When you hear Korean music, you often think of K-pop, but there are many genres to check out and listen to — one being alternative rock. A musical genre that became popular in the 1980s, “alternative” refers to the sub-genre being distinct from mainstream rock and pop. Now here are five alternative Korean rock bands to check out: 

  • Jambinai

Jambinai is a three-member band from Seoul, South Korea that formed in 2009. Some of their songs have vocals while others are only instrumental. This trio combines Korean folk instruments with rock instruments, and their sound has been described as Korean folk, post-rock, and experimental. 

Kim Bo-mi plays the haegeum, Sim Eun-yong plays the geomungo, and Lee II-woo plays the piri, taepyeongso, electric guitar, and vocals. They have touring musicians who play the drums and bass guitar for them as well. In 2010, they released their debut EP. Their 2012 album, Différance, won Best Crossover Album at the 2013 Korean Music Awards. As of 2019, they are still releasing new music. 

  • Cherry Filter

Cherry Filter is a female-fronted South Korean rock band that formed in 1997. Their sound is diverse with punk rock influences and ballads. Cheung Woo-jin plays guitar, Youjeen who is vocals has an impressive vocal range, Yaenhead plays bass, and Sonstar plays the drums and raps. 

In 2000, they released their debut album, Head Up. Many questioned their band name. The story behind Cherry Filter is they wanted something both feminine (“cherry”) and masculine (“filter”). Since their debut, Cherry Filter has won many awards throughout the years, and while their last album released was in 2009 and their latest single in 2014, they are still together. 

  • Nell

Nell is an alternative indie rock band that formed in 2001 in Seoul, naming themselves after the movie Nell, which stars Jodie Foster. Their sound is influenced by Radiohead, Muse, and many other bands; especially those from the UK. Nell consists of Kim Jong-wan, who is lead vocals and guitarist; Lee Jae-kyung, the lead guitarist; Lee Jung-hoon, the bassist; and drummer Jung Jae-won. They have an impressive list of awards and nominations to go with their discography of eleven albums and many singles. Their most recent album was Colors In Black, which was released on October 10, 2019. 

  • Hyukoh

Hyukoh is a four-member indie band that formed in 2014. Oh Hyuk is the leader, singer, and a guitarist. Im Dong-geon is the bassist, Lim Hyun-jae is a guitarist, and Lee In-woo is the drummer. Leader and founder Oh Hyuk’s background has influenced the band in many ways. He speaks Mandarin, Chinese, Korean, and English. They have an eye-catching style from visual aesthetics to music videos to their sound. Hyukoh has one full-length album and several singles and EPs. They are currently set for a world tour in February. 

  • TraxX

TraxX originally started out as a four-member rock band formed by SM Entertainment and X Japan’s co-founder Yoshikj in 2004. Prior to the name TraxX and rebranding as an EDM trio, they were also known as The TRAX and then TRAX. The band consisted of Jay, leader and vocals; Min-woo, drums; Jungwoo, bass; and Jungmo, guitar. 

Between 2006 and 2007,  Min-woo and Jungwoo left the band. The two remaining members, Jay and Jungmo changed their name to TRAX and released EPs. In 2015, they once again changed their name to TraxX and added DJ and producer Ginjo to make a trio.Unfortunately, in 2019, TraxX disbanded after Jay and Jungmo’s contracts with SM Entertainment expired. Jungmo has branched out to being a solo artist.  

Now that you have read a little about these five alternative bands and gave them a listen, what do you think?

Do you enjoy alternative music? Or do you have any favorite Korean alternative bands? Let us know in the comments below!

Cover Image: Jambinai
Written by Brianna Giles

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