How are you doing these days? It’s been a long time since you were able to see your fans.
V: I’m not over-stressing about how I can’t meet the fans face to face right now. I just want to see them when it’s safe to meet. I think now, I can wait until then.
As your song says, “Life Goes On.” You decided to keep going on with your life.
V: We have to move on. We can’t feel defeated forever. I felt a lot better after making some songs.
Other than working on “Dynamite,” you’ve spent very little time away from home. How do you pass the time when you’re by yourself?
V: I really like just spacing out, so I’ll sit in my room doing nothing for hours. I could try putting on a movie, but then I couldn’t concentrate and would just zone out. When that happens, it’s kind of like I’m living without a thought or care in the world. Maybe I should make a song about all of this someday. Probably call it “Spaced.” (laughs) Anyway, these days I’m looking for ways to keep myself happy.
Have you found anything?
V: Well, I’m listening to LPs lately. It’s getting to be Christmas season and I love snow, so I bought two or three Christmas LPs to listen to. I’m also listening to old jazz songs by Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. Frank Sinatra is cool, like chilled wine; Sammy Davis Jr. is crazy talented. (laughs)
V: Those two were also a big inspiration to me while we were working on “Dynamite.” Sinatra has all this jazzy body language, but he also threw some disco in there. And I imagined how Sammy Davis Jr. might dance if there were a mic on stage and he had to dance around it. They were a lot of help when I was finding a way to be upbeat and cool at the same time in “Dynamite.”
I guess making “Dynamite” must have been some consolation even when you couldn’t meet fans due to COVID-19.
V: We couldn’t put on a concert and couldn’t see ARMY, so we were feeling more and more drained. It seemed like an endless battle. We really wanted to see ARMY feeling better, so we had to get back up on stage and make another album so that together we could beat this thing. I want to be the friend who’s always cheering ARMY on, but there aren’t many ways to make them feel better.
How was the whole “Dynamite” experience? You made it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and also had a chance to perform in a variety of different styles.
V: Shooting the Tiny Desk Concert was a very natural process, which was nice. But actually, with the situation being what it is, we couldn’t really feel much. The day the news came out was of course thrilling. It was great, actually, all of us calling each other and some of us laughing and others crying: “We haven’t gone down the wrong path after all! Turns out we had a chance—it really was possible!”
V: We communicated smoothly, and I listened to all of their concept ideas and I organized everything around that. If we tried something too natural, it wouldn’t be conceptual enough, so we did our best to strike a balance.
You had everyone sitting in the middle, with the set arranged symmetrically around you.
V: That was made possible thanks to everyone having their own ideas. There was no overlap between items, which actually allowed us to create a sense of unity by placing all these different props symmetrically. It wasn’t intended to be symmetrical; each member really did choose something unique.
In your room, you included a violin and a photograph.
V: That’s a picture I took. I like photos and drawings, but if I had used any art then I would’ve been using that one particular artist’s work, so I thought I’d better use one of my own photos. I ended up choosing the violin because I learned how to play it but also because I enjoy classical and jazz.
V: I made it, so naturally I like it. (laughs) Part of me thinks I should’ve tried something more conceptual. BE was supposed to give off sort of a magazine or poster feel since we didn’t shoot many of those, but it ended up having more of a natural feel to it. But I did think that the next time we try to make a photoshoot conceptual we should move away from that natural look a bit. The group explained their ideas clearly and they were simple enough to do, so I think it all went really smoothly.
It sounds like there were no problems choosing the songs for BE. How did you feel recording your parts on the other members’ songs?
V: I like “Dis-ease,” which Hobi wrote, but stylistically it was challenging. It’s really far from my own style so it took a long time to get used to. “Fly to My Room” used to be my favorite song, but it was also the hardest to sing. It was okay at first, until Jimin jumped in.
What about Jimin?
V: Because I had to keep up with Jimin, the song went up maybe three keys. I thought I would die. (laughs) It started out as my favorite song, but it was just way too hard to sing.
But why did you have to sing that way?
V: Jimin said he was sorry, that he couldn’t go any lower. (laughs) When I first heard the demo version, the key was perfect for me, so I thought it would sound great and I should definitely do it. But then Jimin said he wanted to do it too, so I said, “Great, let’s do it together.” Turns out we went up three keys. So I said, “Hey, what’s the deal? Should I just give up?” But, well, somehow it all worked out in the end. It was a happy ending. (laughs)
V: Yes, but all that aside, it was quite the struggle. (laughs) And the chorus is really long. I think it repeats, what, four times?
Yes, it feels like the chorus never ends. The production style is very unique. I like how the emotion is carried through the whole way.
V: I agree, but it’s so long. The chorus turned out crazy, like I was kind of beating the melody into people’s ears. (laughs) The chorus is good, but the whole song’s melody is really catchy. Whenever I heard the beat, I was totally into it. The way the vocals pick up on the beat and the melody was so original and fun, I just had to do it.
What instructions did you give to the other members when they were singing on your song, “Blue & Grey”?
V: I didn’t really have to give them instructions much. I told them it would be nice if they could think of all their problems and then try healing those wounds with their voices, since if they focus on those emotions, there’ll be more feeling in the song. They all did a good job expressing the emotions I wasn’t able to.
It seems like you intended “Blue & Grey” to be a melancholy song. I heard you had originally planned to put it on your mixtape.
V: I wrote “Blue & Grey” when I was at my lowest point, when I was actually asking whether I could keep going with my work or not. Even the fun parts of work became a chore, and my whole life felt aimless. “Where do I go from here? I can’t even see the end of the tunnel.” Those kinds of thoughts hit me hard.
Was there a reason for that?
V: It was when work was a major challenge. When I’m happy, I want to work, and when I’m happy I can put on a smile and see the fans, but there was just so much work to do. I’m an easygoing, you know, laid-back person, but I was stretched too thin and I was starting to sputter. What I mean is, I was having a really tough time, and thinking, “What’s waiting for me at the end? It’s important to be successful, but I’m also trying to be happy, so how come I’m not happy right now?” That’s when I started to write “Blue & Grey.”
So writing the song was sort of your way of bringing yourself some peace of mind.
V: There was a time I was going through something like this. I was having the toughest time, but I couldn’t keep carrying that feeling around with me. Instead, I could use it as a kind of fertilizer. So I took care of that feeling by constantly writing it down in my notes. I just kept writing everything down, and when finally I felt like I wanted to try writing a song, I did. After the song was finished, I felt a sense of accomplishment, and that’s how I was able to let go of “Blue & Grey.” That was one way I wanted to try getting over my problem.
V: I like nighttime and the late-night air, and when it snows, too. I liked those things since way back when, but lately I feel things like snow and the night air keep me alive. They may just be another part of normal life to other people, but to me, they represent very special moments.
That makes me think of the ending from “Blue & Grey”: “After secretly sending my words up into the air / Now I fall asleep at dawn.”
V: I don’t really sleep well. I toss and turn and get caught up in a lot of thoughts. Even when I turn out all the lights, I can see everything clearly. I close my eyes, but all my thoughts spread wide open. Then I’m sleepy at work, and staring off into space when I’m alone, with bags under my eyes, but if I want to avoid that then I really have to sleep. Except, with the way I am, it doesn’t allow for it. I wrote about that in the first and second verses; a feeling like, “When I’m stuck thinking like this, everything is grey, and I’m all blue.” I wrote these feelings out as a song, and now that I’m thinking about it again, I’m actually over it. I feel a lot lighter. I sent my words out into the air, and now I fall asleep at dawn. You’re supposed to sleep at night, but I’m sleeping in the morning again. So I say “good night,” but it’s not actually a good night. “I pass out because I’m exhausted” kind of thing. It’s the emotions I felt in those moments that I wanted to express.
What do you hope hearing about that feeling will do for listeners?
V: Rather than just some stranger telling them to cheer up, I think it’s better to say something like, “You seem depressed lately,” or, “Seems like these days it’s tough for you to perk up.” “Blue & Grey” is the same: “You’re depressed lately? Me too. We’re in the same boat. Wanna talk about how you’re feeling? You wanna feel better, right? I know, but sometimes it feels like you’re being washed away by a whirlpool of stress.” I want the listeners to hear me saying that to them.
It’s important to express your emotions right away when they’re so overwhelming.
V: Yes. I usually write a lot of songs when I’m feeling emotional, but these days I have so many different things to do that I can’t really write anything. I tried to write something before when I had a little time, but nothing came out because the feelings I had were already gone. So I tell myself, “You gotta write a lot when you’ve got the feels!” (laughs) And then I open my notes app and come back to old notes, like, “Ah, so that’s how I was feeling back then? I see. Well, that’s how I used to be, I guess.” So I tried to write “Blue & Grey” quickly, as soon as a big feeling came on.
Then it’s important to revisit those feelings when you’re producing a song or choosing which songs to release?
V: If you can’t bring the feeling back, you can’t make the song, either. I release a song if I feel it expresses who I was and how I felt at the time when I wrote it. Even if we record it perfectly, if the result sounds artificial, I would rather release another, more honest sounding song instead, even if it’s not perfect.
Are those the kinds of songs you selected for your mixtape?
V: Um … I don’t know. This is my first mixtape, you know, so I feel a ton of pressure about it. I’m thinking all the time about what kind of album I should make so that I can feel satisfied with it. The title track is the title track, but everyone also says to just leave it as it is, but I keep getting the urge to keep putting in more and more.
V: I think it still has a long way to go. Maybe it’s because it’s my first mixtape, but it’s so hard. And I feel like it’s a little lazy. People tell me just to put it out and see how it does, but I’d rather know what needs to be fixed before I release it. I also don’t want the title track to be depressing. I want it to be positive and help people beat those depressed feelings. But it’s not easy.
That sounds a lot like what the members conveyed with “Life Goes On.”
V: I think we showed the current situation in a very straightforward and honest way. We’re still going, going, going. And the going is tough. But it doesn’t end here. I wish we were back with ARMY, laughing together. I hope we’ll all be happy in the future and keep on doing our own best, cherishing our hope for our happy future.
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