Last year, AB6IX's AB_New Area tour stop in Seattle showed me how engaged idols could be at a show. Concert staffers hurried down the lengthy queue, distributing colorful sticky notes to eager fans, allowing them to pen questions for the K-pop sensation. The quartet, consisting of Daehwi, Donghyun, Woojin, and Woong, didn't merely perform—they invited fans onstage and answered their questions. They have an unwavering commitment to their fans, affectionately known as ABNEW. In fact, their very name, AB6IX, reflects their belief in including their fans as the "sixth member." Before the show ended, I was given a signed album from the band with a personal message, but did not get to meet them.
Fast forward a year later and things have come full circle. I’m on a Zoom call with them ahead of their upcoming THE FUTURE world tour. As I show them the personalized album, Woong excitedly remarks he remembers scribing his name. Of course they remember. That’s just how they are.
Taking the interview from Los Angeles, AB6IX were inside the greenroom of music store and community space, Hello82, a renown K-pop and fandom entertainment company helping unite K-pop stans with their favorite artists, getting ready for an event in which they’d be meeting and playing games with many members of ABNEW. It is a complementary pairing as both Hello82 and AB6IX have become leaders in fan engagement.
“There’s always a lot of intention behind the decision to have fan interactions. Because we don’t see our overseas fans very often, we want the opportunity to interact with them and spend more time with them,” Daehwi says. He is the main spokesperson for the group and the most fluent in English, having lived in LA for a portion of his childhood.
With a six-show leg in the U.S. throughout the month of November, AB6IX will have those opportunities in spades. The tour borrows its name from the band’s seventh EP, THE FUTURE IS OURS: LOST, released in May.
“It's an album about our will to make the future ours, and we've tried to show the maturity of AB6IX, so please enjoy!” Daewhi exclaims. On the title track, “LOSER,” which was co-written by Daehwi, electro-pop synths obfuscate the song’s dolorous undertones. Lyrically, it’s the standout for three of the members.
“I love the lyrics from ‘LOSER’ that says ‘Lost my way, I’m a loser, Save me…’ because it’s so direct and desperate,” Woong says. Daehwi adds, “I like the lines ‘I have to go, I must go, the result is failure.” The music video begins in a graveyard, further emphasizing its messages of hopelessness. However, if there is any silver lining to be found, it’s in Woojin’s favorite line: “I like the lines from ‘LOSER’ that says ‘Even if the world ignores me at some point, I have to go, I must go’ because it touches my heart.”
AB6IX know what it means to persevere. They are industry veterans having debuted under South Korean hip-hop agency Brand New Music in 2019. Since their debut EP B Complete, the members hit the ground running by contributing lyrics and or choreography to the album, a practice they have continued to do with every release onward. Fledgling idols are often relegated to performing whatever their studio churns out for them with little, if any, creative input. AB6IX laid it all bare from day one, personally shouldering responsibility for their sound and success.
Daewhi shares he didn’t feel as much pressure with writing LOSER because the central themes were more relatable for him. “If it was a love song or something like that, that’s harder for me to be inspired from,” he admits. Meanwhile Woong candidly tells me about feeling artist’s block and not finding too much inspiration recently, but he has developed a keen interest in musicals: “I've been looking up some videos or going to watch them when I have time. I’ve been thinking, ‘It would be fun to write a song like this’ in my mind.” For Donghyun, it all goes back to the fans. “I think I get inspired by conversations and interactions with ABNEWs.”
When asked about differences between their experiences in the U.S. vs. back home, Daehwi points out that stateside ABNEWs are more likely to be dancing and holding up signs all the way in the back of the crowd. Another benefit of jetting across the globe is to eat In-N-Out Burger, which has become a staple for touring idols. They also love to munch on Takis, the Mexican tortilla chip snack. “But mostly when touring, we eat Korean food for all three meals of the day because we miss Korea,” Daehwi says. And yes, they do eat in LA’s iconic Koreatown too.
Just talking about food gets them to open up more during our conversation, which leads to bantering about scary movies from childhood. The group unanimously agrees Woong gets scared the easiest among them so he doesn’t watch too many. I reassure him I’m the same way, before divulging my traumatic cinematic boogeyman from youth was Lord Voldemort on the back of professor Quirrell’s head in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Donghyun had an early 2000s movie that frightened him as well: “I watched War of the Worlds” and thought it was very scary. Whenever I’d look outside and see it was foggy but there was no rain, it made me remember the movie and feel nervous.”
But my Voldemort answer awakened a memory for Daewhi, who promptly informed me about the Korean urban legend of the red mask lady—a once-beautiful woman who slit her mouth from ear to ear and goes around tormenting men with the same cruel fate. I told them I’d look it up later. I wish I hadn’t.
As the interview concludes, what is clear is AB6IX’s fearless attitudes about what comes next. They want to keep performing on bigger and bigger stages. Daehwi nimbly jokes, “and make lots of money doing so.” Most importantly, they want their fellow members and ABNEWs to be healthy physically and mentally.
Their EP reflects the sorrowful squall life can sometimes bring, and how there is always light on the other end. I asked the members about a meaningful piece of advice they have received that has stuck with them. Daewhi mentions legendary singer Yang Hee-Eun’s phrase of "so be it," an adage about finding peace amidst erosion.
It perfectly encapsulates AB6IX right now. Whether they are in Eden or feeling lost, their future can be whatever they aspire it to be.
Published on November 8, 2023
Words by Daniel Anderson
Daniel Anderson is a disabled Chinese American adoptee based in Seattle. His freelance writing specialties include K-pop, entertainment, and food. He believes that any restaurant can be a buffet, and the key to success is to take a nap each day. Follow his adventures on Instagram @danzstan.