[INTERVIEW] With its dark style, Dreamcatcher shines bright
Every group is unique, but there truly is no K-pop girl group quite like Dreamcatcher.
While K-pop girl groups are typically more popular among domestic listeners than boy bands, which tend to have a larger fan base overseas than in Korea, Dreamcatcher is one of the rare female acts with a steady fandom all around the globe.
It’s also one of the first girl groups to have ventured into the darker side of fantasy at a time when such themes were not readily tried by others. It infuses its songs with deep meaning that offers listeners food for thought, touching topics from environmental destruction to online anonymity.
“We believe that it’s more fulfilling when music doesn’t stop when it stops playing, but fans can widen their horizons of thought with various ideas afterward,” Gahyeon told the Korea JoongAng Daily in an email interview held after the release of its ninth and latest EP, “VillainS,” on Nov. 22.
Dreamcatcher debuted in 2017 with a dark fantasy, dystopian theme and has maintained that vibe as a group through different concepts for each new release. The septet includes members JiU, SuA, Siyeon, Handong, Yoohyeon, Dami and Gahyeon.
“VillainS” comes as the first of the “VersuS” series, which centers on the idea of confidence and self-approval in a world that constantly brings you down. In its previous “Apocalypse” series, Dreamcatcher talked about environmental issues and nature. In the “Dystopia” series, it touched on cyberbullying.
“We know we’re not perfect, but we find joy in sharing diverse messages with fans and growing with them while releasing our music,” Gahyeon continued. “We can’t be too specific, but we still have so many different things we want to talk about with the fans, just like the series from our past.”
“VillainS,” the first in the new sequence, has five tracks: “Intro: This My Fashion,” lead track “OOTD,” “Rising,” “Shatter” and “We Are Young.” The lead track, “OOTD,” is a pop punk track whose name derives from the popular hashtag “outfit of the day” and centers on being “destructive and extraordinary” by being confident.
The EP depicts villains from classical stories, who tend to be confident and ambitious in achieving their aspirations. But that doesn’t mean that you have to dress like a villain, according to SuA.
“All of our members have different outfits that we prefer or like. Then there are the different outfits that fans like for us,” SuA said. “But we don’t believe that there’s anything in particular that we look good in. For Dreamcatcher, our outfits are just a means to help the audience enjoy the mood of the song and choreography.”
The other tracks are also about being true to oneself and one’s goals, especially “Shatter” and “Rising.”
“’Shatter’ is about the powerful wishes of someone turning into stone because of Medusa’s curse, and ‘Rising’ is our urge to keep on going with unbreakable faith,” Handong said. “For us, our unbreakable faith is with our [fan club] InSomnia.”
“VillainS” topped the Worldwide iTunes Albums Chart in the United States and seven other regions including Germany, Australia and Austria following the album’s release. The EP sat on the top five list of the iTunes Albums Chart in 22 regions around the world.
Its success didn’t come easily, however.
In April 2022, the girl group won its first trophy from a weekly music show on channel MBC, 1,924 days after its debut, for “Maison” (2022). Having debuted in 2017, when major girl groups such as Red Velvet, Blackpink and Twice were already thriving, Dreamcatcher struggled to gain a foothold in the oversaturated domestic market.
But the band's unique theme and music gained a reputation among foreign fans, which then garnered attention from Korean listeners.
“It really was hard for us when we had second thoughts about doing what we liked and what we knew we could do best,” Siyeon said.
“But there’s no need to worry about something you can’t change, so we just kept to what we knew was ours and pushed through. The people that allowed us to do that were none other than InSomnia.”
“When it gets hard for me, I just take it in,” Yoohyeon said. “And then, when time passes, then it comes back to where it should be. I think that helps me not give up and come back to myself.”
Being known for the “dark rock” theme is only working for the better, members say. The girl group held two tours this year — “Reason: Makes” and “Apocalypse: From Us” — through which it met North American fans.
“Now, if you think rock, you think of us,” Dami said. “That means we can go to rock festivals. There are so many things we can do because of this clear image people have of us. One thing we do think about a lot is how we can unfold this rock idea in different ways.”
Before Dreamcatcher's beginnings, five of its members — Dami, Yoohyeon, JiU, Siyeon and SuA — had already debuted as part of girl group Minx in 2014. That group came back in 2017 with two additional members on the roster. Now in their seventh year performing together, all members have renewed their contracts with agency Dreamcatcher Company and have promised to continue their story as one.
“I think it’s teamwork, rather than individual members’ talents,” Yoohyeon said when asked how the group has managed to stay together for so long without a hiccup.
“I think that’s what’s gotten through us through all the difficult times. But as a person, I’m sometimes not sure what kind of a person I am, because I’ve gotten so used to being together. What kind of person am I?”
Putting the question aside, the girl group is already preparing for its next album and the year to come.
“If this album was about expressing one’s strong aspirations, the next album will be about how a person reacts when they stand before temptation,” Gahyeon said.
“This year was a happy one that we spent with InSomnia,” JiU said. “It was a year where we tried the hardest so that Dreamcatcher could move one step forward. We hope that next year is also a fruitful year where we reap what we sow.”
BY YOON SO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]