Launching your music career should be stressful and intense no matter when it happens – but getting started in the midst of a global pandemic must present its own challenges. This certainly seems to have been the case for ENHYPEN, the seven-member Korean boy group that debuted in November 2020 after forming through a reality survival series. I-Land just two months earlier.
ENHYPEN is made up of four members born in Korea: Jungwon, Heeseung, Sunghoon and Sunoo. Then there’s Jake, who is Australian, and Ni-ki, who is Japanese, both of whom moved to Korea to become K-Pop interns. To complete the septet, Jay, born in the United States, moved to Korea at the age of nine. It’s a global group with global fans; Yet, for the most part, they performed in isolation – the only chance they had to see their fans, known as ENGENEs, in real life was at their fan meeting in Seoul in February under strict COVID restrictions.
It’s a weird, exciting and uplifting time for the band, and they explore those feelings in their latest mini album. BORDER: CARNIVAL. A sequel to their debut BORDER: DAY ONE, who immersed themselves in their emotions of being on the precipice of new lives and new careers, BORDER: CARNIVAL – and in particular their title track “Drunk-Dazed” – reveals some of the life-changing experiences the band had in the months since their debut.
As ENHYPEN set to release the album’s second single, “Fever,” they spoke to MTV Australia about the mad rush they have been so far …
MTV: You’re a few weeks away from your first comeback. What has the answer to BORDER: CARNIVAL been like?
JUNGWON: We feel really “dizzy” these days after our return, not only because of our busy schedule, but also because of the tremendous love and support we have received from ENGENEs. Our new album seems to be doing well and it also earned us our very first win on a music show, so we’re thrilled and grateful that our fans are enjoying it. We are just happy to feel that our hard work has paid off.
How did the experience of your first comeback differ from your debut?
SUN: There were a lot of “firsts” when we started. It was our first time working as a team and working on our own music so we felt uncomfortable and nervous. However, I think we were able to relax for this comeback and enjoy the process a lot more. We also felt that our chemistry and our teamwork had solidified during the preparation of this album.
There have been many big firsts for you over the past six months including, as Jungwon mentioned, your first win on a music show – congratulations! What was the most meaningful moment for you and why?
JAY: Thank you! Receiving our “Rookie of The Year” awards as well as our first win in a music show with our latest single “Drunk-Dazed” will go down as unforgettable moments in our careers. However, if we had to pick the most meaningful moment, I would pick our first EN-CONNECT fan meeting in February where we met our ENGENE in person for the very first time. We didn’t get to see our fans after our debut, so we received a lot of energy interacting with them at EN-CONNECT. It was also a moment to remind us that all of this was made possible because of them.
Your album uses the carnival analogy to describe your life after your debut, and the title track “Drunk-Dazed” is about dizzying sensations of both excitement and fear. What were the most exciting and uplifting aspects of life after his debut?
SUNGHOON: Getting through our tight schedule as artists was fun and exciting, but we had to take care of ourselves as they could be physically exhausting. Our members make sure to support each other to undertake everything with lightness and joy.
How do you deal with some of these huge and sometimes conflicting emotions?
NI-KI: While each member may have different feelings and perspectives on what we have been through, we have been able to overcome these conflicting emotions and differences by communicating and building relationships with each other. It was possible because we understand each other better than anyone.
Was there something about your debut or first comeback that you found particularly surprising or unexpected? What made you the most dizzy?
SUNGHOON: It was so surprising and amazing to see so many fans all over the world showing us their love and support even though we had never met them before. Because we are always in a situation where we cannot meet our ENGENE face to face, we do our best to communicate with them through our social media channels. Whenever we see their enthusiasm even for our informal remarks, we realize our popularity and become even more determined to give back to their support.
You mentioned that your chemistry and teamwork have grown stronger since you started – in what ways do you notice this when you work together or go about your daily life?
JAKE: I think that our teamwork is revealed especially during our dance / performance practices. Our choreography has a lot of intricate movements and details, and we’ve improved so much to move together as one team. There are also times when we practice without realizing the time, which I think is a testament to the fluidity of the practice.
Can you tell us a bit about the creative process when working on new music? What are your conversations like in terms of deciding what concepts and messages you want to convey? How did it work with BORDER: CARNIVAL?
JUNGWON: Before the official stage of music production, we discuss with our label the concept and the message we want to convey through our album. Since our first EP, our goal has been to find the optimal way to express ENHYPEN’s unique story, which makes our music so special. This is why we expressed our emotions at the limit of our beginnings through BORDER: DAY ONE, and as a continuation of our “BORDER” series, BORDER: CARNIVAL encompasses our emotions in the face of a completely new world beyond the border.
You recently talked about how you each tried writing songs for this album – what did you learn from that process? Is this something you are focusing on for the future, and are there particular areas that you would like to develop each?
HEESEUNG: We have dabbled in songwriting even since we were interns, and we practice regularly, but it was harder than expected to translate our story into lyrics. We all have great interests in the music production process, including songwriting and song production. I personally want to improve my songwriting skills so that the songs I participate in are included in the albums of ENHYPEN.
On your latest album, “Fever” explores the longing and longing to be loved, “Not For Sale” is about things that come at a cost, and “Mixed Up” is unexpectedly becoming the center of attention. Why did these themes resonate with you?
SUN: Through BORDER: CARNIVAL, we wanted to not only express the honest emotions we felt after our debut, but also deliver a story that our peers can relate to through our music. The first single “Drunk-Dazed” portrays the confusion we are feeling right now, but our B-side tracks cover a wider range of topics that can connect us to our listeners. For example, many teens these days generalize that everything has a price. As we have also heard a lot, we naturally incorporated the idea into “Not For Sale”.
JAY: “Mixed Up” tells the story of a boy who suddenly becomes the center of attention in a digital world and we feel it fits exactly with the virtual world we have become so used to due to the pandemic. We want to continue to capture our thoughts and connect with an even larger audience through our music.
You all left home – and some of you moved countries – to become interns and make their debuts. Is there something you’re homesick for and how do you deal with those feelings?
NI-KI: We feel homesick thinking about our family, of course. They have supported us since day one, and they are truly the most enthusiastic and supportive ENGENEs. There are times we miss them, but members are now each other’s second family, so we make sure to support and care for each other.
Australian fans want to know: Did Jake teach the other members anything about Australian culture?
HEESEUNG: I am personally a huge fan of Jake’s Australian English so I try to watch him carefully and learn from him. He once told us that many Australians use the word “companion” at the end of their sentences in a conversation. It can be interpreted as ‘friend’, and I feel like it really adds a hint of friendliness to the conversation.
Finally, do you all have a message for your Australian fans?
JAKE: We want to express our most sincere gratitude not only to our fans in Australia, but also to the many fans around the world who have supported us so far. ENHYPEN wouldn’t have existed without ENGENEs, so it’s not enough to say thank you. We look forward to the day this pandemic ends and we are able to meet our global ENGENE in person on a world tour. Stay in ENGENEs, see you soon!
Words and interview from Jenna Guillaume, entertainment journalist and author of romantic comedies YA What I love about me and you were made for me. Follow her on @jennaguillaume.
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