Red Velvet Talk First U.S. Performance, Their New Member & Summer Songs at KCON 2015: Exclusive
Red Velvet only hit the K-pop scene a year ago, but the act is making remarkable inroads. Not only did the quintet's debut EP Ice Cream charted high on both Billboard's World and Heatseekers Albums chart, but their first-ever U.S. performance saw the girls singing at the famed Staples Center for KCON Los Angeles 2015. Not bad at all for a rookie act -- particularly a girl group, which tend to take longer to find their footing in the scene.
But it'd be a mistake to assume the quick results would go to the gals' heads. Backstage at KCON, Red Velvet are bubbly, but visibly nervous ahead of such a major gig. Their tension seems to ease as they sit down with Billboard, and, most notably, when their manager gets a call early in the interview and they start singing along to his iPhone ringtone -- cracking up about it afterwards. Wendy, Seulgi and youngest member Yeri (who the group deems the "energy maker") lead the light mood in the room, which must have helped them nail a performance consisting of singles like "Happiness" and "Ice Cream Cake," alongside a cover of the Pussycat Dolls' "Stickwitu" and Ice Cream standout "Something Kinda Crazy" an hour or so later.
Read below as Billboard exclusively gets Red Velvet's reflections on their first year, visiting America and more.
You're about to play the Staples Center, this huge arena, for your first U.S. performance. What's going through your minds right now?
Wendy: We try not to over think because we're really nervous right now. [Laughs] But we're really excited to be onstage in front of all the fans.
As your first American performance, is that exciting? Intimidating?
Irene: We came to shoot our new music video [for "Ice Cream Cake"] last time, so it's our second visit overall. We saw fans at the airport as well as fans at the fan meet here so we're even more excited to see them onstage.
What's it like traveling to America together? Do you go eat anywhere or have places you like to shop?
Wendy: Well, it was our first time together shooting the "Ice Cream Cake" video and it's really great. Meeting fans, it's fun and it's great. But for food, we really want to go In & Out Burger -- especially Yeri. Yesterday, we went shopping for two hours, we went to Bath & Body Works and Victoria's Secret. We had a good time.
Were you expecting fans to be waiting at the airport?
Wendy: Not at all, to tell you the truth. We didn't even have makeup on. Our faces were all swollen from sleeping for over 10 hours and we really didn't expect any of them. When I came out, they were like "Oh, Wendy?" and I was like, "Oh my gosh, hi!" I was really thankful.
Your Ice Cream EP charted very high on the Billboard charts for such a new artist. Do you feel international popularity rising or do you notice international fans?
Seulgi: On YouTube, we see a lot of covers, dance covers, singing covers. We really feel the love and the interest. When we're here now, we're experiencing the fans in person so that's even more special.
"Ice Cream Cake" was also the first time we met Yeri. Can you talk about what her place in the group is exactly? How does she make the team stronger?
Wendy: As you can tell, she's a really bright kid. Well, a really bright teenager. She brings a really good energy to the group and because of that we can bring a good energy to the fans, to the audience.
From what I can see, there's two sides to Red Velvet's personality and music: A fun, peppy pop side and a more mature, sensual R&B side. Do you prefer one or the other?
Wendy: Well, we like both, that's why we showed "Happiness" and then "Be Natural." And on our latest album we showed "Ice Cream Cake" and "Automatic" together. With that, we'll keep showing you both sides of the image.
You're signed to SM Entertainment, which has a really famous roster of artists. Are there any seniors you've looked up to for advice or inspiration?
Wendy: All the groups, they have their own different strengths. So we can learn from their different strengths from them.
Irene: When we did our first performance, we went to each of the acts and got great advices from all of them.
What else is coming this year?
Wendy: We are practicing everyday and working hard every day to show a better side of Red Velvet to our fans. My dream is to our have our Red Velvet concert overseas, one day. I hope. Maybe in 15 years, 20 years.
How about this year then?
Wendy: This year? I hope!
As summer comes to a close, what songs represents summer to you right now?
Wendy: Girls' Generation, "Party"