After celebrating their third debut anniversary earlier this year, VERIVERY are coming into their own as chameleonic forces to be reckoned with; an impression felt most palpably in their debut studio album SERIES ‘O’ [ROUND 3 : WHOLE].
From the first second, VERIVERY’s sheer ebullience fills the virtual atmosphere of our Zoom call to its metaphorical brim—the way the seven-piece so easily slip into an ambience defined by pure warmth and mirth immediately washes away any and all traces of anxiety or tension —if it were even present in the first place. A conversation with VERIVERY almost feels like an uncontrived catch-up with old friends; a chorus of “hi”s and “how are you”s ensue the moment it begins, accompanied by wide smiles and contagious laughter.
It’s the day after VERIVERY officially released their first-ever studio record, titled SERIES ‘O’ [ROUND 3 : WHOLE], and the exhilaration they’re feeling about finally releasing a 12-track chronicle of their musical journeys is salient in their chat with 1883, for which they’re calling in from a nondescript studio in Seoul, South Korea. The album is the latest in the overarching SERIES ‘O’ mythos told through four releases so far: it began just last year with [ROUND 1: HALL] and [ROUND 2: HOLE], before they released a prequel to the tale in March this year with [ROUND 0: WHO]’.
For the uninitiated, VERIVERY are no strangers to delving into the unspoken, internal conundrums youth find themselves having to confront. The SERIES ‘O’ anthology of albums perhaps embodies this best: it unearths the darkness within and challenges it head-on. After depicting a group of disoriented boys who vehemently deny the fractures in their realities, ROUND 3: WHOLE takes an unprecedented turn in this continuously unfolding tale—VERIVERY now embrace the proverbial darkness as a part of who they are, rather than an anomaly to be rebuffed. It’s a realization that’s arguably part of the universal coming-of-age experience; our flaws make up who we are as people as much as our strengths do. “The darkness is just one side of us, and instead of rejecting it, [this album] is about learning to embrace it as a part of us,” GYEHYEON clarifies.
The record’s title track, Undercover, feels the most emblematic of this wisdom. “Always hunted in this game, it all soon flips around / Shrouded in this darkness, not even you will find me,” MINCHAN and KANGMIN croon in its opening verse. The song was co-produced by South Korean production team The Hub, and co-written by rapper and dancer HOYOUNG. “Our keyword for this album was ‘hello darkness’, so when I first heard that, I thought that if I wrote the lyrics myself, I could express it better on stage,” he says in English, a language he’d picked up after nearly three years of school in New Zealand in his adolescence. “I wrote all the rap lyrics [on Undercover at first, but only] my part was selected, which I totally understand because I wrote a total of 10 [verses for the song].” HOYOUNG even recalls having begun the writing process as early as December last year: “It was a long journey, but I’m happy it came out well.”
The path that led to the eventual release of ROUND 3: WHOLE was not only a long journey but an arduous one, too. Being the first album of this length, the preparation process was nothing like the group had experienced prior. “Preparing for [this whole album] and getting it ready took a really long time compared to others that we’ve released before, and considering the 12 songs on this album, we really wanted it to be perfect this time,” YONGSEUNG admitted. “It obviously took a lot longer to practice and record, but within that time frame, we polished our skills and got better. Everything was complicated in the process, but that actually gave us much more in terms of our personal growth.”
The need to create an album that’s one for the ages (“We were really determined to achieve that degree of perfection,” as YONGSEUNG puts it) put a greater onus on himself, along with three of his bandmates—DONGHEON, GYEHYEON and YEONHO—who all participated in penning and composing a total of four cuts off ROUND 3: WHOLE, a miscellany of tracks best likened to a vibrant kaleidoscope of vivid colour, each song a glimmer of something new and unexplored. Be it the sensuous streaks of R&B in Candle, or the high-octane spirit of Coming Over, each track offers its own nuances. Of course, fans are not surprised in the slightest; VERIVERY have always been celebrated for their readiness to breach the boundaries of their comfort zone. “We are continuously trying new genres, so in itself, challenging a new genre was an inspiration for [the album],” KANGMIN explains. “You can actually see a new VERIVERY with each new genre.”
Every step forward in their artistic odyssey has been par for the group’s course. From their discography’s intricate worldbuilding and poignant storytelling to being the first K-pop group to embark on a six-city tour of the United States post-pandemic, VERIVERY are indubitably full of momentum. And yet, they’ve set their sights on loftier heights: “We definitely want to go on a world tour [this year, and perform] in Europe and other places we’ve never been before,” ponders DONGHEON, who leads the group. He even shares a personal dream he’d like to see realized, despite his uncertainty of its fruition: “I would love to release a special self-composed album [only] with songs we’ve written ourselves.”
That being said, VERIVERY are still focused on a particularly critical milestone closer to home that they’ve yet to achieve. “It’s been three years since we came along as a group and we haven’t had our first win on a [South Korean] music programme,” HOYOUNG confesses. “That’s our goal for this album. And being healthy, of course!”
When all is said and done, sitting at the core of VERIVERY’s drive are their fans, affectionately named VERRERS. “If VERIVERY and their fans are together, we can be better,” the group wrote in their fanbase announcement in 2019; a sentiment that has so far held its own against the corrosion of time. Though the path they’ve trekked may have been a tumultuous one so far—marred by the aftermath of a global pandemic—the boyband continues to find solace in the unwavering support of their retinue, who give them the courage to continue exploring new artistic frontiers.
In spite of an oeuvre presented through the lens of innate darkness, VERIVERY exude a radiance that can only come from artists who harbour a true passion for their artistry. The boyband may believe they still have many stones left to uncover, but it seems as though they are well on their way to proving their merit, if they haven’t done so already.
SERIES ‘O’ [ROUND 3: WHOLE] is out now.
Profile by Carmen Chin
Photography via Jellyfish Entertainment for 1883 Magazine