Do-Hyun Yoon: singer/songwriter/guitar
Tae-Hee Park: bass
Jin-Won Kim: drums
Joon Heo: guitars
Scott Hellowell : guitars
Known as the YB, after their charismatic lead singer Do-Hyun,these crunching hard rockers have been touted as South Korea’s most popular and critically acclaimed rock band since 1994. Lead singer, Do-Hyun, gave up a promising solo career to form YB, who have since released nine studio recordings, three live albums and a DVD.
After debuting in the States by selling out the B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York City in November 2006, then following it up as the first Korean band ever to perform at Austin’s famed SXSW Festival in 2007, then again the following year, YB is now set to plant their flag in America with an upcoming album to be released later this yearand are managed by rock music veteran Doug Goldstein, who famously worked with Guns N Roses for almost two decades.
The first single, “Cigarette Girl,” drops Feb. 18, and offers the perfect introduction to YB, combining English and Korean lyrics into a full-throttle, arena-rock anthem that has been compared to Muse, Guns N’ Roses, Jimmy Eat World and 30 Seconds to Mars. YB embarked on a European tour and playing four countries, including the U.K. in 2005, was featured on the Vans Warped Tour in 2009, then played three arena-sized showsin Japan in 2012, including one in Osaka and two in Tokyo. The group has also been invited back to perform at SXSW this year in March.
“Music is like the sun for me,” explains Do-Hyun, a star in his native South Korea, where he hosts a pair of popular TV shows, including an entertainment news program which is nationally broadcasted live, and a nationally broadcasted music program called "Must" on Mnet. “Everything in my life is like a satellite revolving around that sun. But music can also be like a toy. I want to have fun, too. I work hard so I can play hard. I write and practice hard so I can play hard on-stage.”
That spirit can be heard in “Cigarette Girl,” an ode to a beauty who was too hot to handle for his bandmates. “So now, it’s just me left who never tried anything so far/Get outta my way, here I go!”
“It’s a simple, but smart song,” explains Do-Hyun. “There’s plenty of humor, love and many different emotions expressed. It’s got a great deal of energy and it’s written in a way that we can mess with it in the middle when we play it live.”
Other songs on the upcoming album include the powerful dynamics of “Stay Alive,” the high-energy “We Are Jjakpae!” and the universality of “The Weather You Made,” a song about how “another person can affect you deeply, change your life and lift you from colder places,” according to guitarist Scott Hellowell.
Growing up in a town near the border between South and North Korea, where several U.S. military bases were located, Do-Hyun was influenced by the stateside rock he heard, his favorites being The Doors, when a marine gave him a video of one of their live performances.
“As a kid living in the countryside, seeing that came as a real culture shock,” he says. “The freedom I saw in that clip was enough to spark something inside me.” Other influences include Led Zeppelin, Wolfmother, Rage Against the Machine, and Foo Fighters.
YB’s career began to take off when they performed a pair of songs that became official anthems for the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup soccer tournament, including “Oh, Pil Seung Korea” (“Go Korea!”) and a rock version of the traditional Korean folk tune “Arirang.” The group’s outspoken anti-government politics got them in some hot water, but their popularity led to national recognition, including being awarded “The Best Musician Prize” by the Korean Broadcasters and Entertainment Association as well as Seoul Broadcasting Station, while the Korea Broadcasting System named them “The Best Musicians of the Year” and “The Best Musicians for the Youth.” That year, the band sold more than 2 million albums and played more than 100 live concerts around the country for a half-million fans. Additionally, Do-Yuhn has appeared on stage as Hedwig (with the rest of YB as The Angry Inch Band) in 2009, and as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar in 2013.
“I can almost say I live for that,” says Do-Hyun about playing in front of the group’s rabid fan base. “The feeling of performing my own songs for a live audience is a unique kind of high, a catharsis, in many ways. It’s probably the reason I do music in the first place.”
YB is also not afraid to express their beliefs in human rights, not necessarily a popular cause where they come from. The group has performed a number of concerts to benefit the underprivileged, and was chosen as the first recipient of the “World Peace Music Award” in 2003, while also receiving the “Performance Culture Award” in 2012 at the 21st Seoul Music Awards.
This year, YBhave set their sights on translating their massive Korean popularity—where they are on the level of Guns ‘N Roses or Bon Jovi—into a worldwide phenomenon, and they seem to be well on their way.
“Our music has never followed trends,” says the band’s dynamic front man. “It has a core of classic rock, and we like to keep it fairly raw. Our true potential comes out live on-stage. We want to die touring the world.
“I take motivation from everything around me. Sadness, joy, anger, loneliness, all those emotions… When things get tough, I try to get over it through being creative in music.”
With universal sentiments like that, YB is ready to conquer the rest of the globe.
Check out the new single, “Cigarette Girl”