Korean band Wave to Earth does just that as fans overseas flock to tour shows

Wave to Earth performs during its solo concert at the UC Theater in Berkeley, California, on Aug. 18. [ROGER TAM]

Members of the Korean band Wave to Earth say they still get goosebumps thinking back to last summer when they had their solo concert at the UC Theater in Berkeley, California, sell out. It was the band’s first concert in its monthlong North American tour, with stops at 18 cities across the United States and Canada.

For a Korean band, especially one that is not a K-pop group, receiving such a response in the United States is a big deal, indeed.

"We could hear people singing even from the dressing room, which made us very excited,” said John Cha, the bassist, in a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate with the Korea JoongAng Daily.

Band Wave to Earth [WAVY]

Wave to Earth is an indie rock band, established by three young men who have known each other since their high school days, driven by the desire to initiate “a new wave.”

The members are Kim Daniel, the vocalist and guitarist, Dong Q on the drums and John Cha, who plays the bass guitar.

They debuted with the single “Wave” in 2019, and their first solo concert in Korea was in 2020.

Dong Q said he had heard that American audiences don’t really sing along during a band concert, especially if the band is from a foreign country.

“Even the concert organizers were surprised to see such enthusiastic reactions and the people singing along, which they rarely find happening,” he added.

The tour showed signs of success right from the start. In June 2023, when U.S. ticket sales began, all 22,000 seats sold out immediately. There were even fans who lined up from dawn just to get a chance at acquiring cancellation tickets.

The band was initially planning to have just 12 concerts across 18 cities; however, due to its popularity, the organizers added eight more dates. They stopped in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto and Vancouver from Aug. 18 to Sept. 11.

Wave to Earth attributes the success it had during the North American tour, which happened only five years after its debut, to CJ Cultural Foundation’s Tune Up project, which supports young talented artists to help them produce albums, rent concert venues and recording studios and, of course, go on global tours.

“Wave To Earth demonstrated exceptional talent from the first time we met the band at the audition,” Kim Mo-ran, an organizer of Tune Up project told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “I witnessed how the band’s fan base kept growing. It has its own way of captivating the audience. Our foundation wanted to support the band, tailored to its growth rate.”

The band joined the project in 2020, when the live performance industry was on a downturn due to Covid-19. Unable to hold live concerts with large audiences, the band continued its musical activities through online platforms like YouTube.

Wave to Earth went viral on TikTok, especially in Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan, with its song “Seasons,” its clip of which hit 5 million views. The song was also added to the Spotify default playlist “Chill Vibes” in July, with 2.5 million playlist likes.

“The growth rate of Wave to Earth was immense,” said Kim from Tune Up. “When the North American tour was about to begin, the band had already sold out tickets to nearly all of its shows. We wanted the band to grasp the opportunity.”

Critics say Wave to Earth's strong international appeal is partly due to its English lyrics.

Its first full-length album, released in April, has 14 tracks and only three are in Korean while the rest are sung in English.

“After a long time just performing in Hongdae, we realized the limitations of Korean independent bands,” Kim Daniel said. “For international listeners to empathize with our songs and to understand us, we realized that it was crucial for us to write music in English.”

Wave to Earth is known among its fans as a do-it-yourself band.

The members are involved in every aspect of their music production, including songwriting, composing, mixing, mastering and even designing the album cover.

Writing lyrics in English wasn’t a difficult job for the band as two of the three members have lived abroad. Kim Daniel was born in Paris, and John Cha attended American mission school when he lived in Kenya for seven years during his childhood.

“I think the band’s popularity overseas mainly arises from its natural and flawless English lyrics and pronunciation,” Kim from Tune Up said.

The band is planning to hold a tour around Eurasia in the first half of next year, followed by another North American tour. Titled “The First Era Concert,” Wave to Earth will have its first concert in Singapore on March 4 at the Capitol Theatre, followed by shows in Chiang Mai on March 6 at Central Airport’s Chiang Mai Hall and at Union Hall in Bangkok on March 9.