VAV: ‘We Want More Chances to Interact With Our Fans’
Get to know the latest South Korean act making their India debut this week
VAV are possibly one of the most elegant South Korean boy bands around. Impossibly tall and draped in black suits, the six members–St.Van, Baron, ACE, Ayno, Lou and Ziu (seventh member Jacob is currently on hiatus)–make a striking first impression when I meet them in Seoul a month before they’re set to arrive in India. The announcement regarding their India tour was finally made earlier this month and comes right after K-pop group IN2IT’s successful shows in Mumbai and New Delhi this April. VAV’s tour will make them the most popular South Korean act to make their debut in the country and it’s all-in-all a pretty exciting time for K-pop fans in India.
While VAV have been in the K-pop scene since 2015, it’s taken them a while to step into the “Spotlight” (pun intended). The key to their sudden popularity in 2018 might have been their acute understanding of what their fans wanted from them. With the global rise of Latin pop fusions, VAV jumped onto the bandwagon with their single “Senorita”–a move that changed the game for them, allowing them to target new audiences in Latin America as well as a wider global pop circuit. Baron explains that the growth of K-pop itself has a lot to do with it. Otherwise why would audiences be interested in listening to a K-pop band’s take on Latin pop? “(K-pop’s growth) widens the amount of genres we can experiment with as artists,” Baron says. “It fits more fans better, so the concepts get more adjusted to the fans around the world.”
Their latest EP Thrilla Killa saw them make an even bigger splash, the lead single of the same name using retro-pop to create an instant earworm. The group also reinvented their softer, more romantic image from “Senorita” to a darker, sexier aura well-received by old and new fans alike. They’re baring more skin and while it’s not something they’re used to, they’re happy to try what their fans suggest. “When we go on tours in Latin America and Europe and when we meet fans, we ask them, ‘What kind of concepts would you like us to do?’ and most of the time they say that they like sexy concepts!” says leader St. Van with a laugh.
VAV have had a busy past few months with successful tours in the U.S., Latin America and Europe–India with it’s massive, Hallyu-hungry audience was the next logical choice. At first, they expertly dodge my questions about an India tour (a secret at the time this interview was conducted) but hint at it heavily with declarations of, “I love Bollywood,” and “I love (2009 film) 3 Idiots! It’s very positive.”
I show them the trailer for 2019 Ranveer Singh-starrer Gully Boy and they’re enthralled; Indian hip-hop is a new side of our country they haven’t been made aware of before. They’re eager to learn more with questions about where they should visit and, with furtive glances towards their managers, they finally admit they’re coming but don’t know when. (We now know they have a show in New Delhi on May 30th and another in Imphal on June 2nd.) With the knowledge that we will be meeting again soon, topics of discussion from there on centered around Bollywood, making the effort to appeal to international fans, the process of conceptualizing Thrilla Killa and what they’re working on next. Excerpts:
Could you tell us a little bit about how each of you got into music and started your career?
Ayno: I used to be a child actor and so I continued down the path naturally.
Ace: My hobby used to be dancing in school and because I enjoyed it so much, I decided to become an idol.
Baron: When I was young, my mom used to listen to a lot of music and made me listen to a lot of music, so this influenced me to become an artist.
Lou: Actually, I was in the Philippines for four years to study English and when I came back to Korea for a holiday, I got cast (by an entertainment company.)
Ziu: I was influenced by (South Korean actor and singer) Rain and was so inspired by him that I decided to be a singer.
St.Van: I too was influenced by my parents who are really into music. I was always around music so this is what I wanted to become.You guys have fantastic stage names. How did each of you come up with them?
Ayno: So I had an older friend who was into hip-hop and he used to call me like, ‘ay, ay’ and when they called me, they put my last name’s two letters (No) after it, so Ayno came out of it.
Ace: One of the main directors of the company told me that I should be the ace of the team.
Baron: The company gave me the name because they said I should have a noble image, manly and noble, like a baron… It’s a bit weird when I say it myself! [laughs]
Lou: My name Lou is very simple, because my voice is low. [laughs]
Ziu: There’s a character in Pokémon that’s called Ziu in Korean, this is how I chose it.
St.Van: So they started by wanting to call me just Van, then as time progressed, they ended up putting St. in front of it.
Congratulations on your album Thrilla Killa! It has been so successful globally. When did you guys start working on it and what was the concept about?
Baron: So we started working on this album while we were promoting our single “Senorita” (2018) and the title track “Thrilla Killa” is to describe a person who is very charming, very handsome and is a person who is able to catch everyone’s heart.
You’ve also had a bit of an image change from your previous releases—you’re darker, more dangerous, sexy. Where did this major image change come from? What usually inspires your concept changes?
Lou: So we usually change the concept every album, also try different genres and styles. We enjoy doing it so it doesn’t feel burdensome. We get influenced by watching other artists–especially when it come to styles and expression–then we look at what other people with a similar concept would do and then change it to suit ourselves.
Anyo: And the company does make songs for us, but on this album we also have two songs that were written by St.Van and I.
Do the rest of you want to do more songwriting and production on future releases? What are some of the genres you’re keen to work on?
Ziu: I want to start doing older pop styles, like ballad pop.
Baron: I would enjoy more in the future, if in the albums there would be more songs produced by ourselves, like how Anyo and St.Van wrote two songs.
Lou: We go to a lot of music shows, but we would also like to try reality shows, maybe try acting… show other sides of ourselves.
Are you very involved in your music video concepts and fashion for each comeback?
St.Van: We are not that involved at the moment, but we would be interested in trying it out, especially because each of us would have our own ideas for music videos. We would also like to be more involved when it comes to outfits and all these kinds of things. We want to try everything out and it will be good for the fans since we can show them more personal sides.Is there something in particular about K-pop’s global evolution that you’ve really enjoyed witnessing?
Baron: Especially now that K-pop gets wider and bigger, music also spreads and reaches more people and it influences more people. It even widens the amount of genres we can experiment with as artists. For example, when we make a song like “Senorita,” which was a Latin pop song, it fits more fans better, so the concepts get adjusted to the fans around the world.
Do you usually use social media to understand what kind of concepts your fans want to see you try? How do you get an understanding of what they want?
Ayno: Well… members all like working out a lot, so when we show that with a sexy concept the fans seem to enjoy it. [Everyone laughs.]
St.Van: When we go on tours in Latin America and Europe and when we meet fans, we ask them, ‘What kind of concepts would you like us to do?’ and most of the time they say that they like sexy concepts!
Baron: Like… the more mature image of us seems to fit the fans the most.
And what concept of yours did you guys like the best?
Ayno: So when we did “Senorita,” in the beginning I wasn’t completely sure about it, but the reaction to it was so great and the music video reached a very high number of views on YouTube… up till now, I’ve enjoyed that the most.
What would be the legacy that you want to leave behind as artists?
Lou: We want to be remembered as the group with consistently good songs, good music.
St.Van: We want to be a team that spreads happiness and we want people to enjoy the music, we want people to hear the songs and be refreshed, feel a new energy and feel happy. This is the kind of team we want to be.
What are some of your plans for 2019?
St.Van: We’re always preparing albums and we want to go to other countries and tour. We want more chances to go and meet people, to make more music, to interact with our fans and create new songs.
All photos courtesy of A-Team Entertainment
Special thanks to Namas-K and ZanyBros.