The long journey
Dave Beck had an interesting journey from the U.S. to Korea.
While a fair amount of Americans end up in Korea through either teaching English or the military, Beck’s journey started through a coffee shop in New York City.
Years ago, he was just another barista working at Think Coffee near the NYU campus. And then one Sunday, the cast and crew of popular Korean TV show “Infinity Challenge” showed up in the middle of rush hour, with the cast attempting to order complicated drinks.
After the episode aired, the coffee shop became a popular stop for tour groups with often 45 people stopping by at once. From there, the shop considered opening branches in Korea, though it took another two years before they found a suitable partner.
And when they finally launched in Korea in 2011, it was none other than Dave Beck who performed at the opening party. He said that while he enjoyed New York City and it was an amazing place to live in as a musician, he didn’t feel he stood out. So, in 2013, he moved to Korea.
His second LP “Send by Sea” – released May 15 – represents Beck’s journey from New York City all the way to Seoul. Written over a course of six years, a few of the songs were written in New York with the rest written here. Beck says he is a slow songwriter – it can take up to six months to a year to work out song concepts sometimes.
His guitar player from NYC recorded his parts in a studio there and then sent them to Korea, something he called amazing in that it made him feel connected to his past in New York even though there were years in between.
“Sometimes, as travelers, we have all these new experiences, and in a certain sense, we are escaping where we came from,” he said. “Eventually, real life kind of catches up to you. I find myself writing about feelings and experiences that I had from long ago. The things that we bring with us over the years.”
The album itself has a decent mix of slow and faster tunes – from the haunting “Hwangsa” to the more uptempo “Dividing Lines” – though all seem to hold a sense of nostalgia.
The album art includes the hanja for “yellow dust” though Beck is quick to point out that the album has nothing to do with pollution. Rather the connection is that it represents how at times in our lives, we push things aside until we have to face and deal with them – much in the same way the yellow dust issue has been addressed.
Earlier in May, Beck held an early release event at Strangefruit in Hongdae – which he said was a great place to play that cultivates a natural connection between the musicians and fans – and followed that up with a tour in the U.S. where he performed a release show in his hometown in Iowa.
“It’s kind of crazy to think how long it had been since I’ve played back home. It was great to get hometown support and to play in a respected venue here,” he said.
He continued that it’s been really exciting to release the album in multiple places and he feels lucky to be able to go and connect with people and share it with them in person.
“People have been very gracious in taking time to listen and giving positive feedback. I think for people who followed my first album, this album is a good next step in my musical journey,” he said.
From here, Beck will be playing a big festival in June at Olympic Park – Pilsner Urquell Park Music Festival. There are a few more festivals coming up that have yet to be announced, but he plans to continue playing at various festivals and events over the summer to promote the album.
It’s exciting to see the Korean music scene grow every year, he said, with more bands and styles emerging and more international artists coming over. However, like anywhere, there is still a huge gap because the pop scene and everything else. The indie scene needs to grow stronger.
“These days, people are going to see more live shows, but I would like to see that become even more prevalent and for western musicians to integrate more with the local Korean scene,” he said. He added that for him personally, it’s hard to be an indie musician and a foreigner and find where he fits in. Sometimes others have a hard time figuring out where he fits in on the music spectrum.
“There’s still a gap there and the indie scene seems bound mostly to Hongdae. Things are changing fast in the music industry, so hopefully that translates to a stronger music scene overall.”