Hyukoh (Korean: 혁오) is a South Korean indie band signed to DRDRamc and HIGHGRND. The band was formed in May 2014 and consists of leader singer and guitarist Oh Hyuk, bassist Im Dong-geon, guitarist Lim Hyun-jae and drummer Lee In-woo.
Band formation and rise in underground music scene
Frontman Oh Hyuk was raised in several cities across northern China (Jilin, Shenyang and Beijing) for the first twenty years of his life due his parents' profession as university professors. Upon graduating high school in 2012, Oh moved to South Korea on his own to pursue music full-time despite his parents' strong opposition. Oh speaks Mandarin Chinese, Korean and English and his diverse cultural influences are directly reflected in Hyukoh's music, in which he infuses a mix of Korean, Mandarin Chinese and English lyrics.
Im, Lim and Lee joined Oh to form Hyukoh in 2014. Oh was previously producing music as a one-man band under the name Hyukoh, and the members eventually came together and took on the name as the current four-piece band. The members came together largely by chance: Oh had already worked with Lee in the past, and Lim attended high school with Lee. Oh was introduced to Im through a mutual acquaintance.
On September 18, 2014, Hyukoh released their debut EP 20, named after the band members' age at the time. The band experienced moderate success in South Korea, often selling out small-scale venues and gaining a strong following in Hongdae, an area in Seoul known for being the epicenter of South Korea's indie music scene.
Rise in mainstream popularity
In 2015, the band gained mainstream popularity after participating in the popular Korean variety program Infinite Challenge. The band received positive responses from critics and the public, charting in the top ten of the Billboard World Albums Chart two months after the release of their second EP 22, also named after the band members' age at the time.
On July 21, 2015, Hyukoh became the first act to sign with independent label HIGHGRND, a subsidiary of Korean media conglomerate YG Entertainment.
On April 30 and May 2, 2016, the band performed at Strawberry Music Festival in Shanghai and Beijing, representing Korean indie bands. They also performed at the Summer Sonic Festival in Japan in August 2016.
The band released their first studio album, 23, on April 24, 2017. The title track, "Tomboy", placed second on the Melon digital chart and first on Genie, Bugs, and Olleh digital charts not long after its release. The album also placed sixth on Billboard's World Albums Chart in May 2017. Following the release of 23, the band went on their first world tour.
Hyukoh's musical style has been noted for its departure from the highly produced pop music that generally defines the K-pop genre.
Hyukoh has also been recognized for their attention to the band's visual aesthetic, ranging from their music videos to wardrobe choices. The band frequently works with photographer Han Dasom and videographer Jung Dawoon, who are both also known as Dadaism Club. They met in 2014.
Oh has cited The Beatles and The Whitest Boy Alive as major influences in the band's musical style.
Oh Hyuk (오혁) – vocals, guitar, songwriter
Lim Hyun-jae (임현제) – lead guitar
Im Dong-geon (임동건) – bass
Lee In-woo (이인우) – drums
Following their rise to fame, Hyukoh has faced multiple accusations of plagiarism. In 2015, internet users suggested that their song "Lonely" was derived from "1517" by German-Norwegian band The Whitest Boy Alive, while "Panda Bear" was compared to Yumi Zouma's "Dodi". On July 24, HIGHGRND released a statement addressing these rumors, stating Hyukoh had received compliments on "Lonely" from The Whitest Boy Alive frontman Erlend Øye after performing the track as an opener for him while he visited Korea. The label also clarified that "Panda Bear" was released months before Yumi Zouma's "Dodi", making the suspected plagiarism impossible.
"Panda Bear" faced accusations again as a copy of American indie band Beach Fossils's "Golden Age". These suspicions were furthered by a now-deleted tweet from Beach Fossils suggesting Hyukoh had mixed "Golden Age" to create "Panda Bear". Hyukoh leader Oh Hyuk later posted a screenshot of this Tweet to his Instagram account aggressively refuting the claims.