For someone who is such a hermit her doctor had to prescribe her vitamin D pills, I truly love learning about people, musicians especially. Each one as unique as the last. JUNE dARK being no different.
Her past in South Korea was riddled with misunderstanding, but looking back she seems less bitter than someone else may be. A strong as hell woman with a metal background whose career took a surprising turn this year, she opened up about it all. From her days as a middle school outsider to her adulthood highs and lows, this is JUNE dARK.
Kendra: You’re not shy about what you went through growing up in South Korea. An outsider to the norm, you were bullied for your interest and look. While a horrible way to grow up, do you feel that fueled you more to get to where you are today?
JUNE dARK: Now I can appreciate the hard times I went through when I was younger. I was a lonely and misunderstood child, and I believe that’s why music spoke to me. I learned to connect and empathize with people because I wasn’t naturally likable. If I had always been spoonfed attention for superficial reasons or been equipped with an inherently mild temperament that allowed me to get along with everyone, I probably wouldn’t have tried so hard to understand why people act the way they do. I surely wouldn’t trade this ability with being popular, even if I had to go through it all over again.
Being bullied isn’t a unique problem to Korea. While it’s definitely horrible, I believe this kind of experience can transform you later if you decide to work with it. The most important lessons for me were that you don’t need anyone’s approval to be who you are. You’re the one who must defend what makes you happy against criticism or disdain.
Kendra: What was it about metal music that drew you in?
JUNE dARK: It just resonated with me. It gave me emotional release in a way nothing else did. Some people who don’t get metal cringe at it, saying it’s the devil’s music. Kids cringed at me the same way when I expressed myself, so maybe that made me feel even closer to it. I was fascinated that metal expressed extreme emotions unapologetically, regardless of what the mainstream audience wanted to hear. The kind of metal I liked often blended harsh soundscapes with beautiful melodies, and I relished such dynamics.
Kendra: About four years ago you decided it was time to go solo, mentioning that you wanted to explore a more vulnerable side of yourself. Why do you feel that vulnerability wasn’t as easy to get to as part of Clandestine?
JUNE dARK: I think being a female singer in a metal band in itself can be a vulnerable experience. It’s a lot more common now, but there were a lot less female fronted metal bands back then. But I definitely had the support of great bandmates and fans and was never afraid to perform in front of anyone. I personally never thought it was too difficult to be a female singer in a metal band, but some might think otherwise.
I’d say going solo makes me experience a different kind of vulnerability. It kind of felt like I was naked when I first sang without loud music in the background. I was used to having a band. I used to belt out as loud as I could to cut through the amplified guitar and pounding drums. Now I can sing in whispers and you can still hear every word I say. I don’t have to stick to one style of music anymore, and sometimes that makes it difficult to define what “my sound” is. It’s like having an identity crisis.
I’m getting more comfortable with not having to pinpoint my style; as long as I write and sing, that’s my sound. It took courage to believe that my voice alone could be unique without being backed by a unique sounding band and to trust that I’m creating something special for the world that no one else is doing.
Kendra: When you moved on from the band, depression hit. I’m sure you also battled that in South Korea. Did you manage it any differently as a teen versus as an adult, or was music always the safe haven?
JUNE dARK: As an adult, I’m definitely better at gaining insight from current and past experiences. Regardless of whether it was perceived as good or bad. I had much fewer resources to process what was happening to me when I was younger. Music provided me a safe haven like you said. I was immersed in music and the stories of musicians that I admired, hoping to become like them one day. I was definitely broody and preoccupied as a teen, but I don’t think I was necessarily depressed because those feelings gave me the drive to pursue my goal of becoming a musician and studying abroad.
What’s so crazy is that I still remember all the little and big happenings that crippled my confidence when I was very young. Shadows of those experiences still show up in many different forms and colors that affect me as an adult. I believe it’s fortunate that I remember those things, as knowing the source of your issue is half the battle.
Kendra: While South Korea didn’t treat you the best while you were growing up, is there any aspect of the country you miss?
JUNE dARK: I miss my family and friends of course. Other than that…I like that services are quick and efficient in Korea. The health benefits are great compared to the US for sure. What I really miss is how I felt as a child while growing up there. Even if the memories are not all that pretty. I feel nostalgic about the streets I walked, venues I went to see live bands with friends, watching the snow through the window in my bedroom at night (especially because it never snows in L.A.), and the record stores I used to buy new metal albums from. None of these things are there anymore, but maybe one day I’ll revisit those places to see how they’ve changed.
Kendra: With 2017 almost over and out, what are your plans for 2018 when it comes to music?
JUNE dARK: 2017 was interesting. I’ve been collaborating with a few cool producers around the world for different projects. I’ve also been writing a lot of K-pop songs. Who would have thought K-pop would find me all the way out here in L.A.? I never even listened to K-pop when I was a teenager! Most of the songs are commissioned for TV and film, and some are pitched to other artists. It’s actually quite fun to do. So hopefully in 2018, the material I worked on will be released.
I haven’t had much time to work on my own songs this year. So I’ll work on that harder going forward. There are a few songs that are close to being finished. I’ll be releasing them as soon as they are ready. I don’t really have specific goals or expectations for my original songs at the moment. I still believe that it’s important to get the songs out there so others can enjoy them.
At this point in my life, I’m more about the pure joy of self-expression and sharing it with others who might find it as meaningful to them as it is to me. I’m the happiest when I’m creating something that’s true to myself. So I’ll continue doing just that. It’s that simple joy I have to keep in mind when the shadows of the past creep into troll me from time to time.