“Do you might have hassle sleeping? Do you might have nightmares? Are you heartbroken? Do you are feeling down, depressed, hopeless? Do you miss somebody. Do you discover that belongings you as soon as loved not curiosity you? Are you lonely? Are you at all times... sleepless?”
So begins the robotic vocal intro of Sleepless In __________, the brand new album from Korean alt hip-hop trio Epik High. Full of collaborations -- like the one “Lovedrunk” with R&B singer Crush, “Eternal Sunshine” co-produced by BTS’ Suga, and a fascinating, martial arts film-inspired music video that includes IU and Jin Seo Yeon -- the seven-track EP marks a brand new starting for Epik High as their first self-produced album in a decade.
Upon its launch the mission topped charts in South Korea, and broke into the Top 30 of the U.S. iTunes real-time chart. Their first launch since parting methods with former label YG Entertainment final 12 months, the feat is a testomony to Epik High’s profession as one of many Korean music world’s most progressive, tenacious acts.
Prior to its launch, Epik High’s Tablo spoke to Billboard over the cellphone from Seoul to debate the album and the group’s upcoming excursions.
B: How’re you feeling?
T: I’m feeling drained and refreshed on the identical time. I don’t know if that’s doable however that’s what I really feel. It’s an odd feeling as a result of I do know beginning March 11, it’s like the primary web page or the primary sentence for a brand new chapter of Epik High in some ways. In a manner it’s horrifying, and on the identical time it’s acquired this unusual serenity to it too. It’s going to be the primary album that we’re releasing principally alone. It’s the primary time that Epik High is impartial in a very long time. When we launched [2009’s] Map the Soul, at the moment we had gone impartial and we have been releasing an album that was going to begin a brand new chapter. I feel it’s an identical feeling proper now.
How are your preparations to your album and upcoming Europe and North American excursions going?
T: It’s a number of exhibits. It’s again to again to again with exhibits, and simply in Europe alone we’re doing seven international locations. In North America, it’s 17 cities. There’s a number of music that we have to put together. It’s been some time since we did a global tour like this. There’s that rather more to point out. We’ve Done Something Wonderful, that  album has by no means been carried out within the States. So it’s going to be two albums that we're going to be carried out for the primary time exterior of Korea. It’s going to be superb. I can’t wait to undergo the setlist.
I noticed you tweeted out about what songs folks want to hear throughout the tour, and also you needed to ask folks to chorus from suggesting so many songs.
T: People have been suggesting like 200 different songs. Unfortunately, the venue doesn’t enable that. [Laughs.] We have a time restrict. But we’ll be performing songs from manner again til this second. Whoever involves the live performance goes to see the very wide selection of Epik High.
Do you are feeling this tour and album function an introduction to Epik High for individuals who might not be as conversant in your profession?
T: I feel it might be an excellent [introduction]. The album could be very, very Epik High. Even extra so than We’ve Done Something Wonderful or Shoebox. It’s seven songs, however all the way down to the essence of what Epik High ought to sound like. I feel if it’s the primary time for anyone to be listening to us or seeing us, it’s the right entry level. It does, it actually does, really feel like a brand new starting.
How does it really feel returning to that facet of Epik High?
T: Epik High shouldn't be a bunch that's bent on at all times doing the brand new, contemporary, present factor. It’s not like we intentionally keep away from it however we’re not obsessive about continuously switching up our factor. I feel that’s at all times labored to our profit, and our followers have appreciated it. Ironically, that’s the factor that set us aside. With the present tradition, every thing strikes so quick and every thing could be very disposable in that the subsequent factor occurs so quick. I feel the instances name for artists who can keep on with what they do and that is how we’re going to do this.
How does the sense of lo-fi sleepiness of Sleepless In __________ mirror your dedication to your sound?
T: When we determined that we have been going impartial and began engaged on what would turn into our first album as an impartial artist, we brainstormed many various methods to go. It might be an album that’s like, “We’re again! We’re impartial!” It might be loud, it might be very proud, and it might be very energetic. But we began engaged on the songs and, unusually sufficient, we have been popping out with extra mellow music. I feel there’s this unusual serenity that we felt, and I feel it was popping out by the music. This album, I feel, is our present mindset. I feel the emotion we felt in the mean time we began engaged on this album is a way of sleeplessness for good and dangerous causes.
What evoked that sleeplessness?
T: I’ve at all times had insomnia. Sometimes that insomnia was introduced on by the truth that I used to be very pushed by a dream. I wouldn’t enable myself to sleep early as a result of time was so treasured and I didn’t wish to waste it sleeping. That was a very good motive to be sleepless. At the identical time, there have been many instances once I was sleepless as a result of actuality had turn into like a nightmare. I couldn’t sleep. If you have a look at anyone and also you wish to test that they’re alive, you zoom in on the truth that they’re respiration, proper? Most of the time you don’t discover that somebody is respiration till they’re not. To observe somebody’s sleeplessness means that you can see why they’re respiration. And what's both driving them or what's making them undergo from nightmares. I feel sleeplessness exhibits a lot about an individual. As a lot as desires or love or different feelings. Much greater than these feelings.
Is the album a solution to see the place you guys are with reference to your psychological state and what’s retaining you from sleep now that you simply went impartial?
T: Let me take into consideration that. [Pauses.] Once we introduced the topic of the album and the album title, I used to be stunned by how many individuals associated to sleeplessness. Epik High’s music, for those who would describe it in a phrase, is “sleepless.” Our music is music you can play at your bedside, music you may chill to. And on the identical time, music that drives you if you don’t let your self sleep since you’re making an attempt to attain one thing. I feel we commute between these two extremes.
Why did you determine to go away the album title unanswered?
T: People are confused as to the way you’re speculated to pronounce the blanks, the 10 underbars. So we determined that it needs to be mentioned, "Sleepless In [makes scraping noise]." The sound of a pencil going throughout a web page.
Is it impressed by Sleepless in Seattle?
T: That’s undoubtedly a title I've in my head. I don’t keep in mind the film. But we determined to maintain it clean. On our album we are saying “Sleepless" “In Seoul,” that’s only for us, proper? That’s the place we're proper now. That’s the place we have been recording the track and the album. We are sleepless in Seoul, however individuals who listening to this album are going to be sleepless elsewhere, so we left it clean so that individuals can mentally fill it in.
You guys determined to fill in that clean with “In Seoul” with sunwoojunga, one in all a number of artists featured on the album. Are these the artists you want listening to if you’re sleepless in Seoul?
T: I truly revealed my sleep playlist to a media outlet right here. All of those artists have an enormous vary and after they do songs which are very emotional, they’re simply distinctive at it. When I used to be making an attempt to give you collaborators or people who I wished on the album, I feel I form of forged it like a movie. So I'd have a look at my precise sleep playlist and see who's on there, and I believed that having them on the album would solely make sense.
So the playlist of your sleep is coming to life by yourself album?
T: Mhmm. 'Cause BTS was on their too. Their track, [V’s] “Singularity.” was on the record as properly. Of course, I labored with Suga. Basically everybody on the album had some track on my sleep playlist.
What’s the connection between this album and movie?
T: I’m an enormous cinephile. Before I did music, I wished to enter movie and really labored as an [assistant director] on a movie. Whenever I’m sleepless, I often watch a film. I’m at all times considering of the songs as brief movies.
And I feel that affected how I approached the music video for this album as properly. We simply dropped the teaser a couple of hours in the past, and it’s directed by [Bae Jong (Park Kwang-hyun)] the director of [2005’s] Welcome to Dongmakgol, which is a big traditional movie in Korea that my spouse [actor Kang Hye-jung] occurred to be a star in. That director directed the music video and it has two actors in it, IU and Jin Seo Yeon, and we actually shot a brief movie. It’s actually not like a music video. And I feel it completely made sense to me to do this as a result of the track “Lovedrunk” was written like a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist. After I completed the track, I went to search for somebody who might create this movie that doesn’t exist.
The music video, even with the teasers, folks have been like, “Is this IU’s new movie?” “Is this a brand new film she’s in, and did Epik High use the footage?” But no, it’s a movie that was created for this mission.
Are the opposite songs like that as properly, or are they extra issues derived from your individual everyday lives? Or is the album as an entire appearing as a soundtrack for a movie that doesn’t exist?
T: If you take heed to the album from the intro to the outro, you’ll in all probability see an arc. We approached it form of like a movie and likewise like a e book of brief tales, perhaps. We wished to begin with anyone alone in a room, considering why they're “Sleepless.” And then it goes to “In Seoul,” which is much less mellow than the opposite songs. It’s extra uncooked hip-hop in sure methods. I feel we wished to point out that lots of people, not less than round me, are sleepless as a result of they’re afraid of one thing or one thing is troubling them or town has turn into like a nightmare to them. And then the album progresses, and finally it ends on a “Lullaby For A Cat,” a really calm and peaceable track. We wished to form of sonically recreate what occurs when somebody goes from sleeplessness to the second the place they go to sleep.
Why is it a “Lullaby For A Cat”? Why a cat?
T: For the intro, I imagined anyone alone in a bed room. I didn’t wish to make this individual fully alone. So I gave that individual a cat. When I used to be within the States, once I was in school [at Stanford], I took a summer season out. Right after my freshman 12 months, I went to work on a movie in New York. And I had no place to remain, so I appeared it up within the paper and I acquired a room in East Harlem, with an outdated girl who was residing by herself, renting out one in all her rooms. She had 9 cats. I'd fall asleep, and once I would get up all 9 cats can be on the mattress surrounding me. Ever since then, I’ve had a factor for cats.
How did the one, “Lovedrunk” with Crush, come about?
T: I had an image of this track for a really, very, very very long time. On We’ve Done Something Wonderful, there’s a track referred to as “Tape 2002 [7 28]” and on that observe we now have bits and items of demos that we have been engaged on since 2002, ‘til we dropped that album. A bit piece of “Lovedrunk” seems on that observe. The vocal half is in my voice. It was a demo that I had held onto for a very long time as a result of I couldn’t discover the right individual to sing the melody. There was a voice that I used to be on the lookout for, and on the time I couldn’t determine who. I heard a track that Crush sang, an English track that he dropped just lately.
T: Yeah. Wait, was it this track? I can’t keep in mind. There was a track of Crush’s that I heard, and I used to be like, “Dude, it’s this man.” And it’s not the primary time working with Crush however there was a track of his that I heard that made me rediscover him in a manner. There was a facet to his voice that I didn’t actually know was there. So that’s how he grew to become part of this track. Thanks to him I used to be lastly capable of full this track.
Do you keep in mind if you began engaged on it?
T: I feel I had the primary naked minimal sketch 4 years in the past. It’s advanced in several instructions throughout that point, on and off. I feel my first demo was like 4 years in the past. It sounded very totally different then.
What about this track that become “Lovedrunk” that made you retain going again to it?
T: I actually don’t know, however I actually favored this track for some motive. There was a dialogue to see whether or not we must always put it on We’ve Done Something Wonderful, however I informed my members, “I wish to maintain onto this one.” I’m glad that we did. I feel it’s the proper time for it to return out. It begins off like a ballad, after which it has this factor about it that makes me really feel actually, actually unhappy and, on the identical time, it makes my coronary heart beat for some motive. It seems like what I’m making an attempt to say with this sleeplessness factor.
So you labored with Crush on that one after discovering his voice, and also you labored with Malaysian singer Yuna on “No Different.” How did that come about?
T: I met Yuna for the primary time at Coachella [in 2016]. It was the day earlier than our set, and he or she was additionally performing there, and we met once we have been each in line for some meals. I can’t keep in mind what the meals was. On Twitter, folks have been telling me to say “Hi” to her if I noticed her, and actually a pair hours after I noticed these tweets we bumped into one another. She was actually cool. Immediately we have been speaking about someday perhaps doing music collectively. And now it’s lastly turn into actuality.
That’s so serendipitous.
T: I don’t know what it's about me or about us, however that at all times occurs. Our followers will say one thing to me or ask me to do one thing for them, after which I'll suppose to myself, “That won't ever occur.” And then very quickly after it's going to occur. So I make it a degree that individuals round me by no means say something detrimental. Because it tends to occur. I’m truly not superb at that, retaining detrimental issues out. But I attempt.
Is that how the opposite collaborations additionally got here out?
T: I feel the opposite collaborations have been extra natural. Even with Suga and the current collaborations I’ve had with him.... If you consider it, a very long time in the past when Suga was simply beginning off together with his music, there have been movies the place he was mentioning that Epik High’s songs impressed him to do music, proper? That was in his thoughts. And now he’s producing for us. He's additionally somebody who if he imagines one thing or if he feels deeply about one thing it turns into a actuality for him. And that’s in all probability why BTS is in a position to take action many superb issues, issues that have been as soon as thought inconceivable. Ti anybody who's studying this, attempt to preserve detrimental issues out of your head. Don’t give even a tiny room to detrimental ideas. Because constructive ideas will turn into actuality if you consider them deeply sufficient.
Suga and different members of BTS have talked about Epik High being inspirations to them, however what about him makes him a great collaborator as a songwriter for you on a private degree, working with him on each “Eternal Sunshine” in addition to the just lately launched Lee Sora track, “Song Request”?
T: He has an incredible vary, from actually turned-up songs to actually mellow songs. I don’t suppose it requires an enormous effort on his half to do this. He actually loves making music. And that looks as if a given for a musician to like making music, however that’s a really uncommon factor, sadly. There are a number of musicians who're superb, and really gifted, however not as passionate as after they began. Passion is a tough factor to carry onto. And with all that occurred with the massive adjustments that his group have to be experiencing every day, for him to have the ability to maintain onto that keenness shouldn't be as simple because it appears.
Do you ever battle with that?
T: I’ve struggled with it on varied events. But, fortunately, it’s a present and curse that I’m nonetheless holding onto that keenness as the identical manner once I began. It’s retaining me perpetually sleepless.
The remaining collaboration on the album to debate is “In Seoul,” with sunwoojunga. Have you labored along with her previously? What was it like working along with her on this?
T: No, that is the primary time. I’ve identified sunwoojunga for a very long time. She labored on the primary Lee Hi album [too]. And lots of people don’t know this however once I first acquired to YG, like seven years in the past, sunwoojunga was there getting ready to probably turn into an artist. She was writing songs for 2NE1, Lee Hi. I used to be launched to sunwoojunga as a result of the corporate thought that we might really feel much less lonely, I feel. That we might join. And we did. We didn’t turn into mates or something, however I used to be at all times a fan of her music. She was at all times testing my stuff. We at all times revered one another. For some motive, there was by no means a track that we might hop onto collectively till now.
Even although it marks a brand new begin as Epik High’s first album since leaving YG, there’s just one track on Sleepless In __________ that's written by all three members of the group and that’s “Rain Again Tomorrow.” What about that track makes it distinctly Epik High’s track?
T: If you take heed to the album straight, “Rain Again Tomorrow” connects straight with “Lullaby For A Cat.” It turns into the lullaby. When we have been arising with the track, we wished to speak about ourselves and why we are able to’t sleep. The majority of the album earlier than that may be a collection of brief tales. It might technically be about anybody. We wished these final two chapters, starting with “Rain Again Tomorrow,” to take care of personally why we are able to’t sleep. So the lyrics on that's Mithra and I speaking concerning the varied issues that we went by and the way we really feel about doing music this lengthy, and the fears we now have struggling to keep up the fervour and stuff like that.
How do you identify what artists to function on Epik High’s music?
T: Lots of the instances, I already know who I wish to work with and I write the track to have them on it. I feel that’s why our collaborations work so properly, as a result of I've them in thoughts once I truly write the melodies. Some different instances I'd write the songs first, like with “Lovedrunk.” I feel I do have them in thoughts often. I take heed to a number of music, and once I’m listening to music I'll discover one thing about somebody’s voice or simply about what they’re saying, or simply concerning the essence of their being, and a number of time that’s inspiration for me to begin writing a brand new track. So I’m very grateful that there are such a lot of gifted folks. Because they actually encourage me to create my music. Definitely I've a psychological record of individuals I’d like to collab with.