On winning competitions and hearts


Talent: Vanner @vanner__official

Photos: Klap Entertainment

It’s 12:30 am in Seoul, but you wouldn’t be able to tell for K-pop group VANNER who are all smiles, gesturing finger hearts towards the camera over Zoom. Seated in the offices of their management company, KLAP Entertainment, the members—Taehwan, Gon, Hyesung, Sunggook, and Yeongkwang—show no sign of fatigue or slowing down as they have been spending the past few weeks promoting their latest EP, Veni Vidi Vici. Instead, the boys are full of energy throughout the interview, laughing in-between questions and having their answers interpreted.

“[We are] never tired,” VANNER’s leader Taehwan says through an interpreter. “It’s the life that we ever dreamed of. We couldn’t be happier.”

VANNER, whose name derived from the combination of “victory” and “banner,” have come a long way since their debut in 2019. Though the group started out strong with tours in Japan and America, record sales faltered and the group and its management company fell on hard times, so much that the group, including their CEO, had to get part-time jobs to support themselves. Before and after work, the members would meet to create music and practice their routines in hopes of a second chance to perform. They were granted that opportunity with the Korean reality competition show, Peak Time. The show gave already debuted groups the chance to get their name out there and be crowned as their Worldwide Idol, along with prize money, an album release, and a global showcase.

While continuing to work their part-time jobs, the group joined the competition series, meeting early mornings before work to perfect their performances for the show.  Their hard work paid off. After weeks of competing against 23 other groups, VANNER came out victorious as the winners of Peak Time. They then signed onto a new management company, KLAP Entertainment, released their new EP, Veni, Vidi, Vici, and performed their global showcase at Yes24 Live Hall in Seoul.

“Before [the show], we were not always stable,” Hyesung admits. “We always thought that this might be our last stage and that we might not have our next stage forever. But after, we have our new company, KLAP Entertainment, so we don’t have to be anxious anymore about it. We can focus on the stage.”

“Veni, Vidi, Vici,” Latin for “I came, I saw, I conquered,” topped the iTunes Global Album Chart in parts of Asia and exceeded expectations in sales. Their title track, the upbeat poppy "Performer," has over 8.5 million views on YouTube since its debut three weeks ago. For the members, the album was more personal because it represented their journey from debut through Peak Time until now.

“It contains our ambition to plug a victorious flag after winning and march relentlessly to the next journey,” says Taehwan.

Hyesung adds, “It has another meaning as well, because after Peak Time, we are going to start putting our flag up in the K-Pop scene.”

Two songs on the album—”Diamonds” and “Savior”—represent their loyal fanbase, VVS (“Very, Very Slightly”), a reference to the clarity in diamonds. Gon, the ever-charming main rapper of the group, says "Diamonds" was a favorite among the members because it not only symbolized the fans, but also the solidness of the members.

“Every song in the album is very important,” says Hyesong when asked which song represented them as artists. “I love all the songs in the album. But we should say “Performer” which is the title track of the album. Because we need an audience to be a performer and our audience is VVS.”

VANNER credits their families, friends, and VVS as their motivation to keep pursuing music, even before appearing on television. Taehwan reveals, “[Everything we went through] was a very [tough] time, but that also gave us strength. The stage is very precious to us because we [worked] part time jobs because we wanted to be on stage. At that time, our parents, family, and VVS became the motivation for us to be on the stage and that got us through the hard times.”

Gon sweetly adds, “We have our VVS [there for us].”

After the competition, the fanbase tripled in size on social media and their fanclub, which was a pleasant surprise for Taehwan, who was managing the fan cafes at the time. Though he no longer manages VANNER’s accounts anymore, he still makes time to interact with VVS through his own FanTV channel.

“The only reason that we can be here is because VVS is there and rooting for us,” Taehwan emphasizes. “They’re why we could win Peak Time. We are very grateful for VVS and will never forget their support. I think the only way we can pay back their love is with great songs and albums. So we are very thankful for them, always.”

The group now solely focuses on their music and does not have to worry about providing for themselves and their families. Sunggok is grateful to not having to work a part-time job again and confesses, “Before winning the competition, I didn’t think I did enough for my parents. I wanted to do more because we were going through hard times. But, after winning, I gave them little presents and think I’m doing better now for my parents.”

They are now preparing for their fan concerts in Asia next month and are looking forward to possibly coming overseas to see their U.S. fans. Gon reveals, “My personal [wish] is to visit the states as soon as possible. We know a lot of US fans are rooting for us. We are always grateful for your love and support. We are also dying to see the fans abroad so we will be there soon.”

Though VANNER has achieved so much winning the competition and their album release, they has remained humble the entire time. Throughout the interview, the members often say “thank you” and gesturing their appreciation for the interview. It also comes as no surprise that the group have remained friends with many of their competitors from Peak Time. The members say they  bonded with the other groups because they all experienced the same emotions, including their drive to become idols.

“Though we were competitors, we shared a lot of feelings together,” says Yeongkwang, the maknae (youngest) of the group. “We shared many emotions together. We learned a lot from each other.”

“Recently, we met one of the teams during a music show and it was really nice to see them again,” Sunggook adds. “That’s why we got to film that dance challenge together.”

It’s no wonder that VANNER has been labeled as the “most hard-working and heartwarming” group by Korean media. They have proven themselves a group to root for, not only for their catchy and appealing music, but their resilience and charm. Despite all the challenges they went through in the beginning, Hyesung says they don’t really have any regrets.

He then pauses and reveals a tiny regret that was quickly remedied—not being able to perform the song “Form” from their 2020 EP, Life on stage due to the pandemic. But, the group decided to create a newly, updated version of “Form” in Veni, Vidi, Vici so they could perform it in future stages.

Hyesung laughs, “Okay, so now we have no regrets.”