08 April 2021 Highway Star Interview “We’re pioneers of our own music genre”
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: DREAMCATCHER TALKS ABOUT FAN THEORIES AND THEIR SOUND: “WE’RE PIONEERS OF OUR OWN MUSIC GENRE”
Dreamcatcher talked about their career, utopia, dystopia, and about the rock influences in their music with Highway Star.
“What is this utopia that we’re looking for?”. That’s the question Dreamcatcher has asked throughout their most recent albums. The discussion about the utopia and dystopia concepts started in their first full album, “Dystopia: The Tree of Language”, released in the beginning of 2020. Afterwards, to complete the trilogy, they also released “Dystopia: Lose Myself” last year, and “Dystopia: Road to Utopia” was released this year to complete the group’s path to the utopian fantasy they dreamt of. In a genre as diverse as K-pop, Dreamcatcher has stood out for having an unique sound and for bringing up issues of today’s society in their lyrics, with heavier themes than the usual joyful K-pop themes.
“We’re more intense in expressing real world issues, and we like to talk about different matters in our albums,” explains Dami. Dreamcatcher’s sound and the messages in their songs are quite different from what we’re used to seeing among K-pop female groups. Against the idea that female groups should choose between the already known “sexy concepts” or “cute concepts” and sing romantic songs, Dreamcatcher’s songs have a heavier feeling and lyrics that use fantasy metaphors to talk about society’s issues. “Every group has their own identity. Among them, I think Dreamcatcher’s sound is darker. It’s not that I don’t enjoy singing romantic songs, but I prefer to express myself within our own style,” completes Jiu.
“Love isn’t the only thing that exists in the world. I think it’s cool if we can talk about different topics,” adds Sua. “I think Dreamcatcher also mentions love, but in a broader manner. So I don’t think our songs don’t mention it. I think it’s more interesting if each work is presented with Dreamcatcher’s own identity,” says Gahyeon. Despite seeking to have a different theme of what is expected of K-pop female groups, Dreamcatcher make sure to not leave any speculations regarding female rivalry “I support every group because everyone has a different message to express and show to the public,” explains Dami.
Yoohyeon agrees and adds that the difference is just a matter of the group’s identity: “I think there’s a lot of different possibilities. Among them, we’re a group that expresses ourselves through a darker side and with rock’s intensity. I think that’s our identity.”
“Personally, I think we’re on the right path. I’m happy whenever I hear stories of people that have gained confidence and motivation from seeing our own confidence and strength on stage,” says Siyeon, who highlights the importance of the public identifying themselves with the group’s work.
The difference that Dreamcatcher mentions regarding their identity is noticeable in various aspects of their songs. Perhaps the main one being their sound. K-pop itself is a musical genre defined by the influence of different musical genres: hip-hop, electronic, synthpop, R&B, disco, funk, soul… there are numerous musical genres that contribute to make the mixture of sounds known as K-pop. Within that diversity, Dreamcatcher, since their debut, has set themselves apart for seeking a reference in a genre that represented the youth of many generations: rock. Even though it was a genre distinctive of the youth for decades, rock has been losing protagonism to other musical genres, such as hip-hop, R&B, and electronic. In the same sense, rock isn’t one of the most popular genres among the ones that influence K-pop, but since their debut, Dreamcatcher have bet on the genre in a very consistent way. “I think this is a path that can have three different results. The first is that in this manner, we can introduce rock to a new audience. Then, in a way, I think that a new musical genre comes out of this mixture. And I also think that this combination can make K-pop more popular worldwide,” believes Dami.
Rock’s influence in Dreamcatcher’s sound is mainly noticeable by the usage of electric guitars and percussion instruments, rejecting the usual mechanical sound of K-pop. Despite that, Dreamcatcher’s sound is mostly pop: the highlight of the vocalist’s figure, the focus on danceable melodies and with musical structures based on intro, verse, and chorus formulas to be more captivating, as well as the inclusion of different musical references, are basic attributes of what we know as pop music. “I think what matters the most about mixing rock and K-pop is knowing that people will remember the song even after listening to it only once. We try to work with the musical genres in a way that makes the songs addicting and stay on people’s minds,” says Sua, who’s conscious of the diversity in their sound’s work.
Yoohyeon gives the credit of this diversity to the team behind the group: “Thankfully, we have amazing composers who know how to mix different genres really well, and I think it’s thanks to them that our songs have been so widely accepted [by the public].” Like Dami, Siyeon believes that this mix ends up creating an unparalleled music genre: “I feel proud to see that, in a way, we’re pioneers of our own music genre. It’s an honour to see that so many people perceive our songs in that way, and not just us.”
So we asked which song is the most representative of that “unique genre” that is specific to Dreamcatcher. “‘Scream’! I think it’s the perfect song. It was the title track for our first full album. If I could perform only one song to the public I believe I would choose ‘Scream’,” says Siyeon, who shares the same opinion as Sua: “Intense melodies, an incredible performance, and even the costumes were great! I think it came out perfect”. However, Gahyeon and Dami agree that ‘Chase Me’, the group’s first hit, was the one song that helped shape the group’s identity. “It was the song that opened the doors to Dreamcatcher’s world,” says Gahyeon. Dami adds: “It was our debut song, so we had to show our identity and work as a team.” Yoohyeon emphasizes the same opinion: “I strongly recommend ‘Chase Me’ and ‘Scream’.” Jiu agrees and adds “Deja Vu”: “I think that ‘Chase Me’, ‘Deja Vu’, and ‘Scream’ [are the most representative songs of our unique genre]! I think the guitar sound prevails really well!”
To make up Dreamcatcher’s unique genre, with this mixture between dance oriented pop and strong rock melodies, the members look for references in other women who have also mixed two different musical genres that, for some, may even be considered opposites. “I love P!nk. I always sing her songs whenever I’m practicing,” Siyeon mentions the North American pop singer and composer, who carries the heritage of rock in songs such as “Sober”, “So What” and “Raise Your Glass”. “I’ve always mentioned BABYMETAL a lot as a reference for us in the beginning. Personally, I’ve been getting inspired by Demi Lovato’s performances to practice my singing skills lately,” adds Yoohyeon, with another two important names in the music industry when the subject is the mixture of pop and rock, or in BABYMETAL’s case, the mixture of pop and heavy metal.
Although rock is the most noticeable genre among Dreamcatcher’s musical influences, truth be told, the genre is far from being the only one present in the group’s songs. If rock is the most prevalent genre in the group’s singles, their “b-sides” offer a variety of musical genres: electronic, eurodance, and even jazz can be found in the group’s albums. “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind”, “Poison Love” and “Jazz Bar” are some of the group’s “b-sides” recommended to those who want to listen to a different side of Dreamcatcher. “You can listen to different genres in our songs. I think those aspects of our energy and style are something that can please anyone’s taste,” believes Sua.
“Isn’t it cool to do that? I am proud to know that Dreamcatcher does so well while showing different sides,” comments Gahyeon. Siyeon adds: “Whenever I think about it, I think we can make an effort to show other sides of Dreamcatcher. If we maintain our identity and work with different musical genres, I feel like we will caress InSomnia’s (Dreamcatcher’s fandom) eyes and ears. I like this kind of challenge”. One who also likes challenges is Yoohyeon, who admits: “I want to try to mix our identity with hip-hop next time.”
When considering other musical genres, Dreamcatcher’s references are also diverse. “Lately, I’ve listened a lot to ‘The Museum’ by Colde. I think everyone should listen to this song at least once,” suggests Sua. “I’ve also been listening a lot to ‘Return’ by Lee Seunggi. You can listen to my cover of ‘Return’ on Dreamcatcher’s YouTube channel! And the soundtrack to ‘Full Moon o Sagashite’ is always in my playlist,” tells Siyeon. One who also has an eclectic musical taste is Yoohyeon: “I like to listen to older songs. But lately I have been listening a lot to ‘Calling My Phone’ by Lil Tjay.” Gahyeon and Dami also mention that they enjoy listening to a bit of everything. “I have been listening to everything, newer songs and older ones of different genres,” explains Gahyeon. “There are many songs that I like, ranging from the latest releases to the older ones. I try to listen to everything, from the ones recommended by YouTube’s algorithm to the suggestions that the fans send us,” explains Dami.
Another unique trait regarding their identity mentioned by Dreamcatcher is the thematic nature of their songs. A quick analysis of the group’s songs’ lyrics makes it clear that Dreamcatcher are storytellers. In their most recent works, the members tackle the subject of a society surrounded by conflict that still searches for an unobtainable utopia. “We wanted to talk about a subject that was both relevant and a common worry. We thought about what a ‘dystopia’ and ‘utopia’ are and built a story based on those concepts,” explains Jiu. “We wanted to present a different story that helped build a new image for Dreamcatcher,” adds Gahyeon.
Utopia and dystopia are concepts used to discuss the fate of reality as we know it. The topic was debated by several authors but the one that comes closest to the perspective shared by Dreamcatcher’s songs is the thesis by German philosopher Walter Benjamin, who presented an utopia as part of the intricate relationship of the past, present and future, in which the contemporary society cannot fathom an utopic future without parting with its past nor criticizing the present. “I think that utopia would be ‘a compromise with reality’. The utopia that each individual has dreamt of gets cut short by the harsh reality in which problems do exist and cannot be solved. Nevertheless, we have lots of dreams. I think our future only makes sense if there is the hope that an utopia will unfold,” reflects Dami about the concept of utopia in Dreamcatcher’s releases.
In their latest music video of the single “Odd Eye”, one of the possible interpretations is that Dreamcatcher criticizes the media-focused world we live in, which creates a “fantasy” that masks a society filled with hate and personal attacks and will not reach the utopia that is dreamt of. “I think the end of the utopia would be when all positive thinking ceased to exist, when we could not find happiness wherever we go. I think it would even be the end of one’s desire to try to push through difficulties,” believes SuA.
Before a reality surrounded by social issues, when questioned about how they imagine an utopian society in the present days, there were several opinions within the Dreamcatcher members. “Perhaps it would be a society where everyone is happy? But at the same time, I think it would turn out to be a society where there would not be as many improvements, since everyone would be satisfied and not willing to try new things,” wonders Jiu. Gahyeon, on the other hand, discusses a more abstract idea: “I think utopia is something that can be inside our minds. Even if there are a lot of issues, wouldn’t we be happier if we found our own utopia within our lives?”
The stories told in their music videos and lyrics open the doors to different interpretations of the addressed topics, sparking the emergence of many theories behind the meaning of Dreamcatcher’s songs. This leads to constant discussion within the fandom about those same theories surrounding Dreamcatcher’s work. InSomnia carefully analyze every detail in the songs, lyrics and videos of Dreamcatcher, searching for clues that help understand the universe presented by the singers. In return, the group claims to follow these theories that shed a new light on Dreamcatcher’s work and give their fans a role as creators and collaborators of Dreamcatcher. “We have seen many different ideas. Even in settings we did not expect, our fans brought a new meaning to it, so it was really great to get to know an even richer story. Especially in the ‘BOCA’ music video, fans interpreted that the members were closer to utopia depending on their distance to the tree that appears in the video,” tells Sua. These theories surprise the group, appearing even in the most unexpected situations. “In the teaser for the ‘Odd Eye’ music video, Siyeon opens her eyes and fans found a meaning for that. In reality, she just instinctively opened her eyes,” told Dami, laughing.
If the creation of theories is one characteristic of Dreamcatcher fans, another topic that comes up frequently when we talk about Dreamcatcher’s songs is the comparison of their work with Japanese anime OSTs. It’s not uncommon to see comments saying that any of the group’s singles would be a perfect match for any anime’s opening theme. About the subject, Dreamcatcher reveals that they’re aware of the comparisons and talk about their relationship with the animation world. “I usually watch anime to study Japanese and ‘Kiseijū’ (T/N: ‘Kiseijū: Sei no Kakuritsu’ in Japanese or Parasyte -the maxim-) is the first that comes to my mind when the topic is anime. The story is very nice and fun, so I remember watching ‘Kiseijū’s episodes,” says Siyeon. “I also love anime! I like ‘One Piece’,” claims Handong, who admits to wanting to record theme songs to her favourite animes. Still within the subject of anime, Yoohyeon adds, “I like watching cartoons to relax. I love ‘Rick and Morty’ and Studio Ghibli’s animations. I would very much like to sing one of ‘Kakegurui’s theme songs.”
If Dreamcatcher’s sound shares similarities with Japanese music, the combination of the group’s sound with Japanese artists would certainly be the right choice. And it was. Last year, the group released the single “Endless Night” in the Japanese music market, in a collaboration with drummer Katsuma, from the band coldrain. “The drums gave the song a very unique touch. It was amazing being able to work with a drummer such as Katsuma, we are very thankful for this opportunity!” says Yoohyeon. “Listening to Katsuma’s drumming made my heart beat faster! When I heard the demo for the first time, I found it incredible. I wanted to record the song as soons as possible,” recalls Jiu. “It’s full of energy. Just by listening to the song you can feel the energy of a band full of real musicians and I think that the synergy was amazing,” adds Dami.
Talking about partnerships, the members name other artists with whom they would love to work with. “I would record with Selena Gomez! I listen a lot to her songs and I like them. I love ‘Rare’,” says Yoohyeon. Dami also mentions one of the greatest pop music breakthrough artists of the recent years: “Billie Eilish! Personally I love her voice and music style, so I would like to record with her one day.” Leaving the list of international artists behind, Jiu and Sua prefer to mention fellow Koreans. “If I had the chance, I would love to work with IU!” admits Jiu. “I would like to one day be able to share the stage with DAY6, with the live band. I think it would be amazing,” daydreams Sua. Gahyeon and Siyeon, on the other hand, agree on the subject and wouldn’t go too far looking for possible recording partnerships. “Before anything else, I would like to record with each of our members! Bring on the subunits!” requests Gahyeon. “I would also want a subunit with our members,” agrees Siyeon.
In December 2017, Dreamcatcher gifted Brazilian fans with their first tour in Brazil. With Highway Star’s production, the members had a concert in São Paulo and visited Recife, Brasília and Rio de Janeiro with fansigns, allowing Brazillian fans to have more intimate contact with the group. “Brazil is a very passionate and warm country. I remember seeing wonderful people who knew how to really enjoy what they like,” recalls Jiu. “The thing I recall the most is the love our fans gave us. It gave me strength as soon as we started singing, so I could finish the concert without feeling tired,” tells Dami, followed by Yoohyeon: “I also remember a lot of the fans’ love. You waited for so long, and we were grateful for being so nicely welcomed.”
Besides their fans’ love, Dreamcatcher were also able to get to know the culture, food, and even other Brazillian products. Recently, Sua commented that she fell in love with a Brazillian skin cream that she received during the tour: “The scent of the cream they gave me in Brazil was so good that I fell in love with it. When I go back to Brazil, I will buy it for sure! I also remember the ‘salgadinhos’ (T/N: salty snacks) from Brazil and can’t wait to feel the Brazillian fans’ warmth once again.” “We ate a lot of delicious meat dishes. But the most important of it all: the contact with our fans. It was amazing,” recalls Gahyeon.
Three years after Dreamcatcher’s tour in Brazil, the current pandemic leaves a question in the air about when the group can come back again. “It’s a country I really want to go back to. Please take care and stay safe!” asks Yoohyeon. Since last year, even amongst the adversities generated due to the pandemic, Dreamcatcher kept on working and searching for ways to stay in close contact with their audience despite social distancing, a lack of concerts, and all of the transformations that the cultural industry had to go through. “2020 was a very sad year. I am sorry for not being able to see InSomnia in person after releasing songs that we put so much effort into recording. I miss that a lot. But it was also a year that made us join efforts to communicate in different ways, since we couldn’t meet our fans in person. Together we learned to communicate even better through digital means!” ponders Jiu. 2020 also marked the absence of Handong from Dreamcatcher. Born in the province of Hubei, China, the singer was in her home country when South Korea placed restrictions on the entry of owners of passports from the city of Wuhan, the first epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. This prevented Handong from participating in Dreamcatcher’s first full studio album, “Dystopia: The Tree Of Language” and in the EP “Dystopia: Lose Myself”. “While I was in China, I learned acting, practiced the new songs of which I wasn’t able to participate in the recording and had other activities,” tells the artist, who resumed her activities with the group in “Dystopia: Road To Utopia”. “Despite everything, 2020 was a year in which we grew a lot. But it was really sad not being able to meet with InSomnia,” adds Gahyeon.
Despite that distance, Dreamcatcher is motivated to keep on working on new projects and staying in touch with their fans. To the Brazillian fans, the members sent a special message: “We cannot meet due to the current situation, but we really miss when you sang along, shouted and smiled with us. We always fondly reminisce on the memories from those days, so please, InSomnias, do not forget about us! Thank you so much and we love you!”.
“Thank you for liking our identity, we will keep on expressing ourselves in an even better way,” concludes Yoohyeon.
Translation by 7-Dreamers ArchRod & Jo
Please do not take translation without credit