Three years out from their first U.S. tour (which featured six cities, including Chicago), K-pop group Oneus came back to America, this time performing across 14 cities in the span of a month. The behind-the-scenes portions of their tour are well documented on the group’s YouTube channel as well as in various external media coverage. Over email, the six members (Ravn, Seoho, Leedo, Keonhee, Hwanwoong, and Xion) answered a series of questions posed by The Maroon surrounding their growth, performances, and more. This is the result.
Interview has been edited for clarity. Questions were submitted by both The Maroon and neXus, UChicago’s Korean dance RSO.
On touring, Chicago, and bucket list performance destinations
Chicago Maroon (CM): What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between performing in Korea and performing abroad?
Hwanwoong: The biggest difference seems to be that the language is different. Even though I’m not fluent, I always study the language of each country and prepare what to talk about. The biggest attraction and joy is talking to our fans. I truly believe the sincerity of the work that I put into it, the fans will notice and enjoy our performance.
CM: Has there been anything that’s been really cool or surprised you so far?
Keonhee: First and foremost, I’m extremely grateful that we were able to keep our promise from the 2019 US tour that we will be back. I’m happy to hear the support and hot cheers from our fans.
Xion: The US tour is always a little different from Korea so I remember all the fans. Rather than shouting along the fan chant, it’s so nice to see them dancing together while singing together from the beginning to the end.
CM: How has Oneus grown from your first tour in the US?
Seoho: Except for the pop medley stage, the setlist is full of only our songs. In the past, I covered a lot of other songs, but now I can complete the stage with just our songs.
CM: Where would you love to perform that you haven’t yet?
Ravn: I want to go to various cities. I want to perform wherever our fans are.
Seoho: I would love to perform in Hawaii. It's on my bucket list.
Leedo: Wherever our fans are, the city and country does not matter.
Keonhee: I’m so happy to meet more diverse fans on our 14 [city] tour this time. I want to go wherever our fans are.
Hwanwoong: I’ve never been to Washington D.C. I would love to perform there.
Xion: Our fans always invite us to their own countries and we would love to go to every single place where we can meet our fans.
CM: What’s a variety show you’d love to appear on in the future?
Ravn: SNL, The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Late Show with James Corden, iHeartRadio, Nardwuar.
CM: What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?
Ravn: Chocolate popcorn was delicious, and I can't wait to meet Chicago fans. I have happy memories during the 2019 tour. I want to be on stage as soon as possible.
Seoho: This is my first time visiting Chicago. I couldn’t visit Chicago in 2019 because I joined in the middle of the last tour. The other members have told me that Chicago is really nice, so I want to feel Chicago’s unique atmosphere.
Leedo: Just being able to meet my fans in Chicago was amazing.
Keonhee: The last time I visited Chicago, I was so sick I just stayed in bed. So, this time, I want to enjoy Chicago in good condition and meet our fans.
Hwanwoong: I loved the chilly but sunny weather and the atmosphere that brought relaxation. It’s the first place where I unveiled the freestyle. I kept missing Chicago while watching my previous videos.
Xion: When I was in Chicago, I asked for directions from a stranger. But they were so kind and detailed which touched my heart. Chicago is a quiet but wonderful city.
On dance, performance, and girl group choreography
CM: Oneus has done all kinds of musical, visual, and dance styles—which felt the easiest for you to embody, and which required you to really push yourself?
Leedo: Personally, songs like “To Be or Not to Be” [and] “No Diggity” were easy to perform on stage. But [executing such as [“A Song Written Easily”] or “Bbusyeo” were a little difficult.
CM: What advice do you have for becoming a better dancer or having more stage presence?
Ravn: I try not to get too excited during my performance, rather I concentrate on the stage and music.
Seoho: In order to remain calm on the stage, a lot of practice is needed in advance. It seems very important to imagine a good [performance] through image training.
CM: Does a dance ever lead to a change in the music or lyrics? Or does dance always come after the music is completed?
Hwanwoong: We always create our choreography after the song is completed, but unusually, the dance break part of “Luna” was created before we worked on our lyrics.
CM: What’s your favorite girl group choreography?
Keonhee: I LOVE Apink’s “Dilemma.” I’ve been waiting for the comeback of my favorite artist for a long time. [Their new album Horn] has amazing songs and choreography.
Hwanwoong: MoonByul’s “Lunatic.” I recently did a challenge with her.
On musical concept, tradition, and inspiration
CM: Your songs and performances frequently reference various celestial themes and mythologies. What’s a concept you’d love to bring to life in the future?
Keonhee: I want to play music full of messages that I [want] to convey. And I [want] to capture deep darkness or sadness about the inside of humans.
CM: How do you connect the traditional Korean cultural elements of your songs to audiences who may not be as familiar with them?
Xion: In fact, this was a question that we thought a lot about. Among our songs, “Lit” and “Luna” have the most Korean style in it. Through these songs we tried to show our fans more of Korean culture and style using Korean style stage costumes and props.
CM: Ravn, as someone who’s heavily involved in the creation process of Oneus’s songs, do you write lyrics with a specific audience in mind? How do you relate your lyrics to Oneus’s ambitious musical concepts?
Ravn: Oneus’s music has its own universe. I tend to immerse myself into the universe as much as possible and make lyrics. I also try to make the songs I compose relate to each other.
CM: Oneus’s discography is very diverse and expansive, ranging from a lot of different genres in each comeback, while still managing to feel very connected to the “Oneus sound.” What kind of music do you listen to in your free time that gives you inspiration for your own music?
Hwanwoong: I get inspired by listening to songs and looking up videos. I also think a lot about how I can apply these things to melt them into Oneus’s color. I’m also trying hard to learn new styles of dance on my days off.
CM: All of you have great fashion sense! Who would you say has the most interest in fashion or puts the most time in when getting ready?
Leedo: Ravn is interested in fashion, and he also makes many unusual attempts as well. Keonhee takes the longest time to prepare. When all the other members are ready, Keonhee always comes out late because he’s busy getting ready.
CM: Send a message to yourself 10 years in the past.
Seoho: I want to tell myself 10 years ago things that I didn’t know and took a lot of time understanding and learning.
Xion: I would like to send a message to myself 10 years in the past. “Hi, you’re 14 years old. I think I was living without a dream at the time, but I hope you don’t mind and do whatever you want. There are things you can do only then. You’ll do well no matter what you do, so try everything. Let’s go!”
Every interview has some unanswered questions—in an age of information saturation and social media tracking, it’s ironic that the more answers we have at our disposal, the more questions we have left to ask. Oneus did not answer our questions on their sense of self within the extreme microcosm that is being an idol; how extensive documentation (through various reality shows, VLives, and more) of their careers has affected image perception or expectations; dealing with the ever-blurring line between on-stage persona and off-stage personhood; and whether they would rather be super dumb and really hot or super smart and tragically cursed in the looks department. The answers they gave were sure, careful, and practiced the way spoken answers can never really be. Every interview ends with unanswered questions—this is what Oneus answered instead.
CM: What type of group would you like to be known as?
Ravn: I want [us] to be known as a Korean group. This is because we have shown a lot of traditional Korean performances, and I think we can express them really well.
Seoho: I want [us] to be known as a really cool group.
Leedo: I want [us] to be known as a group that can pull off any music in the style of Oneus. Like to be a group that feels valuable just by hearing the name “Oneus.”
Hwanwoong: I want [us] to be known as a group that continues to grow and challenge themselves.
Xion: I want [us] to be a group that can be with you when you are happy or sad. I want to be known as a group that comforts people with music no matter what emotions they have.