Soo Joo Park Makes Killer Music Debut With "Haenim"
The supermodel-slash-DJ is releasing music under the name Ether.
For Soo Joo Park, the Korean-American model known for her signature bleached blonde hair and effortlessly cool street style, music has always been one of her biggest passions. As a DJ, the runway veteran can often be found spinning records at fashion parties, but there’s a different side of her creative personality — her interest in songwriting and performing — that she’s been hoping to show others. Recently, just before traveling to France for Couture Week and the Cannes Film Festival, Park made her musical debut as a vocalist. Under the name Ether, she is featured on electronic band Desire’s new single “Haenim,” a moody cover of a ’60s Korean pop song.
The synth-heavy track, brought to life by Park’s magnetic vocals, is accompanied by a horror film-inspired music video directed by David Alexander Flinn. Park’s infinitely chic character is dressed by Turner, the stylist to artists like Grimes, in a perfectly constructed white mesh top by Shirley Tang of Oriens, paired with Namilia‘s Speed Racer Pants designed with pelvic cut-outs. Trading her bright platinum locks for a blunt black wig, Park oozes femme fatale glamour in the deliberately gory visual.
Already starting to work on new material, Park spoke to HYPEBAE about her foray into music and how this project has been a long time coming.
What kind of music did you grow up listening to, and how is that reflected in the music you create?
When I was much younger, I listened to Top 40s and whatever was on the radio. I joined my high school show choir during my freshman year, and eventually sang all the main solos in medleys. Our repertoire would be mostly Broadway material and some pop. It was a huge step for me to join choir, to sing and dance, because I was painfully shy about performing in front of others at first. I was stiff as hell! I still remember the first time when I auditioned for a solo part, it was the part in “Oh Happy Day” from Sister Act, with that one high pitch note. I was absolutely petrified — not because I was scared of my ability to sing, but because it scared me to death to perform in front of my teacher and other students. Obviously, the more I sang in front of an audience, the more comfortable and better I got.
At around 16 or so, I saw an indie band perform on a late night TV show, and fell in love with indie music and rock ‘n’ roll. After years of vocal training in pop and Broadway, it was so refreshing to hear how powerful having a distinct style — both vocally and in how you dress or portray yourself — can be. And being irreverent was a power. When I went to college, I started volunteering at my college’s radio station. They had an incredible archive of music across all genres and regions through all eras. My job was to listen to them and write short reviews — the discography of Serge Gainsbourg, the latest Belle and Sebastian, a lot of obscure deep cuts. All of these experiences were important for me to gain confidence and build my own career in performing.
You’re releasing music under the name Ether. How would you describe their persona? Do you share any similarities with your alter ego?
I always thought that when the time felt right, I would release my music project under an assumed name. I’d been quietly waiting, working, writing in bits and pieces through the years. The vision of Ether is that of a dream-pop sound that’s moody, nocturnal and ethereal, like noir vibes playing into a hazy sunset.
Rather than being an alter ego or a completely different persona, I see Ether as an extension of my creative expression. I designed the logo myself and asked architect and designer Stephanie Lin at Present Forms to create atmospheric animations as a teaser to introduce the band. These, especially the pink clouds and the lightning bolt shattering, are in essence what Ether is. I hope to have fun culminating this persona of Ether.
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You’ve always been interested in music and have been DJ-ing for quite some time. What led you to make your singing debut and work with Desire on “Haenim”?
I met Megan Louise Doyle and Johnny Jewel from the label Italians Do It Better several years ago, while I was DJ-ing a party in New York. I played one of their songs (Glass Candy’s “Rise”), they heard it and approached me. We became fast friends and when they found out about my interest in producing music myself, we talked about working together. I shared some songs with them, including “Haenim,” and told them that was the vibe I wanted to create. We decided to create a cover to launch Ether.
From the lyrics to the melody, how did the original version of “Haenim” speak to you personally?
The original version is written and produced in 1968 by Shin Joong-Hyun, who’s called Korea’s “Godfather of Rock” — he was in the forefront of bridging the western sounds in Korea. The original song “Haenim” (meaning “The Sun” in Korean) has a very warm and euphoric lo-fi vibe. It’s stripped bare to an acoustic guitar and singer Kim Jung-Mi’s voice glide over the fuzzy recording. The words are simple and beautiful, all about revering Mother Nature and the sun.
What are some of your favorite memories from working on this song and its music video?
I had to learn how to drive a vintage stick shift car in less than three tries, because the battery on the car was fragile. I don’t even drive an automatic car often, and here I was driving an old 1970 Chevy Camaro Z28 into the pitch black dark night.
We shot the music video on the day of solar eclipse, June 10. I’m not superstitious, but I do follow major solar and lunar cycles and l keep track of Mercury’s movements. [Shooting the music video for] a song about the sun on the day of solar eclipse — if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. If that’s not coincidentally meaningful enough, our single was released on June 25, the day of Strawberry Full Moon!
Do you have plans on performing live sets in the future?
Definitely. We’ve already been in talks of touring, but first I’ll be going back to Los Angeles to produce more material this August. We’re also in discussion with my dear friend, who’s an incredible sound designer, to produce a suite of remixes for “Haenim.”
- Image Credit
- Lindsey Hall