Indie Spotlight this week focuses on a group you may have recently seen on 1theK’s [K-POP Rare Clip]. Maybe not well named, as the featured artists are not Kpop at all, but the videos do share some of Korea’s hidden gems from the indie, hip-hop, R&B and jazz fields. 

Manju Pocket have featured twice on the channel recently, and we just had to find out more about them.

So here goes, I’ll just leave the rest to Manju Pocket.

Hello to UnitedKpop & its readers! We are ‘Manju Pocket’, an indie ‘Ppongjjak Soul’ band based in South Korea.
‘Ppongjjak’ is also referred to as ‘Trot’ in Korea, a term to describe a style of Korean pop music, formulated during the early 1900s, recognized as the oldest form of Korean pop music. We try to show a unique music style by blending Soul & Korean Ppongjjak. We also release some Acoustic Pop style songs as well. We are comprised of three members: Yongsu Choi (Cajon, Guitar, Producing), Junhee Han (Piano, Melodion, Bongos), and Manju (Vocals, Percussions, Kazoo). When putting on a show as a full band, Woonju Lee (Drums), Chanmin Park (Bass), and Daeho Oh (Bass) sometimes help out.

There are many [influences to our sound], but in terms of writing our songs, ‘Ego Wrappin’, a Japanese contemporary jazz band, was a big influence. In terms of vocal style, we were influenced by ‘Shim, Subong’, a Korean singer who uses very sophisticated melodies and arrangements with ppongjjak style. Also, we take some bands which uses the piano as their main sound, like ‘Ben Folds Five’(U.S.A.), ‘Fumido’(Japan), or ‘Keane’(England). Other than them, we are inspired by and try to convey the sentiments like that of a legendary folk singer, ‘Kim, Kwangseok’.

[Yongsu] To be more accurate, speaking of Trot (Ppongjjak), I am making music influenced by Trot music, not Trot itself.
Anyway, speaking about our influence from Trot, I am a fan of Trot music. Trot music is one of the earliest music that I listened to since I was young. Perhaps because of that, people say that the songs I write has a tint of Trot style in it. Thankfully, Manju’s vocal style is very well matched with Trot singing style, so there was a good synergy.
Other than that, since I use the acoustic guitar a lot when I’m writing my songs, the feeling of Folk music tends to be expressed in our songs as well.

Yongsu always longed to be in a rock band, and we wondered if that remained a dream of his.

I still want to be in a rock band and actually have the experience of being in a few, but I don’t think I am that talented in rock. So sad.

But what about the others, Manju Pocket are all surprisingly different.

We think that variety we have in our backgrounds is a strength in working as a team.
Manju majored in Business Administration, and thanks to that, she plays a major role in running our band. Especially when in situations in which we have to make important decisions, Manju carefully determines what’s best for the team.
Team leader, Yongsu majored in Philosophy in university. Hmm… not so sure if it was helpful to our band, but let’s just say it’s somewhat beneficial in leading the team. His in-depth thinking is sometimes useful in writing our songs.
Thanks to Junhee who majored Classical Composition, we think the overall quality of our music and sound could become better. One interesting thing is that Junhee has a problem in his hearing, so he cannot hear as well as normal people. However, surprisingly enough, his pitch is quite excellent. He always points out when one of us plays a wrong note when we are practicing together. It’s almost a mystery how good his pitch is despite his hearing problems.

[Manju] I enjoy writing and singing songs with English lyrics. I lived in the U.S. when I was young, and started singing, listening to pop songs in English. When I write songs, some songs just sound better when sang in English. ‘Hungry’ was one of those. I originally wrote it in English and tried to change it to Korean later on, but it was so weird. So I decided to keep it in English.

When we are working on our own songs, we just focus on what we can do best and what we want to do most. However, when we are working on some kind of external project, we try to reflect the needs of the client as much as we can, since that leads to a satisfactory outcome.

Some people ask us, “Isn’t it hard to write songs for others?” But actually we really enjoy working on external projects, because it helps us out financially. When we do not have any external work, it’s sometimes hard to make ends meet.

Despite occasional financial hardship Manju Pocket are a part of their own independent label, like most struggling indie bands.

[Yongsu] Fondant Sound is actually a private music production label brand that I used when I was working as a songwriter. It was hardly a company; I just worked with a couple of people in collaboration.
But after starting Manju Pocket, I have come to start working on band management, record production, and etc. on top of my own songwriting work. Of course, there still aren’t any official employees in my label, but now I have more people who work in close co-operation with me, and this gives me a sense of responsibility to take care of my people. So now I spend more time on thinking about the income of our label, and how we can wisely distribute it. Also, in some situations it’s really tricky to determine how I should make decisions. Sometimes these kinds of issues give me a hard time sleeping at night. (I am normally an incurable sleepaholic)

So, how do Manju Pocket feel about the Indie scene in Korea? Are things changing thanks to those making it in the mainstream?

Despite the success of certain indie musicians like Busker Busker, 10cm, and Hyukoh, we do not feel that so much attention is given to other less famous indie musicians. But we do hope that the current boom of some indie musicians could give way to the rise of a positive trend to help uplift the indie music scene in Korea.

And the future?

We will be performing in ‘Soundberry Festa’ which is an indoor music festival held in 63 Building in Yeouido, on the 16th of Aug. Also, we will be performing in Zandari Festa in Autumn. If we could perform in England, it would be great.
We are open to any kinds of stages to put on our show. Hahaha

So here’s the real question, why should you listen to Manju Pocket? This is why …

If you listen to just one song of ours, it will be a new experience for you; we promise! Also, we will become famous soon. Have the opportunity to find out about us before we get famous! (laugh)


So that’s Manju Pocket! Why not give them a follow on Facebook or Twitter, or even subscribe to their YouTube Channel where you can see even more of their studio videos.

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Graphic Designer. Perfectionist. Gothy weirdo. Korean Indie Guru. Supreme witch of UnitedKpop and BritROK covens.