At an extraordinary time for K-pop groups, there remains a quirky, folky pop duo that continue to control the Korean charts as much as their idol counterparts.
BOL4 are the female duo who have charmed Korea -- and, increasingly, an international audience -- with honeyed harmonies that tell relatable stories of love and growing up told with a palpable pang of childhood nostalgia. The duo's latest collection of songs is no exception with their Puberty Book ? Bom EP delivering more feel-good cuts with the seasonal title track "Bom" (with "bom" being the Korean world for spring) topping Korea's local charts with the acoustic-leaning, soaring pop gem "Stars Over Me" also finding a large audience.
Vocalist Jiyeong and backing vocalist-guitarist Jiyoon both contribute to writing and composing to their music that's offering a refreshing perspective on the K-pop scene and helping widen the scope of the genre on a growing global platform. BOL4, who are also known as Bolbbalgan4, spoke with Billboard (mostly through translator) to share more insight into their latest songs, their honest feelings on idol groups and their growing international presence.
How are you feeling about the big response to "Bom" and your latest album?
Jiyeong: It's the warm, spring season in Korea and I think our spring-like song is touching people's heart in relation to the season. I’ve been worried, and it honestly burdened me, that our comeback took about an year, but I'm delighted to see so much love from many people. Especially, it seems like many people are having special spring with our song.
Jiyun: I'm so honored to have all of our albums released until now loved by many people, it's really happy to see this album also being loved.
I'm not sure if you look at the real-time charts in Korea, but when BTS released their new album,"Bom" was still performing high. Do you have a reaction to that?
Jiyeong: First of all, we love BTS so much and it’s a great honor to have our name on the chart with a worldwide-recognized Korean singer like them. And also, it’s delightful to have so many people listen to our songs and BTS together.
BOL4's songs typically show apprehensive feelings, but the lyrics of one of my favorites, "Stars Over Me," feel much more confident. Is that the right interpretation?
Jiyeong: I like my songs to be understood variously to other people’s own opinion. If you have felt like that, then that's it! To explain it, basically, this song seems like the romantic movie, on a noisy weekend, two boring people, a man and woman, having a crush on each other, heading to the sea to watch the stars. Maybe the reason why it feels more comfortable is because the song itself is based on spontaneous love, not the serious and complicated relationship.
But "Seattle Alone" feels it has a bit more of a modern-dance vibe to it. Can you tell us more about creating this song. And have you really been Seattle?
Jiyeong: We used to try songs with new genre every album we make. As we flavored Red Diary Page.2 with some band sounds last year, we tried the electronic sounds for some diversity on this album. I actually wrote "Seattle Alone" last year when I traveled around Seattle area. I like to travel alone -- I used to move around places in Europe, but I went on trip to New York two years ago and it was so attractive to me that I went on a trip to America, specifically to Seattle and Portland, last December. Other than tourist attractions, what I like the most during trips is that I can go to small bars and have a chat with the people over there. Although I’m not good enough with English, people talked to me nicely and asked questions about myself and what kind of person I am. This song was written in a bar around the Pike Place Market in Seattle. If I have a chance to meet those people again, I really want to let them listen to this song.
Many Idol groups in Korea say they are BOL4 fans. What's your reaction?
Jiyeong: I feel very delighted and excited to realize that idols who are more famous and cooler than us know our songs and love them; just like we love their songs.
Jiyeong, I've read lots of comments recently that BLACKPINK's Rosé and you have similar vocal colors. Do you agree?
Jiyeong: I always have thought that Rosé's voice tone is so pretty and it feels good to hear that I have similar tone. Usually, me and Jiyun like to listen to the music of BLACKPINK together, especially the whole Square Up album and, more specifically, "Ddu-Du Ddu-Du" has been on my playlist for so long.
K-pop is getting a lot of international interest and, while BOL4 is not exactly like the boy bands and girl groups, you're still a very popular Korean artist. Have you noticed more international attention on your music?
Jiyun: As K-pop is getting a lot of love worldwide, other music genres like indie, folk, hip-hop are getting interest and love as well. Other than us, there are so many splendid musicians in Korea, and I hope people will be loving them more.
Jiyeong: The reason why we can get this huge support and love is because of the singers who previously have contributed a lot of efforts to spread K-pop worldwide. As we get more views on our music videos and can see different languages on the comments, I can see that people around the world who loves our music is increasing. So, we would like to have more international concerts than last year. I want to give a lot of thanks to international fans who support us from far away.
What kind of music are you personally enjoying these days?
Will we see BOL4 in America anytime soon?
Jiyeong: Performing on stage in America is my dream. When I was a child, I dreamed about this watching American singers' performances on YouTube. Honestly, it feels like I'm dreaming to have the interview here with Billboard. But I'm looking forward to singing together with many American fans soon.
Anything else to add to your international fans?
Jiyeong: I feel so grateful to have you love and support our latest album again. Like this Billboard interview, one day I can be on stage in America, too! I hope we can meet in a lot of different places. Also, we will sing more good songs for you so on. Hope you enjoy much more special and happy spring with our spring-like songs!