Not Your Typical Boy Band, The Rose Is Giving K-Pop A New Sound     

In this MEGA Man exclusive, we sit down with Dojoon, Hajoon, Jaehyeong, and Woosung of The Rose, navigating their rise to prominence and how their music is a love-letter to their fans.

Related: Meet DEAN, The Artist Transforming The Landscape Of Korean Music

There is no arguing with the fact that K-pop has asserted dominance on the mantle of music all over the world. No longer just a unique sound that hails from South Korea, it has entrenched itself to many neighboring cultures over the years, the Philippines especially. Despite it being of a foreign language, one cannot help but be swayed by the infectious rhythms, the beguiling lyrics, and assemblage of high-octane machinations that have long dazzled fans to a dizzying delirium. Not a mere fizzle, but a big bang in itself, K-pop is pervading and persistent in visceral sense, that even its fair share of naysayers are willed into silence by the music. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.

With a pop culture imprint that can easily be likened to the iconic Beatlemania, one that propelled four veritable unknowns into what was then an unprecedented global superstardom; the proponents that make up the diverse and distinct constellation of stars in their galaxy are now enjoying a similar destiny. The sharp rise of anything and everything Korean, in a movement more popularly documented as hallyu (or the Korean wave), has ceased being a regional thing and now commands a respect and reverence all over the world, just like George, Ringo, Paul, and John.  Whether it’s the wild popularity of supergroup BTS with their standout performances at the Billboard awards or the New Year’s Eve Ball in Times Square, Blackpink making history as the first K-pop group to perform for Coachella, or BigBang staging a highly anticipated comeback at the very same music and arts festival held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, there is no stopping the unparalleled revolution of K-pop.

Trailing this rich and robust resonance of rhythm is a blanket assumption that all of K-pop sounds the same. Unfounded as this may be, one cannot fault this thinking reflex, especially if it is lensed and framed from the outside looking in. Despite a world being fully educated and acclimated to its music, there stands a sweeping generalization that it is exclusively the high-energy and high-octane earworms that have burned through many charts, conquering playlists left and right. However, just like a multi-faceted prism that bends light into a spectrum of vibrant colors, there is much more to music than just the mainstream.

Careening from the popular thoroughfare is the piercing and heartfelt musical stylings of pop-rock band, The Rose. Uncharacteristic to the K-pop we have come to know, the approach of the four-man band is a lot more stripped down and unplugged. There is no flashy productions nor is there dancing of calculated precision. Instead, what we are treated to is an unravelling of human emotions set to steady strums and beats that mimic the beating of a heart. The quartet led  by Woosung (vocals, electric guitar), Dojoon (vocals, keyboard, acoustic guitar), Hajoon (drummer, sub-vocals), and Jaehyeong (bass, sub-vocals) are dedicated to baring their souls to songs that have at this point soundtracked many significant moments in one’s life.

“There is nothing much we could ask for more than that,” shares Dojoon as we sat down with them backstage, just hours before the Manila leg of their We Rose You live tour. “Our sound is so…it’s real, and it’s what we want to say. We don’t we don’t try to make music that’s just gonna sound good or like, sound on trend. So, I think the main purpose of our music is just what we want to tell other people—the stories or the encouragement or the hopes. I think that’s why our sound is so different; it’s because we have something to say to people.” From the other end, Woosung concurs, “We’re trying to be where we are actually living in the moment together like all of us, actually. So, we’re trying to be one of the people who is living in a current period.”

This keen understanding of the human psyche is ultimately what connects them to their audience, as evidenced by the deafening eruption of cheers, screams, and top-of-the-lungs singing that roared and echoed throughout the cavernous hall, prompting the band to call the audience one of the best they’ve had thus far.  “It feels amazing that we could come to any of the countries that we go to, and especially in Manila, since we haven’t been to too many Asian countries. I think is one of one of the most unique experiences we’re having here today. So, we’re very excited where we know the fans are…They’ve been waiting for a long time,” shares Dojoon. True enough, this particular leg of the tour wasn’t in the original line up, but due to the famed determination and tenacity of the Filipino spirit, enacting a fan-initiated project through the aid of the concert-making platform of MyMusicTaste, the boys finally got to perform for their most ardent Filipino fans. “We’re very happy we could do this, and I’m particularly thankful to our fans here for helping make this possible,” says Hajoon.

Despite being initially marred by a technical hiccup, the three-hour concert was a compelling discography of their hits such as She’s In The Rain, Sorry, I.L.Y., Baby, Insomnia, I Don’t Know You, Candy, California, Like We Used To, and Red. It was a coming together that was quite a treat to witness: from the music filling the room, as if wrapping each and everyone to a warm and familiar embrace, the lights dancing to every strum of the guitars and beat of the drums, and even the gentle rumble of the floor as it held the jumping and dancing all throughout.

Apart from their gut-wrenching and poignant portfolio of hits, The Rose also dished out exceptional covers of English songs such as ILYSB, Runaway Baby, Sign Of The Times, Breakeven, and as if the orchestrated by the baton of destiny, Hey Jude by The Beatles. At the halfway mark, the foursome mellowed things down with spirited solo performances, giving them enough time to maneuver a quick change from their denim ensembles. Dojoon first took to the spotlight with a powerful cover of James Bay’s Hold Back The River, while Jaehyeong and Hajoon held their own with a duet of Soldier by Before Your Exit. Finally, Woosung came out and enthralled the audience with Face and Lonely off his solo album.

It becomes clear why The Rose made a mark in the vast expanse of K-pop. As visibly as they were their hearts on their sleeves, their music becomes an extension of their lives and of the fans as well. Needless to say, they really, truly feel. “We really are talking to our audience,” says Hajoon. “Putting our minds to what we want to say in the lyrics, through music, we can execute it with all the things we have experienced.” This ability to relate trickles down to their performances, something that they want to evolve into something more personal in the future. “In terms of our performance, we want to interact more with the audience, thinking of new ways to relate more,” shares Jaehyeong.

Anchored on the genuine, The Rose is committed to heartfelt storytelling through song. “We try to stay real, whether it is like with lyric-wise or melody-wise or like arrangement-wise, we try to stay as real as possible,” says Woosung. “And the process actually, it depends on the songs that we write. One, it could start with melody or it could start with a lyric or something. It depends, but we if somebody brings up an idea, we just build it up, like all of us, and we got to agree to one idea to move on to the next one.”

Despite a reputation for the sad and lonely, the self-made band is anything but. In fact, they are very happy to have reached the amount of success that they have amassed in such a short amount of time. “Yeah, we wanted it, but I guess we didn’t really expect so much. We wanted it to happen all the time. That was our main goal,” Dojoon recalls. “We wanted to run more tours. We want to do like the Grammys. We wanted to do like shows with bunch of people from all over the world. But we never thought it was going to be this much or this fast. Yeah, we just did it kind of and hope that it happened.”

With the boys of The Rose, what you see is what you get. There are no larger-than-life egos, no shred of pretense, and no hint of dissonance. Instead, what exists is an acute awareness of their space, their gift, and their effect to a greater world beyond them. This is why there is no stopping them on their ascent now. It is all systems go for the future, one that is ripe with possibilities. “As a band, there will be definitely more music with lyrics that are heartfelt for the people listening,” reveals Hajoon of what lies ahead for the band. “And whether it’s online or offline, we want to become bigger, like enormous, so that we could touch everybody from here to there, like all the way,” discloses Woosung. “So, that’s the next goal maybe to be big and get even hungrier.”

“We just have stories that we want to reach out to people with. And I think we’re all growing together in this moment as we get older. So, in the future, they’re just going to see who we are and how we grow up as just like how they’re growing up in their lives, and maybe, what we’re feeling at this time of this moment of our life would reach out to them or they could kind of intertwine and kind of feel like how we are,” explains Dojoon, perhaps the most fitting punctuation to their journey thus far. “I don’t think we have anything that we’re going to do differently. Or of course, different music styles and all, but we’re not going to change anything that’s going to be so dramatic, you know? We’re never going to be like a dancing fan. It’s just like, yeah, it’s we’re just gonna do what we do now, and as we get older, it’s going to mature and I think the fans are going to mature with us.”

The world may have heard of the blossoming of The Rose, but from here on out, they are definitely going to make you listen. And I mean really listen with an ear pressed to the wall, because look, they have something important to say. Now, we pay close attention.

Photography JAN CASTOLO
Styling by ROY BACK
All clothes by LEE JEANS
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