On being seven strong, seven years on


Talent: Dreamcatcher @hf_dreamcatcher | JiU @minjiu__u, SuA @sualelbora, Siyeon @______s2ing, Handong @0.0_handong, Yoohyeon @ms.yoohyeonkim, Dami @00ld_ami, Gahyeon @fox._.zzlo_

When I arrived at Zepp New Taipei hours before Dreamcatcher’s Luck Inside 7 Doors concert, there was already a long line that snaked towards the merch booth, and a couple of staff members announced that the tank tops and trading cards were sold out. Fans draped in hooded, black robes with white orbs glowing from scepter-like lightsticks were scattered throughout the venue, as if preparing for a seance. As I took in the scene, it was impossible not to feel a tinge of excitement, but a nervous edge crept in too. Slowly, it sank in that even before I got to watch my favorite K-pop group perform live, I would be meeting them first.

Dreamcatcher is a seven-member South Korean girl group formed under Happyface Entertainment (now Dreamcatcher Company) consisting of JiU, SuA, Siyeon, Handong, Yoohyeon, Dami, and Gahyeon. The group earned the moniker “the face of rock in K-pop” through their rock-infused sound, dark concept, and the interwoven narratives in their albums. Their story, however, has deeper roots. Originally debuting as the five-member group MINX in 2014, they faced many obstacles, including stiff competition in the K-pop industry with a “cute” concept. In a strategic move that would define their future, they re-debuted on January 13th, 2017, with a bold new direction and two additional members. This marked the birth of Dreamcatcher as we know them today, kicking off their iconic Nightmare series with the title track "Chase Me."

Since then, they’ve released numerous albums, including standalones and other series like the Dystopia and Apocalypse trilogies. Their latest two-part series, VersuS, was introduced via their VillainS comeback last November. The title track “OOTD,” while a bit more experimental than their usual sound, still retains some of their signature rock elements. Like in previous series, the music video’s storyline also includes an underlying message, this time revolving around themes of narcissism and superficiality.

Their unique sound and concepts have resonated with fans worldwide, amassing a loyal fan base known as InSomnia (which translates to “in dreams” from Latin). The group has toured extensively, having performed all around the world. Notably, this particular tour stop was special for Chinese member Handong, who performed in Taipei for the first time as she was not able to do so during their 2018 Welcome to the Dream World tour.

As my translator and I waited to be led into the green room where the interview would take place, we were told that the group had finished rehearsals and were in the middle of hair and makeup. Despite running a little behind schedule, their staff informed us that the members were willing to accommodate our interview first.

Walking in, I braced for a whirlwind of activity. Instead, a scene of unexpected calm greeted me: the members, already outfitted for the show, sitting on an L-shaped couch, warm smiles on their faces. Their edgy, punk-rock aesthetic from earlier shows had given way to a sporty and stylish casual look for the night’s performance. With Handong, Dami, Yoohyeon, and Siyeon directly across from us, and SuA, JiU, and Gahyeon to our right, they stood up to greet us. I presented JiU, their leader, with a small token of appreciation from our publication—including a popular local snack—which immediately delighted her.

Our conversation started with memorable moments from the European leg of their tour, which concluded on Dami's birthday last month. This sparked belated birthday greetings for Dami as well as Handong, who celebrated her birthday just four days before the interview. I told them my favorite moment from the fancams—the crowd singing along to the stripped-down version of "Deja Vu" in Barcelona—and Dami brought up a memory from the Helsinki show. "The fans sent me placards to celebrate my birthday," she said. "That was the most memorable for me."

This world tour, named Luck Inside 7 Doors, kicked off in Seoul on their seventh anniversary earlier this year. This milestone carries particular weight in K-pop, as many contracts typically expire after seven years. Defying these odds, all the members opted to renew their contracts early, solidifying their commitment to Dreamcatcher and their fans. Reflecting on their last comeback with pride, JiU said, “It was the first album we released after renewing our contract. I was proud of the fact that all seven of us were preparing for this album.” Siyeon mused on their journey and said that, knowing what she knows now, she would tell their past selves to trust the process. “I would advise that even though our music is very conceptual, there will be good results if we don't give up and continue.” Seven strong, seven years in, getting to this point feels like the culmination of countless hours of hard work and perseverance, and perhaps, a little bit of luck.

Dreamcatcher title tracks often mix rock with other genres, and their B-sides allow them to delve even deeper into genre exploration, further showcasing the versatility of their sound. When it comes to blending genres for future title tracks, Gahyeon has her sights on hip hop, saying, “Hip hop songs are really exciting and fun. If we combine it with our sound, I think we can enjoy it with our fans.” Handong, on the other hand, went a different direction: "I want to try a sweet-sexy style," she explained. "You know what I mean? Like sweet-cool, sweet-sexy. And then add a bit of rock to it.”

Dreamcatcher isn't afraid to play with their existing songs as well. This tour brought some unexpected twists, from a rock ballad version of “Lullaby” to a slower, more emotionally-charged “Deja Vu.” They even threw in a high-energy voguing dance break between “OOTD” and “Black or White,” keeping audiences on their toes.

Beyond their original music, the members challenge themselves creatively through individual, varying subunit, and group covers. Highlighting an incredible range of talent and their individuality, Dreamcatcher’s covers showcase powerful vocals, sharp choreography, and diverse personalities. This has earned them the reputation as the “queens of covers” among their fans. Explaining her thought process behind cover selection, Yoohyeon said, "I try to show a lot of things that I haven't been able to show before." For instance, while not officially a part of the dance line, she participated in a dance cover of “Taki Taki” with JiU and SuA. On top of Korean and English covers, she also recently released “L’Amour, Les Baguettes, Paris,” a French cover, on her birthday this year.

On that note, JiU revealed, “For this concert, we’ve prepared Mandarin song covers.”

Clearly eager to share the news, Handong chimed in. “May I speak Mandarin?” she asked. I readily agreed, and, recalling that she had been looking for Mandarin song recommendations, I jokingly asked if they would be performing “Miss You 3000[1],” a song often performed by visiting Korean artists.

“We’re not!” Handong exclaimed. Elaborating further, she explained, “I thought about what to perform for a very long time. I watched other performances of that song, and I decided that we should pick different songs. We picked Mayday’s ‘Suddenly Missing You So Bad[2]’ and JJ Lin’s ‘Those Were the Days[3]’ and we split ourselves into two teams.”

The conversation about Mandarin covers reminded me of her cover of "Rainy Day" from a couple years ago, and I told her that it’s still one of my favorites. “Oh! You’ve seen ‘Rainy Day’?” she asked, surprised but genuinely pleased. “Thank you!” Excitement bubbling over, I let her know that I had a personal favorite from each member. Handong immediately translated this to the others, who turned to me expectantly.

“Tell me more!” Yoohyeon requested, then burst into laughter at what was likely a look of alarm on my face.

As an interviewer, I’m not often asked questions, so I felt a little flustered by their sudden attention as I listed my current favorites, going counter clockwise from my right: “The Blue Night of Jeju Island[5]” for Gahyeon; ”Event Horizon[6]” for JiU; ”Standing Next to You[7]” for SuA; ”Betelguese[8]” for Siyeon, “Secret Love Song[9]” for Yoohyeon; and finally for Dami, while not a cover, I couldn’t help but tell her how much I love “Butterfly[10].”

(I decided to stick to solo clips, because if I included everything else, we’d be there all day.)

Their faces lit up at my picks. Then, shifting the focus to their future, we delved into Dreamcatcher's wishes for the road ahead. Their connection with fans is a core motivator, with JiU mentioning her desire to play Rummikub with fans. Yoohyeon jumped in, adding that she would like to have a sports day similar to the ones held at schools. With their coveted first music show win through their song “Maison” in 2022, I asked about any other goals they may have. "Whenever Dreamcatcher has a concert, I always feel the love of InSomnia,” SuA replied. “I think I will be happier as the size of the dome and concert hall increases so that I can see more Somnias."

With some more time left on the clock, our conversation took a more casual turn. I announced a round of lighthearted questions, deciding to go from youngest to oldest.

“Ooh, youngest,” SuA said teasingly, looking towards their maknae (youngest member), Gahyeon.

“Gahyeon, JiU has been affectionately called the ‘fake maknae’ of the group in the past,” I started. “What would you do if you woke up one day to find your roles as leader and maknae swapped?” The members gasped in unison, and Dami’s “Oh my” could be heard in the background.

Gahyeon pondered for a moment. “I think it's going to be okay,” she finally responded. “I think I'll just focus on the given situation and live my life. Will I become more mature? I might not think the same way that I do now if I were in that situation.” Siyeon let out a snicker, likely picturing the role swap. At this, Gahyeon playfully asked, “Why are you laughing?”—which sent the rest of the room into laughter.

To Dami, who is often called “the brain” of the group by fans, I asked which members she would definitely want on her team if she were doing an escape room. Another round of laughter ensued here before she declared confidently, “I’d pick Yoohyeon and Siyeon-unnie.” Elaborating, she added, “Because Yoohyeon is unpredictable, I think she'll be good at solving puzzles from a different perspective.”

“Kim Yoohyeon is really bad,” Gahyeon declared, to which Yoohyeon argued with, “I’m good at this!”

“I think Siyeon-unnie can unlock all the clues with her power,” Dami continued.

With Yoohyeon, I asked her which idol’s pet she thought would make the perfect playdate for her dog, Pie. With a playful smirk and a readymade answer, she replied, “Dreamcatcher JiU-nim’s [dog] Cherry would be the best.”

(No love for Dreamcatcher Handong-nim’s cat, Nannan, then. Just kidding!)

Regarding her favorite birthday present this year, Handong shared that it wasn’t any specific material gift. “Since I received a lot of support from fans, it made me feel really loved and gave me happy memories. That was the most important thing.”

As a self-proclaimed hat enthusiast, I predictably inquired about Siyeon's impressive collection. “I have more than 100 hats at home,” she revealed. “Maybe? There are so many. Even though I have so many hats, I almost always wear the same one now—the fur hat. I like to wear fur hats in the winter.”

Besides their covers and special clips, Dreamcatcher released a ten-episode reality show called Dreamcatcher Mind where they participated in a variety of activities, such as a haunted hospital treasure hunt, airsoft gun battle, and an in-person parody of Among Us. They also release a variety of behind-the-scenes and other extra content on their channel under Dreamcatcher’s Note. A few years ago, they released a parody of the K-drama The World of the Married. I asked SuA, the main mastermind behind it, what drama she would pick if they were to film another one.

“The drama that I recently enjoyed the most, Marry My Husband,” SuA answered easily. “It is also a very dramatic show, so I hope Siyeon plays the villain in that. Since she played the role of the husband before, I have no doubt that she'll do it in this one, too.”

And last but not least, I asked JiU about the food she was most looking forward to trying during this Taipei trip. Excited to be discussing one of her favorite topics, she replied, “First, I want to eat fried chicken cutlet. I have a lot of snacks that I like. But the nougat crackers—”

“That’s what she got you!” My translator exclaimed, motioning towards me, then the gift bag.

"Oh!" Eagerly reaching for the snack, JiU pulled it out with a grin as I hastily explained that we usually bring pineapple cakes but decided to switch things up given that Dami wasn’t a fan of pineapples.

Amidst Dami’s “Thank you,” the room descended into a flurry of activity. As members made a beeline towards their leader with curious expressions, oohing and aahing at the box in her hands, JiU pulled out the small card attached to the box for the other members to see.

“Did you write the letter?” Yoohyeon asked. Beside her, JiU read the first line out loud: We are always with Dreamcatcher, a message from InSomnias worldwide as well as a reference to their fan song, “Reason.”

A chorus of thank yous rose up in three different languages. Laughter and chatter filled the air, punctuated by the crinkling of snack wrappers as I attempted to locate who was holding the mics last to pack up my equipment. Before we left, the members graciously signed my copy of the VillainS album. And then, with a final round of thanks exchanged, the interview was over.

Stepping out of the room, a bittersweet feeling washed over me, brought on by gratitude for the opportunity to chat with Dreamcatcher mingled with a touch of wistfulness that it was over. Their energy, humor, and genuine kindness truly shone through our short time together, making it an unforgettable experience. With a jolt of excitement, I remembered that my day wasn’t over yet. Now, it was time to watch them take the stage.

Disclaimer: This interview was conducted in English, Mandarin, and Korean and translated to English.

Songs mentioned:

[1] 831 - Miss You 3000 (八三夭 - 想見你想見你想見你)
[2] Mayday - Suddenly Missing You So Bad (五月天 - 突然好想你)
[3] JJ Lin  - Those Were the Days (林俊傑 - 那些你很冒險的夢)
[4] Nan Quan Mama - Rainy Day (南拳媽媽 - 下雨天)
[5] Taeyeon - The Blue Night of Jeju Island (태연 - 제주도의 푸른 밤)
[6] Younha - Event Horizon (윤하 - 사건의 지평선)
[7] Jungkook - Standing Next to You (정국 - Standing Next to You)
[8] Yuuri - Betelguese (優里 - ベテルギウス)
[9] Little Mix - Secret Love Song
[10] Dami - Butterfly (다미 - Butterfly)