Korean pop/rock band DAY6's highly-anticipated newest work, The Book of Us : Gravity, is difficult to describe. That's because breaking down the six tracks that comprise the band's fifth EP and reducing them to their parts — guitar riffs, harmonies, drum kicks — only tells half the story. What stands out most about DAY6's newest release are the feelings and images it evokes. Take "Time of Our Life," the lead single. It's less of a rollicking pop-punk anthem, and more of a windows down, fast drive down a sunny highway — altogether reckless, bright, and youthful.
The songs that follow — “For Me”, “How To Love”, “Wanna Go Back”, “Cover”, and “Best Part” are different snapshots of coming of age and forging different relationships with one another. The earnest, emotive lyrics for every track are penned by vocalist and bassist Young K (main vocalist and rhythm guitarist Sungjin is credited on “Cover”). Vocalist and lead guitarist Jae, vocalist and keyboardist Wonpil, Young K, and Sungjin also participated in composing most of the tracks on the album, allowing The Book of Us : Gravity to act as a true scrapbook of memories of each of the members. The body of work chronicles the joys and pains of the different relationships in their lives and their paths forward as they make sense of the world around them.
Since their 2015 debut, the five-piece have never shied away from pouring their energy and hearts into their evocative rock catalog, offering something different within the idol industry landscape. EARMILK caught up with Young K and Jae on the phone before the album's release to talk about touring, nuances within their global following, and using this new music to get even closer to fans.
EARMILK: How would you guys describe Day6 to people who don't know you?
Jae: "We are a band that lives life with you. So every moment, whether it's — woo! — you know, happy, or heartbreak or everyday struggles. We’re literally exactly right next to you. That is the band that we are. We are Day6.
Young K: "Woo!"
EM: You guys just wrapped up your first “Youth” World Tour and are already back with a new EP and another tour. How did you get here?
YK: “We've been just continuously writing new songs for our next album. We actually wanted to give off a lot more energy with these new songs. Because after the first world tour we realized that there's more potential to the songs that we put out…”
J: “Right. Our first world tour was really awesome. It was a beautiful, beautiful tour. Amazing countries, awesome people, and we loved every moment of it. But then we had an epiphany that there might be more potential for everyone to enjoy our concerts even more — be more interactive with our fans. We wanted more songs that focused on that aspect — engagement between us and the people watching: our fans and the people who love our music. So for example, parts in a song where we could just clap in unison. I just thought little spices like that would be awesome in our set.”
EM: So you wanted to make sure that this album would be able to really integrate your fans.
J: “Obviously we have a lot of songs where people can jump and have a good time and that feels great. We just particularly thought through these kinds of intimate moments: ‘I want everybody to clap here’; ‘I want everyone to stomp their feet here’; ‘I want everyone to just scream out, release all this stress here.’ And we just thought having little signals like that would be even more engaging.”
EM: One of the hardest things for an artist to do is try to evolve your sound, while also trying not to change too much who you are at your core. How do you guys navigate that?
J: “The thing that we're always keeping in mind and something that we say a lot is that when people think Day6 or what our “genre” is, we try not to stay limited to one genre. Whether it's modern rock, synth pop…We like all kinds of music. It all becomes Day6 music because our vocals are on it and our energy is in the song.”
EM: What inspired the particular feel of “Time of Our Life”?
YK: “For this song, we wanted to write a song with a very Eastern melody, mixed with a very Western sound.”
J: “Like a fusion, so that everyone could feel like it’s familiar in some way. Because that's a really big point for us: We want you to feel very comfortable listening to our music. There's a little bit of everything in that song. That also stems back to the fact that when we top line and we write the melody on a song, everybody feels the song out for a couple of takes, takes over and we kind of combine it all together.”
EM: I’m curious — obviously musical tastes and styles vary from country to country. Have you guys found that there are differences between Korean and American or Western audiences’ rock music preferences?
J: “People have different experiences living and growing up, so that attracts or pushes them towards certain genres, vibes, and different kinds of music.”
YK: “One of the things that I realized is that seasonality really makes a difference for Koreans. In spring, Koreans tend to prefer acoustic, warm-sounding music. In summer — it’s changing a lot — but they usually prefer a dance song, or a very bright song. And when it gets colder, so they tend to listen to more ballads.
J: “Overall for us, we’re not so concerned about what will do well necessarily, but what will sound good and what would people want to hear. We're also just really curious kids. So that's why you're going to see that on every album, we’re kind of all over the place, because we always like to try out new sounds and such in our new material.”
EM: Sungjin has said that The Book of Us: Gravity is a new musical direction for DAY6. What do you guys mean by that?
YK: “We have been trying new musical approaches and fusion in our music. We’ve included the kind of rock ballads we tend to like, but with different chord progressions or lyrical approaches, and subject that we haven't talked about before in our music. Before, in our Youth series, we talked about the experiences that you have growing up. But in this album we go more into a human relationships we have with one another.”
J: “If the last album was about our journey through youth, in this album we tried to delve a little bit more into interpersonal human relationships. Whether it's love, or whatever is in the spectrum of emotions in all our human-to-human interactions.”
EM: You have been playing a lot of old and newer songs on the road. Is there a song that you've been playing recently that has developed a new meaning for you?
YK: For me, it's “Sing Me,” from our second mini-album [Daydream]. When we were writing it down, we didn't think that this song would become what it is today. We didn't think that it would bring this kind of energy to the concert hall. The song says, ‘please sing me, remember me, as long as you sing me, I'm going to live forever. I'll be everlasting.’
So, for the audience, when they go back and listen to this song again, they can remember that moment, when they were jumping up and down and feeling the energy. And keeps happening to me too. So when I was writing it originally, I only thought of the message that I wanted to communicate, but the song blew up into an entire experience.”
EM: What do you guys wish that more people understood about Day6?
J: “Something we definitely want people to know is that Day6 is a team that's living life with you in all the moments that you face. And I think especially because Young K writes a lot of lyrics, he's always trying to write about situations that we’re really dealing with, and the emotions that we really feel in our everyday lives.
EM: That feels like a lot of responsibility and pressure, Young K.
YK: “It is a huge responsibility. But, at the same time, I try not to overthink it. I’m just simply stories about my life and our shared experience. It’s a great thing that the band understands and feels those emotions as well.
EM: What are you most looking forward to in the near future?
YK: “The world tour!”
J: “The world tour, the comeback, promotion in Korea. We have been working hard on this album and we're really curious to see its reception when everyone listens to it. We're looking forward in general to the next couple months.”
The Book of Us : Gravity follows JYP Entertainment-managed DAY6's 2018 series Shoot Me: Youth Part 1 and Remember Us: Youth Part 2, with singles "Shoot Me" and "days gone by (행복했던 날들이었다)" dominating the charts in Korea and captivating global audiences who appreciate their unique place in the K-pop landscape and their emotive instrumentation. They recently announced a 31-date world tour later this year. It kicks off August 9 in Daegu, Korea, followed by stops in New York City, Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and others before winding up to Europe.