Jaurim Celebrate 25 Years Together
The members of this iconic indie rock group reflect on their long, creative, and successful career - and say the best is still yet to come!
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it? How would you finish the sentence “Jaurim is ___” or “Jaurim’s music is ___”?
Yuna: The name Jaurim (자우림) comes from the Sino-Korean characters 紫雨林, meaning purple (紫), rain (雨), and forest (林): a forest with purple rain. Jaurim's music coincides with this image: beautiful yet sordid, cold yet brimming with warmth. Our music is both spooky and dreamy, and a labyrinth. Once you enter, it's tough to get out.
Jinman and Sunkyu: [Jaurim’s music is] youth.
Who or what has been the most influential on your music over the years?
Yuna: My source of inspiration has always been life itself and the goings-on in the world. The material for my music comes from my own life, but also those of the people who live in the same era. I try to keep the lives of others in mind when writing music for Jaurim. As I watch the news, I think a lot about where the world is heading, what is going right and what is going wrong, and unsurprisingly, this ends up as part of the music.
Jinman: Kim Yuna [and] Lee Sunkyu.
Sunkyu: Today, the weather, Kim Yuna, [and] Kim Jinman.
What strengths do each of you individually bring to the group?
Yuna: I'm the type of person who likes to plan things, so I'll make a plan for the next few years and then work to make it happen. That means I end up with the greatest volume of work, which goes beyond the music in our albums to concert planning, costumes, and visuals. That also puts me in the role of encouraging the other members to keep the tasks needed for long-term plans in mind.
Jinman: Kim Yuna is the steering wheel, Lee Sunkyu [is] the transmission, and I'm the rearview mirror.
Sunkyu: Not sure if it's much help, but I tend to prepare for the worst first.
What were your first impressions of each other, and how have your group dynamics changed since the early days of the group?
Yuna: When I first met the other members, I [found them] to be quite mature and polite [for] their age. I also got a real sense of innocence from them, and even now, after 27 years of being in a band together (we met two years before Jaurim's debut), I still feel the same way. The three of us are similar to each other in being introverted, but each of us has different strengths, which I think gives us the same energy now that we had back in the early days.
Jinman: My first impression: [the members are] young people who are polite, work seriously, and play hard. Same as now.
Sunkyu: I saw Jinman as someone who lived in the same world as [me], but Yuna was from somewhere else entirely. I saw us in the beginning as the nicest people in the whole wide world and still see us that way today.
Please describe your new EP, MERRY SPOOKY X-MAS, and why you decided to release holiday music with a spooky theme! Who came up with that idea?
Yuna: This [idea] came from me. 2022 was the year that marked 25 years since Jaurim's major debut, and the plan was to put together a special album sung together with the fans, who are the ones who made Jaurim what we are today, along with a Christmas album, something we had never released before. I wanted to put together a documentary video as well. When we started writing songs for the Christmas album, none of us ended up writing songs that were romantic or strictly joyful. We have that somewhat demented side to us for sure, but the world in 2022 had also become a scarier place than the one [from] our debut.
Jinman: Making carols with a Jaurim-esque feel, we ended up with a carol album that wasn't melancholic at all!
Sunkyu: There was a levity to the spookiness that made it a fun and easy process throughout.
Can you share some “TMI” stories from making the “Mister Klauss” music video?
Yuna: We had previously put together a documentary film called Jaurim, the Wonderland, as part of the twenty-fifth anniversary [celebrations]. The team that worked with us on the documentary was a cool one called 37th Degree that produces videos in a variety of genres. This was also the team that worked on the music video for the song “ 꿈 ” (“Dream”) on one of my solo albums. We worked with the documentary team from spring until summer of 2022, and this naturally extended into working together on the Christmas album’s music videos as well.
Working on the set together was a ton of fun, because we know each other so well, and the “Mister Klauss” part was done in a single take in the style of a musical film, which was a real thrill.
There's a part in the video where I have a drink in my hand, and during one of the takes, I drank too much of it, missed my timing, and spilled it all over my face. I walked over to the piano and ended up playing it with juice all over me.
The “If it snows on Christmas day” part was [made] well before the Christmas season, so I sprinkled artificial snow around and put up decorations to set the atmosphere. It was really exciting to feel like winter and the Christmas season had already arrived.
Jinman: Yuna's successful transformation into “Yundrey Hepburn” [was memorable].
Sunkyu: Meeting such a good [video-making] team [made] me feel good about Jaurim's future.
Congratulations on winning the Inspiring Achievement Award at the MAMAs! What was going through your mind during that awards show?
Yuna: Thank you very much. I think this marks our third time going to the MAMAs and the first time in about a decade. The first time we attended was in Seoul, then Hong Kong, and now this year in Osaka. What went through my mind this time was just how much of a presence K-pop has become over the past 20 or so years. We are a band that makes music with no relation to K-pop, and I make my own music as a solo artist as well. So we felt very proud to be there as an indie band, and me as an indie musician, given that we've always done our own music without assistance from large music agencies. It's in that context that I see the Inspiring Achievement Award that we received.
Jinman: “We all fade away, we all fade away.”
Sunkyu: I used to dislike the hustle and bustle of awards ceremonies at the end of the year and always grumbled about them to the other members. Now though, I enjoy the opportunity to perform in front of people who recognize our music.
What were your goals for Jaurim in the early days of the band, and how have your goals changed over time?
Yuna: When we made our first demo tape, our goal was to have one album with our names on it. Our goal now isn't that much different. It's always been to make an album that we are more satisfied with than the last one we put together.
Jinman: To put together a great album and to hold a great concert. [Those goals are] the same no matter how much time goes by.
Sunkyu: Having managed to put together an album that people can enjoy, I think we already achieved our goal.
What is something that has remained essential to your music no matter what? In other words, “No matter how much time passes, it still wouldn’t be a Jaurim song without ___”?
Yuna: "Loneliness for no reason, the pain of being alive” [a lyric from “Shining” from Jaurim’s sixth album].
Sunkyu: Being better than the last [album].
Are there any specific events or time periods when you felt like you were experiencing a “big break,” when your popularity reached a new level?
Yuna: When we were the talk of the town in 1997, shortly after our debut.
During [promotions for] Jaurim's third album in 2000, when our song “Magic Carpet Ride” was featured in a Pringles ad and became a huge hit.
In 2001, when the song “One Fine Spring Day” (the title track for my first solo album and the title track for the movie of the same name) received a tremendous amount of love.
In 2004, when the song “ 야상곡 ” (“Nocturne”) from my second solo album reached the Top Five on the Melon Chart.
In 2005, when “Hahaha song” was featured on a Pepsi ad and became a big hit.
In 2011, when [we] appeared on MBC’s I Am a Singer over a period of six months and significantly broadened the age [range] of our fans.
In 2013, when the song “Twenty-five, twenty-one” on our ninth album became a big hit. By this time, young fans were thinking and living in different ways than the generation before them, and our music was rediscovered in a more impoverished world than before.
In 2018, when the song “ 있지 ” (“You Know”) on our tenth album was loved with a lowkey passion.
In 2022, when Twenty-Five Twenty-One, with the same theme as the song of the same name on our ninth album, aired. The song, already a big hit, re-entered the charts and received even more love than when it was first released.
At the time of our debut, there was only a small minority that could relate to the darkness and thirst found in our music. There are a lot more people that feel it now. It's sad in a way.
Jinman: When I heard our song "Hey, Hey, Hey" playing on the radio while riding the local bus.
Sunkyu: When fans younger than my son call me “Sunkyu Hyeong” or “Sunkyu Oppa.”
Has the way you handle creative disagreements changed over time?
Yuna: From Jaurim's debut, our system has always been [for] each person [to write] their own songs and [be] in charge of producing them. This was always a way to put the songwriter's opinions first, with the other members supporting, and the songwriter/producer for the track would always work with great respect for the position held by each of the others in the song. I'm not exaggerating when I say that there have been little to no disagreements among us. However, in 2011, I was hospitalized for Cerebral Nerve Palsy, and my thoughts on this changed quite a bit. This was the moment when I realized that I wouldn't be able to make music forever. Since then, I've been personally involved in all parts of our songs in order to work towards making our albums the best they can be.
Jinman: [How we handle differences] hasn't changed. We go over everyone's opinions and discuss them. It's our twenty-fifth year now of getting to know each other's [ways] to express sound!
Sunkyu: All of the members are good at lending their ears to the others.
Has your fan base changed over the years or just grown up with you? In other words, are today’s Jaurim fans much different from the Jaurim fans of previous decades?
Yuna: Thankfully, there are a lot of fans that are growing older alongside Jaurim. On top of that is another thing we are thankful for: there are still a lot of young fans that are hearing Jaurim for the first time. The majority of our concertgoers are in their twenties and thirties, and women are particularly numerous. Both the fans who are growing old with us and the new Jaurim fans have the same thirst in their hearts and are asking the same questions about existence, and in that sense, I don't see a difference between the fans of today and those [of] 25 years ago.
Jinman: The thirst felt by the youth seems unchanged to me, no matter how much time goes by.
Sunkyu: We treat Jaurim as a living and breathing thing and so do our fans, so the passing of 25 years isn't particularly awkward for anyone.
Do you ever worry that your passion for music will fade, since you have been doing this for so long?
Yuna: Music remains my primary passion. There's nothing more enjoyable than creating music and arranging it into a song. There is a pain to it as well, of course. This process is my glass bead game, my Glasperlenspiel, and my inspiration for it comes from everywhere and everything. [“Glasperlenspiel” is a reference to The Glass Bead Game, a book by Hermann Hesse]. Every moment I spend scooping up these fragments of inspiration and making them into jewels is a thrill for me.
Jinman: No, I think we're past that stage [of worrying] by now.
Sunkyu: I don't remember having expended all that much passion yet, so that gives me a lot left.
As you reflect on 25 years of Jaurim, what word or phrase best describes how you are feeling?
Yuna: Fortunate. I feel thankful to everyone.
Jinman: Thank you, my dear old friends.
Sunkyu: Thank you all.
Lastly, do you have a message for your fans or anything else you want to say about your music?
Yuna: “To those of us who keep our gaze fixed on the sky to keep from collapsing / Don't give in, survive, the next day and the next” [lyrics from “I’m My Fan” from Jaurim’s fourth album].
Jinman: “Dance whilst there’s life yet to be lived” [lyrics from "PÉON, PÉON" from Jaurim's eleventh album].
Sunkyu: We'll keep doing our best. Stay with us.
Check out MERRY SPOOKY X-MAS here!
Answers have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. Photos courtesy of Jaurim.