Formally the lead singer with Clandestine, JUNE dARK is reinventing herself as a solo artist. After struggling for years to find her own independent and unique musical sound, she’s set to release Playing With Fire on September 2. The EP is a courageous departure and exploration from JUNE’s heavy metal roots. In three captivating, inspiring songs, JUNE is starting her journey into a brand new musical identity and career. Recently, we sat down with JUNE dARK to talk about Playing With Fire, her inspirations, and what comes next for her as she prepares to start this journey.
Music Unlabeled: What are your biggest musical influences, in both your new work and the work you did with Clandestine?
JUNE dARK: Well, I was born and raised in Korea. When I was 12, one evening I was just watching TV all day. I saw this rocker and that just started the whole thing. This guy with long hair, going crazy on the stage. And I thought that’s what I’m going to do in my life! I listened to anything from Led Zeppelin to Cradle of Filth. The biggest influence for my music was… I can’t really pick one! It was a mix of anything from pop to goth to progressive metal and J-rock. It was this combination of all these influences. I don’t think I wanted to sound like a particular artist, because if I copy something, that’s not really me.
That’s probably why your music comes out sounding so unique. And the new EP is a total change from your previous work. What made you go in and want to change your sound so dramatically?
The whole reason I came out to the US was to form my band, Clandestine, which was my dream band. After a few years, we went on a hiatus and I found myself trying to figure out what was next for me as an artist. When you have a band with a special niche, you have to stay within that boundary and with what fans expect to hear from you. I realized as I gained more life experience, I wanted to explore more sides of me, more topics that interested me, and be unconstrained. I wanted to be able to diversify the sound, the topic, and lyrics I expressed through my music. Since 2011, I’ve been messing around in my home studio, creating whatever I wanted, without being boxed in. A couple years passed by, and it took me a while to say, “Y’know what, I’m going to release whatever I feel like releasing.” As a solo artist you have more freedom… and it’s really refreshing. The band is still on hiatus, and Clandestine could come back to life, maybe someday. Never say never. But at this point in my life I feel like I want to explore more for my solo journey.
Was it hard figuring out what you wanted the new music to sound like, or adjust to the differences?
Kind of, yeah. Everything that I recorded was so different from what I’ve done before. Even I was not used to what came out of my head, so I was hesitant to release it for a while.
You said you’ve been recording since 2011, so I imagine this EP is just the tip of the iceberg for you.
For sure! I have a lot of stuff I can’t wait until it’s produced. I’m more of a big idea person than a technical person, so I work with a few different producers to get it polished and sound professional. It’s a good way to keep yourself in check, so you don’t end up doing the same things and so you can actually grow.
Changing your sound so dramatically, and then bringing people in to polish it off and putting in their feedback takes a lot of courage.
For me, music is a spiritual process. It’s about working on yourself and seeing yourself as who you are. The sound that I’m looking for isn’t going to just happen after 1 take. It’s going to take 100s of times or more, and I have to keep working on it and try new ways to get there if one way doesn’t work. Sometimes no matter what I try, I just can’t achieve a specific sound I wanted, which can be really challenging. But music makes you adapt and takes you to a new path that you didn’t know existed before. I think that’s how true creativity shows up. If you were able to think of it before, maybe it’s not creative enough. So when you attempt to make what’s in your head, your creativity takes you somewhere else so you can see things from the outside of yourself.
So there definitely is a full album in the works?
Can we expect the full length album to sound similar to Playing with Fire?
The ones that I have in mind for the next album are a little bit more… electronic, half of it, and the other half will be more heavy. Not as heavy as the band, but maybe it will have some more heavy sound and electronic sounds to bring back the edge. I think overall it’ll sound heavier than the EP. All three songs in the EP might become the softest music I’ve ever made for a while.
What all is on the new EP?
Playing with Fire is a three song EP; “Phoenix,” “Gasoline Tears,” and “Forgive Again” and it’s out September 2.
You said that “Phoenix” is an ode to personal transformation. We already went over how your sound has changed, but was there any events in your personal life that influenced this transformation?
Oh yeah! The song is also about my personal relationships that I’ve built for the last few years that really meant a lot to me. But then I also realized that after a while those relationships weren’t serving me in a constructive way. So I had to let go of those things that weren’t good for me. “Burning the old and starting anew,” was the idea behind this song. Writing it was kind of like… an active imagination or a visual aid to help me pull through the process of cutting off an attachment to the past that didn’t do me any good. Through this work, I understood that I’ve been trying to find my missing pieces in other people, and that was impossible because I’m already whole, and all my pieces that belong to me are within myself. I just have to find it. When I realized this, I let go of my expectations of other people. Then, strangely enough, by letting go of these expectations… I became more able to accept and appreciate people for who they are. By letting go, I became more fulfilled as a person.
Your new song “Gasoline Tears,” dropped today on The Prelude Press. Can we hear the story behind that song?
The song was written around the title that was brewing in my mind for a while. One day I was thinking about why people kept telling me that I was too quiet and seemed preoccupied. I also had some people telling me that they thought I was cold as if I didn’t feel anything. So I took some time to figure out why that was. Why do people think of me like that? I’m actually very sensitive and have strong feelings! I think I was afraid of letting out my emotions because it could be way intense for others to handle. I didn’t want to hurt people, especially in relationships. They’d say, “I can’t figure out what you’re feeling,” and I was starting to think, “Maybe that’s for your own good. If I show you how intense my emotions are, it would hurt our relationship.” I imagined crying out tears made of gasoline which then catches the tiniest spark to burn down everything.
With the way that you’ve gone in and basically redefined your sound and your image, you seem like a person who could be successful doing any kind of music. But is there any kind of music that you could not see yourself doing?
Freestyle Rap. I’m just not capable of such performance and writing. I’m a careful writer who tends to overanalyze. I like to arrange things in many different ways, pick the best option and finalize it before I ever perform it. I admire musicians who can spontaneously come up with music and lyrics. I want to learn how to do that better.
Do you think you’ll ever go on tour?
Well… not for this EP, but right after the EP drops, I’m gonna go back into the studio and work on the full-length album that will be released hopefully by the summer. I think I’ll start performing in Los Angeles, where I’m based out of. But soon, I’d love to tour far away places, such as South America and Europe one day. That would be a dream come true.