeper and deeper. Working plainly, cleanly, and immersively, and feeling joy on stage. We have no shame in introducing ourselves to people and we like it. I want to give more energy to people as a band. I want to try making music in a more diverse way. In Korea, I feel that there are a few options to try. I want to work more actively in other countries. And As So!YoON! I hope there is less hesitation.” (Text Vanya Harapan)
Cover story So!YoON!
Photography Park JongHa
Styling Kai Kim
Hair Oh JiHye
Make-up Choi Min Seok
Producer Jiyoon Park