After ‘Embracing the Darkness’ & Confronting K-Pop Concerns, VERIVERY See Breakout Hit ‘Tap Tap’ as ‘A Fresh Start’
While making your debut into the K-pop industry is a battle in and of itself, carving your place in it is another conversation entirely that VERIVERY found required a series of experimenting and ultimately confronting harsh realities about themselves and their futures.
After VERIVERY hit the K-pop scene in early 2018 with their feel-good, throwback-pop single “Ring Ring Ring,” the K-pop boy band dipped into singles that spanned into hard-hitting EDM, smooth-groove R&B, experimental electronica and more. The septet always had international expansion top of mind with a DIY mindset being hands-on with music they felt was relatable beyond core K-pop fans and creatively directing and editing some of their music videos and album packages. Despite fluctuating album sales and public reactions through the years, the group pushed into 2022 as their most ambitious yet with more music, touring and honesty than ever.
VERIVERY’s third major musical shift began in early 2021 with the release of their Series ‘O’ Round 1: Hall EP and the dramatic, dark electro-pop single “Get Away.” The new musical vision was brought to the group by their Korean record label Jellyfish Entertainment (home to fellow boy band VIXX, who have made a splash on various world-music Billboard charts) with the concept how young people face, fight against and embrace the darkness in themselves and the world at large.
With two EPs and their first full-length album Series ‘O’ Round 3: Whole released this past April, VERIVERY tell Billboard that they found themselves taking in their music’s messages to seriously reflect on surviving in the K-pop market and disappointments from the past. VERIVERY tell Billboard that they found themselves taking in their music’s messages to seriously reflect their innermost worries about surviving in the K-pop market and disappointments from the past. “The lifetime of an idol isn’t that long,” dancer-rapper Hoyoung says. “After being a member of VERIVERY for four years, we do have to think about the future.” Leader and eldest member Dongheon admits, “We were afraid for our future.”
After speaking the worst-case scenario out loud and pushing on regardless, VERIVERY returned last week with the new single “Tap Tap” off their Liminality – EP. LOVE. Instead of a new direction, the band returned to their rookie roots with another bright, bouncy single that boasted ’80s synth-rock production and unexpected sonic shifts. Almost like a rebirth, Liminality smashed their best sales records in days while “Tap Tap” took their first-ever No. 1-winning spot on Korea’s competitive music-chart program Show Champion. These shows act as signals to the K-pop industry that an artist has made an impact with the shocked tears the members shed while accepting their trophy all the more indicative of how important this moment was for the group.
“It took us 1,415 days to reach where we are at right now,” the group says in a joint statement to Billboard just moments after securing the win. “Looking back on that journey, it may seem like we’ve come full circle, but we think that viewing the win as a new start is much more important. We want to thank all the fans who have constantly pushed us to stride forward and do better through their love and support, and taking that into account we think it’s more fitting to view it as a fresh start so that we can begin paying back all those who have cheered us on by working even harder. Thank you to everyone who have made this possible.”
Read on for more from Dongheon, Hoyoung, Minchan, Yeonho, Gyehyeon, Yongseung and Kangmin about the work put into their 2022, facing fears, and where this new musical step will take them next.
You just wrapped your U.S. and Latin American tour last month. Were there any markers you had to know it was a successful tour?
HOYOUNG: Because we were going to so many cities, I want to make sure that a lot of people got to know VERIVERY and that we’re spreading VERIVERY’s name.
KANGMIN: I think what determines a successful world tour is what shows on the fans’ faces and how they felt.
GYEHYEON: For me, If the fans re-visit us, wherever we are on tour, I think that just defines like, “Wow, this is a successful tour.” Also, a successful tour is just completing it without anybody getting hurt.
Originally, VERIVERY was the first K-pop act to come back to tour the U.S. in late 2021, which was exciting, but a COVID infection cut it short. Did you take any different precautions or preparations this time?
HOYOUNG: We’re always doing exercises, especially vocal exercises. Actually, YEONHO has this tape that covers his mouth when he sleeps so he can breathe through his nose, it protects his throat. It’s keeping his throat a little more moisturized so that he can sing better.
YEONHO: Yeah, it helps when it comes to the big notes so I had to get to used to sleeping with that.
HOYOUNG: And we got to meet fans face-to-face this time, no more barriers in front of us. We could do hi-touch [high fives] and take photos with them. We did a fan sign in LA.
KANGMIN: We were kind of nervous because I can’t speak English! [Laughs]
YEONGSEUNG: Communication is so important.
True, but fans love you for things beyond language and you guys do a great job at expressing yourselves. Like, the Series ‘O’ era that included songs written by you and your first full-length album. How did you feel about the time period overall?
DONGHEON: After our last tour [ended in 2021], we were able to release multiple albums and, through that, I think our mindset got a little bit more chill and we were more relaxed. During tour, we had a lot of conversations with our members and a lot to talk about. We had some difficulties, but we were able to overcome that. And then throughout this tour, we were able to enjoy it more than ever.
What kind of difficulties did you have?
DONGHEON: Hm, well there were just the big and small stresses like jet lag and we weren’t able to control our mentality or health as well while we were on tour. That became a little sensitive. But just seeing our fans on tour allows us to be able to overcome that, and that mindset really changes throughout.
HOYOUNG: The main keyword to the Series ‘O’ was embracing the darkness in us. When we first heard that was our story for our next album, we thought a lot about how to try to deliver that to our fans. But as we started progressing through the albums, we found that we had a lot of time thinking about ourselves individually and about the darkness within us. I think that kind of made us think more maturely and grow up a bit into adults.
DONGHEON: Many people have just questions about their future and we were afraid for our future. We always think about our future and our team, our music, our dance. It can be very dark…
HOYOUNG: Adding a word to what DONGHEON said, after being a member of VERIVERY for four years we do think about the future because we know that the lifetime of an idol isn’t that long, to be honest right? We’re thinking about the future, thinking about us as a group and what more we can achieve. I think we’re very energetic, outgoing and active but all our members do have a lot on their minds. We have had some hard times with having too many thoughts in our brain but we talk a lot as a group to overcome that.
What do those talks look like? Is it at the label? In a dorm? At a bar?
HOYOUNG: We gather around a lot at the lounge [living room] and talk. Now that we’re all adults, even KANGMIN, we might have a little to drink… [Group laughs] But we really try to take those times after practice and rehearsals to try and reflect on our previous practices to make a better performance. Even when we fight, we try to finish any arguments on that day so that, as a team, there’s nothing that could split us apart or anything. The most that we can do as a group is always talking with each other, connect with each other member-to-member. I think that’s how our teamwork improved a lot. Our leader usually just says, “Should we have dinner?” That’s kind of the sign for “Let’s have a talk.”
Did you learn that habit from anyone or did that happen naturally in the team?
HOYOUNG: We’ve done that since we were trainees but, honestly speaking, as trainees we were too desperate to debut. We practiced alone just to survive, to be honest. But after DONGHEON came in to Jellyfish Entertainment, he helped us come together as a group. I think that’s how VERIVERY was formed. We have a lot of thanks to him and I know that the rest of the members all feel the same way that I do right now that being a leader isn’t an easy job but he’s handling everything.
Do you feel pressure as a leader, DONGHEON? Is there a different kind of pressure when expanding into new places like America?
DONGHEON: I’m flustered by the compliments. [Laughs] But it’s very hard because so many members have many ideas and many opinions. To be honest, it’s very hard, but I like it.
During Series ‘O,’, was there anything else you guys felt you needed to process individually versus as a group?
YONGSEUNG: In my case, we had to stop the last tour because of me. [YONGSEUNG and VERIVERY have a light laugh] I was very sad and disappointed in myself. It’s very hard to let that feeling go. So, I was very disappointed, but now I think I overcame that. This time, this tour is different. I exercise a lot with members and I practice a lot. So, I wanted to show the next version of VERIVERY on this tour. In fact, I feel a lot more comfortable now.
Will the Americas continue to be a focus for you guys?
HOYOUNG: America’s a place that we always thought we must go to; it just fits with us. The songs can be really relatable to the fans so it’s always been a place that we thought that we have to go so we’re thinking of coming back a lot.
MINCHAN: And I want to tell the international fans, that “I love you.” [Laughs] It’s a very important thing, right? At every show, I received so much energy from the fans so keeping up this momentum, we’re going to push right through and enjoy ourselves. We’ll keep going!
What’s next as you keep going further?
YONGSEUNG: We included a fully self-composed song in the full-length album. So, coming up next, expect new, self-composed songs.
Is that the vibe you guys are going for, trying to take a little more ownership of the music and concepts?
YONGSEUNG: On tour, we performed a song we made “Crack It,” we want to share more of our self-composed songs.
HOYOUNG: What I’m thinking is we’ve done some dark, I’m thinking that we’re going to do something bright now. We’re going through a lot of hard darkness and now going through a bright stage. I think that’s going to end up really good.
“Tap Tap” just dropped with HOYOUNG as a co-writer and is looking to be your biggest single yet. Tell me more about the viewpoint now with this song and Liminality – EP. LOVE.
YONGSEUNG: We’ve been through lots of things like concerts and our tour since we promoted our last single “Undercover.” This is an album coming off of those various experiences, as well as the first bright concept we’ve had in a while so we hope that it holds just as much meaning to fans as it does to us.
MINCHAN: It’s our first comeback with a bright concept ever since our debut era and I hope that we can prove to everyone that VERIVERY is able to pull off bright, happy concepts as well.
DONGHEON: I’m hoping that this album is able to provide a different experience as “Tap Tap” is a song that keeps you bouncing even in the winter. It’s a brighter, happier version of VERIVERY that people haven’t been seen in a while, so I hope the song leads to more opportunities for everyone to laugh a little more.
HOYOUNG: I’m excited to show to our VERRER how VERIVERY can pull off a brighter concept with almost four years under our belt.
What else do you want to tell VERRER fans at this point?
MINCHAN: I want to say thanks to all the fans who came to our show. We tried hard for this tour. Please look forward to what’s next.
GYEHYEON: With the bright, bouncy song that we’ve come back with, VERIVERY will make sure to provide everyone with tons of love so that we could all wrap up the year happily.
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