By Shim Sun-ah
SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- Last year was probably one of the busiest years for Ateez, a rising fourth-generation K-pop group. The octet performed in front of 430,000 fans in the past one year and two months during its two "The Fellowship" world tours in North America, Europe and Asia.
"It was good to show various performances to fans, whom we had not seen for a long time, and we were able to better understand their needs regarding our future path or what kind of songs they want to hear more," team leader Hongjoong said during a group media interview at a Seoul cafe Wednesday.
He added he could see in person fans' preferences in the band's songs are all different depending on their regions.
Member San chimed in, saying, "I realized this is what should be expected from the interaction between fans and artists."
The two members singled out Paris as the most memorable stop of the tours.
Fans in Paris had a special way to welcome the group, which was to stamp their feet, during its first world tour in 2019.
"I slightly expected the same thing when we went there again this time, and it did happen. Since there were more spectators, I found the energy coming from the cheering very fresh and marvelous," Hongjoong said.
Wooyoung, a main dancer of the team, chose Belgium and Denmark because it was personally his first time to be there, and people cheered and sang along more often and more loudly.
The band now feels they have grown thanks to the recent tours, in particular in terms of good teamwork as well as performance and self-management skills.
Ateez debuted in October 2018 with its first EP, "Treasure Ep. 1: All to Zero," and has since released such hits as "Wave," "Wonderland," "Deja vu," "The Real" and "Guerrilla."
The group entered the Billboard 200 main albums chart for the first time at No. 42 in 2021 with its seventh EP, "Zero: Fever Part. 3." In 2022, the band reached No. 3 on the chart with its eighth EP, "The World Ep. 1: Movement." It became the band's first album to sell more than 1 million copies.
In order to present more music and performances with most pandemic restrictions lifted, 2023 will be a very important year for the group, Hongjoong said. Another reason he cited was that the band is now in the fifth year of its career, sitting in the middle point between being a rookie and a veteran.
Known for its intense and fierce music and performances, the group is now getting increasingly popular in South Korea following the latest hit, "Guerrilla," although the size of its domestic fandom still doesn't match that out of the country.
Asked whether it has any intention to veer off course to win more public appeal, Hongjoong confided: "Actually, we also have thought about that for a long time. Everyone would agree that having at least one hit song is good for artists, but that's not something one can achieve when they want."
He said the group will continue to keep from pursuing any change to appeal to broader music fans.
"However, we want to continue to produce music that more people can relate to within our framework," he added.