Lucy performs at KT&G Sangsangmadang Hall on Aug. 7. (Mystic Story)
Reaching the final stage of 2019 JTBC music competition “Superband,” the show’s runner-up group Lucy brought light upon a genre still unfamiliar and unexplored in the Korean music scene -- ambient pop.
With an unconventional harmony of a violin, acoustic guitar, bass guitar and drums, and two on vocals, sprinkled with real-life sounds -- self-handedly recorded by the group’s producer and bassist Cho Won-sang -- Lucy’s music was able to help listeners visualize the story and atmosphere embodied in the music.
While ambient pop has defined Lucy’s music to the public until now, with their recent single “Irrelevant Answer,” the band gave the genre a slight twist, this time focusing on visualizing the emotional exchanges between two lovers, rather than depicting a certain atmosphere
“Our previous songs were mainly about directly drawing the image of a certain space, scenery or temperature. But with the new song, I could imagine the heated-up emotions going back and forth between the two beginning lovers and decided this was what the song had to deliver,” Won-sang, who took charge of the song’s production, told The Korea Herald during an interview conducted few days ahead of the song’s release.
In line with the passionate hearts depicted in the lyrics, the melody also strays from Lucy’s iconic vibrant yet dreamy sound. According to Won-sang, it is the fastest and most vigorous among any of Lucy’s songs.
“The song is boyish, like a theme song played in a coming-of-age animation movie. Taking that as the main concept of the new single, we took a drastic turn from our previous songs” in terms of the sound, the producer and bassist added.
Lucy performs at KT&G Sangsangmadang Hall on Aug. 7. (Mystic Story)
From “Superband” to “First Landing”
A year and three months since storming onto the K-pop scene with the first digital single “Dear,” the group said they are still exploring their style, but now with much more confidence.
While all the bandmates were exceptionally talented, shooting to stardom even before their official debuts as participants of a popular TV show and enduring the responsibility and popularity as a K-pop star was a burden they had not anticipated as musicians.
“I never had the chance to look back on myself before I started as a member of Lucy,” violinist Ye-chan said.
“Placing myself in front of a large audience, I’ve come to think about explaining myself to others, how I should live my life and for what goals I strive,” added Shin Kwang-il, who is also the leader of the group.
All four bring their own distinctively different styles to the band, and the violin might have been one of the biggest elements defining Lucy in the beginning. Instead of playing in the background, Ye-chan’s violin nearly takes the role of a third voice.
“Originally, my role as violin was as that of an electronic guitar in other bands. But now I try to speak the lyrics with it, delivering the momentary emotions going through my heart through my playing,” Ye-chan explained.
For Kwang-il, his life took an unexpected turn with Lucy. Originally training to debut as a singer under label Mystic Story, to which Lucy is also affiliated, he joined Lucy during the competition as the drummer and has now settled in as a vocalist as well.
“Although I did once feel unconfident as I wasn’t a drummer from the start, my bandmates have always told me that I’m as good as any other drummer, and I think those words from them were what made me trust myself,’ Kwang-il said.
“Since I didn’t get professional training for drums, there were parts I had to catch up on. Won-sang and I go through a lot of discussions on how I could manage both roles as a drummer and vocalist, and also on how I could differentiate myself from other drummers.”
With society now adjusting to a new normal with the novel coronavirus lingering for more than a year and half now, musicians have recently been gearing up to find means to escape the online scene and reunite with audiences in real life.
Lucy held its long-awaited first independent concert, “Lucy Island: First Landing,” in Seoul in June. Excited fans sold out the tickets within just a minute of them going on sale.
The June concert was followed by “From. Lucy,” held offline and simultaneously streamed online for fans abroad.
In the more recent concert, while the halls felt half empty due to Level 4 social distancing guidelines prohibiting the audience from making the same level of noise as before, Kwang-il said fans presented them with a timely gift.
“In the part where the fans were supposed to sing along, because they can’t make a sound they recorded their voices and played it during the concert. That was a truly heartwarming and blissful moment,” he said.
“We’ve been receiving support from fans over the past year only through online comments and letters. Seeing it in front of our eyes at the concerts, we were able to really grasp and appreciate how much love and support we were getting from the public,” main vocalist Choi Sang-yeop said.
Concept Image for “Irrelevant Answer” (Mystic Story)
Lucy, the storytellers
The latest to join the band, taking the place of Lucy’s initial vocalist from the competition, Sang-yeop now plays an irreplaceable role in making Lucy’s music. Other than singing and playing the guitar, Sang-yeop is also one of the main lyricists for the group. Along with the band’s mastermind Won-sang, he co-wrote lyrics for recent single “Irrelevant Answer.”
“Won-sang usually rolls out the big frame of a song, and with that as the foundation, we’d throw ideas on what kind of stories each verse should tell and how they should be written,” Sang-yeop explained.
A rookie band they may be, but the members of Lucy have taken the helm of all their music production from the start. Although Won-sang plays the biggest role as main producer, the other bandmates are no exceptions in terms of writing music and lyrics, and this is what makes Lucy’s music genuine.
“All four members make music, and we don’t share our own creations until we’re done. But we’ve always found each other’s songs inspiring. The four of us complete each other and that’s how Lucy’s music is made. So even we can’t foresee what possibilities we have stretched out in front of us,” Won-sang said.
While the four all have distinctively different strengths, personalities and backgrounds, what keeps them tightly together is the story they tell through their songs, which they say is their goal in doing music and, in some rare cases, holds even more value than the music itself.
That’s how they came to make the sign language video of “Flowering” from the first single album “Dear.”
“The video illustrates the objective we hold in doing music. We want to be able to deliver our emotions to everyone, and only with music our message couldn’t reach out to those people with a hearing disability. We realized that conveying the message in our lyrics may be more important than the musical aspect,” Won-sang said.
Such emphasis on a solid message, according to the band, is what’s holding them back from dropping a full-length album. Releasing five single albums and a six-track EP, “Panorama,” last year, Lucy said there is still no plan for a studio album in the near future.
“A full-length album will have many songs, but the songs need to form a coherent story, while sending their own clear messages,” Ye-chan said. “That’s the difficult part.”
“This is actually why we’re releasing singles mostly, because we want to make all the songs perfect and at the end, they all sound like a title for us,” Sang-yeop added.
Lucy prized each and every experience with fans more than anything. The group’s most recent experience in encountering a fan was with Tokyo Olympics champion archer An San, who said during an interview that her favorite band was Lucy.
“We were very grateful, so much that it was hard to believe at first. We were very honored to hear that she listened to our music during the Olympics,” said Ye-chan, who An had revealed she had been a fan of even before his appearance on “Superband.”
Won-sang piped in, “An said she was empowered through our songs, and that was actually our hope, that the listeners are heartened and encouraged through our music. Hearing it directly from her was the most touching part.”
“We’ve gained so much. We have more people who love us. Our musical capacities have advanced significantly, and, above all, our efforts are not going anywhere but accumulating inside us,” Won-sang said.
“Although it was a shame we couldn’t hear the sound of our fans‘ voices in the recent concert, we’ve taken that as the chance to push ourselves to work even harder until we can hear the screams, make it louder.”
By Choi Ji-won (firstname.lastname@example.org