It’s been more than five years since the world saw the arrival of GOT7 with their debut single “Girls Girls Girls,” and since then they’ve released more than a dozen singles in Korean and Japanese, plus a handful of one-off versions in other languages, including Chinese, English and Spanish. Since that time, they’ve become one of the most popular K-pop boy bands in the industry and have regularly sent albums to the top of the World Albums chart.
A globally oriented group, the act’s seven members hail from several different countries, and over the years many of the members have found places for themselves in entertainment industries throughout Asia through solo activities.
A multi-talented group, the members of GOT7 have found love from across the globe and recently brought their Keep Spinning world tour to North America. Ahead of their show in New York City, the septet spoke with Billboard about their recently released Spinning Top: Between Security and Insecurity album, their career and future, their creative identity and more.
How are you guys doing?
Mark: We’re happy to be here. We’re excited to be back. Excited for the tour too. We’re looking forward to showing our fans a new set of stages and a brand-new concert. We worked really hard preparing for this tour. Our last tour, there was great feedback from the fans. Everybody worked really hard for this tour.
I was looking at the set list from prior shows of this tour, and, like in previous concert series, you all have either group or solo performances. How do you decide who is going to perform on their own versus which units will work together?
Jackson: Whatever we feel like.
Mark: It’s whoever wants to do whatever.
Bambam: We were going to do all solo, but then if you look at the whole show…
Yugyeom: We want to make it feel fresh, and that freshness is really important.
Bambam: If you do all solo, it’ll feel like it keeps going then start again, you know?
Mark: The flow gets…
You released Spinning Top: Between Security & Insecurity in May. What inspired it?
Jackson: The title track “Eclipse” is produced by JB. [To JB] Explain it.
JB: It’s a really good song. It’s a song about us, our situation, and it went through a lot of different editing fixes.
How is “Eclipse” about you?
Jackson: The song itself is about security and insecurity, being secure and being insecure. So in our situation, for instance, we’re rising result-wise. We’re performing, we’re touring around the world, arenas are getting bigger and bigger, the members are getting bigger and bigger, the fandom is getting bigger and bigger. Everything is in good terms. But at the same time, while we’re rising, we realize we’re reflecting on ourselves by thinking, “Oh, is this going to end someday? Is it going to go on forever? Are the fans going to be with us after 10 years?” These are the insecurities that we feel.
JB: It’s a song that really questions. It’s like a question, “Can we really do it?”
Mark: It’s like, we’re really thankful for the fans, and we’re happy that you guys are here with us. But on the other side, are we good enough for you guys? Are we good enough that you will stay here by our side?
Jinyoung: Can we keep spinning?
When do you feel the most insecure about this?
Jackson: When we’re doing good. This tour in comparison to the last tour is way bigger. We just feel like everything is in good terms but what’s next? Are we going to rise? Are we good enough for the fans to stay beside us? Problems like that.
Why title the song “Eclipse”?
JB: Insecurity doesn’t just pop up all of a sudden. It comes and fills up, and it’s very gradual. It’s similar to an eclipse, like the sun covering the moon.
Mark: When it’s bright, you feel happy. And when it’s dark, you’re just kind of really sad.
Mark: So we used that as a metaphor.
Is this a feeling you all feel? Do certain members feel it more than others?
Bambam: I think everybody knows how it feels.
Yugyeom: We all have similar thinking.
Bambam: Yeah, we all feel the same too. But there’s different timing, maybe. Like this time, Youngjae might have a harder time more than [the rest of] us or something. Everybody’s different. We all feel the same.
Jinyoung: Actually, I don’t feel that. I understand the concept, but I always just am calm. My father told me, “Good thing is not a good thing. Bad thing is not a bad thing. It’s like a wave.”
Jinyoung: This is my personal opinion. I realized something recently. We always want to be a huge artist. We became more and more. We always want to do more. But sometimes, we just don’t think about that and give up. Then [at that time], we got huge results. I think.
Bambam: “You Should Give Up” by Jinyoung.
Jinyoung: It’s not like giving up, but letting it go. Don’t expect.
On a personal level, what do members feel insecure about?
Youngjae: I have nothing I feel insecure about. Nowadays, I’m OK because I let it all go. I chill. I relax. I don’t really want to be too stressed about having to do well on things, thinking about whether I did or didn’t do well. Before I was really stressed out, but if I keep on thinking about it and become too stressed it comes to a point that I can’t handle it. So now I’ve just changed my mindset and try to let things go.
Bambam: I think this is better for him. To be calm, and not too stressed about it.
Yugyeom: I have a personality where I don’t really get insecure but because I want to be in GOT7 for a long time, I do worry about how long I can do this.
Bambam: Sometimes I do care about [how far] I can get from doing this, doing that, blah blah blah. But these days, [I] just let it go and enjoy. Like, when I make a song. “OK, I have to make a good song.” But sometimes the best music can’t come out. But if you just enjoy and have fun, the music will come out better. I’m enjoying my life every day.
Youngjae: Me too, I’m enjoying.
You’re in your fifth year now. How has your songwriting process and creative experience changed in that time?
Yugyeom: It really changed a lot. When we debuted five years ago, we did have the desire to make music but we weren’t ready for it. As time passed, we became more active. That experience really changed us, and helped us make songs as artists.
Mark: I feel like when we were all training, I don’t know if this is the right word, but I feel like we were all robots. They would tell us, “Do this” and we’d do that. We didn’t have that much input. We didn’t know that much about music. Just practicing and training. After we debuted, it was pretty much the same. They’d just give us a song, we’d learn the dance, we’d record, and stuff like that. But as time went by, we started writing lyrics, we started getting to produce songs. Yugyeom started helping with the choreography. I feel like now we’re more artists than back then.
Just going back to that, you used the word “robots” to describe your early days…
Mark: I don’t know what else to say. Is “robot” OK?
Yugyeom: Maybe more like “passive”?
Mark: Is it weird?
Jackson: We were just told. We did what we were told to do.
Mark: I’m not saying that we were robots.
Jackson: There’s a stereotype about the Korean entertainment industry being manufactured, which I have said before is not true.
Yeah, we’ve discussed this before, which is why I was going to ask about using that specific term.
Mark: I just didn’t know what else to say.
Jackson: Don’t write “robots.” Write “AI [Artificial Intelligence].” That sounds more smart. [Laughs]
I heard that JB has said that “Eclipse” came out a bit differently than his original intention because of how your management at JYP Entertainment felt it should be. Obviously a management company has a role in your decision making and creative process, but how do you manage your expectations for your artistry versus the company’s, and that of the fans’?
Bambam: It’s like JB versus JYP.
JB: I go with the company’s opinion typically because I’m an artist under JYP [Entertainment], so I have to make music that fits into the company’s standards. I typically try to listen, but there are times when I want to express my artistry differently, so I give my opinions. But most of the time, I just go with the company’s opinion. GOT7 is a group that JYP gathered and when we’re doing a project regarding GOT7 it’s a project by the company, so I think that it’s right to follow the company’s opinion.
What other songs on the album, aside from the single, do you want listeners to take particular note of?
[At this point, someone in the room accidentally hit the light switch off, and the entire group broke into a verse of “Happy Birthday” as if it were a surprise party prank.]
Mark: “Page” by JB.
Bambam: We all wrote our own tracks. We have his [points to Jinyoung, who co-wrote “The End”], we have Youngjae’s song [“Time Out”], Yugyeom’s song [“1 Degree”] and my song [“Believe”].
You celebrated your fifth anniversary in January, and at the time there was a bit of discussion in South Korea media about how you’re approaching the point when K-pop groups typically begin to consider their future, as a standard contract in the industry is for a period of about seven years. How do you feel approaching this latter part of your career?
Mark: For us, we feel like we’re just still working on making a name for ourselves. I dunno. Time just passed by really fast, and we never really thought about it. The contract is for a total of seven years, right? It has come to a point where we have to talk about it, but we never have really talked about it.
Jackson: We’re trying to avoid talking about it because we think there’s nothing to talk about.
Jackson: That’s just a piece of paper.
Mark: We all want to stay together for a long time, so we’ve never really brought it up because there’s really no point. The seven of us, we’re going to stay together for a while.
Jackson: We’re going to stay together.