Balming Tiger, a collective that embraces various artistic forms, aims to resonate with the younger generation and promote Asian culture on a global scale. With members spanning performers, producers, directors, and visual artists, they aim to create meaningful art that spans further than the songs themselves. Despite being a K-Pop group, they discuss an eclectic background of musical influences, which include Tyler, The Creator and Pharrell, that have played a role in shaping their distinct sound as they approach a new global scale, with performances spanning Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival, Pitchfork London Festival, and Berlin’s Berghain.
The Seoul-based collective aim further to liquidate the boundaries of genre with their newly released single Kamehameha. This track marks the culmination of their debut album, January Never Dies, with its release on October 19th. Kamehameha is an auditory experiment that playfully nods to the Korean drinking game of the same name, artfully simulating the sensation of intoxication. The talents of producer bj wjwn and vocalist sogumm converge to create a composition distinct from the group's previous works, showcasing the diversity within their repertoire. Balming Tiger's visual artist, Chanhee Hong, complements the music with an AI-inspired single artwork and an engaging music video.
How did Balming Tiger come together as a music and arts collective, and what inspired the unique approach to combining different artistic disciplines within the group?
Rather than the concept of music and art collective, people gathered first, and these are the concepts we created to define our identity. We are a group created by the natural gathering of stranger artists in a city called Seoul. From the beginning, we never thought that music was our only goal, and we still do. As we meet and relate to artists who can influence us, we naturally gather members from various fields of art. In fact, rather than establishing certain standards first and starting Balming Tiger, there are many members who have started to challenge other fields as they begin to influence each other within us. Therefore, it is the current situation that ultimately became members of various art fields.
Your music has been described as “alternative K-pop” and “future-facing.” Can you tell us more about what those terms mean to you, and how you see your music fitting into the wider K-pop and Korean music scenes?
Alternative K-pop is like a message to those who try to define and categorise anything. K-pop is a culture that cannot be grouped into genres. But people always try to understand it as a genre and tie it up.  Just as K-pop is difficult to define as any one music, Alt K-pop is a more ambiguous and abstract concept. It means nothing, but it means a lot at the same time. We think it is our role to touch these contradictions, and we are trying to play that role in the Korean music industry.
Sexy Nukim has been a huge success, with over eleven million views on YouTube. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the song and its accompanying music video?
One day we thought about what makes sexiness. Is it sexy to have a hot body and face that everyone wants? Is a rich and famous person sexy? We think a little differently. We thought it was sexy to be hard inside and find ourselves attractive because of it, not the appearance or the looks reflected on others. RM's voice was an irreplaceable sound for this song. At the same time, we think that the song has a great symbolic meaning because the hottest artist in the world paradoxically talks about this inner sexiness.
Your music incorporates a wide range of genres, from hip-hop to electro and beyond. How do you approach blending these different sounds together, and what kind of creative process do you go through to create your music?
We think that there is never one way in the creative process. Maybe we haven't found it yet, but we're trying to create it in as many ways as possible. First of all, the framework of genre disappears due to the free and honest appreciation and expression of our members. When we think about what we want to do now more honestly, leaving behind the mindset that we should only do what we are good at or the mindset of worrying about how we will be seen by the public, the sound will naturally follow.
In the case of existing works, if it was a process of planning first and producing them in earnest according to the plan, the songs in this album were approached by the members as a process of creating them completely without a frame and organising them later.
Balming Tiger includes not just musicians, but also visual artists and writers. Can you tell us about how these different elements come together to create your overall artistic vision?
We think that the more humans are immersed in one direction, the more efficient they may be, but the narrower the view of the world is. We will be beings who inspire each other and open each other's eyes to a world that is easy to close.
Omega Sapien recently released a solo EP produced by Baauer, with collaborations with artists like Sega Bodega and Vernon of Seventeen. Can you tell us about the creative process behind the EP, and how it fits into your overall artistic vision as a collective?
We think Omega Sapien is the only character who can connect K-pop and subculture, as Balming Tiger does. We tried to put that identity in the EP, and we set up a vision with Baauer and worked on it for a year or so. Featured artists also demonstrate that identity well.
Your music has been compared to that of Tyler, The Creator and Odd Future. Who are some of your other musical influences, and how have they shaped your sound?
We were, of course, influenced by the music of Tyler and Odd Future members. They're artists we've heard and grown up with, and their free creations have been enough to inspire us. Among the most influential artists are Pharrell, N.E.R.D., Tyler, the Creator, and countless others. If their music is the biggest inspiration for us, it will eventually reach people if they continue to do what they like in a cool way rather than care about how it looks to them.
Your music has been praised for its ability to reflect and represent the younger generation of South Korea. Can you tell us more about what that means to you, and how you hope to use your music to inspire and connect with young people?
One of our goals is to do art that reflects not only Korea but also the younger generation in Asia and the world. If it's what we want to say to them, you don't have to be a wonderful Asian in the mould of the world. It is becoming a world where people are recognised even if they live as they want without looking at others. The steps we are showing in the future will be the answer to this.
What's next for Balming Tiger? Can you give us any hints about what new music or projects you have in the works?
By the time this interview is released, our new album pre-release single will be released. Balming Tiger's first studio album will also be released within this summer. Please look forward to it.
Finally, what do you hope audiences take away from your music and art, and what message do you hope to communicate through your work?
We hope that the greatest number of people get a lot of inspiration from our music and art, but we don't know what form it will be, and we don't want to specify it. If you are happy, enjoy it as it is, and whenever you are happy, angry, sad, or touched, it would be good if Balming Tiger's art could be sculpted into each of their lives and some chemistry with them.