You might know of South Korea’s musical landscape via its polished pop groups or rappers and R&B vocalists, but the country’s pop and rock bands are adding a dynamic, anthemic dimension to the mix.
DAY6 are one such group, a quintet who debuted in 2015 and whose songs come from emotional, bittersweet places (You Were Beautiful) but also the celebratory (DANCE DANCE) and the tender (I Need Somebody). Their light, kaleidoscopic songwriting filters British influences, as well as American stadium rock, through their unique set up of four vocalists.
Last year, Sungjin (vocals, guitar, leader), Jae (vocals, main guitar), Young K (vocals, bass), Wonpil (vocals, keys) and Dowoon (drums) undertook an ambitious project called Every DAY6, releasing a lead track and B-side every month. The project’s albums – Sunrise and Moonrise – were released in June and December, both scoring Top 5 positions on Korea’s Gaon charts and Top 10 on the US World chart.
As a result, the band held sold-out end of year shows, and encore concerts in 2018, and with DAY6 officially releasing their debut Japanese single on March 14th, they spoke exclusively to Metro.co.uk about success, songwriting, friendship and wind machines.
Let’s start with the Every DAY6 encore shows in early March at the Olympic Hall in Seoul – 6000 tickets, sold out in minutes. As a band, are you feeling change around you in terms of momentum?
Jae: It’s hard to put into words how much we feel like we’ve grown. We’re really appreciative to the fans throughout this past year, but we’ve been so consumed in the process of meeting deadlines that it’s been hard to monitor our growth. But yeah, it feels amazing to have sold out the Olympic Hall. That’s nuts.
Young K: The memories of starting from small stages got me thinking that we’re on the right path. Olympic Hall has been a stage that we’ve only dreamt of performing on. I don’t know how to put it in words, but all I know is it feels great.
Your success looks like, to an outsider, a steady rise. Do you see it the same way? What worries have you experienced so far?
Sungjin: It is true we worried a lot until our debut. But we’re moving forward by trusting the team members and ourselves.
Jae: My worry is always the same, will we get to the destination we are running to? There’s so much talent and hardwork involved in the industry today that it’s hard to gauge if we’re going to ever get to that #1 position.
Dowoon: I have lots of ambition to grow further rather than worries!
Wonpil: I think it’s not easy for a band to be successful in Korea. However, we’re slowly knocking on the door and constantly pushing forward. Even so, there are times when we have challenges in terms of music, that “we always have to do something new”.
In the video for DAY6’s first Japanese single If – I See You Again-, you use wind machines and wire work. It looks great but does stuff blow straight into your mouth, and do you have give up trying to look cool?
Sungjin: It was a very cold day, and when the wind first hit, I almost laughed even without realising. Maybe the guitar felt cold too, it broke a string three times during filming! (laughs)
Jae: We cleaned the floors with the help of the wind blowers. All the dust and debris shot straight into our mouths, hahaha! I tasted the smell of the studio for days but, overall, a super cool experience. The flying scene was sick.
Wonpil: With the wind machines, I had a runny nose. It was so funny that the members and I were trying to look cool in that situation.
You had a crazy 2017 with Every DAY6. What was your initial reaction the plan?
Dowoon: My first reaction was half-happy, half-worried.
Sungjin: The idea [came up] during a meeting about how we’d make each song stand out as we liked all the demos we had in preparing the new mini album. We were just happy back then, not thinking about how difficult it would be (laughs).
Jae: Half scared out of our minds, half excited. No one in our company had ever done anything like this before so we questioned if it was even feasible, but it taught me to put faith in the company and their decisions again, because they were right, we did it.
What was your personal highlight and, equally, when did you think, ‘okay, this is hard’?
Wonpil: The most memorable was when the last song for December was decided, it felt very weird, l like putting the period mark on one year that was long and short at the same time.
Jae: I really liked all the songs we put out. In this field you don’t find many artists choosing what they want to put out and that kinda results in people not being able to put their head up high and really belt out “this my song, take a listen”. Fortunately, we’ve never had that problem.
Young K: For the title song for March, it didn’t get confirmed until 20 February and I couldn’t go home for three days, writing with the producer and Wonpil. That’s when I thought, ‘Oh if I don’t prepare the songs early enough, this project might end’, and started to have ideas written down or recorded all the time.
It’s well-known that DAY6 love groups like Coldplay but in your music there’s many influences – early Britpop to classic rock and pop punk. How do you meld these together?
Sungjin: In terms of making decisions, we have our own rule to follow the majority. Also, the composers we work with suggest several directions, so we get a lot of help as well!
Young K: Since we listened to many different genres as we grew up, all those styles are drawn on the tracks. We have the tracks ready first, top-line individually, then we gather those top-lines and select part by part, sometimes bar by bar. We don’t work this way all the time but it’s been our majority.
In a previous interview, you mentioned that in the beginning you didn’t get along perfectly. How have you learned to adapt to each other?
Jae: I think it takes time for people to really understand one another keep so I’m glad we had a training process to figure things out before we got down to business.
Wonpil: Now we know what one likes or dislikes even without saying it. When we are together, everyone’s goofy, it’s so fun.
Dowoon: I think we respect one another, learn the boundaries, and behave carefully. I always learn a lot from my older members (laughs).
Originally, DAY6 focused on live shows as a means of promoting. You’ve now shifted towards appearing on music and variety shows; are all of you comfortable in these situations?
Jae: I still don’t get that whole variety program thing. I don’t think it’s something I’m going to be comfortable for a while. It also has to do with the fact that I’m not 100% comfortable with Korean. So, maybe if I can contribute my English skills in a way, I could do better. But for now, I still have a long way to go and lots to learn.
Wonpil: Being able to perform live is such bliss. But I’m thankful that [we] have a space to play and even be broadcast. So I’ve never felt discomfort or uncertainty in any situations!
Young K: Since my parents live abroad, they can’t watch the live concerts. However, if I’m on television, they can see me. But all those live stages have given us strength, knowledge and experience to help us become who we are now.
Sungjin has said he didn’t mind being called an ‘idol band, but who in the group has struggled to accept that term?
Jae: I don’t personally use the term ‘idol band’ but I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. The term idol means to be looked up to, and I’m good with that. Maybe I need a little more practice till I feel like I deserve it but yeah!
Wonpil: I don’t mind being called an ‘idol band’ either. If the music is good and you’re confident, it won’t matter which title tags along. Also, being called ‘idol’ by anyone [makes me] grateful because there are people who get motivation from our music. It gives us a reason to behave well, but I think this actually makes me a better person.
Compared to the band’s debut in 2015, what is DAY6 to you in 2018?
Sungjin: The team spending our youth together, and supportive and reliable friends. 2018 will be a year for us to grow in many aspects. Please look forward to it. Thank you!
Jae: It’s always been the same for me. DAY6 is my life!
Young K: More of a family. And I found more meaning of [the word] ‘team’. We are all different individuals but when we gather we pull out things that we couldn’t do alone.
Wonpil: If there were no DAY6, there would be no Wonpil Kim. Also, without DAY6, there would be no My Day (their fandom), so DAY6 is my reason to live.
Dowoon: DAY6 became a family. If you don’t see them, you miss them (laughs).