WayV: “They take their time to see us, so we should give that same energy back”

wayv interview europe tour pets happiness

Halfway through the first stop of their European Fanmeeting Tour ‘Phantom’, Chinese group WayV panicked. With eyes as wide as tennis balls, they looked at each other, then up to the gilded ceiling of London’s Eventim Apollo, and down to the roaring audience below – not a single clue if they should fight, flight or freeze. What horrors stood in front of them?

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Turns out the frightening moment was just a misunderstanding. In a common display of joy in European concerts, fans were stomping their feet in unison, therefore making the whole venue resonate. WayV, who had never performed outside of Asia before, had no idea this was a thing. “You scared us!” cried Ten after realising that the building wasn’t crumbling down, nor was an earthquake incoming. Xiaojun fell to his knees, clutching his chest in a sigh of relief. “Is this something cultural here?” he asked.

On the following day, visibly recharged for a morning of press meetings, Ten and Xiaojun, with their bandmates Hendery, Kun and YangYang (sixth member WinWin did not participate in this tour) laugh at the emotional rollercoaster they went through. “I was going to run, bye” jokes Ten, while Xiaojun reveals he was ready to command “Everybody down!” But once they understood what was truly going on, the lasting impression was that of amazement.

“They take their time of the day to see us, so we think that we should give that same energy back to them,”

“We were really surprised,” says the articulate rapper and dancer YangYang, who was born in Taiwan but lived many years in Germany. “A lot of our fans showed up, and it was a memorable moment.” Thailand-born Ten, who is also one of the group’s dance aces and main vocalists, completes his statement, saying that “WayV sings in a lot of different languages, and I was surprised because our London fans sang in Chinese, English, Korean, and also danced along while we were performing.”

Despite being in the scene since 2019, in many ways, WayV are just beginning. A sub-group under SM Entertainment’s ambitious boyband NCT (which features more than 20 members), they had several plans stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by the year-long hiatus and subsequent departure of member Lucas Wong this May. The fact that ‘Phantom’ is their first foray outside of Asia says a lot about what they have yet to conquer, but paired with an upcoming participation at KCON LA in August, the second half of 2023 is shaping up to become a major threshold for the sextet.

wayv interview europe tour pets happiness
WayV. Credit: SM Entertainment

‘Phantom’ is also the name of WayV’s latest mini-album, out in December 2022. In support of the record, the fanmeeting tour started in Seoul during February, and then headed to Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta and Hong Kong, before heading to London and Paris. With a setlist that favours most of their recent hits, the fanmeeting is more intimate and less strict than a concert, with plenty of connection between the audience and the artists – like when WayV performed a heavenly cover of The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’.

“We thought that ‘Hey Jude’ was iconic, and a song that everyone could sing along to,” says YangYang. “It just feels like London vibes.” Ten then jumps into an imitation of the crowd’s chants, and adds: “I have to put my earpiece in while singing, but I wanted to hear them, so I took one out.”

Another highlight of the night was the fan-favourite ‘Love Talk’ – a sultry confession between strangers who don’t speak the same language. “The lyrics are very… relatable,” says Ten. “And [the fans] know what body talk is,” adds rapper Hendery, whose deadpan humour colours all of their interactions. YangYang, who asked the crowd why they loved it so much during the show, repeats their answer today: “It’s sexy!”

For the expressive and sensitive main vocalist Xiaojun, though, the plaintive ‘Broken Love’ is his favourite to perform. “My heart is broken every time I sing this song. I get really focused, the lyrics are so sad, and the melody is so emotional.” Does he like to feel broken-hearted? “No, no, no,” he laughs. “I just love singing emotional songs.” Ten also says his preferences changed recently. “Before, I really enjoyed hard choreographies, but nowadays I’m more into good-life kind of songs, because you don’t have to remember the choreo, just move along. I think that really shows how authentic each of us are.”

Authentic might be the best word to describe WayV. “What you see is what you get,” says YangYang. “We don’t really hide. We don’t have a mask when we go on stage. We just try to be ourselves and show who we are.” While WayV’s discography expands on the futuristic, experimental NCT brand with their own sumptuous verve (see ‘Take Off’ or ‘Turn Back Time’), they also became known for their family-like synergy and chaotic antics.

The tales from their dorm have caused uproars across social media – they once filled a water dispenser with Coke – and their beloved three cats (Louis, Leon and Levi) and one dog (Bella) are some of C-pop’s (and K-pop’s) biggest joys. “Are we chaotic in the dorm? I don’t think so,” wonders YangYang, amidst a round of laughter. “I mean, when we used to live together in our [old] dorm, yes,” confesses Hendery. Ten intervenes. “Before, we shared rooms. Now, we have our own rooms, but we still like to hang out during dinner and such.”

wayv interview europe tour pets happiness
WayV. Credit: SM Entertainment

Not a lot changes when they are travelling, but they do miss the pets deeply – a feeling that is partly appeased through regular updates from their external carers, according to Ten. “I haven’t seen Bella in three weeks, I feel so guilty,” says Xiaojun, covering his face with his hands. Quiet and multiskilled leader Kun says that “it’s just so weird without the cats,” and they all agree, but conclude that it would be stressful for the pets if they had to follow along their busy schedules.

Touring is a heavy endeavour for everyone involved – there’s the logistics of it all, the time crunch, the endless rehearsals – but to WayV it’s also a chance to learn and grow. YangYang believes that seeing thousands of people together because of them means their music has a deep impact. “These people, they take their time of the day to see us, so we think that we should give that same energy back to them,” he says.

“I started to know what people like. I love my fans, but I didn’t know what to do to make them like [my performances]. I’m still learning now, but I will get better,” says Xiaojun. Similarly, Kun feels like practice makes perfect. “I learned how to work better with the mic, how to sound better, and how to do better in the tech part. I’ve become a real professional on music composing and all that,” he says, while the other members cheer and praise him as “confident”.

“We’re always in this high-pressure, intense work, and then we meet each other every day, so it’s kind of hard to balance that out.”

In the English version of ‘Phantom’, one of the last songs on the setlist, Kun sings: “You can say that time cheated on me / We just gotta block out the noise and just let it go”. It recalls the fact that time is a tangible, relentless element in WayV’s journey. It’s there, in the lyrics to several of their songs, in the almost two years they had to wait before releasing ‘Phantom’, in the visible and invisible manners they continually evolve, despite the hardships.

“I’m still trying to find the best way to spend time with my members, because I want a super chill and fun vibe. I’m learning how to get along, it’s hard,” confesses Hendery. “But the biggest lesson for me is ‘sharing is happiness’. I think that’s really important. Sometimes, like when I eat alone, I feel lonely, so when I go out I’ll be like, ‘Hey hyung, you want to go too?’”

YangYang shares the same sentiment: “We’re always in this high-pressure, intense work, and then we meet each other every day, so it’s kind of hard to balance that out.” Gladly they have Ten, who developed a strategy to deal with all these conflicts. “Working in this industry, you think too much and you pressure yourself, so just… don’t think. If you think, you’re conscious, so try not to be,” he says, grinning. “Seriously, because that’s when you get to feel the music.”

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