Since their arrival on the scene in 2008 with a contemporary R&B sound and exploding in 2010 with the success of the frenetic dance-pop track “Lucifer” in 2010, the quintet has solidified its place as one of the most artistically explorative groups in the industry. Impressing with their choreography and vocals alike, SHINee’s furthered the popularity of genres such as house and EDM by bringing the styles into the forefront of K-pop’s conscious with crowd pleasers like “Everybody” and “View.” During the show SHINee announced their upcoming album, their first Korean music since the release of their funk-infused single “Married to the Music” last July.
The five men -- Onew, Jonghyun, Minho, Key, and Taemin -- appeared relaxed and playful when they sat down with Billboard ahead of their first-ever appearance at the largest North American Korean pop-culture event. Donning casual blazers and ripped jeans, SHINee’s members heckled one another with good-natured laughs in between answers and offered up suggestions to one another as they discussed their career and upcoming projects.
Welcome back to Los Angeles. You were here a few months ago for another festival. How does it feel to be back so soon to perform at KCON?
Minho: We’re very happy to be back here in such a short time since the last time we were here. LA fans were greeting us already at the airport showing us their excitement. So we’re really happy to be here performing at KCON.
As you began your career, the group featured a little brother concept but overtime you’ve become known for a wide-range of experimental styles. How do you feel about this reinvention of SHINee?
Jonghyun: We started out as a band that’s titled as a contemporary group so whenever we come out with a song or album we want to try something new, something experimental, something exciting for the fans to enjoy both with the music and fashion.
Do you hope that that will be your legacy within K-pop, as a group that brought new sounds and styles to the genre?
Key: We want to be original. We want to keep our own unique colors. So every time we create something new we want to keep to ourselves. We always want to appeal not only to a particular group of fans but to people around the world.
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Lately members have been having a larger role in the production of their music, especially Jonghyun. How has this been for you to further your career as artists after being active in the industry for so long?
Jonghyun: It comes natural to me. We are all taking part in our band in whatever ways that suits us. That [production] is the part that I can contribute to our group since it comes very natural to me so I’m happy to do it.
What’s it been like for Jonghyun and Taemin, who have had very successful solos and redeveloped yourselves to show something very different from what we’ve seen from you as SHINee? You’ve also been involved in the production side of things as soloists, so how’s that been?
Taemin: I feel like I have two different selves, one for being a part of SHINee and one as a solo artist. When we work together as a group we don’t contribute individually as much as I do when I’m working on my solos. I try to give as much input when I’m working on a song or album but as a group it’s kind of difficult since there are five of us. Having all of us contribute to the same extent is a little more challenging than when doing our own things.
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You’re five very different people, so what sort of music is inspiring each of you nowadays as individuals?
Key: For me, I’m listening to a lot of EDM like Troye Sivan, since it’s become pretty popular among the K-pop crowd. A lot of Korean artists have been influenced by EDM lately.
Minho: Nothing in particular, but I’m open to every new genre out there both Korean and Billboard charting music.
Jonghyun: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of music from Korean indie bands.
Taemin: I listen to a lot of religion-based music, culturally rich music. Ethnic and world music. Music from Latin America has been influencing me in particular.
Onew: I’ve been listening to demos. [Laughs]
Jonghyun: Album demos.
Minho: We’ve been listening to a lot of music for our next album.
You’re working on the new album, but is there anything else you’re working on right now?
Jonghyun: We’re always preparing for the new album.
Minho: We’re always ready.
Jonghyun: Every one of us have been working really hard for our concert, which is happening in September in Seoul. So we’ve been pretty occupied with that.
Minho: Please wait for our concert, it’s coming up soon.