The members of Day6 — guitarists Sungjin and Jae, bassist Young K, synthesist Wonpil, and drummer Dowoon — whiz by in a cloud of cologne and coordinated black, grey and white outfits. The members look sleek and sophisticated, fashionable descendants of The Killers‘ Brandon Flowers or Interpol‘s Paul Banks.
Sonically, though, Day6 has more in common with the arena-ready pop-rock of OneRepublic. JYP Entertainment’s first group with a rock concept follows in the footsteps of FNC Entertainment’s early rock adopters CNBlue and FTIsland, two of Day6’s inspirations. Though Day6 is pushing against the tides of pop, ballads, and coffeehouse indie, Day6 has carved out a place for themselves in the industry, peaking at no. 2 on the Billboard World Charts with their 2015 debut EP The Day and reaching no. 6 with their latest EP Daydream. Day6’s sound has garnered them a loyal international fanbase that avidly listens to all of the band’s tracks — even “Pandora” and “Eyeless,” two unreleased, concert-only cuts that circulate on YouTube for the listening pleasure of fans who can’t make it to Day6’s intimate shows around Korea.
Before setting up their guitars and drums on the Prudential Center stage for KCON USA (presented by Toyota), the five members of Day6, from assertive leader Sungjin to happy-go-lucky Wonpil and talkative Jae, sit down and talk with Billboard about incorporating dance music into their Britpop-inspired sound and the strangest song they’ve written.
You’re the first JYP Entertainment group with a rock concept. What do you hope to accomplish for both the label and the industry?
Sungjin: Super band! [Laughs.]
You wanna just be a super band?
What does it mean to be a super band?
Sungjin: A band that has super high-quality music.
What does rock as a genre mean to you?
Wonpil: I wish our band could have more influence, not just in Korea but around the world, and that our music will touch people’s hearts and speak to the audiences.
Both of your singles “Congratulations” and “Letting Go” are melancholy tunes about past relationships. Fans are wondering if you’ll come out with happier singles soon.
Wonpil: There are so many other songs that aren’t sad!
Sungjin: I think the vibe in our emotions works better when we sing…I don’t wanna say it’s sad, but emotional music.
Young K: To add on to that, the thing is every song of our album is written to be a title song, and it’s “Congratulations” and “Letting Go” that got chosen to be title songs. So I guess that vibe suits us more.
Who’s deciding what becomes a single? A team of producers, JYP…
Young K: Us, too, and we’re JYP and Studio J, so that label plus the entire company goes through our songs and goes through this voting system. I guess they like us the most when we sing with that kind of vibe.
Rock itself is a very multifaceted genre; if you think of classic bands like The Clash and Queen, you can go so many ways with the genre. What inspirations or vibes are you hoping to incorporate into your music?
Young K: The thing is, every one of our members likes different genres originally. But then out of all of those genres that we like individually, there’s this one genre that we like in common, and that’s modern rock, Britpop, OneRepublic, and we tend to go for those kinds of sounds.
What do you all enjoy outside of rock? How do you plan on working that into your sound?
Jae: These days I’ve been kinda attracted to EDM or more of that trance-house feel. I feel like this album’s gonna be a little bit more upbeat and not so sad — I mean, it’s not because of your earlier question! But that’s really the direction.
Imagine I affected your songs just by asking that earlier question.
Young K: Maybe.
Jae: Just even little simple things like a dubstep rhythm and just making that into a drumbeat. Just little simple things like that, I feel like we could incorporate into our music to make it a little bit more trendy.
Fans have asked if you’ll consider releasing studio versions of unreleased songs like “You” and “Eyeless.”
Sungjin: We are actually thinking a lot about that. We’ve had a lot of discussions and deliberation going on, and we wanna show the best songs, we wanna give the best song we can make. So we’re really working on it.
I know you guys have performed in a number of smaller club-like venues and you’ve done a fair amount of busking around Seoul. What do you think you’ve learned from those experiences that you wouldn’t have learned anywhere else?
Sungjin: We love getting instant feedback from the fans. It’s kinda difficult to do that in a different setting, but in a smaller setting with smaller stages you can feel what they want and get instant feedback on what they like and what they want to hear from us. We take that into our next performance and we try to develop what our fans like.
Do some of your songs work better in that environment?
Young K: I think it depends on which song out of the album, ’cause some songs might be more suited might be more suited for busking sets, some songs might be better on bigger sets and bigger stages with better equipment.
Jae: But one thing we know for sure is that all of our songs are better suited for live performances, just us being able to play the instruments, people will hear every instrumental sound. It always plays out a lot better than just hearing it on a [studio] track.
What’s your song creation process like?
Young K: For some songs, we might come up with a drum beat first; some songs, we might come up with a keyboard or melody line. It all depends on how we feel at the moment.
What’s the strangest inspiration behind one of your songs?
Young K: You mentioned one of them, “Eyeless.” In my opinion…
Jae: Yeah, it’s pretty weird.
Young K: Yeah, that was pretty weird. “Eyeless” is not on an album yet. I was inspired by a drawing of a human, but it didn’t have eyes. It had an orange background and the human was white. I was thinking, “Maybe I would feel like that if I lose a woman that I used to love.” And then the song’s lyrics came out.
Rock isn’t very mainstream in the Korean music industry. What inspires you guys to push forth with your sound in an industry dominated by other genres?
Jae: I think that’s also one of our missions; we’re from a very mainstream company, right? JYP. And we’re doing a very non-mainstream kinda indie sort of music, something that only people like Hyukoh or maybe CNBlue or FTIsland are famous for and popularized in Korea. So I feel like another mission is for us to popularize rock band music, or just music in general, so that just more people are listening, and the more listeners means the more content is produced, more bands and more music.