There is no denial that the speed at which K-pop groups pop out on our screens is immense. Having said that, not all groups are memorable, they come and go regardless of their talents. However, a huge collage of colours, themes, odd fashion choices and adaptable skills [dancing, singing, rapping, playing the instruments] still make one excited. With BTS [currently the largest pop group in the world] going to the army soon, one can hope that their break from the constant spotlight would allow smaller K-pop groups to shine – let’s be frank, BTS need a break.
Most groups have a distinct style, which is first developed under the supervision of an agency and then worked on independently [if allowed]. While not all idols are the authors of their own music, many do try their luck with some successful deliveries. Whether the artists write their songs or not, it is worth analysing the content in more detail. Between the lines of lyrics, one can find different messages and meanings – stories about life, tackling issues of mental health, longing and love – with some songs being powerful motivators for many listeners out there.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic
What about new debuts of 2021? Undoubtedly, last year and this year have been incredibly hard for the music industry, nevertheless, many managed to promote and debut to a decent fanbase – W.O.W (Wizard of the World) is one of those groups. Consisting of seven members: Sejin (leader, vocal, rapper), Wondae (vocal, guitar), Taeeun (main vocal), Pando (main vocal, bass), Daro (drums, visuals), Yousung (vocal) and Yonghun (rapper), W.O.W launched their careers in March with Miss You, a single written by Kevin, a songwriter and producer responsible for Wanna One’s I Wanna Have and Day by Day, as well as PIXY’s Wings. While the group only promoted via live TV shows, rather than in front of their fans, W.O.W grabbed the attention of those in South America, Europe and their native country of South Korea. Although the group didn’t participate in producing the song itself, Miss You turned out to be a well-rounded track.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic
W.O.W’s members have interesting and various backgrounds too. Wondae is a model and owns a clothing line called DuckDive, widely popular among stylists and K-pop idols, and he doesn’t shy from DJing either. Taeeun is no stranger to modelling too, the 21-year-old also participated in Producer X 101 back in 2019 and dreams of becoming an actor as soon as a suitable role comes through. Daro, a true Rapunzel of the South Korean fashion world, has been a part of the modelling world for some time. Being both artistic and musical, he creates fashion garments under Daro Archive as well as being the group’s drummer. Sejin, a rapper and a singer, is the leader of W.O.W and was previously a part of a K-pop group called The King. Pando is an actor who attended Joongbu University and studied at the Department of Theatre and Film. He starred in Korean TV dramas, including My Secret Romance and Noble, My Love. Singing comes naturally to him, so being a member of W.O.W seems to be a good choice. Yousung is a singer and a past member of Rion Five and T.E.N. Last but not least, Yonghun, a rapper and W.O.W’s youngest member was a part of the K-pop group T.E.N and participated in Under 19, a variety survival show.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic
Although W.O.W is not a “traditional” K-pop group, they might actually add something new to the already vast market. Their fans can only wait for more songs to be released, also anticipating a possible music video to enhance one’s experience.
But what does it mean to be a new player on the K-pop market? What are W.O.W’s favourite things to do, what are their favourite music genres and what do they wish to achieve in the future? The group answered these and other questions exclusively for View of the Arts’ readers and their fans in the UK.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic & TAG Magazine
It is unusual to see an idol group with such a diverse background like yours. You do modelling, design your own line of clothes and accessories, and act as well. What was behind W.O.W and how did you all come together?
Sejin: Our group actually began as a band named A.FACT. We were all from different backgrounds when we got together and formed the band. Then Yooseong and Yonghun joined, and our current group W.O.W was born.
As mentioned before, you do not represent a typical K-pop group; Daro plays drums while Wondae plays guitar and Pando plays bass. How did the idea of playing your own instruments come about?
Wondae: I didn’t know how to play the guitar at first. But while I was still a trainee, a band position opened, and I got ambitious and said I wanted to learn the instrument. I had always been interested in instruments overall. I’m not amazing at playing the guitar yet, but I think I’ll become pretty good if I just practice consistently and diligently.
Daro: Our team was a band at first, but once Yooseong and Yonghun joined we became a group that can dance but also play instruments. I think we debuted in that combined form so that we show the public how diverse we can be.
Pando: I had wanted to pick up an instrument even before I became a member. Also, my natural tendency is to help others shine rather than want all of the spotlight on myself. That’s why I chose the bass when we got the guide to our debut song. I just wanted to help our music become fuller and richer by playing the bass.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic & Yousung
Taeeun, Sejin, Yousung and Yonghun, you already have experience in singing and rapping as you [apart from Taeeun who gained his experience in Produce 101 X, a Korean survival reality show], were part of various K-pop groups. What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
Sejin: The best part of being a singer is that I can connect with my fans through the stage. I love the feeling of everyone in the room becoming one. And there’s nothing about being a singer I haven’t liked!
Taeeun: Since I had both the trainee period and the experience of being a singer, I can give a better performance on the stage. But one challenge for me is quickly fixing any unfavourable habits on stage that I develop.
Yousung: The best part for me is that I can enjoy myself. I’m doing work I actually like to do. So, I can always be joyful! And the fact that people become our fans and cheer us on is the biggest happiness and upside. I don’t think I’ve found a downside yet!
Yonghun: The best part is that I can be on stage just as I dreamt and show my rapping, dancing, and singing to all of you. I haven’t found anything to be difficult yet.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic & Pando
Daro, Wondae and Taeeun, you have been modelling on top of everything else. How different is it for you to do runway versus being on stage performing live [I’m referring to your TV performances here]? Did you have to deal with performance anxiety? And if yes, how did you manage to deal with it?
Taeeun: Runways do not require as many movements or facial expressions as the stage does, and the stage requires me to give an awe-inspiring performance. If I must choose the more difficult one of the two, I think I’d choose the stage. It requires more physical exertion and more practice. But I try to get through it and work harder by focusing on how excited our fans will be when they see our performance.
Wondae: I had lost a lot of stage fright because I’ve been a model for 6 years. But I got totally nervous when we performed on our first music show because it was my first time and there were so many more cameras than I thought (laughs). I’m hoping I do a lot better next time.
Daro: The very first thought I had when I performed on the music show was how there are so many cameras, it’s going to be hard to follow them all. When I’m working as a model, there is only one camera, and it’s solely focused on me during my turn. And I just need to focus on making myself shine. But on a TV stage, there are so many cameras to perform to, and our whole team needs to shine. At first, it was hard figuring out how to show myself best in front of all the cameras, the different timings that come with it, and specific parts of the song where I can stand out the most. But I’m getting used to it.
Back in March, you released your debut single, Miss You, a song about longing. Now that many people are away from their loved ones, including artists being away from their fans and being unable to interact due to the pandemic, Miss You is a perfect track for those who wish to be reunited with a person they are no longer with, and those who wish to see people they haven’t seen for a long time. What’s great about the song is that a listener is able to relate to it and feel all the emotions throughout. What was the creative process behind recording Miss You and how did you decide who is going to sing what verse?
Sejin: The production and recording process for Miss You went really smoothly. For the song parts, all members practiced the song from start to finish, and then the composer assigned parts according to who fits with each part best. It’s a song I’m proud of because of everyone’s combined effort and I’m so satisfied with the final result.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic & Sejin
Miss You was written by Kevin, a producer and songwriter responsible for Wanna One’s I Wanna Have and Day by Day, as well as PIXY’s Wings. How was it for you to work with Kevin, did you get any vital advice when it comes to singing and executing the song? Perhaps any individual advice?
Sejin: I was feeling really awkward at first because I hadn’t recorded in a long while. But Kevin made all of us feel really comfortable when he led our recording session. Also, we were able to finish recording quickly because he described the characteristics and important parts of the song so perfectly. He’s a really sweet yet cool guy.
Taeeun: His explanations were really detailed and easy to understand, so it really improved our recording time and quality of the recordings.
Yonghun: He even gave us some vocal training to optimise our skill levels. He just did so much for us. It was great! His advice for us was to be faithful to the demo when we recorded.
Wondae: He kept smiling and complimenting me so much, I was almost convinced I really was doing amazingly (laughs). Kevin always teaches us in the gentlest way.
Yousung: I think each member’s unique vocal timber made the song even better. The composer is such a great guy and was so open to hearing our opinions that we even recommended each other for song parts. There was just this fun, joyful mood in the air when we recorded.
Daro: He was very assiduous with each part instead of getting it just good enough and moving onto the next. He was that committed and yet also kind in all his directing. It was great.
Pando: It was really memorable for me how he explained that I put too much force into my singing and that it’d be better if I relaxed more.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic & Taeeun
As you are seven in the group, you must have different music tastes too. Is there music you like, which never fails to make you feel good?
Sejin: I listen to all genres, but I’ve been listening to ballads a lot lately. I particularly like ballad songs with great lyrics. Nowadays, the songs I listen to the most are ‘Confession’ by Joonil Jung, ‘Gratitude’ by Dongryul Kim, and ‘Epilogue’ by IU. They all have deeply profound lyrics.
Taeeun: I enjoy band music and calm R&B. I recently got hooked on a song called Silk Sonic. It’s upbeat and really pumps me up.
Yonghun: I like calm, dreamy, and “loose” songs like End of a Day and Elevator by Jonghyun from SHINee as well as The Moment the Universe Leaned by Sojung Jo.
Wondae: I love exciting band songs like The Real by N.Flying that get me energised again when I’m tired or stressed.
Yousung: I like dance music. It’s because I’m surrounded by music all day, so upbeat songs make my day naturally feel more upbeat too, and I like that.
Daro: I’m typically not particular about the genre, but I think I tend to listen to a lot of Indie band music.
Pando: I listened to Red by The Rose a lot when we first started our band. Even now, it’s a song that always gets me in a better mood.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic & Wondae
As you officially debuted in March of this year, as a new player on the horizon, what are your main challenges as artists?
Sejin: I know it’s no easy task to become famous to many people in many places. It’s not easy to be memorable. It requires a lot of effort. I hope our whole team gets well known under the name of W.O.W and gets to be on a lot of stages and have a lot of experiences. I really want W.O.W to have a stand-alone concert in a huge concert venue one day.
When you are not working, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?
Sejin: As of now, our team has something on the schedule every day. But once I do have a day to myself, there are just two things I want to do: go on a trip with friends and stay in bed all day while watching TV.
Taeeun: I’m really into indoor rock climbing so I usually do that and I work out at the gym.
Yonghun: I play video games with my friends or go over to my friend’s place and listen to music or watch TV dramas and movies. I also love working out at the gym.
Wondae: I practice guitar or have a cup of coffee somewhere with a nice view and relax. I absolutely love coffee (laughs). I also have a coffee maker, so I tend to buy a lot of different types of coffee beans and make it at home.
Yousung: I usually watch TV dramas or movies. When I’m especially stressed, the fool proof method for me is to go bowling for a bit.
Daro: I don’t really have days off because I spend my time on developing my personal brand or on personal improvement even when there isn’t anything on W.O.W’s schedule. But I believe even these activities help me give our fans a better version of myself.
Pando: I pondered how I could give a better version of myself to our fans and decided to start working out whenever I have the time. I usually play games after working out. I’m also thinking of making reading my hobby again.
What are your upcoming plans? Apart from promoting Miss You, are there any other projects or releases that you have planned for the future?
Sejin: One of our members will have good news to share in the near future. Please give him a lot of love and support once the news comes out. It’s none other than my good buddy Taeeun Kwon. Also, please give us your love and support when our second album comes out. We’re working hard on it right now!
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic & Daro
Is there a message you would like to send to the UK audience and your fans around the world?
Sejin: When I had just graduated from high school, I wanted to go to the UK for a pilgrimage of sorts, paying homage to all of UK’s legendary artists with just a guitar on my back. It’s the home country of many artists who were huge influences on me. They gave me the dream to pursue music. So, I’m incredibly grateful to hear I have fans in the UK. I find all their interest and love so special. I’ll never stop working hard to give the best of me. I’m hoping for the day our group becomes a lot bigger so we can meet all of you in the UK. To everyone who’s giving us love – I wish you great luck and blessing in everything you do. Thank you.
Taeeun: I know the vaccine is available now but still, if you wear your mask and keep yourself safe, also keep listening to W.O.W’s music, the day we see each other will come sooner! Whether in the UK or anywhere else in the world. Also, keep an eye on us because our new release will be coming out soon!
Yonghun: Thank you so much for cheering us on. We’ll always come back even better than before so please keep cheering us on.
Wondae: I never knew we were getting so much love from the UK! We’ll keep improving and working hard as W.O.W. I really hope I get to meet all of you next year.
Yousung: First of all, thank you for giving W.O.W your love! We speak different languages, but I believe music connects us. We’ll work as hard as all the love we’ve received from you and become artists who’ll be a good influence on the fans!
Daro: Hi, guys. I’m Daro, in charge of drums and silky hair. I once visited the UK 3-4 years ago and it fit who I am so well that I want to live in the UK someday. And now, I’m getting to connect with UK fans, so it feels special. I’m always grateful for how you cheer us on. I want to meet you guys up close once these tough times pass. Until then, we’ll keep showing great things to you guys, so please wait for us! Stay healthy!
Pando: Thank you very much for your interest in W.O.W and your love. We’ll be working hard to show you guys diversity in both music and performance. We’ll become an idol band that feels like a close friend, with music that heals and consoles. Thank you. I LOVE YOU, EVERYONE!
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic & Jonghun
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Translated by Esther Kim
Edited by Julia Litwinowicz
Featured photo © Courtesy of A.Conic
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.