Kpop Once Removed: Discovering Amber Liu, James Lee, and FYKE

Being a curious bunny, I often go nosing around side rabbit holes when I’ve discovered something new. Early on in my kpop journey, I found Amber’s solo projects and was absolutely delighted. Royal Pirates broke up pretty much the day I found them, and I’ve been following former bassist James Lee’s fascinating story since then. And YouTube likes to think it knows me well (see my playlists here, here, here, and here) (I also dabble in Spotify), so once upon a time it suggested FYKE, whose lead singer Enik Lin played with Royal Pirates as James Lee was transitioning to keyboard after his accident.

I’ve discovered since then that these artists know each other, hang out together, and support each other’s musical efforts–the silly and the serious. Come see what I’ve discovered about Kpop Once Removed.

AMBER

This lady is in a class by herself. Her solo projects range from the soulful to the absurd, and I delight in them all. Originally from Los Angeles, Amber and one other person were selected to join S.M. Entertainment in a 2008 global audition. Amber got her start as a member of the girl group f(x), whose members also consist of Krystal (Prison Playbook, Bride of the Water God), Luna, Victoria, and former member Sulli (To the Beautiful You).  f(x) caught my eye because they weren’t the standard objectified kpop girl group, and because of Amber’s unique style–embracing long shorts, roomy t-shirts, and baseball hats. She just looked SO comfortable in her own skin! Her voice is warm and clear, and she raps like a boss.

BACON LOVE (gentle viewer alert: some swears and shenanigans):

 

What I find noteworthy is Amber’s ability to connect with her fans and make them feel like they are a part of her life. She spends a lot of time on Twitter and Instagram, and supports her IRL friends shamelessly. Watching a video of Amber with Kiirstin Leigh, Emily Ghoul, Mike Bow, or James Lee or anything she does for What the Pineapple shows off Amber’s vibrant and friendly side, inviting her fans to be a part of her circle.

Amber and James Lee, the llama siblings (from @ajol_llama on Instagram)

Amber Liu and Enik Lin (from @iamenik on Instagram)

Amber released a mixtape on SoundCloud this past spring called Rogue Rouge (gentle listener alert: there is some language in Get Over It). Her duet with Gen Neo, called Right Now, is one of my favorites, and I love the contrast of Amber’s soaring voice and the deep bass in Lifeline.

JAMES LEE

If you read James’ story on Instagram, you’ll get a movie-worthy journey from despair to hope, culminating in a comeback right off the silver screen. Formerly a member of the Korean-American rock band Royal Pirates, James Lee has since launched a solo career based on the hope he found after nearly losing his hand in a freak accident. James chose to be vulnerable and share his pain and despair through Instagram, allowing his fans to connect with him on a truly intimate level, and continues to use Instagram to share his new projects and his new perspective on life.

As James was adjusting to his new normal, at first he transitioned to playing the keyboard for Royal Pirates. His health prevented him from continuing with the band, and he struggled for a time to find his purpose. James found hope at last, and funded by a Kickstarter campaign, he poured his heart and soul into his new solo album, The Light. Supported by Amber and produced in part by Enik Lin, The Light captures the emotional roller coaster James endured, speaking to those who have dealt with chronic pain, loss of former ability, and have found love in the middle of it all. His songs include “Let’s Get Away” (above), “The Light” (gentle listener alert: there is an f-bomb in the chorus) and “Perfect” with Amber Liu.

Amber and James Lee

James Lee and Enik Lin

FYKE

Enik Lin in FYKE (photo cred: Lex Hidalgo)

Enik Lin has been making music for a long time, reinventing himself until he finally found the perfect form of expression in FYKE. He’s been instrumental in helping James Lee launch his solo career, has performed with Amber Liu, and is good friends with them both. While Enik is the heart of FYKE, he’s not alone–FYKE also has Gerard Christian Bajamundi on the drums, Justin Wright on guitar, Mikee Fabella on the bass and backup vocals, and Steven Delman on guitar.

FYKE: Steven Delman, Enik Lin, Gerard Christian Bajamundi, Mikee Fabella, and Justin Wright (photo cred: Lex Hidalgo)

The FYKE songs that grabbed my ears first were Awake, and Favorite Mistake, and Nightmares. I bought the CD and was completely entranced–the band’s sound speaks to my rock-loving soul.

Enik does a great job of connecting with his fans–he does his best to make time for a daily Q&A on Instagram, answering all kinds of questions. He’s very upfront about the bullying he dealt with during his school years, as well as the heavy drug addiction that he conquered through religious conversion. His spiritual maturity is reflected in every answer he gives to his fans, as he encourages them to find answers to their problems in scripture. When asked why he chose to cover Time After Time (below), he replied, “When I listened to the lyrics, I felt like God was say that same thing to me” (Q&A on @iamenik on Instagram). I find that to be a stunning reinterpretation of the song.

FYKE is in the beginning stages, and what a beginning they’ve had. Playing in venues like the KTown Night Market and KCON LA, they draw screaming and entranced fans wherever they are, captivating their audience with Enik’s insightful lyrics and the band’s rich, layered sound. I have to give a huge shout out to Lex Hidalgo for these pictures of FYKE. He does an incredible of capturing the emotion of the guys as they perform. You can find Lex and FYKE hanging out on the FYKE CLUB fan page on Facebook. FYKE is dropping a new music video on August 31st and I am BEYOND excited–I’ll be stalking their YouTube channel for sure!

(photo: Lex Hidalgo)

 

So there you have it, drama fans. Sometimes I listen to music outside of kpop and find the most interesting groups! Thanks for joining me down this kpop-once-removed rabbit hole. I hope you enjoy your stay!

Until next time, I remain–

Karie the Maknae

Dramas with a Side of Kimchi

 

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