Search The Line of Best Fit
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ARTMS are shooting for the moon

03 July 2024, 08:30
Words by Travis Shosa

Original photography courtesy of MODHAUS

Arising from the ashes of pioneering K-pop group LOONA, ARTMS reintroduces five familiar faces as avatars of seemingly limitless creativity. Travis Shosa talks to HeeJin, HaSeul, Kim Lip, JinSoul and Choerry about starting a new chapter in their legacy.

ARTMS isn’t so much a brand-new K-pop girl-group as it is a rebirth. Its members are now industry veterans, no strangers to the uglier side of corporatised music making – and, more importantly, no strangers to each other.

HeeJin, HaSeul, Kim Lip, JinSoul and Choerry were first scouted for Blockberry Creative’s LOONA project back in 2016. An ambitious 12-member unit creatively directed by Jaden Jeong, LOONA sought to push past the well-established identifiers of Korean pop music and establish a universe, where each member’s solo work, the several subunits within LOONA (LOONA ⅓, ODD EYE CIRCLE, and LOONA yyxy), and the entire group reference each other through music video lore and recontextualised samples and melodic motifs. That’s how it began, anyway.

LOONA launched with an 18-month ‘pre-debut’ period, where each of the 12 members was introduced separately with a spotlight single. HeeJin led the charge with “ViVid”, a cool, stumbling, skronky electro-swing song with dusty drums and playful vocal overdubs. HaSeul offered a contrast with the lush and wintery “Let Me In” (aka “Boy, Girl” in Korean), a sweeping orchestral love ballad that shares more DNA with early Scott Walker and The Divine Comedy than anything you’d hear from BTS or BLACKPINK. Then we had Kim Lip’s “Eclipse”, which retrofitted funky, sensual Y2K R&B for the late 2010s, the skittering future bass of JinSoul’s “Singing in the Rain”, and Choerry’s “Love Cherry Motion”, which features one of the wildest, grimiest trap beat switches you’re likely to hear in a song that is primarily pristine hot girl mall pop.


This era was exciting because it truly felt like nothing was off-limits. Jeong and regular producers/composers MonoTree and Artronic Waves trusted the abilities of the LOONA vocalists to adapt to whatever they threw at them, and we got some of the best pop music of the 21st century out of it. However, in 2019, shortly after LOONA’s first LP as a full group, Jeong left Blockberry due to irreconcilable creative differences. There was a push to reign in or simplify his vision, to strip it of its esotericism and unpredictability and smooth it over into something more immediately approachable.

Jeong instead founded MODHAUS, a new company where he formed tripleS, a 24-member “decentralised” group that prioritises direct fan input while pushing the same general set-up he’d established with LOONA. Right down to the member count – exactly twice as big as LOONA – tripleS felt like Jeong giving Blockberry the side-eye.

Meanwhile, HeeJin, HaSeul, Kim Lip, JinSoul and Choerry continued in LOONA after a brief hiatus, still under Blockberry, but the difference was quickly apparent. The LOONAVERSE, a fictional universe where the members occupy different planes of a Mobius strip, continued through music videos, but Blockberry largely abandoned all solos and subunits. The departure of MonoTree, who ceased working with Blockberry when Jeong did, marked a distinct shift in style towards the sounds that one would more typically associate with K-pop. LOONA wasn’t really LOONA anymore: they were still a group with 12 talented and versatile vocalists, but they’d lost their identity. And, in November 2022, the group effectively collapsed under Blockberry’s mismanagement.

Chuu, one of the other members of LOONA, was ousted from the group in a transparent attempt to preserve Blockberry’s optics. She’d filed an injunction to be released from her exclusive contract nearly a year prior, but the company claimed to remove her due to her “abusing her power.” Injunctions from the remaining members followed. Before 2023’s end, Chuu and Yves had committed to solo careers, HyunJin, YeoJin, ViVi, Go Won and HyeJu signed with CTDENM and formed Loossemble, while HeeJin, HaSeul, Kim Lip, JinSoul and Choerry reconnected with Jeong at MODHAUS, where they came up with ARTMS – effectively a new LOONA subunit in everything but name.

ARTMS Jin Soul

“I was very excited about the possibility of working together again because I really like Jaden’s musical style,” JinSoul tells Best Fit. “This time, our opinions were taken into account a lot, making the work even more enjoyable.”

Like before, ARTMS was effectively soft launched with the girls’ solo work and the surprise return of ODD EYE CIRCLE, the subunit of Kim Lip, JinSoul and Choerry. While Blockberry had trademarked the LOONA name, they'd failed to do so for ODD EYE CIRCLE, and so the company’s neglect became MODHAUS’s serendipity.

For many early hardcore ‘LOONATICs’ or ‘orbits’, ODD EYE CIRCLE’s Mix & Match – and its expanded re-release Max & Match – represent LOONA and K-pop in general at its absolute best, with hyper-catchy future bass grooves and some of the most intricate, high-energy vocal arrangements you’ll hear anywhere. Despite this, this subunit never had the opportunity to perform live until last year’s headlining Volume Up tour, supporting their new EP Version Up.

ARTMS Choerry

“I used to think of ODD EYE CIRCLE as just a group that stayed in 2017 and remains a memory,” JinSoul admits. “But I was so happy to be able to bring it back through MODHAUS. The members missed it so much. We were a bit worried about the world tour since it was our first shows as a trio, but with our hard work and the enthusiastic support of our fans, I think we were able to create a great show.”

Choerry, the unit’s youngest member who had just turned 16 at the time of the Mix & Match release, confesses to having been nervous: “Although it was our first tour as a unit, which brought some anxiety and pressure, my unnies [a Korean term for ‘older sister’, referencing Kim Lip and JinSoul] helped me a lot, and we enjoyed the stage together. The tour was filled with many happy days with our fans and my unnies.” Version Up also included the return of G-High, a prominent member of MonoTree, to songwriting and composition on highlights “Air Force One” and “My Secret Playlist”, signalling an intent to carry on in the spirit of LOONA’s original vision.

The Volume Up tour was ambitious in scale. ODD EYE CIRCLE headlined London’s historic O2 Forum for their first-ever show, followed by dates in major cities across Europe, the US, Mexico, and a closing show at the Zepp Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan. A show in South Korea was, however, conspicuous by its absence.


Earlier in 2023, Blockberry, in the aftermath of the members’ injunctions, threatened to have them banned from performing in the country after filing a petition against Chuu with the Korean Entertainment Management Association. Fortunately, this threat held no water: ARTMS’s upcoming Moonshot world tour kicks off later this month with two dates in Seoul. They’ll also play Yokohama before spending August and September criss-crossing the US and playing in South America for the first time as the new unit, ending in October with a run of shows in London and other major European cities.

The Moonshot tour supports <Dall> (Devine All Love & Live), the group’s first album and the most eclectic batch of K-pop songs you’ll hear all year. While they technically debuted with “The Carol 3.0”, a reworking of a LOONA Christmas song from 2016, it was <Dall>’s lead single, “Birth” that represented the members’ new beginning. Darker and moodier than anything to come from their prior projects, “Birth” melds ethereal twilight with aggravated urban grit, its music video flitting through subway shots, bag-encumbered disheveled marches through a barrage of flashing lights, animated gothic illustrations, and mythological and divine imagery.

“In the ‘Birth’ music video, we included a story that represents the relationships within ARTMS,” notes HeeJin. “Additionally, our light stick is designed in the shape of an arrow! If you watch the music video, you’ll notice that the arrow motif appears frequently.” ARTMS, of course, takes its name from Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt and the wilderness. At first, the themes don’t seem to mesh with the grand, ever-shifting techstep of “Birth”, which sounds placed in the future rather than a naturalistic past. But in this way it calls back to LOONA’s Mobius strip, where the ‘hunt’ is a broad term recontextualised for finding and maintaining love within the urban jungle of Seoul.

Kim Lip

Several other songs on <Dall> sample tracks from the members’ recent solo and subunit work. Later pre-release singles “Flower Rhythm”, “Candy Crush”, and “Air” were built upon elements from HeeJin’s “Kehwa” and “Algorithm(the openers from her debut solo EP, K, released last October), HaSeul’s “Plastic Candy” single, and ODD EYE CIRCLE’s “Air Force One”, respectively. These aren’t ‘remixes’, nor are their predecessors simply previews or teasers. “Plastic Candy” and “Candy Crush” represent the girls’ first forays into city pop – something YUKIKA brought to South Korea with 2020’s Soul Lady – but take on entirely different shapes.

Where “Plastic Candy” is slow and emotive, underlined by a warm vinyl crackle and placing a strong emphasis on its trumpet lines before fading out on a guitar solo, “Candy Crush” clicks the tempo up a half-step and cloaks the whole thing in a soupy haze. It’s about funky bass and smooth vocal interplay: if “Plastic Candy” is akin to a late-’70s Mariya Takeuchi track, “Candy Crush” is almost like future-funking your own material to create something more ‘hip’.

“When I heard the guide for this song, it immediately became my favourite,” says Kim Lip. “I thought it was a song that could really highlight our different voices. Seeing us cover multiple generations and genres in <Dall> makes me proud.” There’s a traditional Eastern woodwind sample on this cut: the song bridges three distinct cultural periods, further lending credence to the theme of interconnectivity between time and space. Even though ARTMS is not technically attached to LOONA, featuring its own blossoming mythos, it is ultimately impossible to divorce from the Mobius strip.

ARTMS Heejin

Take the music video for “Virtual Angel”, which HeeJin tells me “can only be accessed through the eyes of the gods.” What she means by this is that a life-saving epilepsy warning prefaces it. It’s beautiful but also borderline unwatchable by design, featuring near constant half-second cut shots on beat with the song as ARTMS are dressed as angels during the chorus, while the verses offer a little more reprieve.

On its most basic level, the concept is that you can’t stare at the angels too long, but ARTMS fans (now called ‘OURII’) have already begun theory-crafting that the video represents what it’s like to have “odd eye.” It calls back to how in LOONAVERSE lore, ODD EYE CIRCLE occupy “middle earth” (not Tolkien’s), a dimension created by HeeJin in “ViVid”, where the members of ODD EYE CIRCLE would oversee Earth from their own plane of existence, experiencing two worlds simultaneously.

If this sounds particularly bizarre for K-pop lore, that’s because it is. But this has always been part of the allure of LOONA’s early days and now that of ARTMS: varied, addictive pop music that’s appreciable for its immediate charms, paired with worldbuilding to match conceptual prog rock albums or mass-market sci-fi novels. This dichotomy has helped them establish a unique foothold among music nerds in the West, because there’s just so much to overthink.

ARTMS remain tight-lipped about the details regarding their new story: chalk it up to media training or an understandable desire to allow their fans to piece together these things themselves. However, when discussing the Moonshot tour, Kim Lip and HeeJin emphasise an evolution in the choreography we can expect at ARTMS shows, owing to an even greater stylistic and conceptual diversity when compared to their past work.

“We put a lot of effort into adding the ARTMS feel to existing songs before releasing them,” Kim Lip says. “Regarding the choreography, we added more intricate, intense choreography that pulls from hip-hop, jazz and ballet, creating elements that everyone can enjoy together.” HeeJin stresses the unique challenge of “Birth” in particular. “Since it is such a conceptual song, we wanted to present it on stage not just as choreography but as art. So, during practice, I remember telling the members not to think of it as dancing but as drawing a picture.”

ARTMS Group Photo 2

Each member has a different song they’re most excited to perform on the Moonshot tour. HaSeul picks “Birth” and JinSoul goes with “Candy Crush”, referencing their #1 and #2 placements in fan votes. Kim Lip appreciates “Virtual Angel”, the first full song on <Dall> and first post-release single, as the proper introduction to the world of ARTMS. Choerry is especially fond of “Butterfly Effect”, which thematically ties back to one of LOONA’s most famous songs, “Butterfly.” And HeeJin just tells me that hers is “a cover song.” It could be BIBI’s “Bam Yang Gang”, which she covered solo in a self-edited video for the ARTMS channel, or the Elemental theme “Steal the Show”, which JinSoul tackled late last year. It could be both, or something new, or all three.

Once again, it doesn’t feel like anything is off-limits. While ARTMS may be a fresh start, it’s informed by all that came before it. Five years after Jeong’s departure from Blockberry, the spirit of LOONA that fans first fell in love with is well and truly back.

<Dall> (Devine All Love & Live) is out now via MODHAUS. The Moonshot tour arrives in Europe this autumn, with a debut UK performance at London's O2 Indigo on 23 October.

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