Photo: KQ Entertainment
Exclusive: ATEEZ Are Here To Win The Hearts Of K-Pop Fans
In October 2018, ATEEZ, a new boy band determined to become a group fans could believe in, stepped onto the K-pop scene with their singles "Pirate King" and "Treasure" from their Treasure Ep.1: All To Zero EP.
As K-pop continues to expand in the U.S. with the popularity of BTS and BLACKPINK, thanks in part to the Hallyu, or "Korean wave," that has globalized the genre, ATEEZ have captured the curiosity of U.S. media. MTV said they were "poised to break big in 2019," and Billboard was quick to point out their chart success as their debut album landed on the World Charts, peaking at No.12.
Although the octet, made up of members Seonghwa, Yunho, Yeosang, San, Mingi, Wooyoung, Jongho, and Hongjoong, are new on the block, the charts back up their potential for mass success. Their second EP, Treasure EP 2 featuring the single "Say My Name," peaked at No. 5 on the Wolrd Albums and went to No. 7 on the Heatseekers Albums chart, which Billboard noted doesn't typically list many K-pop acts. Meanwhile, MTV reports that "Say My Name" saw "upwards of 1.4 million" views on YouTube in two days.
But rather than focus too much on where they stand compared to veterans K-pop groups, whom they refer to as their seniors, the young band (the oldest member is 21) is humble about being new to the game, even if they've already had a taste of success in the U.S.
"We’re still rookies who lack a lot to even consider competing against other artists," Seonghwa says. "But the reality is that we still have to grow amongst the competition, so we’re earnestly practicing and researching. We’re also strengthening our teamwork by talking amongst ourselves more."
The group looks up to the international Korean acts that paved the way for them and want to follow in their footsteps. For now, ATEEZ are working hard to show fans who they are through group expression, which U.S. followers will get to see live soon when their sold-out tour kicks off in Los Angeles on March 15, a feat within itself this early in their career.
So, how did ATEEZ end up touring the U.S. so soon? Well, turns out it was their fans, also known as "ATINY," made the tour happen through an online service called MyMusicTaste, which brings fans together to request their favorite artists' concerts, according to MyMusicTaste Head of Marketing and User Communication Sarah Shim.
And the band isn't stopping after their trip to the States; next up, they're embarking on a European tour. Still, despite their seeming ubiquity, not much is known about the driven young band. Chatting with the Recording Academy over email, ATEEZ told us about who they are, who they count as musical influences, what they think about K-pop groups before them, what's next for them, and more.
What's the story behind your name?
Seonghwa: There’s no specific story behind our name, but I can share the meaning of ATEEZ with you; ATEEZ stands for "A TEENager Z." It means we’re a team that can demonstrate the collective charms and styles of this generation’s teenagers. The name, "ATEEZ," was also created in the hopes that we would become a team that could get many people passionate about.
What are your musical influences?
Hongjoong: When I was young, I was greatly influenced by Michael Jackson. I still believe I’m being inspired by him even to this day. Other than musical influences, I’ve recently picked up redesigning old clothes as a hobby. Through this, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different creative elements so I’ve been getting inspiration from that as well. I also get inspired from fan letters we receive from our ATINY. In many ways, I think I’ve been getting inspiration from everything I see and experience in life.
Mingi: I think I get musically influenced whenever an artist I really like comes out with new music. If that artist took new challenges and incorporated unique elements in their work, I’ll focus on that and try to study it. I also get a lot of musical inspiration from dramas or animations.
Describe each member in one word:
Hongjoong on Seonghwa: Seonghwa is a "mom." Moms are people who firmly and steadily lead families, right? Within our team, Seonghwa warmly embraces our members. He also readily tackles difficult tasks or chores other people don’t want to do. That’s why we call him the “Mom of ATEEZ.”
Seonghwa on Yunho: Yunho is a "beagle" because he’s always overflowing with energy and has the ability to put people around him in a good mood, just like beagles do. I think the word “beagle” and everything it encompasses really matches Yunho.
Yunho on Yeosang: Yeosang is the embodiment of the word: "pure."
Yeosang on San: San is "HALA HALA." I naturally think of the phrase "HALA HALA" when I think of San because I’ve been finding San’s HALA HALA performances especially charming these days.
San on Mingi: Doberman... I think Mingi really looks like those sturdy and trustworthy Doberman dogs.
Mingi on Wooyoung: Full-of-charms. Wooyoung is really charming and he’s really good at expressing it.
Wooyoung on Jongho: Strength. Jongho is the strongest out of ATEEZ so whenever I think of Jongho, I think of the word "strength." Jongho = strength.
Jongho on Hongjoong: Brain. I feel like Hongjoong-hyung is the brains of our team. He’s good at speaking but more than anything, he’s very logical and great at explaining things. No matter what happens, we feel confident because we have Hongjoong-hyung as our reliable brain.
Is there any U.S. artists with whom you'd like to collaborate?
Hongjoong: Post Malone.
Seonghwa: Justin Bieber.
Yunho: Maroon 5.
Yeosang: The Chainsmokers.
San: Shawn Mendes.
Mingi: MAX, Offset, Drake, Joey Bada$$.
Wooyoung: Shawn Mendes.
Jongho: Bruno Mars.
For Americans who are less familiar with the K-pop movement, how would you distinguish yourselves from other acts, like BTS or BLACKPINK?
Hongjoong: Rather than saying how different we are from our KPOP seniors, I’d rather talk about ATEEZ’s current goals and what we consider important when performing.
ATEEZ’s current goal is to follow in the footsteps of our KPOP seniors. What we consider the most important when performing is, "expression." As we have done up to now and will continue to do so in the future, we want to be able to better convey and express our energy directly to our fans.
You officially formed last year, and competition in the music industry can be fierce. Do you ever experience a sense of competition, and if so, what do you do to combat against it?
Seonghwa: We’re still rookies who lack a lot to even consider competing against other artists. But the reality is that we still have to grow amongst the competition, so we’re earnestly practicing and researching. We’re also strengthening our teamwork by talking amongst ourselves more.
K-pop has really exploded the last few years in the U.S. Does this get you more excited for your U.S. tour?
Hongjoong: Ever since I was really young, I watched videos of our senior artists performing abroad and in the States. Whenever I saw videos like that, I always thought to myself that I would like to stand on those stages as well. I truly believe the reason we, ATEEZ, were able to meet many international ATINYs so quickly after debuting was largely due to the previous hard work of our KPOP seniors. I'm looking forward to our upcoming tour because I feel like I can fulfill my childhood dreams of standing on those international stages through it.
Jongho: We're able to go on this tour thanks to the road our industry seniors paved for us and due to their hard work. Because they paved the road for K-Pop as a genre, and by virtue—us—K-Pop has been garnering a lot of attention from the world. We were able to attract international ATINYs' interest. We're diligently preparing for our tour in order to follow our seniors' footsteps. To be quite honest, I’m pretty nervous but excited at the same time. ATINY! Please look forward to our stages.
What is the inspiration behind "Say My Name"?
Hongjoong: "Say My Name" was a song we were preparing long before we worked on our previous single, "Pirate King," so we had a high level of understanding and anticipation for it. When we write our lyrics, we incorporate many elements to help us more strongly convey our aspirations and ambitions to the listener. We had hidden spellings in the lyrics of “Say My Name," so when read vertically they came together to spell A.T.E.E.Z. We worked on this song with the goal of solidifying ATEEZ’s name and presence.
Eweossa dureugo jigyeobwa (Wrap around me and watch over me)
Ireum ttak ne geulja yeogida (These four letters, it’s right here)
Ti nage namgyeonwa (Leave it behind so it’s noticeable)
Zoom in here, Cause I’m the Captain
When the bolded letters are read out loud, they sound like E.I.T.Z (ATEEZ)
What can fans expect on the tour?
Hongjoong: This might be the first time many of our overseas fans will see us perform live. I think when you see our stages in person, it’ll be a whole nother experience from watching us online or through a medium—you’ll be able to witness a much more powerful and engaging performance live.
Seonghwa: If you watch our performances in person, you’ll be able to more vividly experience and feel ATEEZ’s energy.
Yunho: You won’t be able to escape our charms after seeing ATEEZ live.
Yeosang: Yeosang’s charms, of course.
San: I think international fans didn’t have many opportunities to see us live yet. When you see us singing and dancing in person, I don’t think you’ll be able to escape ATEEZ.
Mingi: Our performance. You’ll be able to directly feel our energy. We’re practicing really hard so please look forward to it!
Wooyoung: The various charms of our eight members, and our performances. All eight of us have very different charms and strengths. Through this tour, I’d like to show all our colors to our international ATINYs.
Jongho: We've prepared a lot of things to show you. Please look forward to them!
When can we expect a full-length album? What's next for you?
Hongjoong: It wouldn’t be much fun if I revealed when our full-length album might be released, right? I’ll just say that our album is part of a much bigger picture and story that is continuously being built! I think that’s all I can tell you for now…
We're thinking of this upcoming tour as a starting point and are planning to keep working hard in order to be acknowledged not just in Korea, but abroad as well. We’re also diligently preparing right now in order to meet and be closer to our fans, so you’ll be able to see us more often in 2019. Everyone: Please look forward to it, and please love us a lot!