K-pop group A.C.E started at the bottom, but hard work and theatrical performances have won fans over

K-pop group A.C.E started at the bottom, but hard work and theatrical performances have won fans over

In June K-pop group A.C.E released their latest album, Siren:Dawn, and the single Higher, for which they tapped into tales of romance and mermaids for inspiration.

“We want to show a love that we can’t have, but keep trying,” says the band’s leader, Jun, of their creative world view, which they’ve revealed through the storytelling on recent albums and in teaser images and music videos. It might as well be the quintet’s motto too.

The boy band started out as a K-pop idol group performing as scrappy buskers and has steadily been gaining attention in the industry, while building up a dedicated fandom known as Choice.

“We started from the bottom, with busking and there were no audiences,” recalls A.C.E member Chan. “We worked really hard. Many of our fans, we think, like our story, and how we try really hard at all times. They felt our sincerity and earnestness.”

This intensity towards their work has come across in each of their releases, with the band gaining a lot of love from fans for their very theatrical performances. Last year’s music video for their single Goblin (Favorite Boys) especially saw a lot of attention as the band used Korean folklore, traditional sounds and aesthetics to create a performance that was a blend of pop music and fairy-tale charm – something that’s also felt in the music video for Higher.

A.C.E’s dedication to conceptual releases began with their first single, 2017’s Cactus, which featured a dance in which they emulated the arms of a tall desert cactus. While promoting the song, they gained a lot of attention for frequently wearing revealing shorts, known as hot pants, which are common among female K-pop acts but rare to see on male idols.

This made a name for A.C.E as a group of artists who always push the boundaries of performance pop art.

“Each album that we release has a unique concept and style, and for this album we wanted people to feel the sadness that accompanies this story of love we’re chasing,” says Chan. They want fans to stay tuned for more of their thematic storytelling.

“If you listen to Siren:Dawn, you’ll see this struggle shown through the tracks, and we’ll continue to show this world view through our next album,” says another member of the band, Byeongkwan.

The band are very pleased with the sales of the album, which is their first to rank on some of South Korea’s most prominent music charts.

“A lot of people listened to this album and we’re honestly shocked,” says Byeongkwan. “This [promotional cycle] there were so many competitors [with high-profile new releases], and since it was nine months since the Goblin album we felt sorry for our fans since there were delays.

“But our fans were still there and we’re really appreciative that they waited for A.C.E. We were a bit concerned and worried, but we were shocked because are fans were like, ‘Welcome, A.C.E!’ We love you, Choice.”

K-pop group A.C.E started at the bottom, but hard work and theatrical performances have won fans over

A.C.E have built up a dedicated fandom known as Choice.

For the single, the members listened to numerous songs, and knew it was the one when they felt truly energised while listening to an initial demo for Higher. They worked on that version, which they recall being quieter and more beautiful stylistically, and came up with the strings-based EDM track.

“The chorus is about going up to you [the person we love] again, and I feel like I’ll never give up even if I fail when I listen to it,” says band member Donghun.

Aside from Higher, Siren:Dawn features four other tracks, and ends with the fan-dedicated Story, which Donghun co-wrote with Chan. It came about because the former felt it was important to share their feelings towards their fans during the difficult times of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since the pandemic, I’ve wanted to give something back to the fans and share a grateful message with Choice,” shares Donghun. “One thing that came to my mind was to write about how we’re making our history with fans and that’s how Story came out.” (Throughout the conversation, Byeongkwan notably never calls the virus by its name, instead declaring it “stuff”, almost as if not wanting to even bring it into the discourse about their music and career.)

Though the pair were the co-writers, along with Mollo, the other members admit to feeling truly touched by it.

K-pop group A.C.E started at the bottom, but hard work and theatrical performances have won fans over

A.C.E are working on a new album, and hope that they can perform live in front of fans soon.

“Honestly, when I was singing [the song during recording], I didn’t really notice how touching the lyrics were ’cause I was focusing on the notes and how to sing,” says band member WOW. “But after recording I took a deeper look at the lyrics and came to appreciate the really dedicated, happy vibes. Really, the love and support from our fans helps us get through hard times.”

In general, the band is all about reflecting and learning from everything they do, and they say it’s their bond and their fans which make them so determined.

“I learned a lot of things while being a member of A.C.E,” says Byeongkwan. “I improved everything, like my dance and vocal skills, and also my mental health has got better. Within this group, we help each other a lot and our fans cheer me up. I didn’t have a strong mentality before, but now I try to think positively and to be a good human. I learned a lot.”

A.C.E are working on a new album, and hope that they can perform live in front of fans soon, as long as the Covid-19 situation gets under control. They have high hopes for the future.

“Firstly, we want to enjoy our music together as five members and with our fans, for a long, long time,” says Jun. “Secondly, we really started from scratch, from the bottom, so as time goes by and we reach a higher level and meet our goal of being popular artists, we hope we can motivate other people and become their inspiration.”

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