1:43 pm - 07/17/2019
Seventeen Talks Songwriting, K-Pop Industry And Group Dynamic
It’s been four years since Seventeen arrived on the scene with their debut album in 17 Carat, and since then the boy band has gone on to become one of the K-pop industry’s most dynamic groups. After rocketing to prominence initially for their funky fresh dance singles and captivating choreography, over the years the 13-member team has gone on to explore a variety of sounds, focusing predominantly on euphoric and reflective synth-pop tracks in recent years. Throughout it all, they've built up a beloved fandom in the form of their dedicated Carats.
Known for their hands-on approach to their career with members acting as the driving forces behind not only their sound but also their performances, Seventeen closed out KCON 2019 New York earlier this month, held at the Javits Center and Madison Square Garden in Manhattan over July 6-7. While in town, 12 of the group’s 13 members – Boo Seungkwan injured his ankle prior to the event – sat down to discuss their musicality and career so far, and how they view their place in the larger K-pop world at a time when the South Korean music industry’s presence is becoming more dominant on a global level.
Tamar Herman: How are you guys feeling today? You just performed at MSG last night!
S.Coups: We’re feeling great.
Dino: We’re grateful to perform in front of so many people as soon as we arrived in New York, and to be a part of this interview. We’re very thankful. It’s actually really fun too, being in the streets of New York. [Sings last words to tune of Alicia Keys’ “New York.”]
Herman: You must be exhausted since you flew in from performing in Hong Kong right beforehand. How are you all dealing with that?
Mingyu: Well, we can always sleep when we return to Korea or even sleep on the plane. We’re just enjoying the interviews we’ve been taking part in. We also plan to eat something good and walk around New York after we finish our schedule.
DK: I feel good and more relaxed as I get to experience American culture. I may be a bit tired physically, but I feel quite calm and peaceful.
Herman: At KCON you performed “Adore U”, which was your debut song in May 2015. How do you feel Seventeen has changed since then?
Wonwoo: I think we matured both physically and mentally.
S.Coups: I do feel that “Adore U” performed now has its own vibe and it’s great, but I think we expressed the song best when we just debuted.
Mingyu: Back then, we were determined to show everyone who we were, but now we seem to be more focused on communicating with the audience.
Joshua: I feel like we matured a lot more through our experiences. So many concerts, so many performances that we did. A long time ago, if we were to make a mistake, we wouldn’t know what to do. But now, even if we make mistakes we can make it look like we didn’t make that mistake. We know what to do.
Herman: Do you feel like you make mistakes a lot?
Wonwoo: We usually don’t make mistakes, but I made one yesterday.
S.Coups: Because right before we came Seungkwan got hurt so we had to change our formations last minute.
Herman: Do you think the audiences noticed?
DK: I think a few may have noticed. [All chuckle.]
Herman: Did you guys notice?
Joshua: Of course. [Note: Seventeen performed in Hong Kong at SBS’ Super Concert in Hong Kong on July 6 and at KCON New York on July 7. The interview took place on July 8, and video footage shared on social media shows that Wonwoo made a minor mistake in Hong Kong and Joshua at KCON. ]
Herman: What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made?
Wonwoo: Yesterday… [All laugh.]
S.Coups: When we had our solo concert, there was a time when Seungkwan wore the wrong costume.
Woozi: It was a really sad ballad track, but he was wearing bright basketball shorts.
Joshua: It was a tank top with basketball shorts.
Vernon: For a ballad, yeah… It was all white with green and pink stripes.
Herman: You guys have been so busy lately. How do you keep yourself motivated when you don’t have time to rest often and just need to go between schedule to schedule?
Mingyu: Of course, we’re tired and we’re jetlagged, but as we perform and fans cheer for us, we get excited. It’s what we have to do.
Woozi: We also get our rest whenever we have breaks.
DK: And one of the biggest reasons we’re able to stay motivated is the fact that there are fans who have been waiting for us for a long time. Whenever we think of our fans, we gain strength.
Joshua: We just try to make the most fun out of any situation, really. When we’re with the members, we just joke around. That will keep us awake, keep the vibe going.
Herman: Seventeen has gained a reputation as self-producing K-pop idols. Do you think this is something particularly important for idols, and pop artists in general, to do in the current state of the music industry?
Woozi: There’s no rule that all idols have to make their own music, but we are proud that we make our own music and think that’s one of our best qualities. And I think that’s one of the reasons our fans support us.
Mingyu: It’s like Iron Man fighting with his suit on.
Woozi: Yeah, like how Iron Man makes his own weapons [versus others who have him or others making their weapons and superhero suits], we make our own music.
Wonwoo: And it’s not like homework for us. We really enjoy making our music.
DK: I think when people are inspired by our music, that’s what makes it good. I really hope we can continue spreading happiness through our music.
Joshua: Personally, for us, because we produce our own music and make our own choreography, we’re better at being able to deliver the message behind our songs because we actually write it. I think the fans feel like there’s truth behind our words because we make the songs. We’re not acting. It’s just our message.
Herman: You mentioned Iron Man before, so are you all Marvel fans?
Vernon: Not everyone but almost.
Woozi: Jeonghan and Seungkwan aren’t.
Herman: At the start of your career, very few idols were as hands-on as you were, and remain, with your own work. Did the idea of you songwriting and choreographing your own content come about to help remove the financial burden of having to split revenue even more with other collaborators? Is this something that you take into account?
Seventeen: Financially? Money? [Some laughing.]
S.Coups: I mean financially, we don’t have to buy tracks from other people so I guess it would be helpful.
Joshua: It saves a lot of money.
Vernon: Of course. First off, we don’t have to pay– I mean, we do but we don’t have to pay huge amounts of money to other people because we make our own music.
Herman: How do you manage your personal artistic aspiration versus those of the fans and your company, Pledis Entertainment?
Woozi: The 13 of us have a lot of meetings with our label in regard to our albums. Even if we’re in New York and our staff are in Korea, we talk through messenger apps and discuss what kind of music we want to do. And, eventually, we get to put our messages into our album and those messages are usually for our Carats, so I guess it turns out to be something our fans expected and want to listen to.
Herman: Was there a time a song came out differently from what you expected?
Woozi: I don’t think that ever happened. There was a time, though, when we made “Very Nice (아주 Nice)” and wanted to come back with that song, but our label wanted to release another track so we made “Pretty U.” We eventually made a comeback [in April 2016] with “Pretty U” and then released “Very Nice” afterwards [in July 2016]. We all try our best not to change around music we make.
Vernon: We always find a way to meet in the middle and that’s possible because there’s always respect between our company and us.
Herman: Who’s the most vocal when there’s a disagreement?
Joshua: Probably Woozi.
Woozi: I think we all are.
Wonwoo: We don’t hesitate in expressing our thoughts.
Herman: When something does come up and there are disagreements, how do you handle those sort of situations?
S.Coups: We always talk. At first we clashed many times, but as time passed by, we argued less.
Mingyu: People tend to assume because there are 13 of us, we probably don’t get along well. But actually, despite our large number, we get along really well.
DK: Because we’re a large number, we try to respect each other more.
Herman: It seems so hard to believe that 13 people get along so seamlessly.
Joshua: It’s true.
Mingyu: We are family.
S.Coups: We fight like family too.
Wonwoo: If I heard this from somewhere else, I wouldn’t have believed it like you.
Vernon: The more important an issue is, the more cautious and sincere we are when we discuss about it. Also, yeah, respect.
Herman: Are there any changes you want to see in the Korean music industry as your career progresses?
Woozi: Whatever complaint we have, if our music is good, I feel people will listen to it. You can have a complaint in any industry. I just feel it’s something we have to work harder on.
DK: We can change.
S.Coups: There isn’t a need to complain about anything. We just have to do our best in our own work. Everyone has different taste in music. People who will enjoy our music will.
Wonwoo: Of course we’re releasing albums in the music industry, but our ultimate goal is to send our messages to people.
Herman: How do you feel about recent years seeing more interest on a global level in K-pop, especially here in the U.S.?
Seventeen: We’re happy.
DK: I’m filled with excitement.
S.Coups: There are a lot of great venues in America and I hope one day we can try harder and get the opportunity to perform on one of those stages. We’re not burdened by anything, we’re just enjoying everything along the way.
DK: You can’t beat a person who enjoys, so we’ll continue enjoying everything. We’re a group that works hard while enjoying everything.
Herman: As K-pop becomes more widely popularized in the west, there’s a lot of focus on apparent negatives of the lifestyle of K-pop idols, particularly how the private lives, especially romantic aspects, of stars' often affect one’s career. Do you ever feel there’s a disconnect between who you are privately versus publicly?
Woozi: I don’t think it’s healthy to think that our personal lives are being oppressed just because we’re idols. We are average people, who happen to be idols.
S.Coups: We’re all the same human beings. We shouldn’t do anything against the law.
Woozi: Simply put, when we have free time we just walk around and go watch a movie.
Mingyu: There’s no difference between us and the people who love us. We do what we want to do, have hobbies, meet friends, go shopping, watch movies, etc.
Wonwoo: Most importantly we know we are in a position to influence others, so we don’t do anything that goes against the law.
Mingyu: We can’t disappoint our fans who support us.
Herman: Do you feel that you ever did anything actively so as not to disappoint your fans?
Mingyu: To be honest, we really don’t do anything that might disappoint our fans. If we keep our humility and work hard, I think we will be able to repay our fans in that way.
Wonwoo: Even small things, like throwing out garbage in a garbage can [we do].
S.Coups: I think the biggest disappointment our fans can feel is when we don’t try hard on stage just because we’re tired. We won’t ever disappoint our fans in that way. So whatever stage we’re on, we try to be thankful and try our best.
Vernon: I think our influence benefits us to want to become better people so that we can be positive influences.
I omitted some questions, check out forbes for the full interview. (Please give them a click (ideally without adblock)!)
The interview was quite interesting, great questions that don't get asked like that in Korea.
source: TamarWrites, forbes