Seoul, South Korea

The RockTigers’ Kimchibilly is Hot

The RockTigers’ Kimchibilly is Hot

The Flame of Elvis' Music (And Hair) Burns in Seoul

By Suyeon Kim
August 15, 2011

I can’t even imagine the conversations that Velvet Geena, frontwoman of The RockTigers, must have with her Korean momma about her life choices. It’s bad enough that the bottle blonde (currently redhead) is a musician, ruining her chances for a life with a computer scientist hubby and a sweet condo in the Seoul suburbs. But she’s not even a recognizable kind of musician, like someone her mom might see in, like, a cellphone commercial.

Well, Geena’s momma’s loss is our gain. The RockTigers make rockabilly, 1950′s rock and roll that celebrates early Elvis, dancing like a Jet in motorcycle jackets, and since 2004, they’ve singlehandedly exploded the culture of pompadours and slap basses in the clubs of Seoul.

The shine in Velvet Geena’s eyes as she channels the moves of The King proves she’s in direct, possibly intimate, communication with the spirit of rock and roll, and guitarist Tiger writhes on the stage with his rhythm guitar, the boss of the stage antics. But Roy’s double bass with the flames cuts a figure too…Oh, who am I kidding, they all look awesome up there, with their big hair and tattoos. Ed Tarantula and Jack the Knife, their lead guitar and drumming skills, respectively, are what your lifeless being is needing.

They sing in Korean, Japanese, and English, but they’re major Americanophiles. Their fanbase is largely American expats, and they’ve have recently toured the western U.S. They’ve even been nominated for induction into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Still, the more you listen to them, the more Korean they seem. In their anthem, “Kimchibilly,” surfer riffs right out of a Sun records album surround lyrics about bars at midnight, drunk girls, and tequila. There’s nothing more Korean than singing oldies over hard liquor in dark clubs, after all.

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