In a sea of hundreds of K-pop groups, there is one group that continues to proudly hold up their flag — calling our attention. Though this group’s road was rocky to say the least, they never gave up on their dreams to become the diamond-dusted performers that we now see on stage. They are, of course, VANNER.

VANNER shocked the world of K-pop in 2023 with their breakout performances and dedication to the arts on JTBC’s survival-competition show, Peak Time. Crowned the victors of the TV program that comprised 24 debuted K-pop groups, such as DKB, Kingdom, and former B.A.P member Moon Jongup, VANNER had a lot to prove once the show concluded. And they certainly did not disappoint. Riding the high of their win, the five-member group released their mini-album Veni Vidi Vici in August 2023. Five months later, in January of this year, VANNER returned with an even stronger presence with their new mini-album, Capture the Flag. Recently, they also announced their first concert in Seoul, which will take place this coming April.

In an interview conducted over email, EnVi asked about members TAEHWAN, GON, HYESUNG, SUNGKOOK, and YEONGGWANG’s hopes and dreams and the process it took to bring Capture the Flag to their fans, also known as VVS. As expected, we were met with VANNER’s sunshine-like personalities in the responses. In true VANNER-fashion (and lyrics), let’s enter the world of VANNER: “가자~! (ka-ja!)”

VANNER Rides with the Top Hitmakers of K-Pop

A VANNER album would not be complete without Ryan Jhun producing it. The star producer helped materialize major hits, such as MONSTA X’s “Beautiful Liar” and IVE’s “After Like.” As a conclusion to Peak Time, Jhun hopped into the recording studio with VANNER and exited the booth with “Prime Time.” In part because of Jhun’s words of wisdom on-and-off camera, VANNER’s musicality enhanced, catching more audience’s attention. VANNER’s increased visibility would lead them to even more industry hitmakers.

With their newest EP, Capture the Flag, VANNER set a new career-high, bringing on legendary songmakers from NATHAN, who has written for WOODZ and PENTAGON in the past, to BTOB’s LIM HYUNSIK, in addition to Jhun. More noticeably, this new EP features the participation of two PENTAGON members, HUI and WOOSEOK, behind the scenes. HUI, like VANNER, also competed in a survival competition, Boys Planet, in 2023. Surely, the group and HUI’s shared experiences have contributed to the production of this EP.

Known for his masterful arrangements, such as his rendition of Blackpink’s “Shut Down” on Boys Planet, HUI has a knack for capturing the audience through piercing sounds. VANNER’s title track on Capture the Flag, “JACKPOT,” oozes with HUI’s sassy arrangements right from the start. His participation in the track allows the members to fully exercise their vocal ranges — revving up from casual chest tones to seductive falsettos. More importantly, as the youngest VANNER member YEONGGWANG shared over email, “I heard [HUI] made ‘JACKPOT’ for us, so it was such an honor for us!”

Photo courtesy of KLAP Entertainment

Leader and main vocalist TAEHWAN and lead rapper SUNGKOOK also shared similar sentiments. “Working with HUI was an honor… because we wished to have a song written by HUI someday! So it was such a dream!” TAEHWAN wrote, in a cheerful tone. “I liked PENTAGON since I was young, so this process with HUI was an honor…” SUNGKOOK wrote. Main dancer and rapper GON and lead vocalist HYESUNG, on the other hand, treasured their moments with HUI in the studio. “It was such a big learning experience [for us] that we only listened to HUI’s instructions,” replied GON. “[HUI’s] directions amazed me and made me feel like I was learning so much during the recording session…” HYESUNG shared fondly.

The Songs that Captured VANNER’s Hearts

It’s no surprise that a group of five bright and talented individuals would have different choices as their favorite tracks off of Capture the Flag. This just further demonstrates their unique flares and musicality.

SUNGKOOK’s pick was the heart-pumping title track, “JACKPOT,” while GON picked the other power bop — or workout anthem, as we’d like to call it — “CIRCUIT.” Both tracks evoke the imagery of engines revving and rubber on tar, perfect for a midday drive down an open road. Shifting gears and turning over to our vocalists of the group, they went with the charmers of the album. TAEHWAN’s pick, “After Party,” is a vocal-heavy pop song written by GON, laced with smooth falsettos. “It’s a song that we have never shown before, so listeners would feel free and light when listening to it,” TAEHWAN added. HYESUNG chose “PONYTAIL (Korean version)” because “the song’s vibes [gave him] a heart-fluttering feeling.” Maknae of the group, YEONGGWANG, surprised us with his pick. He chose what could be this generation’s Valentine’s Day theme song, “Be My Love,” sharing that “it was the first R&B genre song we put out as a group, and I believe VVS would love it too.”

VANNER Bare Honest Emotions in “Across the Stars”

VANNER do not shy away from a good ballad, considering they won a competition show by showcasing their raw vocal abilities. “Across the Stars” is a new addition to their arsenal of pop-ballads, after “Savior” from their previous mini-album, Veni Vidi Vici. When asked how they would describe the process of recording this song, TAEHWAN gave us a surprising response. Considering how straining this song would be vocally (for the average person), the main vocalist shared, “I felt that this song required singing with less power compared to other songs, so I found it a bit challenging to lower my energy when I was recording it.”

On the other hand, GON thanked fans for loving the track, despite his vocal limitations: “I tried hard to be honest with my emotions.” Similarly, HYESUNG found beauty in the song, citing, “The message in the song is really good… I practiced hard to put my emotions through the lyrics.” SUNGKOOK and YEONGGWANG thanked their producers for the fruition of the song. “There was pressure about [recording] the song, but the producer directed us well…” SUNGKOOK wrote. YEONGGWANG added to SUNGKOOK, “I was so thankful that I was the first to record this song in the studio. The producer gave me a lot of feedback, and I was imagining [how a music video would look like] for this song while recording the song in the studio, haha.”

Behind the Lyrics of “JACKPOT”

Oftentimes, it’s easy to assume a pop song carries no meaning, but that’s never the case for VANNER. Their new title song, “JACKPOT,” is a pot-full of meaningful lyrics. In particular, SUNGKOOK and YEONGGWANG pointed at the first five seconds of the song: “Since 2019, it’s our story.”

Image courtesy of KLAP Entertainment

“This part contains VANNER’s story in it,” SUNGKOOK shared. YEONGGWANG quickly added, “that part reminds me of our debut.” HYESUNG recalled a lyric that seemed to bring him motivation: “It’s not over till it’s over.” But GON’s favorite lyric has to do with connecting with fans: “We can’t lose.” He added that he chose this “as [his] favorite lyric because [he loves] the exhilarating feeling when singing it with fans,” recalling the moments when the group performed this song live on music programs. TAEHWAN’s favorite lyric is more introspective. “In the ‘JACKPOT’ lyrics, there is a lyric, ‘La vida loca,” which means a madly happy life in Spanish. The reason why I chose this job and the meaning of these lyrics are the same.”

From Part-Time to Prime Time

Fans of VANNER would know about their gripping story, which was first broadcasted on Peak Time. The five-member group did not begin on a strong note, as their debut did not amount to the stardom that other boy groups that debuted in 2019 did, such as CIX, WayV, and TXT. The cutthroat nature of the K-pop industry is not a secret. Those who do not make a sound right from the start would have an even harder time maintaining their relevance in the market, as dozens of new groups debut every year.

Photo courtesy of VANNER’s X/Twitter (@vannerofficial)

During VANNER’s downtime, despite having successful songs like “FORM,” they all took on part-time jobs to fund their group’s music videos, hair, makeup, and wardrobe. This is the harsh reality of groups who are not part of a major record label. EnVi wanted to learn more about how the members managed to stay together as a group despite the financial realities required to keep a K-pop group going, and VANNER had the following to share:

TAEHWAN: That moment was very precious, and a much-needed time for us. We learned many things through meeting many people! Even if I was having a tough time in my dramatic life, if you choose to take that moment as destiny and being part of the process and keep going through it, I believe you will arrive at a place where your happiness comes to you in twofolds!

GON: During that time, I felt anxious about the uncertain future [of our group] and couldn’t see a future ahead. But I believe that if you consistently make an effort, no matter how small, and don’t compare yourself to others, you will eventually see success! Each person has their own timing for success, after all!

HYESUNG: While I was at a part-time job, I met a fan. I still remember what my fan said. “You are brilliant on the stage, as well as off the stage, so please don’t give up. We will meet again when you’re on stage.” Don’t forget we are all shining people, so keep that in mind!

SUNGKOOK: Doing a part-time job while we participated in Peak Time was a moment when me and my members were going through a tough time. But it helped us forge a stronger bond together because of it.

YEONGGWANG: While working part-time, I also met various people. Through conversations, I realized that everyone has their own, unique circumstances and plans! That’s why I’d like to encourage others to find their own pace and direction, rather than trying to keep up with others.

From being part-timers to taking the crown on Peak Time in 2023, VANNER truly demonstrated their grit and formidable spirit.

Getting Personal with VANNER

A year later, VANNER are busier than ever. So we wanted to know how VANNER make work in the studio feel less like work. TAEHWAN finds pride in “a personality that can’t enjoy my work. Especially when [he’s] the person who is always being more sensitive than enjoying the music.” He added, “I try not to show my inner feelings while working.” 

“For me, if my work’s result is good enough, then I don’t think it’s work anymore. I always set my end goals and work hard toward it,” HYESUNG shared with us. Similarly, SUNGKOOK saw it this way: “Because it’s something I love [doing], it’s manageable. But still, I think another way to enjoy work is to minimize the pressure as much as possible.”

Free-spirited GON told us, “I don’t think music is my work. I see it as singing in my own little room.” Likewise, YEONGGWANG added a little more to GON’s sentiment. “I try to make it as comfortable as possible, but at the same time, I keep thinking about the details and try not to miss any. But then I would also think, ‘This isn’t a recording studio. It’s a karaoke room! Haha!’” he shared jauntily.

Carrying the weight of the group is often a trait bestowed on the leader. As a show of appreciation for VANNER’s leader, EnVi asked TAEHWAN what he usually does in order to reduce stress these days. “It’s understandable that our schedules are busier now. And it can be challenging to find time for myself. In my case, I find that when I have a day off, I like to spend the day alone and tackle any unfinished cleaning tasks to help relieve my stress. Recently, I cleaned my bathroom!” he shared, cheekily ending his response with a smiley-face emoticon for VVS.

VANNER’s Next Checkpoints

As VANNER’s presence in K-pop continues to expand with one starlit performance after another, VVS and casual fans may wonder about the group’s next moves. From one checkpoint to the next, VANNER have conquered many obstacles through the years. To no surprise, VANNER have big plans and big dreams ahead — in 2024 and beyond.

During our interview, the members have collectively shared their aligned goal for now: to win the first place at a local music program, such as KBS’s Music Bank, SBS’s Inkigayo, or MNet’s M Countdown. HYESUNG added, “I want to deliver VANNER’s musical color and energy on the stage to more people!” 

“I want to meet more VVS both domestically and overseas — with more album promotions!” SUNGKOOK replied, endearingly, as he thought about his fans and their support.

In our conversation, GON and YEONGGWANG managed to tease a bit of exciting news to EnVi. “I also want to win first place in a music program and hold VANNER’s solo concert. If we get the chance to go on a world tour, I definitely want to visit New York!” GON wrote, ending his response with a smiley face. YEONGGWANG dittoed GON, writing, “our goal is to hold VANNER’s solo concert.”

Image courtesy of KLAP Entertainment

On February 21, seven days after the group’s fifth anniversary, VANNER announced their first concert in Seoul across their social media platforms! Titled “2024 VANNER FIRST CONCERT [THE FLAG: A TO V] IN SEOUL,” the concert will be held at the YES24 Live Hall in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, on April 27 and 28.

Messages & Greetings from VANNER

At the time of our interview over email, it was Seollal. As we opened the interview with a new year’s greeting, “새해 복 많이 받으세요!” (the greeting used during Seollal, meaning “Please receive lots of good luck in the New Year”), VANNER wanted to dedicate some time to give VVS and EnVi readers encouraging and comforting messages.

TAEHWAN: Hi, VVS, did you all have a great holiday? In 2024, I wish VVS — and those who are loved by VVS — a happy and healthy new year. Please be with us for many more moments! We love you!

GON: Thank you and happy holidays to VVS, who continually support and look forward to us every time! We always miss you! You are precious, and we love you for being together in our lives. ❤

HYESUNG: Every VVS who is reading EnVi Media’s interview, I hope you are happy and healthy and make good memories in 2024. We love you!

SUNGKOOK: EnVi readers and VVS, in 2024 I hope your wishes come true. Be happy and healthy in 2024! And I want this year to be your “JACKPOT” year!

YEONGGWANG: Happy Holiday in 2024! I hope you receive lots of blessings in the new year, and I hope it’s a “JACKPOT” year for you as well, just like our new song ‘“JACKPOT”! I wish you good health throughout the year, and please continue to show VANNER lots of support and love. Thank you!

Be sure to mark your calendars for their first concert in Seoul this April! Follow VANNER on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter). Stream their new EP, Capture the Flag, on Spotify, YouTube Music, and Apple Music.

Want more EnVi exclusives? Check out our interview with K-pop group CIX here!