Busker Busker. Heard of 'em?
Probably not, but they're huge across the Pacific where 28-year-old drummer and Ohio native Brad Moore is one third of the group that just wrapped up a stint on Superstar K3, a wildly popular reality show in Korea that churns out K-Pop superstars. (That's Korean pop, of course, which had its first international mega-hit with "Gangnam Style.")
Moore is white, which makes him stand out, along with the fact that he knows very little Korean.
He met his band mates, guitarist and singer Jang Beom-Jun and bassist Kim Hyung-Tae, while he was teaching English in Korea. It was just six months ago they formed Busker Busker, and the grueling trip through the star-making reality show has been exhausting, as Moore described to the Pacific Standard.
After making the final episode, Busker Busker was quickly led away to a house where record execs waited with contract proposals. The group declined initially but relented and signed a contract with CJ E&M on the condition that they write their own songs and basically retain control of the entire process — from producers to playing their own instruments. Here's a snippet from the Pacific Standard piece where Moore describes his new fame and the rigors of how reality pop television sausage is made.
Moore, though, had gotten his fill of the K-pop assembly line while on the show. For nearly two months, he’d lived in a remote house an hour’s drive outside of Seoul with the other contestants, cut off from the outside world. They were pressured to get Botox shots, subsisted on a power-slimming diet of salad and tofu, and had to be in front of cameras around the clock. “We became professional sleepers,” recalls Moore, who lost 25 pounds. “When there was a break between shots, we’d lie down on the concrete outside or in the bushes.”
So after their near-triumphant performance on the show’s finale, the band turned down a proffered contract. “I was exhausted,” says Moore. “And I didn’t really care about becoming a celebrity. I figured, after this is over, I’ll go back to teaching, and it will be a fun story to tell people about someday.”
This was K-pop industry sacrilege—but it worked. The group’s first album came out in March 2012. It skyrocketed to No. 1 on every music chart in Korea and spawned a sold-out concert tour.
Still, Moore says he had to push his bandmates, who grew up with the Korean maxim “Work is life,” to go along with the idea of not following the K-pop factory model. “I had to convince them that it’s beneficial to relax and chill out,” he says, smiling.