Trying to stick a title on Sean Patrick Maylone is a difficult prospect, since he seems to have all ten fingers in different proverbial pies. When he first came to Korea four years ago, he began his career as an English teacher and moonlighting as a musician with the experimental duo, Ssighborggggg (stylized with as many letters as you please). Through his own tours, he developed a network that allowed him to start bringing other indie bands to Korea via his booking and promotion agency, Super Color Super. Though the agency is primarily Seoul-based, Sean has worked to create a Korean touring circuit to include cities like Busan and Daegu.
Korea’s always had an edge; a good deal of South Korean films are well-received internationally and about ultra dark topics. That is just not what most people talk about at the moment. In America too, though, most people talk about Lady Gaga it seems, and not Faulkner.
He’s not teaching anymore, but Sean’s pace hasn’t slowed down. He has picked up a number of other projects that keep him on the go constantly. Most recently, he teamed up with the owner of the Hongdae bar, Gopchang Jeongol, to start an online music collection called G’old Korea Vinyl. G’old Vinyl offers visitors the chance to sample and download rare vintage music from Korea that range from 70s funk to 90s dance tracks. And since Sean loves to put on a show, G’old Vinyl just threw its coming-out party in Busan. On any given day, Sean juggles creating his own music, networking to bring new acts to Korea, promoting and entertaining the musical guests in town, curating an impressive online playlist, and of course, enjoying the fruits of his labor at the many shows he helps produce.
And despite all this work, Sean still balks at being labeled a “professional,” joking about how his duties often include things like shopping for fake blood to spray at audiences. This sarcasm is rampant on the Super Color Super page, where Sean isn’t afraid to jab at other users’ comments from time to time. His humor is caustic, irreverent, and cynical. He’s clever, and he wants you to know it. He can often be found lurking around the Super Color Super shows behind a ghoulish mask, as bold in appearance as in demeanor. If you spot a skeleton hanging around the upcoming Dan Deacon or Toro y Moi show, it’s probably Sean Maylone. Be sure to say hi, and tell him Seoulist sent you.
Amidst his busy schedule, Sean managed to spare a minute for a Q&A with Seoulist.
SM: Do you have any advice for potential extraordinary expats who are thinking of shifting from jobs like teaching to pursuing more creative ends?
SPM: Well, I think a fully-realized and amazing project should be the sought-after end to aspire to, rather than just getting away from teaching. I didn’t think I’d quit my day job until we’d been going a long time. I ran SCS for about 18 months while working full-time and doing my bands. People should be able to do a rad project and job at the same time.
SM: You found a great niche with the Super Color Super brand. Where’s all the competition? What has made Super Color Super so successful, in your opinion?
SPM: Well- we are way ahead of the curve, so much so that I think we are TOO early and struggling to still find enough fans to support these larger tours we want to do. The industry isn’t caught up here. Like doing bigger international bands in small cities. There is no experience out there and it still like it’s not even fathomed by the existing labels, clubs, bands. We are lucky to have loyal supporters who know well about music and what’s interesting about the acts we bring and help keep it alive. I think they support and love it because some understand how difficult what we are doing is.
SM: What key factors do you consider when branding each show? How do you go from just having a musician on a stage to hosting a performance that has depth and texture?
SPM: I guess it comes from trying to understand what the best part of a given artist’s aesthetic is and then building the proper framework to push that forward. With last month’s tour, Two Gallants, they are a combination of blues/indie/punk so we used rowdy-crowdy punk venues. Just visualizing in advance what the show should be like and then working towards that is best. Also the tone/aesthetic of the promo can help create a tone in advance. I love putting a lot of time into the total experience, and stress out the whole collective on that point I’m sure.
SM: What do you think is indie music’s place in Korea?
SPM: Korea’s always had an edge; a good deal of South Korean films are well-received internationally and about ultra dark topics. That is just not what most people talk about at the moment. In America too, though, most people talk about Lady Gaga it seems, and not Faulkner. I’d like Korean indie to join more with a punk vibe, some chaos, and have all that stuff come to the forefront more. A lot of Korean indie fans generally seem to consider their erudition in more underground music as a point of pride, having read deeper than just the mainstream.
SM: What do you think Seoul’s musical/cultural landscape might look like in, say, another five or ten years?
SPM: In five to ten years I think people will have re-engineered their DNA to be miniaturized to the size of milk cartons. To save fossil fuels. There will be loads of tension between the poorer people, who are giants, and unable to afford the DNA reconfiguration process and their tiny, smug counterparts. I guess what I’m saying is: I don’t really know what’s up in a few years. Maybe in 1-2 years there will be a cultural boom like Beijing. There will be bands that will surprise me, and I can’t predict, except to say, I just did, technically. Bands should be touring more out of Korea and have a better merchandising program. Hopefully Oasis isn’t so religious among Korean indie fans then.
SM: Tell us about your wildest dreams for yourself, Ssighborggg, and Super Color Super.
SPM: Wildest would be like- bring Radiohead to Korea, opening our own venues, and most wild would be to build an airship opera house. Ssighborggg needs to finish a proper albummmm [sic] and tour the States so I can see my bros back home.