Just over half a year has passed since Korean-born Theo Spark and his former Screaming Peaches bandmate, British-born Jamie She, formed Wooze in November 2017, but through their exploration of Theo’s heritage they’ve already gone some way in establishing an international appeal. “I was previously a bit afraid to even mention that I was Korean,” explains Theo Spark from his Brixton based studio. “I think that was a bit of an error because it is a huge part of my identity and both of us want to incorporate that as much as possible into our aesthetic and sound”.
While Wooze was still in its infancy (relative to now), it was the music of Theo’s childhood spent living in Korea that nourished their early creativity. “When we decided to start this band, we were listening to a lot of traditional Korean music as well as more contemporary Japanese funk from the eighties,” says Theo. Pansori, the once near extinct Korean storytelling genre traditionally performed between a singer and drummer, provided the framework to their early bedroom recordings. “When we first started it was just Jamie on drums and me on vocals and we realised the parallels between this dated, naff, almost dead genre of Korean music. I guess it’s kind of like opera but more shamanistic.”
Together with the influences imbibed from the Far East, the band’s synth-pop style represents a smorgasbord of musical references. From Primus to Led Zeppelin, to Gary Numan and Pleasure Complex, the two are pushing a sound which, by their own admission, “is not the hottest thing right now”. To their credit however, they don’t really care. “It’s just anything that we’ve liked, really” replies Theo when asked about their influences. “Stuff like Primus or Rage Against The Machine, these really biting riffs that manage to sound really pop-y, we want to marry those old school, angular riffs with something like Abba, something that’s overtly pop, and essentially do something that, genre wise, hasn’t really been done before.”
While Jamie She, the yellow haired other half of Wooze, is English, the two have fully embraced all aspects of Korean culture, most notably through their self professed “karaoke obsession”. “We do it obsessively whenever we go [to Seoul], at least four hours everyday,” Theo tells us, with Jamie adding, “It’s how I get over my jet lag”. Having just recorded the video for their single Hello Can You Go in the neon-soaked karaoke haven that is Seoul, the pair have begun sewing their seed in a country that is increasingly receptive to musical diversity in response to the K-Pop behemoth. The video’s director, Nuri Jeong, who has herself directed several major K-Pop releases, is now looking to expand Korea’s musical horizons and help introduce acts like Wooze.
“Last time we were out there we went to a few shows and we were like, ‘Wow, this place is a lot more popping than what we’re used to here'”. Despite the demand for their playful fusion of synth, psychedelic rock, the scene in Korea remains largely restricted to the peripheries. “There’s lots of venues and there is a scene but it’s living under the shadow of K-Pop,” explains Theo. “K-Pop is funded by the government, it’s like one percent of their outgoings because it’s viewed as a cultural export, it’s this colossal factory system.” Together with people like Nuri however, the duo are trying to introduce their own brand of the genre. “Nuri’s trying to do something new in the Korean scene which is not really anti K-Pop per se, but combines the aesthetics and other elements of the genre with more organic artists who aren’t in this factory system”. With a gig in Korea next month as well as the first smatterings of an album in the pipeline, Jamie and Theo are at the beginning of something special.