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[Herald Interview] Dalchong stands strong by herself for Cheeze

[Next Wave] Watching her bandmates, also her longtime friends, walk out of the band over the past few years has been painful. But the vein of optimism still runs through Dalchong, who declared she would become the one and only vocalist of band Cheeze in January this year.

“Looking back, I was full of concerns when I stood solo earlier this year. Standing alone was tough, but I remember that my New Year’s resolution for 2017 was, ‘Let me do whatever I can do as much as I can.’ Come to think of it, it has been the busiest days of my life, but not that stressful,” said Dalchong during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. 

Dalchong of Cheeze (Magic Strawberry Sound)
Dalchong of Cheeze (Magic Strawberry Sound)

Cheeze is now led by Dalchong, but the once four-piece band has a unique history that goes back as early as to Dalchong’s college years. The band started out in 2011 as a musical project by Dalchong and three of her college mates from the Dong-ah Institute of Media and Arts. But not long after, two of the members departed the group in search of their own dreams, which did not involve being musicians. Dalchong and the male vocalist Gureum were determined to make themselves heard in the scene. They were later recognized by music label Realcollabo, where they honed their musical abilities until they moved to Dalchong’s current label Magic Strawberry Sound last year.

“When the band was first formed, I wasn’t so enthusiastic about it. It took me years to finally grow passion for the band and really dig into it. Back at the time, I had no idea that Cheeze would define my life,” she said.

Cheeze and Gureum rolled out their first full-length album “Recepi,” crafted with blood and sweat for two years, under Realcollabo. But the K-pop scene wasn’t so favorable to them. 

Dalchong of Cheeze (Magic Strawberry Sound)
Dalchong of Cheeze (Magic Strawberry Sound)

The band suffered growing pains in the competitive industry. “At that time, we’d thought that we would be able to make an impact in this world with our music. But nothing had changed, and what was worse was that we weren’t earning much, so little that we couldn’t afford ourselves,” recalled Dalchong.

The musicians once thought about quitting music, but when they were at the brink of giving up on their dreams, there came hope with the band’s album “Plain.” The album was well received, and Cheeze regained momentum to continue as an in-demand band.

The collaboration of the two seemed to go without a hitch, until Dalchong’s longtime partner decided to leave the group to focus on his producing career in January. The news had come as a shock to many, with fans questioning whether Dalchong could make it on her own and expecting the band’s breakup. 

Dalchong of Cheeze (Magic Strawberry Sound)
Dalchong of Cheeze (Magic Strawberry Sound)

But rock bottom for Dalchong was a catalyst for change.

“I just couldn’t stop him from leaving. His departure came so naturally. The size of our passions was different, that’s all. Unlike him, the utmost important thing in my life was Cheeze, and I couldn’t imagine other versions of my life without it,” she said.

“I was a bit hurt at his decision at first, but I’m more thankful that I could keep Cheeze. I didn’t want it to disappear.”

And now solo Dalchong is eyeing a future with more confidence and independence. While she had been the kind of person who always felt safe with confirmed decisions in the past, Dalchong learned how to trust herself after Gureum’s departure, making her own decisions and pushing ahead with unguaranteed plans. Most importantly, the once-perfectionist started telling herself “It’s OK to fail.”

Dalchong said she now hopes to focus on showing different sides of herself as a vocalist outside of Cheeze. She recently released the single “See You Next Time,” the first track from her three-month “Short Film” project, through which she will drop two more songs over the next two months. While the latest single emphasizes the melody, the upcoming two songs will center on Dalchong’s lyrics and vocal, respectively.

The singer, however, still misses musical partnership. Asked about what she hopes for the new year, Dalchong said, “I actually want somebody to give me a song that fits me perfectly. I’ve been composing and writing all by myself, but sometimes, I want to dive deep into someone else’s emotions and musical world and chew on the lyrics and melodies of the song.”

“Maybe I want to understand people. Maybe I’m missing communication,” she added. 

By Hong Dam-young