South Korean septet Monsta X have spent a lot of time Stateside over the past few months, including performing at multiple iHeartRadio Jingle Ball events last year, and they’re not slowing down. The K-pop group is now gearing up to bring their We Are Here world tour to North America this summer, a tie-in to their recently released Take.2 We Are Here album. Fronted by the songs “Alligator” and “Play It Cool,” a collaboration with Steve Aoki, the group’s third LP peaked at No. 5 on the World Albums chart upon its release in February.
Over a video call from Seoul, five of the group’s members — Kihyun and Wonho were unavailable — recently shared their thoughts with Billboard about the album, switching between Korean and English. Here’s what they had to say:
What inspired the single “Alligator”?
I.M.: The animal, an alligator, is very fascinating, it has a lot of charm and has a lot of sexy points. That animal matches with us.
What about alligators are sexy?
I.M.: He lives in a swamp, and if he bites once he doesn’t lose his target.
Did you guys ever consider any other animals?
Minhyuk: No, we think an alligator is special because there are many songs about other animals but there’s nothing special about alligators.
What new sides to Monsta X did “Alligator” show off?
Shownu: At first, I didn’t like that song because there are too many melodies and it sounded difficult. But now, it’s my best song.
What made you change your opinion?
Shownu: Because the dance moves are great, and fans like our song. So I like it too.
What about it made it a distinctly Monsta X song?
Minhyuk: The bass and drums.
Joohoney: Kihyun’s high notes, I think that is Monsta X’s biggest style point.
I.M.: As you know, our music foundation is EDM and hip-hop and lots of intense sounds, and I think that’s why “Alligator” fits a lot with us.
This is your latest music video to feature a theme based around the idea of the seven deadly sins, which was also explored in “Shoot Out.” Why is this something that you are focusing on?
I.M.: Because those seven emotions are very easy to get inside [of you] and get stuck. And we just wanted to explain that those seven emotions, they’re not really very bad. That’s why we made our album name [Take.2] We Are Here. [Last year’s] Take.1 was Are You There?, and represents someone looking for a savior. And the answer was Take.2 We Are Here.
So is Monsta X the savior?
I.M.: Yea. Through us. We just want to keep explaining to the audience since “Dramarama” that we are connected. [Are You There? We Are Here is] the whole sentence of what we are trying to show to the audience, and the seven deadly sins are just part of the storytelling to the audience to make it easy.
Hyungwon: We were trying to say to the audience that we are connected, we are one, you are not alone. If you see our lyrics throughout the album, there are many hidden meanings as we try to express to our listeners that we are here.
Which one of the seven deadly sins would each member represent, either because that’s what you want others to feel towards you or they’re feelings you think you represent?
I.M.: Envy. I don’t really feel envious. I don’t really have negative thoughts about my life. I love myself.
Minhyuk: I am greed because I want to be rich.
Shownu: Lazy [sloth]. Because I’m a little bit lazy. I wake up a little bit too late.
Hyungwon: Greed, because I am so skinny. I always need to be on time for schedules so I don’t eat much so I need to be more greedy.
Jooheon: I want to be anger [wrath], because if you heard my rap I am always sounding angry. I’m not an angry person but my music style is always a little bit angry. Anger is better.
Do you use your music as a way to channel your anger?
Joohoney: For sure, because always in Korea idol groups have many schedules and a lot of goals. There’s no solution to ease this, so [I’m] always so angry.
Along with the sins, your video featured motifs that mirrored those featured in your “Beautiful” music video. What inspired this?
Minhyuk: When I was in the “Beautiful” music video I was trying to express pain through the rose. Now I was trying to represent pain through the seven deadly sins, which is why there’s a rose too. The props are intentionally related.
You collaborated with Steve Aoki on “Play It Cool.” What was that experience like?
I.M.: That situation was a dream come true, it was so unbelievable. We always respected that huge DJ Steve Aoki, and we could not at that time believe the situation. We hope that this collaboration does not stop with just this time right now, but that we can do more collaborations, more music stuff in the future. I’ll tell you what. I asked him, “Why did you pick us? There are a lot of great artists, very respected K-pop singers.” And at that time he said, “Because you guys are so dope.” Actually, we had a Skype meeting with him, and we had a lot of conversations about the song. The process was pretty fun.
Minhyuk: “Play It Cool” is the best song for me.
What are some other memorable moments on the album that you want people to pay particular attention to?
Shownu: I like “Party Time.” The song was written by Brother Su.
I.M.: He works a lot with us.
Minhyuk: It’s a pure song, it has a pure energy. So with our powerful energy, it’s great.
What do you hope to achieve in the U.S. this year, between your iHeartRadio festival appearances and your tours?
I.M.: Jingle Ball was pretty dope, but that situation gave us a lot of responsibility as Korean artists representing the scene. It made us feel like we need to get bigger and re-aim our goal, and we need to keep progressing.
Minhyuk: And there is a famous saying in Korea from the 2002 World Cup to actively make dreams come true, so I feel that our dream is coming true.
Joohoney, why did you change your stage name in English from your given name Jooheon? [Note: The second syllable is pronounced like “hun” of “hundred.”]
Joohoney: H-e-o-n spelling is always– Americans would say, “Heon is too hard.” They always said “Joohyun.” So that always stressed me out. It’s okay, it’s okay. I was thinking, what is an easy way to call my name? When we were at Jingle Ball, one interviewer asked what my name was and I said “I’m Heon-ie.” And she said, “Oh, you’re Honey.” So I thought, “Oh, hey, that sounds good in America.” So I changed it just for English purposes.
What are you looking forward to through the rest of 2019?
I.M.: Of course we are planning our world tour, and of course we are going to the iHeart Radio Festival and we hope we can do more big stuff later after or before that.
Minhyuk: Our concert in Korea, our world tour, our Japan tour, everything.