The trend, where K-pop was mostly built of incredible dance performances and not so much of strong vocals – let’s put aside experienced groups such as SHINee, EXO, Brown Eyed Girls, Super Junior, Girl’s Day or BTS as those guys can deliver striking shows – has recently changed its course. While dance performances are still a great part of the act, talent agencies started to pay more attention to their artists’ vocals. Not only have more groups began to perform live rather than lip-syncing, an increased number of idols are also able to manifest perfect harmonise – deep and strong vocals are possible to achieve. UNVS, which officially debuted with Timeless in February of this year, has joined the line-up of those talented groups.
Consisting of Jun.H (rapper), YY (vocals), Eunho (main vocals), Changgyu (vocals) and Jen (rapper), UNVS (which stands for UNIVERSE) might be a new player on the market, but they are surely a force to be reckoned with. With four of them being in their late 20s and Jen in his early 20s, they are no teenagers. Their mature yet alluring appearance, and a slightly different approach to K-pop itself, will definitely help them open doors to a wider audience, including the one overseas. The group’s music is often produced by room102, a rapper known for his work with other K-pop acts such as GOT7, GIRLKIND and DIA. While Timeless represents K-pop as we know it, Solar Eclipse, from their 1st single, can be seen as a new twist on the R&B genre.
Photo © CHITWN MUSIC
On May 15th, the group released their 2nd single, Soundtrack for the Lost and Broken: Give You Up, which contains the title song Give You Up and Waterfall, a solo sung by Eunho. UNVS’ sweet blend of varied melodies and harmony pitches gives them an advantage over many other rookie groups. And after listening to Give You Up and Eunho’s solo track, one can be sure that, with each one of UNVS’ new release, the audience will be gifted with very well arranged vocals and noteworthy produced music – their upcoming success might not only be due to the young men’s talents, but also the management team that knows how to bring the best out of them.
It is no secret that all K-pop idols must work extremely hard to achieve their dreams of becoming well-celebrated artists, however, only a handful of those reach the top. Looking at UNVS’ history, prior to their Korean debut, one can only see that the group is no near to giving up on their dreams, it’s the opposite. They are now ready to storm through their domestic music market and, hopefully someday, the foreign one.
How did UNVS’ journey begin? What was the creative process behind their 1st single release and to what extent have their surroundings shaped them as artists? We spoke to the group about it, as well as about the challenges that they face as new players on the K-pop market, and life in general.
Photo © CHITWN MUSIC
Recently, you released ‘Timeless’ and ‘Solar Eclipse’ and ‘entered’ the world of K-pop, it must be overwhelming as in a short period of time you received lots of attention. Was music a path that has always called out to you – was there a moment when you realised that music was for you?
JUN.H – I loved to participate in talent shows and dance since I was in elementary school. I liked getting popular through dancing. Then, I started listening to foreign hip-hop songs in middle school and that’s when I first got to know rapping. At that time, it was difficult to find a beat so I would write rap lyrics for backing tracks of famous Korean songs and show them to my friends when we were singing in karaoke. I felt so happy when my friends would complement me for my rapping! That’s when I thought that music was my path.
YY – I was really shy and had no dream, but then I had a chance to dance in front of many people when I was in school. That was the first time that I thought I wanted to do something really well, and after that, I started dancing. I guess that moment was what brought me here.
EUNHO – I was eleven when I fell for music. I just liked to sing along to songs that I liked and would record songs alone. Then, I had to go study abroad when I was sixteen and I just lived like that, having given up on my dream until I became twenty. I realized that I couldn’t give up on my dreams, so I came back to Korea right away and started doing music.
CHANGGYU – In high school, we had to do a club activity every weekend and I signed up for the school band because I had liked singing since I was very little. But the school band was open for only one male singer and everyone good at singing signed up, the competition rate reaching 57:1. I thought I wouldn’t get in anyways and I didn’t even have a place to practice, but I still did my best, going to karaoke alone for the first time to practice and everything. Eventually, I got chosen as the main vocalist for our school band. After that, we went on a school trip and our band performed last in the talent show with the song ‘Please’ from FLOWER, a band that I really liked at that time. It was my first time singing for the band, so I was really nervous, but the whole school was cheering for me and calling out my name while I was performing. When I heard those cheers, I got thrills and I could really feel myself concentrating and getting into the music. I thought ‘Music really is my path. I want to be able to be on stages like this forever’, and kept working hard to become a singer.
JEN – Actually, I never thought that I would be working in the music industry when I was a student. I first started dancing when I was in high school as I was a member of the dance club. Naturally, I started listening to K-pop, became interested in music and eventually went to college for dancing. Then, I was lucky and got a chance to audition at our company, and here I am. Being in the dance club at high school was a turning point in my life.
YY © CHITWN MUSIC
You debuted with ‘Timeless’, then you released ‘Solar Eclipse’ feat. room102, what was the creative process behind both songs? How was your collaboration with room102?
JUN H. – The process of getting Timeless out to the public was not easy. Even after we had finished recording Timeless, there were many situations that could have actually erased UNVS. But we couldn’t give up on Timeless. There were many struggles to keep our team together, so the song really means a lot to us. Also, Solar Eclipse is a song based on a real story of room102, with beautiful memories and scars of the past, so the recording of the song was carried out with great discretion. We learned a lot from room102, especially of emotionality and how to express those feelings in a song.
You released a couple of music videos as well. ‘Timeless’ and ‘Solar Eclipse’ music videos give different vibes, what are your feelings about each video?
JUN H. – For Timeless, the parts had changed a lot before our debut and also the choreography was revised three times, so we had a hard time practicing it. Since we had to memorize so many versions of the choreography, it was difficult to erase the former one and learn a new dance. Other than that, our CEO produces our songs and his producing team is room102, so we were lucky to have a collaboration with the team for Solar Eclipse.
YY – In Timeless, every member had to act out their own story. Each one of us suffers and is troubled from our own difficulties, but then we come together and go forward towards hope. Solar Eclipse was a little different from Timeless, because in the music video we are heart-broken, missing a past lover. Since it is a love story of a mature man, we had to portray a darker and sexier image. The key point of the music video is our synchronized choreography.
EUNHO – In Timeless, we overcome our own hurtful stories and difficulties, and as a group, we find our way to the light. For Solar Eclipse, we had to express the feelings of reminiscing over a past lover through dancing and acting.
CHANGGYU – Timeless and Solar Eclipse both speak of the pain of love (break-up). The difference is that in Timeless, each member has their own story and while they are having a hard time, they come together through the song. Even if we suffer and are in pain, we can overcome those difficulties through music. Solar Eclipse, on the contrary, is about suffering due to a break-up and trying to let her go, but not being able to forget her. The emotions of longing are expressed thoroughly through our acting and the performance in the water.
JEN – Our goal as a performer is to impress the public, share our emotions, and establish a sexy concept. We wanted to give newness by breaking the norms an idol group can show and I think that we achieved that goal through Timeless and Solar Eclipse, both musically and visually.
Eunho © CHITWN MUSIC
What’s the hardest thing about being in a group? As there are five of you, there must also be five different personalities. How do you work as a team?
JUN H. – Actually, we didn’t first get to know each other at the company through UNVS. We knew each other since we were kids and some of us after graduation. So, the members of our team were decided by our own will, which means that I’m working together with some of my closest friends. It just feels like I’m living with my best friends and we know each other so well, so we don’t really have major difficulties working together. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so we don’t fight and the working process goes very smooth.
YY – We’ve just debuted, so we lack experience and don’t know much yet. All five members are different and have their own personalities, but we try to respect each other’s ways. Our inclinations and personalities are all very different, but we share the same purpose, so we work well together.
EUNHO – The harmony between the five of us is indestructible. We complement each other’s weaknesses, which is not an easy thing to achieve in a relationship.
CHANGGYU – Because each member is so unique and different, it was impossible not to fight with each other, even if we are so harmonious together. We needed time to get to know each other and we fought in that process, feeling awkward with one another. But all five of us are so naturally kind-hearted and easy to get along with, so we gradually got to understand and respect each other. Now and then we’ll fight again, like any other group of friends, and if that happens, our leader JUN.H helps us get our feelings out and talk about our problems. We know each other so well now, so we’re like a family and I’m so happy to be with our members.
JEN – The fact that the five of us are so different is a great strength, as much as it is a weakness for our team. Since five people with such various tastes are working together, we constantly have new ideas and opinions, but at the same time argue with each other. We always try to talk our problems out and we have a lot of faith in each other so we have great teamwork.
Looking at your current life, to what extent do you think your surroundings have shaped you, creatively speaking, and in what way?
JUN H. – I don’t really think I’ve changed a lot since I was little. It is a pity, though, that we aren’t able to perform in front of a crowd due to the current situation [COVID-19]. I hope that we can survive this situation and everybody stays healthy, so we can meet our fans in person. Our friends and family are also looking forward to us being able to perform on an open stage.
YY – My mother was probably the most influential person in my life. Thanks to my supportive mom, I could bite the bullet and come all this way. She’s the reason I have to keep working hard and become a better person.
EUNHO – Looking back, I’ve been influenced by my surroundings a lot, being affected by the people around me. When I was studying abroad, I wasn’t in the best of circumstances, but my friends and family helped me out and they were a good influence on me. Until now, my friends and family are very supportive. Thanks to their love and faith, I could become the person that I am now.
CHANGGYU – My parents and family, who are my pillars of strength, have shaped me the most. Whenever I’m going through a rough time, my parents help me and support me no matter what, which is the biggest reason that makes me want to work harder. Also, the closest people to me, with whom I can share everything, are definitely our members. They’re like a family to me and I can always trust them. The CHITWNMUSIC staff, always working hard to get us on stage and improve us musically, are also very important. Last but not least, thanks to our loving fans, UNUS, we are always driven to overcome our difficulties and go forward. Thank you, to all our fans, for giving unconditional love and support. I love you so much.
JEN – I’ve always struggled between the thoughts, ‘You’ve got to do everything you want to do, since you only live once’ and ‘But is it alright to do only what you like to do?’ But thanks to the people who cheer for us and encourage us, I could make bold decisions and do what I like to do, which has brought me here.
Jen © CHITWN MUSIC
Looking at the Korean music industry right now, where do you aspire to fit in? Do you want to play strictly K-Pop or would you like to make music of a different genre someday?
JUN H. – UNVS isn’t a team that sets limits on music genres. Our company and members are constantly striving to do music that is new and trendy, so we will keep on trying out new genres. Then, someday, we will be able to establish our own genre, the genre of UNVS.
The role of an artist is always subject to change. What’s your view on the tasks of artists today, and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
EUNHO – We, UNVS, are trying not to fall behind in change and to ‘make’ trends. We are studying songs and performances of famous artists worldwide to make better music and to be able to pull off new music styles.
JEN – The biggest influence on teenagers nowadays are celebrities. Since we are working as people who are the most influential on growing teens, I think that we should feel the responsibility to be a good example for them. Of course, to make touching music and thereby satisfy the public is the most fundamental role of an artist.
Is there music you like, which never fails to make you feel good? Who really inspires you as singers? And who motivates you to work hard and stay on track?
JUN H. – I listen to a lot of acoustic songs. Country music and old pop are especially my taste. It’s quite unexpected of me, right? I get so emotional listening to these songs, and old songs inspire me a lot. We can relate to old songs easily, even if they’re not from our time, which I consider as perfect music. My parents are definitely my biggest motivation and I think the members will all agree on this. My dream is my parents’ dream, and I hope to make my family proud. I think that in my case, working hard as an artist is the best way to be a good son.
YY – I like NELL’s Time Walking on Memories. When I was in puberty, lost with no hopes and dreams, I soothed myself, listening to this song. Even as a grown-up, it’s one of my favourite songs that I like to sing. My mother is the one who always motivates me. I want to succeed and be a son she can lean on.
EUNHO – Sunday Morning by Maroon5! It’s the first song that I started practicing after coming back to Korea. The person who inspires me as a singer is Lewis Capaldi. I love his delicate emotions. Finally, my family is definitely my biggest motivation.
CHANGGYU – These days I’m listening to Rachael Yamagata’s Duet, especially when I’m tired after practice or while I’m going home. The whispering voice and gentle guitar sounds are so soothing. I’m also practicing songs of the singer ‘MAX’. Their vocal control and ad-lib are really imitable, and their immersion into the music is really inspirational. Finally, our fans, UNUS, are my biggest motivation. The fact that they like our songs and performances, writing sincere letters every day and commenting nice words, is really encouraging. I always read everything that our fans write, and they really mean a lot to us, especially when we’re feeling exhausted and having a hard time. We all get motivated to do better so that we can make our fans happy.
JEN – I didn’t really listen to K-pop when I was little. The only K-pop songs that I listened to were songs by SHINee. I naturally became a fan of them and my favourite one was Encore. They’re my mentors and the biggest reason I decided to become a singer.
Changgyu © CHITWN MUSIC
As you officially debuted in February of this year, as a new player on the horizon, what are your main challenges as artists?
EUNHO – The biggest struggles are definitely related to our music and performance. We’re always practicing and thinking, ‘How can we impress the audience with good quality music?’ We can solve other difficulties with good music and performances, but the process of making quality content is always difficult.
JEN – Before our debut, I thought all one had to do to become an artist was to be good at singing and dancing. But now that we’ve had our debut, I realize that I, myself, have to become an artistic person. Including my words and actions, every detail of myself has to be exemplary, which I find quite difficult.
When you are not working, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?
JUN H. – I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this, but we’ve never had a proper break from work. Since we can’t have offline stages at this moment, we’re always preparing for new online content and practicing our new song. I’ll have to think about this question after having a proper break. I would probably visit my family first.
YY – At home, I watch movies alone, because I need time for myself! Sometimes I meet my friends and we just joke around with each other like kids. They help me get away from stressful thoughts.
EUNHO – Whenever I have some spare time, I go on a trip, even if it’s not that far away. Getting away from everyday life, even a little, feels really different. Even under the same sky, you feel more relaxed and even if you’re breathing the same air, you can breathe it in more deeply. Although going on a trip every time can be physically tiring, the things that I feel during a trip heal my mind.
CHANGGYU – Usually, I finish my day with a movie or drama before I go to bed. When I get a day off, I go visit my family and friends, whom I always miss. Other than that, I’ve been on a trip on my own once, and I could relax my mind and clear my thoughts. Being alone for too long would be lonely, so I would like to go on an overnight journey again when I have time! I really recommend traveling alone!
JEN – When I want to get away from everything, I usually go traveling. Going to places that are totally different from where I live is quite inspirational and being alone just helps soothe my mind. A proper rest motivates me to work harder again.
Jun H. © CHITWN MUSIC
Now that you have released ‘Timeless’ and ‘Solar Eclipse’, and a brand-new single, Soundtrack for the Lost and Broken: Give You Up, which contains the title song Give You Up [released May 15th], do you have any plans to release a full-length album?
JUN H. – Of course, we’ll have a full-length album! It’s one of our goals. We want to meet our fans often, so we’re always working to create new content and songs. But when that’s going to be, is a secret. I hope you guys get excited for it! As much as people are awaiting our album, we will work harder not to let them down.
Is there a message you would like to send to the UK audience?
JUN H. – First off, I would like to thank you for all the love and support. We’re blissful and fascinated that people from far away know us and like our music. The UK is actually a meaningful place for me because it was the first foreign country that I had travelled to. I learned a lot during the journey and I love the culture there. It means a lot to me that we have fans there. Thank you again. I pray for the day to come, that we overcome the difficulties we are facing at this moment and for us to meet on stage. We will do our best to meet you online with new and fun content, so look forward to our upcoming releases! Stay safe and healthy!
YY – We haven’t met our fans in the UK yet, but thanks to you, we can perform on stage and release new songs. We want to say thank you, and we love you so much! Also, there are still many people that don’t know us, so I want to introduce ourselves. We are a group called UNVS and I hope you got to know us better through this interview! Check out our songs and also look forward to our upcoming albums! We would love to perform in the UK someday. Hopefully, we’ll see you soon!
EUNHO – Once I was asked in which country I would like to be born if I could be reborn, and I answered that I’d like to grow up in the UK. I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to introduce myself to people in the UK. We, UNVS, will work harder and become a group that can perform all over the globe, including the UK. Look forward to it!
CHANGGYU – I read all the comments and letters that the UK fans write. Thank you so much for supporting UNVS and please stay safe until the day we meet! We really want to perform in the UK someday, so be excited for it and we will work harder to show you cool performances. To UNUS and everyone in the UK, COVID-19 is spreading worldwide, always wash your hands, keep your mask on, and don’t forget to use hand-sanitizers! We can overcome this together and hopefully we can go meet you someday. We can do it! Thank you always, and we love you so much.
JEN – Like I’ve mentioned before, we are always preparing new releases so look forward to our content and hopefully you’ll like it. We will work harder every day until our sincerity can reach the UK audience. Thank you.
Music Video © CHITWN MUSIC
We’d like to thank CHITWN MUSIC for their assistance with the interview and UNVS who kindly took the time to answer our questions.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Julia Litwinowicz
All photos and music video © CHITWN MUSIC