Korean-Australian hip-hop sensations 1300 on the ‘surprising’ response to their success

Obviously the members of 1300 are just as good friends as band members. Rako, Goyo and Dali Hart knew each other as members of the Korean-Australian music collective Aisleland, alongside recording artist Yura (describing the atmosphere as “healthy” and “supportive”). Nerdie, Pokari.sweat, and Goyo had also gone to the same school (“Shoutout to Homebush Boys!”), but they all graduated at different times and didn’t know each other.

They all eventually became friends after meeting at a listening party for Yura, and at the end of 2020 they started making music together. “We clicked and we made three songs in a row,” says Goyo.

Their music evades the simple definition – it’s a mix of hip-hop, punk, pop and more. But most of all, it’s highly danceable – perhaps why their songs resonate with audiences. “That’s the only kind of music I make,” says Nerdie, who produces influences like house, dubstep, grime, garage and jungle house.

The videos accompanying their music are just as experimental, displaying the trademark playfulness and charisma that make them so beloved. The video for their single old boy pays homage to the 2003 Park Chan-wook film of the same name, with recreations of scenes from the original.

What did they listen to when they were growing up? “A lot of Korean music – a lot and loads of of Korean music,” says Rako, who grew up in Perth. The band members rattle off a long list of Korean acts: Big Bang, Beenzino, Zion.T, CL.

“L [only] learned about Australian music while doing 1300′, says Rako. “We have realized how many great talents there are in Australia. We were late.”

Also late is the Australian mainstream for Korean-Australian artists. “It was surprising to see the reaction to our music here, simply because we’ve never seen that before [Korean music being celebrated] rather,” says Nerdie. “It seems to correlate with the popularity that Korean culture in general has had of late, which has probably opened some gates for people to accept what we’re doing.”

“It was surprising to see the reaction to our music here, simply because we’ve never seen that before [Korean music being celebrated] before.”

Their growing fame is certainly in line with the increasing popularity of Korean culture, including Netflix’s success Squid Game and Parasite2020 Oscar win and subsequent marathon run in the Australian cash register

“It’s the right place, the right time. It’s in the zeitgeist,” says Nerdie. Appear on Triple J’s as a version cover gangnam style, Nerdie says they chose the song because “there was nothing else — it’s hard to pick a Korean song because most people don’t know any of it.” When it comes to Gangnam style“whether they hate it or love it, they know it”.

Yet they say the majority of their fans are Anglo, or at least non-Korean, Australians. “We are grateful – they are a good audience. They listen, they are interested. But where are the Korean-Australians?” asks Nerdy.

They are now turning their attention to Korea where they are slowly developing an audience. It’s “more difficult to break into,” Goyo says. “We’re not there, we can’t do live shows.” The plan is to change that soon – they’ve already booked tickets to return there this year.

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It’s not just in their audiences where they see a lack of Korean-Australians, but in the entire music industry itself. “They’re all hiding!” or “They’re all exported right away,” they say. Historically, the Australian music industry has been hostile to non-white artists, who, with little interest from record labels or festival lineups, have been forced to go abroad.

“There’s no future for them here,” Nerdie says, referring to artists like Rose of the K-pop group Blackpink, who were born in New Zealand and raised in Australia. “So we’re the leftovers,” Pokari.sweat jokes.

These ‘leftovers’, it seems, are trying to change the rulebook and plot a future for themselves and others like them.

1300 will perform for Live life at the Sydney Opera House Friday, May 27.

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