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LØREN is bringing Korean alt-rock up from the underground

Co-signed by K-pop royalty BLACKPINK and represented by the label 88rising, LØREN is putting a spotlight on Korean alt-rock. Read the interview now. Continue reading…



LØREN appears in our 2023 summer issue, which you can buy here.

LØREN is the type of musician who can experience music with all five senses. As a multi-instrumentalist, he uses words like “ooze” and “smell” to describe the sensation a song gives off. His genuine love for the music he creates is evident, as well as his eagerness to grow as an artist. LØREN, born Lee Seung-joo, doesn’t want to waste any of the time he has left in Los Angeles. After this interview, he fully booked his schedule with studio time, as he finds LA an inspirational place to be and is “trying to get the most out of it.”

It’s a change in pace compared to the time he spent making music in the confinement of his room between 2016 and now. During those times, it took a lot for him to not get discouraged. Even though self-doubt crept in and at one point he felt undeserving, he was the type of person to be more mad at himself if he didn’t try hard enough. “You have to work hard to even get a chance to shoot your shot. I believe that your time will be returned to you, despite how dark it may seem for the time being,” he explains over Zoom from the 88rising office in LA.

Read more: 8 rising K-indie artists you absolutely need to know about

If you told LØREN six months ago he’d be represented by 88rising and performing at this year’s Coachella in front of tens of thousands of people, he would not believe you. He’d tell you to “get the fuck out of here.” His Coachella show, which LØREN describes as “the real deal,” was only his third performance in the U.S. and the first time in Southern California. “This is not something I thought would happen, let alone this soon,” he says. His surprise at the swift progression of his career is humble but equally understandable. Before arriving in the States, he prepared for future gigs by performing “small friends and family” shows in Seoul, which roughly 100 people attended. In Korea, the state of rock music is an esoteric one.

“There’s definitely more shock value [with] rock music itself,” LØREN explains. “It’s not a common form of music in Korea. It’s more like, ‘Wow, this is refreshing.’” The genre has an underground community in Korea that has yet to bubble up to the surface. He clarifies that for most people, “It’s not like they dislike it. They’re just discovering this entirely new thing.” 




Not long after his friends and family showcase, he was jet-setting to the U.S. for his performance at SXSW 2023. This was his and his bandmates/friends’ first-ever performance in America. Thanks to Tiger Den, a joint venture presented by American entertainment company Jaded and alternative K-pop band Balming Tiger, the full-day event exclusively featured artists from the Asia region and diaspora. The gig was a lateral step up. In hindsight, LØREN describes the Austin event as “a lot more casual [in comparison to Coachella]. You were very close to the crowd. You can literally see the faces of each and every one of them. It felt very intimate. It felt almost like a party. It wasn’t a crazy stage with thousands of people, which has its own beauty.” With drinks in hand and phone flashes on, the crowd at Tiger Den was incredibly receptive and gave LØREN a taste of what was to come a month later at Coachella.

Fast forward to a bright April Sunday in Indio, California, LØREN took the Sahara stage and gave a live debut of his songs from his latest EP, Put Up a Fight. He also brought out Landon Barker, the son of blink-182’s Travis Barker, during weekend 1 to sing a never-before-heard track that they plan on releasing “eventually.” 

From a young age, LØREN knew he wanted to be in the music industry. While other kids watched Cartoon Network, he tuned into MTV and became enchanted by the rock music of the ’90s and early noughties. When he was 13 years old, he taught himself how to play the guitar and the drums shortly after. As a middle and high schooler, LØREN was a part of many bands that came and went. “That was the only interaction [I had] with kids. I had no friends, but I was a very decent drummer. They’d be like, ‘Fuck your social life, but do you wanna play drums for us?’ Then I’d get straight [up] ignored afterward.” He can recall the number of times he ate lunch with someone on one hand. The lonely school experience he had as an adolescent is what inspired his stage name, LØREN, an anagram of the word “loner.” 

Seeing Muse, Paramore, Kaiser Chiefs and Vampire Weekend live fueled him. Those experiences gave him a clear image of what a rock ensemble looks like. To him, being a one-man rock band was inconceivable. “I always thought a band was a necessity when it comes to rock music. I didn’t have any friends that did music. I didn’t know what to do,” he recounts. Pursuing a path in music that didn’t require other people, he took on the persona of Cawlr and taught himself how to be a DJ/EDM producer. Cawlr was an anagram of the word “crawl.” “If I can’t run, I’ll walk. And if I can’t walk, I’ll crawl there. Whatever the fuck it takes, I’ll get there,” LØREN elaborates. 

Life looked “pretty bad” in 2016. Working as a DJ had its fun moments, but he knew it wasn’t his calling. It was a means to an end that allowed him to be in the music industry. There was a dissonance between what he was doing and what he wanted to do. “I couldn’t see myself still making [electronic] music 10-20 years down the line,” he says. The nature of electronic music didn’t resonate with him. During this period, he experienced moments of depression. He vulnerably admits the depression was in part caused by the end of a toxic relationship. The “texture and repetition” of electronic music proved to be an inadequate outlet for him. He didn’t know it at the time, but this phase of his life turned out to be one of the most important parts of his journey, despite initially thinking it was “wasted” time. 

Somewhere along the way, LØREN got signed as a backup DJ at THEBLACKLABEL, founded by iconic K-pop music producer Teddy Park. LØREN endearingly speaks about the founder and the mentorship he has given a kid who “whined about his high school and shit.” Despite Park’s intimidating aura, LØREN knew the producer’s tough approach was a sign of his faith in him. Park gave him the tools: “a room, a laptop and speakers.” Now, LØREN had to prove himself. As a novice producer, he homed in on his craft, not knowing what it would take. Park’s investment in LØREN had him go from feeling stuck in a well, with impenetrable walls and no way out, to looking forward to the new chapter of his life. For LØREN, Park wasn’t just someone who imparted wisdom — he could also relate to him. (He says similar to him, Park has been writing music since he was “hella young.”) 

In the midst of all of this, he began writing songs, even though he believed they weren’t going to go anywhere. “I just wrote to get [it] out of my system. Eventually, I showed it to people at the company, and they thought it had potential.” With no gigs and the pandemic in effect, he created music in isolation. “Temporary,” off Put Up a Fight, sonically illustrates the expulsion of his inner feelings. It was created when LØREN was in a bad state. He worked in a soundproof room that insulated his self-doubts about whether his music was ever going to go anywhere. In spite of how he was feeling, he told himself, “As shitty as this is, with time, everything passes — nothing is permanent.”

On the same EP, the lead single “Folks” was written earlier on. In layman’s terms, the song is about being misunderstood, but more specifically a response to other people’s skepticism. What people don’t understand about LØREN is that he has been doing this for years: playing the guitar, being in countless bands, learning how to produce, creating songs, etc. He doesn’t expect people to be aware of these efforts. He understands that judgment and misunderstandings are the way humans are, himself included. He just wants people to know that “this is my life. This is what I want to do with my life. Everything I do is like a piece of me. This is not what I do for a living; it’s not what I do for fun. This is what I want to do until the day I die.”

And don’t let the Instagram handle “@lorenisalone” mislead you. The social media username was a joke that some people “fuck with” and others took too literally. LØREN has more reasons than he can count on why he’s happy. “I’m genuinely happy. I love working. I wanted to work for such a long time. I’m happy I’m busy,” he says, positively radiating.


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