From the time South Korean group A.C.E debuted into the music scene in 2017, they have carved quite a path for themselves. The five members – JUN, DONGHUN, WOW, BYEONGKWAN and CHAN – have one thing in common – the passion to continue to make music that they genuinely love. A.C.E, short for Adventure Calling Emotions, was assembled in a pretty interesting way. They were top trainees in different companies before being formed by Beat Interactive as they forayed into the music industry with their debut title, ‘Cactus’. They say that getting a cactus to bloom is no easy feat. and it takes time and effort; this is something that one can correlate with A.C.E who’ve slowly bloomed into these solid performers and artists.
First gained fame during their trainee days, they hopped onto the scene through busking and created an approachable environment around them. It was a unique way to grow an audience and that’s how people connected as they became CHOICE (fandom name). Since their debut, the group has released four extended plays, two single albums, and two repackaged albums. With each release, their sound has been quite experimental and some of their B-side tracks are hidden gems. The group’s identity relies on their raw, chaotic, and positive attitude – be in their YouTube vlogs, busking videos, live broadcasts – you can always expect them to be quite straightforward about every aspect of their lives; at least whatever they do like to share with their loyal fanbase. From penning their lyrics to participating more in the album-making process, it’s been quite a journey for them.
In June 2021, A.C.E dropped a pretty solid EP Siren: Dawn followed by the release of repackaged album Changer: Dear Eris in September. The latter was a way to send love to their fans as two members Wow and Donghun enlisted in the military for their mandatory service. "It had been a long time since our last comeback ‘Favourite Boys’. During our meeting for the next comeback, we came across ‘Higher’. When we listened to the track, we felt it can be a good choice for our mermaid theme, after the previous goblin theme. To summarise, the album is about a mermaid’s deadly love story. There are three concepts for the same, Sun, Eclipse, and Moon. So our fans have three options to choose from," the group’s leader and vocalist Jun talked about Siren: Dawn in an interview with Bollywood Hungama.
With Siren: Dawn, A.C.E released a heavy music video for the title track ‘Higher’ which opens with the five members resting on the ground with the moon appearing in full glory right above them. The members go back and forth between performing the crisp choreography, crooning the lyrics whilst embracing the rough times, and hoping to achieve their desires. The lyrics reflect the sentiment, "Heading towards you again, Higher / The silence that calls you, do you hear it? / Let's do it, let's do it again, my desire / Love that is reflected on the ocean surface, you're in my heart / Let's do it let's do it again I'm going higher / Drawing you on top of the crashing waves I'm going higher / Dancing alone under the broken moonlight." The song that alternates between future bass and progressive house genres sees the focus on celestial objects.
"The way the music video was shot was different from our previous music videos. There were quite a few face close-up shots in the music video, so that was interesting," tells Chan to Bollywood Hungama. Adding to it, Jun further says, "We have this jinx that it rains whenever we shoot a music video. This time though, it didn’t rain, and instead, it was a shiny sunny day." Wow, on the other hand, had a pretty interesting anecdote to share about filming the music video, "I was surprised while I was filming by the mirror. I liked my handsome reflection in the mirror (laughs)."
With the repackaged album Changer: Dear Eris, A.C.E moved away from their hard-hitting sounds for rather a bright pop-EDM track ‘Changer’. The energy of it was pretty compelling as the five members sent out a message to their fans to leave their worries behind in the carefree music video. The lyrics assured CHOICE that they will be there for them always as Donghun and Wow prepared to enlist – “So I pray I’ll cover all your pain / With you, stay with me, stay with you / There won’t be even a little tear anymore / I’ll hug you tighter, even if it hurts." The album has four new songs, studio versions of previous songs, and a Korean version of their English track ‘Down’. The English version was released in April this year with EDM duo Grey. The album has ranked at No. 7 on Gaon Album Chart, as the group marks their sixth placement in the top 10 on the chart. The group’s resilience to explore their artistry sets them apart from others.
Last year, while the world began to shift amid the pandemic, just like every other group, A.C.E has been promoting in studios without the audience due to strict COVID-19 protocols. The group does miss interacting with fans in real-time but their online interactions continue to grow stronger with live broadcasts, social media messages, new music releases, etc. Between the album releases, A.C.E also had a virtual concert for fans where they performed their hit tracks along with some of the covers of the popular tracks – Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Driver’s License’, SHINee’s Taemin’s ‘Advice’, Giveon’s ‘Heartbreak Anniversary’, Bruno Mars’ ‘Versace On The Floor’ and EXO’s Baekhyun’s ‘UN Village’. With hardly any breaks between the setlist and the power-packed choreographies for their own songs apart from their special stags, A.C.E enthralled the audience.
Talking about their recent releases, their concert, and how they spend their downtime, A.C.E spoke to Bollywood Hungama about their music, participating in the album-making process and future goals they’ve set for themselves.
In your album SIREN: DAWN, what is the meaning behind the intro track ‘Miserere Mei Deus’?
BK: When translated to English, the song is a call for mercy from God. But, when you go by the lyrics, it includes more of our next album’s storyline!
CHAN: For example, there is a story that a siren is an angel but forbidden from entering the Earth. So, in a way. A.C.E. members are such sirens who are asking God’s help.
In SIREN: DAWN, DONGHUN, and CHAN, you both participated in music composition and the concept as well. What was that process like? Did you learn something about yourself as a musician?
DONGHUN: It was my first time making something for someone, so it was very special and important for me. I also got to learn a lot since I have written a lot of songs, but producing music was a new experience altogether.
CHAN: Since the pandemic began, I wanted to give something to our fans, CHOICE to show our gratefulness. So, I wrote something for them.
Speaking about your live concert, I wanted to know about your solo stages. Can you please tell me how much time went into the overall preparation of these solo cover stages?
BK: We had to give all our time to it. As you know, we were also appearing on music shows, so there was a time crunch, but whatever time we had in spare, we put it towards practicing for the solo stages. We were dedicated to the solo stages. We slept for only 2-3 hours a day for three weeks.
How do you select a setlist for the concerts? Please also tell us about your solo stages.
BK: It had been a year since our last concert. So even when we didn’t have enough time, we tried to squeeze in as much as possible. We wanted to show fans a great experience. So we thoughts about all aspects such as song arrangement, and solo stages to make it a memorable experience.
JUN: Fans loved the short version of ‘Versace on the Floor’ that I uploaded on Twitter. Therefore, I wanted to do a complete version and show a sexy stage. A whole package – clothes, accessories to the lighting even. (Meanwhile, Chan breaks into a body roll).
DONGHUN: My musical stage ‘Driver’s License’ by Olivia Rodrigo was like a dream for me. Every singer dreams of performing on stage with a grand piano. I wanted to perform with a piano as well, hence I chose this song.
BK: DONGHUN was trending on Twitter after his solo stage!
WOW: It was Jun’s suggestion [to perform ‘Heartbreak Anniversary’]. It was mainly challenging for me to sing in one go because I am a rapper in A.C.E. With this stage, I wanted to show a new side of myself.
CHAN: I wanted to challenge myself and test my limit. I respect Baekhyun a lot, and hence I picked his track ‘UN Village’. A lot of fans had also asked me to perform one of Baekhyun’s songs.
BK: I was looking into my playlist, and Taemin’s ‘Advice’ caught my eye. It fit well with my idea, so I opted to perform that.
Which was the one stage or performance that you guys enjoyed?
BK: Chasing Love
WOW: If You Heard
You recently completed four years in the music industry! What's been the learning curve for you guys from your debut until now?
JUN: Over the years, we have improved slowly and steadily. We still don’t think that we are perfect yet, so we will keep trying our best.
What do you do in your free time?
BK: Just sleeping (laughs)! Nowadays it is just sleeping, but usually, in our free time, we go to work out, or compose music or watch dramas.
JUN: JUST SLEEPING!
Speaking of Korean Dramas, since some of you are also actively working as actors and wanting to try out new genres, what are some of the dramas you are enjoying?
BK: I watch clips of Penthouse on YouTube. Do you watch Penthouse? Do you like Joo Dan Tae?
Interviewer: I hate him, oh my god!
JUN: (laughing, pretty much on the floor. All of A.C.E laughs)
BK: We love Vincenzo (everyone acts out the signature pose). We also like Bollywood movies, you know! Like we mentioned last time, we love 3 Idiots and also The Life of Pi. Recently, Chan and I got a role in a web drama. And let’s congratulate Jun for being a pro-actor! He recently landed a role in a drama as well (everyone starts singing).
Are you excited about it?
JUN: Since it is the main role, I am a little bit nervous.
What are the goals that you want to achieve, as musicians and as actors?
BK: We want to be together, with our fans and continue making music. So, for now, that is the only goal for us.
DONGHUN: We want our music to touch hearts. We hope that our listeners love and appreciate our music.
Do you plan to get into the production side of music?
JUN: There are a lot of things in the making!
CHAN: Self-composing songs is also an idea!
If given a chance, would you release a mixtape?
BK: That would be lovely! It would be a good experience.
Since you have tapped into several genres, what do you wish to explore next?
CHAN: I want to make music that is full of emotions, and stay true to our name A.C.E.
BK: We want to tap into more emotions, show our full growth, grown, and sexy attitude but in A.C.E style.
Which songs are you listening to these days?
JUN: Gambler by MONSTA X
WOW: AGAIN by G.O.D
CHAN: Bungee by Baekhyun
DONGHUN: My song – Story
BK: Miserere Mei Deus
What are your goals for the coming year? Are there any special stages you want to perform at?
BK: MNET ASIA Awards, World Tours, Year-end stages, so basically every stage! (giggles).
Since Indian fans are eagerly waiting for the day A.C.E brings their tour to India, do you have a message for the fans?
BK: It took us few months to come back with new music. We were surprised and happy that our albums received so much love and high points on music charts. We hope that CHOICE will wait for us and we hope that we can meet our fans in person soon. Stay safe, and take care!
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