ONEUS: The Concept Kings Reign In London

The six-member boy group chat about music, mukbangs and achieving their dreams, ahead of their first-ever concert in Europe at London's Wembley OVO Arena.
ONEUS for their sixth mini album 'Blood Moon'. Photo: RBW.
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ONEUS: The Concept Kings Reign In London

From the calm and collected demeanour of the six artists in front of me, no one would have suspected that in roughly five hours, RAVN, Seoho, Leedo, Keonhee, Hwanwoong and Xion - known together as ONEUS - would be performing in front of thousands at the Wembley OVO Arena.

Since touching down in London, the group have been by and large faithfully on duty as idols, even in their downtime. Leedo mentions heading to the gym to work out to stay fit the night before the concert, whilst other members mention having video calls with fans they promised to do before they were able to head out and see a bit of the city.

For those unfamiliar with the boy group, ONEUS have been slowly and steadily making waves since their debut in 2019 with song 'Valkyrie'. Their album sales have subsequently gone from strength to strength, and they charmed a whole new swathe of fans in early 2020, when the group appeared on the MNET reality show Road to Kingdom, which saw several boy groups compete against one another over several weeks. Though ONEUS did not take the crown that time, their status as concept princes was cemented in the show through a blockbuster rendition of their track 'LIT', and a cinematic performance of their song 'Come Back Home' that blew away viewers with their utilisation of vampiric, fantasy and medieval concepts alongside powerfully evocative dance moves.

RAVN even references 'Come Back Home' when I ask him about the cinematic inspirations the members like to draw off for their work: "Normally, we have a discussion with the music directors and other staff [members]," he says. "We also suggest or give ideas around making the concept. In particular we really like the 'Come Back Home' music video."

Hwanwoong added that when they previously utilised elements of traditional Korean culture alongside the present, the group endeavoured to share their ideas with the staff and chose not to overthink the process, to just go for it and simply try out them out.

Since the group's 'Come Back Home' days, they've graduated from concept princes to concept kings with title tracks such as 'BLACK MIRROR', 'LUNA' and 'Bring It On' where the group have tackled different literary themes and film genres alongside their music. By the time I catch them performing on stage many hours later, it is clear just how effective the world building in their performances is: every stage is akin to a small pocket universe that takes the audience to a different time and space than the one before. It is a feat that translates not just in the visual elements of their artistry, but even in things as simple as how the group have crafted their different album tracklists over the years.

The evolution of ONEUS: (from top left, clockwise) ONEUS for Light Us (2019), Raise Us (2019), DEVIL (2021), TRICKSTER (2022), BINARY CODE (2021) and Fly with Us (2019). All photos: RBW.

With RAVN, Leedo and Keonhee seated on the couch in front of me and Xion, Hwanwoong and Seoho placed on stools just behind, every so often the members at the front leaned over to consult with the members at the back; sometimes to check in on the question, other times to add their own thoughts to answers that were often finally conveyed by members RAVN and Keonhee. As a result their thoughts are more often than not framed in terms of 'us', 'we' and 'together'.  Even a question broached about any uplifting music recommendations (through which classic, old-school K-Pop seemed to be the consensus) led to a few thoughtful moments between them.

Their fans (known as TO MOON) won't be surprised at this tight level of unity between the members: ONEUS are well-known for being incredibly caring around one another, despite the utter chaos that often ensues when hanging out on their own variety content or on their VLIVE livestreams. They talked with eagerness about the content they create outside of their music and performances, with plenty of enthusiasm being expressed when it comes to doing more mukbangs with all the members.

When I ask what messages he would want to give to fans who are inspired to follow in their footsteps, Hwanwoong was quick to offer his thoughts. "Just do it!" he said,  "If you [only] keep your dream as a dream, in life you cannot actually achieve anything. But we just went for it...!"

Despite reaching their dreams and always pushing for more when it comes to their creative output, ONEUS are respectful and grateful until the end; excited to chat to my colleague about the photocards and dalbit (the name of the group's lightstick) that she's brought to show them and so happy to hear how loved their music is. Little did they know that by the end of the night they'd have people from all over the world on their feet as they performed a brilliant seven-track set to the crowd at Wembley.

During their time on stage they expressed their wish to come back to London one day: ONEUS can't return to these shores soon enough.

ONEUS' latest album, TRICKSTER, is out now. ONEUS is on Instagram, Twitter and all major music streaming platforms.
Many thanks to ONEUS' production team and their translator. Interview conducted alongside Sonal Lad from Koreaboo.
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