Between headliners Highlight and CNBLUE, and four less-than-two-years-old all-male groups, KCON 2017 NY was overflowing with boy bands. It was up to five-member boy band KNK to kick the two nights of concerts off as the first act.
The group — Kim Youjin, Park Seungjun, Jeong Inseong, Kim Jihun, and Oh HeeJun — started things up with their expressive most recent single, “Sun, Moon, Stars,” before moving onto their powerful debut track “Knock” and showing off their aggressive choreography. They ended things with the danceable B-side “Day N Night,” showing several sides to themselves despite the shortness of the set.
KNK arrived on the scene last year, and quickly garnered international attention by balancing two sonic identities, showcasing performance-focused dance tracks alongside more melodic songs that highlight their expressive vocals. KNK landed their first single “Knock” on the World Digital Song Sales chart at No. 18, before seeing their first EP, Awake, land at No. 14 on the World Digital Albums chart.
Billboard sat down with KNK ahead of their first North American performance to discuss their most recent release, and what they thought of being at KCON.
Welcome to KCON NY. What do you think of your first time in the States?
Seungjoon: We really wanted to participate in KCON and to be invited here is such an honor. To meet our American fans for the first time is very exciting.
Inseong: We’ve all dreamed of coming to the United States, but unfortunately because of our tight schedule we don’t have time to see a lot.
You recently released the mid-tempo, atmospheric “Sun, Moon, Star,” which was a bit different from the more aggressive singles (“Knock,” “U,” “Back Again”) that you’ve previously put out. What did you think of the stylistic shift?
Seungjoon: “Sun, Moon, Star” has a more subtle R&B vibe to it. I think our previous singles have really gone all out for the choreography, but this one expresses more of a tender feeling. If I were to introduce this to Billboard fans, I would say, succinctly, “original K-pop.”
Can you explain what you mean by “original K-pop”?
Inseong: Typically a catchy melody, heartfelt lyrics, and sort of a more contemporary feel.
What other sounds do you want to pursue?
Jihun: In terms of genres or new styles, I don’t think we’ll deviate too much from our original musical style but I will say that we would like to release seasonal songs for the summer or winter in between.
Seungjoon: Like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas [Is You].” [All laugh.]
You’re performing in the U.S. for the first time on the same stage as Highlight, formerly known as Beast, who you’ve mentioned that you look up to and even paid homage through your work with one of their composers. How do you feel?
Heejun: Highlight is a group that we’ve always admired, so to be on the same stage at the same time here at KCON is really exciting. To perform at the same event as those role models that we’ve looked up to is just such an honor.
What song would you suggest new listeners hear?
Yujin: We think our debut single “Knock” has been received very well, and that’s a really good beginning place for people to get to know KNK. We were at this meet-and-greet [earlier today] where we met the U.S. fans [for the first time], and when that song came on we were surprised to see that they all started to follow along with the moves and sing along as well. So I think that’s a good starter song.
What’s next for KNK?
Seungjoon: We’ve sort of been on a bit of a hiatus, so we are planning to perform often in Korea and trying to expand our activities abroad as well.
Inseong: We are also big fans of Billboard and we hope to someday be on the Billboard charts. We really want to say that we love our fans and that we really wish you guys have a good time tonight.
KNK’s agency YNB Entertainment has announced that the group will release new music on July 20.