Catching Up With Brad Moore
From BUSKER BUSKER
By Jess Tyler
While many are looking for the song of the summer, Busker Busker has achieved what many feel to be the song of the spring! Each season as the balmy breezes begin to gush in, and songs from distant birds lace the air with their melodies, this rock trio’s song “Cherry Blossom Ending” re-enters the charts, and many people’s playlists with its rumbling rhythms. A phenomena since it was first released in 2013, it has become a spring anthem, being covered by everyone from The Boys to BTS, and frequently coming in #1 on lists for song of the decade! While the accolades and awards are a feat all its own, it's the way that so many people are touched by the song and find its genuine lyrics and calming instrumentation so magnetic. It’s just one of those songs that hit everyone’s heart right! :)
And that's exactly what you would find in Busker Busker, a progressive band whose love for music has always steered them true. Composed of three raconteurs, Kim Hyung-Tae, Jang Beom-June and Brad Moore, they gained nationwide notoriety by appearing on, and coming in as the runner ups of the song competition show Superstar K! (akin to American Idol and The X Factor) Where a mix of votes and stellar performance led them to the top!
Brad has been keeping the beat as the drummer of this acclaimed musical outfit ever since he joined up with the other members of this band and its fringe fest heritage! Originally from the heart of the USA, (Cincinnati to be exact!) he traveled to the soul of Korea with Dani, his then fiancé, to teach English. With a natural, easygoing humor, a love for his craft and for connecting with people, he has propelled himself into the main artery of k-pop!
A keen eye can even spot him in the cast of several music videos. Though it's his many appearances on shows like After School Club where *BOOM!* you’re doused with his sunshine vibes!
It was almost like divine musical intervention to bring him across countries, across cities, to teach at a particular school, where he would meet up with his future bandmates. Though I guess they say much in music comes from an unexplained though perceptible force bringing all the perfect ingredients together in one perfect storm. Just as k-pop was beginning to break out of its eggshell onto the international scene, Brad was there from the inception!
This year Busker Busker is celebrating its 10th anniversary! We had a chance to catch up with the jet-setting musician, who generously shared his words of wisdom :)
The drums are awesome! :) When did you start playing? Was music a longtime passion for you? Is it what you were studying before coming to Korea?
I started playing when I was in the 9th grade. There were two punk guys named Rob and Matt at my school who played guitar that I thought were cool so I figured if I started playing drums we could hang out and maybe start jamming together. Without knowing anything about drums I got a job at a cheese steak restaurant and bought a used drum set on layaway. I then learned to play drums by simply listening to my favorite bands and trying to replicate the beats with Rob and Matt. Things started slow with the band but we eventually got decent and called ourselves Half The Battle. We even made a demo in our friend’s basement that I’m still quite proud about. Rob and Matt are still two of my closest friends today.
What would you say are some of your musical influences?
Punk has always been my musical go-to. I’ve always gravitated towards sounds that were loud, fast, and political. Rob and Matt (of Half The Battle fame) introduced me to a lot of great bands but the three biggest influences on my drumming would definitely be NOFX, Rancid, and Alkaline Trio.
To me, it seems like Cincinnati and the surrounding areas are like a musical geyser, (such as Black Veil Brides) It also feels like a very creative city! What was it like living there? Have you visited back much since living in Korea?
When I was young I didn’t understand how special Cincinnati was in terms of music but I eventually realized how fortunate I was to be born and raised in an area with so much music. When I first started going to shows it seemed like every tour hit Cincinnati. I don’t know why Cincinnati is so musical but I’m really glad it is. Yes, I try to visit at least once a year and sometimes more. It’s been nice to be able to shed the “Busker Busker Brad” moniker and turn back into just “Brad.”
To pick up and move to another country on a whim just like that is pretty brave! What was the process of coordinating such a long distance move like?
I was following a girl. I fell for a girl named Dani during my senior year at Miami University and one day she told me that after graduating she was moving to Korea to teach English. I begged to tag along and she obliged. The move was made much easier by doing it with a partner and it was Dani who encouraged me to start playing drums with Bum-June and Hyeong-Tae. She was also our biggest supporter when we decided to participate in the audition program back in 2011. Without Dani, I do not believe Busker Busker would’ve happened like it did. Dani and I have been together for about 15 years now.
Before you moved to Korea, was kpop something you had heard a lot about?
I knew of the genre but I couldn’t have named any particular artists before moving to Korea. But after moving I realized K-Pop is everywhere in Korea. You hear it at the grocery store, pharmacy, mall, bus station, and everywhere in between. Dani and I would hear songs that we liked and then ask a Korean friend for the group name and song title in order to download the track and it became very clear early on that we favored Big Bang. And to this day Big Bang is by far our favorite K-Pop group.
It sounds like you spoke a little Korean when you first got there? How was it communicating with people upon your arrival? Or even the other members of Busker Busker?
I spoke zero Korean when I arrived but Dani and I started studying right away. The language came much quicker for Dani and she printed out tons of useful phrases for us to carry around and practice. She made flashcards for me to study while on the bus, subway, and in the back of taxis. When we moved to Seoul from Cheonan it was easier to find a Korean teacher to help us learn. Dani and I have been with our Korean teacher for almost ten years now and we still have class every Wednesday night. Learning the language was an early priority that has turned into a passion of ours.
In terms of Busker Busker our communication is probably the topic I get asked about the most, but we’ve actually never had a problem communicating with one another. I speak broken Korean and they respond in broken English and it just works. Our personalities gel quite well together so relaying feelings and thoughts with each other has never been an issue.
Based on your experience, what is one Korean word/phrase that you think others should know? :) and can you teach us?
In terms of living or visiting Korea I’d say one the more important phrases would be 주세요 (ju-say-yo), meaning “please give me,” but placed at the end of a request. Koreans use a lot of English words so popping into a cafe and saying, “large iced americano ju-say-yo” is a simple and polite tool to jumpstart your Korean conversational skills.
It sounds like the stars all aligned to bring you and the members of Busker Busker together! :) What was it like forming the band?
When Dani and I first started teaching at Sangmyung University we made a very conscious effort to be a part of campus life. We were only a few years older than our students and they quickly became our friends. Our office door was always open and we would regularly attend our students’ art exhibitions, dance performances, and in general anything that was happening on campus. So when Hyeong-Tae first asked me to go busking it was basically a given that I would. We would set up our instruments every weekend at a park in downtown Cheonan and just play music for everyone walking by. It was during an early practice together that Bum-June talked with a TV show and signed us up for the first round of Superstar-K that was to happen a few weeks later. It all happened very quickly and organically.
It sounded like you really didn’t want to sign with a label, and had an alternative perspective that really worked for you. Can you tell us about that?
We were on the audition program for about two months and even though we had become popular during that time we were ultimately exhausted with the broadcasting schedule. After the show we went back to Cheonan and attempted to live somewhat normal lives again—but it was impossible. We weren’t able to leave our houses, eat at a restaurant, or even use a public restroom without an insane amount of attention being paid to us. We quickly realized that the days of street busking were over. It would simply be too chaotic and even dangerous to attempt. So we decided that a record label was going to be necessary if we wanted to pursue music in any way. We met with quite a few agencies and for the most part they wanted to plug us into the K-Pop model and we knew that wasn’t going to match our goals and personalities. We had very specific ideas about our music, performances, and overall lifestyle and eventually found a company, CJ Entertainment, that would allow us the creativity and freedom we desired. It wasn’t always easy but CJ had our backs and ultimately allowed us to carve out our own path within the Korean music industry.
Your song “Cherry Blossom Ending” has such a renowned musical presence! Especially around spring, the way it re-enters the charts! It’s so awesome that people connect so much to it. It seems to bring people uncontainable happiness. Can you tell us a bit about how the song came to be? How are springtimes in Korea?:)
Springtime in Korea is beautiful. Everyone is excited to be done with winter and enjoy the outdoors again, and I think there is something about the walking-around nature of the song that is responsible for it’s appeal. Koreans walk a lot, especially in the spring, and that song is such a compatible soundtrack for a springtime walkabout.
The song itself was one of the earlier songs that we played together when we met in Cheonan back in 2011. Early performances of the song were very free-flowing and somewhat impromptu. The more structured verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chrous version of the song wasn’t settled upon until we were in the studio in February and March of 2012. When we were recording that first album we had to choose among 15 songs to eventually make it onto the 9-song album and Cherry Blossom Ending was one of the last songs to be added. For a few reasons, the song just wasn’t coming together in the studio. In particular, we had issues with the rhythm section. I am not a fan of bounce beats or ghosts hits, which is what the early versions of the song called for. I remember a particular conversation where I actually suggested that we not include Cherry Blossom Ending on the album—that would’ve turned out to be a huge mistake. I eventually settled upon a nice, simple marching beat and the song, thankfully, made it on the album.
Have you always been a performer? How did you get so comfortable on stage?
I’ve always enjoyed performing but never really thought of myself as a performer. When we first started Half The Battle back in high school I really fell in love with playing shows and being on stage. But even though I was on stage I was still behind a drum set and that kind of provided a sense of security for me that allowed me to feel comfortable just letting go. I find myself turning into Animal from the Muppet Babies striking the drums twice as hard as necessary. Busker Busker fans call it “power drum” and it’s just something that is completely uncontrollable.
When Busker Busker joined the audition program, we went from basically never playing a show with more than a dozen spectators to being broadcasted to millions of people within a week. None of us had any idea if we could handle that size of stage but all three of us were able to rise to the occasion and we quickly realized that while some things about celebrity life were challenging, being comfortable on stage was not one of those things.
You have quite a unique perspective, being a part of kpop’s rise internationally, and seeing it grow tremendously since then! What do you think the future of kpop looks like?
K-Pop is a very unpredictable phenomenon. When we had our first #1 song I remember a label executive asking us, “How did you do that?” We had no answer. Similarly, how did Gangnam Style do what it did? How did BTS? The K-Pop wave is full of ebbs and flows and trying to guess what is going to be next is an impossible feat. But what I would like to see is a more DIY culture within the industry. It would be amazing if musicians had more access to larger K-Pop platforms without being connected to an agency or any managerial overseer. Teaching and making music in Korea has shown me that the sheer amount of creativity within the Korean biosphere is vast and mostly untapped. The Korean spirit is imaginative and extremely diligent and we need to find a way for artists to gain access to the larger scene without being forced to sacrifice their creativity because of the standards of the past.
It looks like you and bandmate Hyeong Tae collaborated on a new song recently! What was the process like, how did this collaboration come about?
This was the first time I recorded something so far away geographically, but honestly the process wasn’t too different from how we normally record. Busker Busker always records separately from one another. Bum-June records a vocal/guitar demo, then Hyeong-Tae and I record the rhythm with a metronome, and then Bum-June lays down his master track on top. So even though Hyeong-Tae and I were on opposite sides of the world our process didn’t change much. Hyeong-Tae sent me the tracks and I laid down the drums in a studio in Salt Lake City and sent them back within just a few days. We’ve recorded together so many times in the past that I knew what he was looking for in the song, so ultimately it turned out to be a very quick and painless process.
Wow! From Croatia to Italy and beyond it looks like you’ve been on some amazing adventures! =D What inspires your love of traveling?
One time an immigration officer flipped through my ink-filled passport and asked, “Do you have a problem staying put?” I guess I kind of do and it was Dani that catalyzed my obsession with travel early in our relationship and it’s become a huge part of our life together. Three of my biggest interests are food, beer, and people-watching, so that’s generally what our travels focus around. Any place that has good food, good brews, and good people are where we like to go. Over the past decade and a half together we’ve checked off visiting a lot of countries in the world but we’re not stopping anytime soon. I think traveling is kind of like tattoos—once you start it’s really hard to stop.
Any tips for long flights?
Hydrate. Early in my travels I realized that most of my jet-lag was due to the lack of drinking water on long flights. So even though it’s a pain to have to visit the plane’s restroom so often it’s worth it in the end.
Duet with Travis Barker, or jam out on Tommy Lee’s 360 drum set? :)
Duet with Travis Barker without a doubt. Travis was, and is, the drummer I try to emulate the most behind the set. His creativity and showmanship are second to none and, in my opinion, in terms of drum play, there is none better than Travis Barker.
Any advice you would give our readers who are interested in creating K-pop music, or music in general?
Make sure you surround yourself with the right people. When making music, good friends are more important than good musicians. Being fundamentally good to others gives you the best odds at success in any endeavor. From Half The Battle to Busker Busker, surrounding myself with good people has made all the difference.
Any new upcoming projects or passions that we should look out for? :) Anywhere we can catch more of your musical talents?
Nothing definite, but I think a Busker Busker comeback is somewhere on the horizon. The three of us created something special that I think we aren’t ready to shelve just yet. Dani and I still have an apartment in Seoul and hope to get back there soon and figure out what the future holds for Busker Busker.