Last November, ENHYPEN’s debut mini-album, BORDER: DAY ONE, charted their pathway as fledgling artists, fresh from the survival show I-LAND (created by CJ E&M and BTS’s parent company HYBE).
While their music is anchored in reality with lyrics reflecting their own lives and experiences as young K-pop idols, around them exists a fantastical and thought-provoking world, brimming with exquisite cut-out animations and references to Shakespeare’s sonnets (Intro: Walk The Line) and Hamlet (Given-Taken). It’s one in which Jungwon (17), Heeseung (19), Jay (19), Sunoo (17), Sunghoon (18), Jake (18), and Ni-Ki (15) navigate their dreams and ambitions but also darkness, desire and vampirism.
Latest offering, BORDER: CARNIVAL, is their second chapter, capturing the emotional experience of being thrust into the spotlight as teenagers. Still only six months into their career but with more than seven million followers (known as ENGENEs) across their social media channels and four trophies scooped during South Korea’s music awards season, ENHYPEN have plenty of raw material to draw from. On Drunk-Dazed, they careen through their new upside-down world, addicted to its heady rush, yet on Mixed Up and Not For Sale, they step back to reflect on gen-Z issues around relationships and living a digital-first life.
In this exclusive interview, ENHYPEN take Vogue through the challenges they’ve faced since debuting, their visual styling and how they care for each other as rookies in the frenetic K-pop industry.
Drunk-Dazed captures the rollercoaster that ENHYPEN have experienced post-debut. Tell us something wonderful that’s happened since, and what was an experience that left you feeling overwhelmed?
Sunoo: “There was a scene in our debut trailer that I had to film while attached to a wire. I was scared and nervous, but got through it with everyone’s support. Afterwards, I felt I’d gone one step further!”
Sunghoon: “Before our debut, I did everything on my own but after, I had a team supporting me. I was touched that I now had members with whom I could share happiness as well as the difficult moments.”
Jungwon: “The shooting of our first Drunk-Dazed comeback performance took longer than expected, so we were all exhausted on set but we didn’t give up. We put our minds together to successfully end the shoot.”
Heeseung: “Our physical condition wasn’t at its best while filming for our comeback show, but we finished strong with the support for each other and a determination to not give up.”
Jay: “There was a time I felt drained both mentally and physically due to our rigorous schedule, but I was able to get back up with the confidence to do even better after discussion and reconnecting with the members.”
Ni-Ki: “I was very nervous for my solo stage show during the 2021 New Year’s Eve Live shoot because it was my first solo performance on such a big stage. I was scared, but managed to complete it with a positive mindset and support from the members.
Jake: “I wasn’t in the best physical condition during our comeback performance for BORDER: CARNIVAL, but the members encouraged me and I mentally controlled myself until the end, which made me feel like I’d grown.”
How have you adjusted to becoming idols and knowing millions of fans want to know everything about you?
Jay: “I was surprised that getting through our day-to-day schedule as artists was harder than I anticipated, but I feel like I’ve matured through this time.”
Jungwon: “Because we haven’t been able to meet our fans due to the pandemic, we barely had a chance to experience their energy in person. But I was able to feel comfort just by looking at the encouraging messages from them on our social media channels—that’s the biggest change since our debut.”
Each member has a different set of strengths—which trait do you admire most in your bandmates and try to make a part of your own approach to life?
Jungwon: “I admire Jay’s conviction the most since I lack confidence sometimes, so I tried expressing my thoughts confidently like him.”
Heeseung: “I admire Ni-Ki’s ‘go-with-the-flow’ personality since I’m more deliberate with decision-making. I’m making an effort to be more like him these days.”
Jay: “I admire Jake’s positive mindset, so I look to him to learn how he deals with hardships.”
Jake: “I admire how Sunghoon presents himself, so I’m trying to learn how to exude confidence like him.”
Sunghoon: “I look up to Jungwon’s leadership and sincerity. He always helps those around him, so I’m trying my best to do the same as well.”
Sunoo: “I admire Sunghoon’s self-discipline, so I’m trying to follow his example on a daily basis.”
Ni-Ki: “I admire Jake’s positive mindset, which I’m trying to apply to myself as well.”
No act’s path is 100 percent smooth. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Jungwon: “The filming of our first reality entertainment show was a little challenging for me because I’m on the introverted side, but we did a really good job of lightening the mood, which helped me adjust and complete our shoot well. Since it’s only been months for us as ENHYPEN, I’m sure there will be bigger challenges ahead, but I’m confident that we’ll get through it together as a team.”
Jay: “I felt a sense of growth when we’re encouraging each other and got through difficulties together with a smile.”
Sunghoon: “Preparing for our debut was hard for me. It was my first time as part of a team, so there was difficulty in adjusting to everything new. However, while experiencing things for myself, I learned a lot and grew as a person.”
Jake: “I felt touched seeing our members support and lead one another when someone wasn’t in the best condition. I always feel the importance of the team whenever I witness this.”
Heeseung: “The performance at our first awards show was difficult and we felt drained preparing for it, but we finished strong while supporting each other and learned more about teamwork through the process.”
Sunoo: “There were moments where I had to try my hand at acting during our video shoots. I received positive feedback for my facial expressions, but I felt lost at times. A lot of practice helped me improve!”
Ni-Ki: “I questioned whether I could do well on my own when I left Japan, but as this is the dream I’ve had since I was young, I think I was able to come this far with my passion.”
ENHYPEN are a young team in terms of age, so how do you guys look out for one another? Has your dynamic changed since debuting?
Sunghoon: “Although I’m part of the ‘hyung (older brother)’ line, I do my best to follow our leader Jungwon. Jay and Jake often cook for the members. Whenever there are members who are under the weather, we all try to take care of them so that they can recover well.”
Jake: “Jungwon does a good job of taking care of our members, which I think very highly of and would like to take on for myself. I’d like to grow as someone who the members can always rely on.”
Ni-Ki: “All the members look out for each other in our respective ways. I think that allows us to depend on one another and feel even more like a family.”
Not For Sale reflects a world turned transactional, where we frequently put a public value on every real-life and digital interaction. Why is this song and its lyrics important to you?
Sunoo: “Many teens these days believe that you need to give one to take one, but I don’t think that should apply when you’re in love, ‘real love’. That’s why I relate to this song more and I would like for us, as artists, to further relate to our audience by putting our thoughts into our music.”
Heeseung: “The world we live in is becoming further quantified as it transforms digitally. It made me upset to see people focusing on the numbers rather than life and love itself, which make us quintessentially human, so I thought true love is something that I, as a human being, should hold on to.”
You’ve said how close-knit you’ve become, so what small thing would you do to cheer up another member?
Jungwon: “I’d like to give Heeseung downtime because he likes to relax on his own during his free time.”
Heeseung: “I’d play video games with Ni-Ki all night if he was feeling down.”
Jay: “I’d make Jake a midnight snack—he loves to snack late at night.”
Jake: “Sunoo has a genuine love for food, so I’d like to make him a delicious meal.”
Sunghoon: “Jay loves to sleep, so I’d help him get a good night’s sleep.”
Sunoo: “Sunghoon is quite health conscious when it comes to food these days, so I would offer him nutritious food.”
Ni-Ki: “I’d offer Jungwon a massage when he feels tired.”
There’s an array of outfits for the concept clips of BORDER: CARNIVAL—the uniforms and rock-chic of HYPE, the period costumes of UP, and the 1990s rave/streetwear of DOWN. Which is your personal favourite?
Jungwon: “My favourite is our clothing in the ‘DOWN’ version. We wore casual streetwear for that concept, and that kind of put-together yet casual feel is what I prefer to wear on a daily basis.”
Jay: “Personally, I like the rock-chic vibes of the ‘HYPE’ version, but I also liked how trendy and versatile the ‘DOWN’ outfits were.”
Jake: “I like the rock-chic feel of the ‘HYPE’ the most. I’m trying to venture out into a wider variety of styles these days and the ‘HYPE’ version left a lasting impression.”
Ni-Ki: “I like the fashion in the ‘DOWN’ version. I thought it suited me the best out of the three.”
Sunghoon: “I like the rock-chic style of the ‘HYPE’ version. I’m really into fashion and I’m always on the lookout for inspiration, and I thought that styling was the most unique of the three.”
Heeseung: “I like our ‘DOWN’ outfits because I’m a fan of street style.”
Sunoo: “My favourite is the rock-chic school uniform look from ‘HYPE’ because I think it suited me even though it’s not a style I’ve tried very often.”
BORDER: CARNIVAL is out now