1300 celebrate Valentine’s Day with “cute sounds” and K-pop homage on the ‘<3’ mixtape

The Korean Australian hip hop group talk to NME about the follow-up to their breakout project ‘Foreign Language’, their second-gen K-pop favourites, experiencing Splendour in the Mud and more

Today, 1300 wish the world a happy Valentine’s Day with a surprise mixtape – the Korean Australian hip hop group tell NME more.

Released on Friday (February 10), the five-track tape is the follow-up to 1300’s debut mixtape ‘Foreign Language’, which NME named one of the best Australian albums of 2022.

The new release is titled ‘<3’ – or the internet way to type a heart in the pre-emoji era. The project was accompanied by videos that embrace a similarly nostalgic spirit: visualisers created in Maplestory, the online MMORPG that was massively popular in the 2000s.


The cutesy visualisers are a perfect match for the pop-leaning ‘<3’ and its candyfloss production. “We sometimes have a bit of a sweet tooth in terms of sound,” rapper Goyo tells NME over a Zoom call. “[Producer] pokari.sweat really likes these cute sounds and as a group we do too.” The group, whose versatility was well-showcased on ‘Foreign Language’, also aren’t picky about what they rap over: “It doesn’t matter what kind of beat it is, we’ll jump on it.”

After dazzling with their flows on ‘Foreign Language’, 1300 – rounded out by Rako, Dali Hart and Nerdie – explore R&B crooning and K-pop homage on ‘<3’. The group, who delight in calling themselves a K-pop boyband, have long been influenced by the genre, especially the second generation they grew up with; to NME they name-check the legends Big Bang, Girls’ Generation and Wonder Girls (while also expressing their enthusiasm for fourth-gen rookie phenoms NewJeans).

“It almost feels like we’re exploring our childhood in a sense,” Goyo says of the throwback K-pop sounds on ‘<3’. “Everyone dreams of being a K-pop star at one point in their life, if you’re Korean, so we’re channeling that energy to make these quite different five tracks.” (In classic 1300 fashion, though, the sound of the tape can’t be easily generalised – hear the hyperpop ‘Lavagirl’ or the pop-punk touches on ‘Super CD’.)

1300 photocards
For ‘<3’, 1300 created their own photocards – a common piece of merchandise in K-pop – with artificial intelligence. Courtesy of 1300

1300 travelled to South Korea as a band for the first time last year, performing at festivals and venues – Goyo remembers a set at Seoul’s Henz Club, a legendary venue for hip hop artists, as a particular highlight. For Rako, it was hearing people finally sing 1300’s Korean lyrics back to them, “a new kind of experience that we never and still haven’t experienced fully yet in Australia”.


The stage is where 1300 truly thrive, as their recent raft of festival bookings attests to. “All the boys love live shows,” says Rako. “We just feel the energy of the audience, meeting up with our fans or people who have never met us before.” The group got both the good and bad of festival season: when Splendour in the Mud pulled the plug on its first day, 1300 were one of the first acts that had to break the news to their fans.

When NME mentions the incident, Rako briefly buries his face in his palms, groaning. To play Splendour, 1300 had endured a gruelling travel schedule from Seoul to Sydney to Gold Coast and finally Byron Bay, Goyo explains. “I remember there were hundreds of our fans that just came running as soon as we started to go onstage. We were really, really excited even if we were really tired.” But he’s more than diplomatic about the outcome. “It was unfortunate but you know, those things happen and it’s always safety first.”

1300 have heaps of material lying in wait for fans – the songs on ‘<3’ are Discord server-facilitated lockdown creations – and promise that this year they’ll drop a lot of new music, including collaborations with both Korean and Aussie artists. They look set to gain even more momentum in 2023: their place in the NME 100 of 2023 and nomination for the Australian Music Prize are just the beginning.

For 1300, the attention and acclaim is gratifying and a little baffling. “It’s crazy because we didn’t expect anything like that when we [started] making music in the first place,” Goyo says. “We were literally just making music for fun until everything picked up after [2021 single] ‘No Caller ID’… I don’t think it’s changed anything about how we feel about the group. I think we feel the same way: it’s a family more than a business. It’s good to have achieved all these things and yeah, we’ve gotta keep going. Keep going forward.”

Success hasn’t changed life too much for 1300, Rako points out, speaking while sat in his car on break from work. But “it definitely helped us kind of dream bigger” – to work towards making music full-time. He adds: “I want more people to enjoy our music. We want to feel like music is what we can rely on, as well.”

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