Sometimes when searching for new music you come across genres that look like a mess. Legitimately, 90% of these Franken-genres are absolutely horrible and assault your ears with plundered attempts of originality. I stumbled upon Cora Kim. Synth-pop and Korean folk? It was a hard one to digest in my head until her songs dazzled my ears with a refreshing sound. Cora took time away from her animations and sewing DIY projects for an interview with OCR.
OCR: You have a very eclectic cultural background. Your mother is South Korean and your father is British and Belgian. How has exposure to different cultural music influenced your sound?
CK: I think that being a mix has made me appreciate a lot of different things at once: be it culture, food, language or the arts. When it comes to music I’ve always loved singing in different languages, and being inspired by the rhythms and melodies of different cultures. I think all of that spills into the music I make, much like it spills into my everyday life.
OCR: You say your music is a combination of light and dark and describe your overall sound as a place “where moody down tempo tangles with sugary synthpop and dramatic Korean folk in an unexpectedly infectious experience.” When did it hit you that all of these sounds would work in harmony?
CK: It sounds like a crazy mixture when you put it in words, but it’s not something I was thinking about when I was working on the music. I was just going by what I liked and what I thought sounded good. But really things only came together when I started working with the right people, which allowed me to make my first full-length album. I was lucky to be working with some really talented Montreal musicians who helped shape the record, namely Tim Gowdy who produced and recorded the album. He really gave the music an edge that I couldn’t have done on my own, and actually was the one who suggested we do some synthpop arrangements of the Korean folk songs.
We also worked with Pascal Shefteshy (a musician/recording engineer who’s worked with Sarah McLachlan and Rufus Wainwright), Andrés Vial (multi-instrumentalist and member of The Barr Brothers) and Philippe Melanson (a wicked drummer who’s played with Leif Vollebekk and Yannick Rieu).
OCR: You have an educational background in fashion and art history. How does this knowledge influence your choices when it comes to other creative elements associated with your musical endeavours?
CK: I think I’ve always been a visual person, so it’s important for me to give the music something visual to match. Fashion is great because it’s such an obvious form of visual expression and you can have fun with it. I’ve always been making things, so now I’m starting to sell my own jewelry and clothing at our shows. I think it’s a more personal type of merch, instead of your usual t-shirt or button. I’m also really interested in digital arts and computer programming. The artwork on my album is inspired by a language I discovered last year called Processing.js. If you go to my website and click on“Lifesavers” it’ll take you to a little game that I made with that language.
OCR: Your video for Lost in a Pool is visually captivating with a psychedelic aesthetic. What are some of the most significant art-movements that move you?
CK: That video was directed and animated by Xuan Pham and shot by Yan Ladouceur, two wonderfully talented Montreal artists who I’m so happy to have worked with. In terms of art movements, I’ve always liked Art Nouveau, there’s something about the flatness and sinuous lines that I love. I’m also drawn to the Dutch Vanitas Still-Life paintings, which are meant to remind us of the fleeting nature of life. I did a little Vanitas photoshoot of my first cat when I was a teenager right before she died. I had all the little symbols in there, the clocks, scales, rotting fruit, and her insulin medicine (she was diabetic). I’m not really a morbid person, but I thought that was a more interesting concept than the previous one of her amidst a sea of stuffed animals.
OCR: You seem to be quite a fashionista with a diverse sense of style. What are your go-to fashion accessories? Do you embrace DIY style? What are some of your favourite trends right now?
CK: Oh thanks! I’m glad someone thinks I’m doing it right. I never know sometimes… I’m really into floral patterns right now, like head to toe floral so that it’s almost a mess. I also really like small pendants on short chains, and cute little charms hanging from cellphones. I was really upset when I got my Samsung Galaxy because it doesn’t have the hole for the charm. Can someone ask them to make the hole? I mean they’re a Korean company, they should know better. DIY anything is a good idea in my opinion. I think everyone should be making things for themselves and presents for friends. It’s just more personal.
OCR: Your video for Natural Satellite is a stop-motion production. How did this concept arise for the making of this video?
CK: I made that video a few years ago, before I met Tim and before the album was conceived. I really wanted a music video, was still in school and had the time to do it, so I made a little set in my parents’ basement, and started shooting. I made a stop-motion because I didn’t have a video camera. The concept was pretty literal – the song is about the relationship between the Earth and the moon, or between two people at opposite ends of the world.
In the video the relationship is between the doll and the hand who takes her all over the world on a little adventure. I tried to make all the characters and props, but I did find a lot of useful things in the basement (the lobster and flowers) and in the kitchen (couscous for the sand). For the final rooftop scene, I looked up some famous constellations or asterisms and made them come to life when the hand drew them. There’s the Big Dipper, Canis Minor, the Ice Cream Cone of Bootes, and the Coat Hanger in Vulpecula. It took about 5 months, but a lot of that time was spent Photoshopping unwanted things from the shot -frame by frame. After Tim and I finished the album, I had this wonderful new version of “Natural Satellite,” so I touched up the video and uploaded the new version, as my skills as a video editor had improved!
OCR: Speaking of Natural Satellite, I have become addicted to the soft pseudo jazzy track. In the spirit of the Mars Rover zooming around the surface of the red planet, what is a natural satellite?
CK: Great! Glad you like it. So there are two types of satellites: artificial satellites, like Sputnik; and natural satellites, otherwise known as the moon. I don’t think Mars Rover is a satellite though. He seems to be a Mars automobile.
OCR: Your latest 10-track album embraces synthesized sounds. What kind of dimension does that bring to your music? Does it open up other musical doors due to the different elements and sound it produces?
CK: It’s fun because it creates lots of possibilities. We have the option to use more sounds in our live show, and we’re always thinking about how we can create newer and cooler effects. I’m really lucky to have Tim in my live band, he’s been teaching me so much about electronic instruments and gear. I use a Deltalab Effectron delay box on my voice that I control onstage, and I hook up a Dave Smith Tetra to a midi controller for my synth sounds. Tim plays a Micro Korg, Poly 61, and electric guitar. Sometimes all at once! Liam Killen, our drummer is the only one who plays an acoustic instrument (regular drums) although we’re getting him started on playing drums pads…
OCR: What’s next for Cora Kim?
CK: Definitely more Korean music. We’re hoping to put out a Korean EP early next year. Touring is also on the list. So far we’ve only played in Montreal, so we’d love to get over to Toronto, play some cities in Canada, and eventually head over to Asia… A Calvin Klein and/or Rodarte sponsorship would be really nice too. I’m just putting that out there.