Amid the frenzied chaos of KCON Los Angeles’ main convention, the four members of N.Flying oozed with excitement. For the first time, the bright pop rockers were performing in the U.S. after a breakout year in South Korea. Though it was their first time appearing, they ended up being part of the opening act for the second night of KCON LA’s headlining concert along with members of Stray Kids, and later ignited the crowd with a rousing Queen medley along with their own songs.
The latest in a line of pop bands from South Korean company FNC Entertainment — which mainstreamed the K-pop boy band paradigm with FTISLAND in the mid ’00s and then saw subsequent success with CNBLUE — N.Flying has been together since 2013 when they released their first single, “Basket,” an alt-rock English track, in Japan, but count their formal debut from the release of their first Korean single, “Awesome,” in 2015. Throughout their career, they’ve had varied momentum and several lineup changes that have brought them to being the current four-member team, but 2019 has been undoubtedly their year after “Rooftop,” originally released in January, became a sleeper hit and ended up topping charts in Korea in March. They most recently released their fifth Korean EP, Spring Memories, in April and Brotherhood, which was both their first LP and first Japanese album, in May. Their sixth Korean EP, Yaho, is set to arrive on Monday (Oct. 15).
While backstage on KCON’s convention floor, the members sat down with Billboard to discuss their career and recent rise. Check out their Q&A below.
How does it feel to be performing in the U.S. for the first time?
Jaehyun: We really like it.
Seunghyub: There are so many more fans than we thought there would be. The fact that there are so many fans waiting for us and here to support us makes us so happy. We’re excited to be able to meet them tonight as a group and hope to come back again and perform in the future. We knew that there would be fans but we had no idea there would be so many.
How do you feel 2019 has been treating N.Flying?
Hweseung: We were able to experience so many different things this year, and there were unexpected events. It was very emotional for us.
Seunghyub: We’re just continuing to running forward in our career right now towards our goal.
What’s your goal?
Jaehyun: Our goal is to be on top of the world. [Laughs.]
How does it feel to have broken out this year with “Rooftop”?
Seunghyub: Our feelings are unimaginable, it was so unexpected. In the beginning, we couldn’t believe what was happening. But the more that it continued, we felt like it was our responsibility to respond to the love.
When were you first aware of “Rooftop” gaining popularity?
Hun: When we would go to restaurants that we go to often or were walking on the street, or we would go into convenience stores, whenever our song would come out… There are times typically when we would hear our songs in public. But to hear it as many times as we did with “Rooftop,” it was really amazing for us. We felt that we received so much love from the public.
Why do you think that song received so much love from the public and resonated so much with listeners?
Seunghyub: It’s an easygoing listen, and when you hear it, it’s a song that you can feel the lyrics. Maybe it’s because for Korean people it’s what the public as the whole is feeling right now.
Over the years, you’ve faced several lineup changes [lead vocalist and youngest member Hweseung joined the band in 2017, and 2018 saw the departure of former bassist Kwon Kwang-jin]. How has the group’s dynamic changed, if at all, due to these shifts, and how do you feel about it now?
Seunghyub: For us, the way we feel about the group and our dynamic has never changed, it’s always been the same. It’s always about what we can do as N.Flying to release good music, what can we do to grow as a group, and what can we do to repay our fans with all the love that we have. So our dynamic hasn’t really changed, it’s always remained really constant for us.
If you had to describe the essence of N.Flying in one word or sentence, what would it be?
Seunghyub: [Our fandom] N.fia. N.Flying is N.fia, and N.fia is N.Flying.
The K-pop industry is almost entirely dominated by dance groups, but you’re a band. How does it feel to be operating in that scene as a band, where pop bands are far less common?
Hun: I actually grew up always looking up to bands, ever since I was young. I trusted that, even though dance-based artists are very talented and very cool, I trusted that bands would be able to relay a different feeling. And so I trusted that gut feeling, and we are doing what we’re doing at our own pace.
Who were some of your favorite bands growing up?
You actually debuted in Japan, where many K-pop bands have found success, prior to releasing Korean music. What do you think makes the Korean market less receptive to K-pop bands than the Japanese one, and how do you see the state of the scene for bands currently in South Korea?
Seunghyub: We debuted in Japan first because we wanted to learn the various band cultures of Japan. I don’t think there’s that big of a difference when it comes to Japan and Korea regarding the band scenes.
Jaehyun: I don’t think there’s much of a difference between bands or idol bands or dance groups, it’s just that the way we give happiness in the form of music is different. But at the end of the day, whether our presence is big or small or our scenes are big or small, our target is still the same.
What’s next for N.Flying? What’s something you want to try in the future, musically or just generally?
Seunghyub: There’s really so much.
Hun: To be honest, we want to do everything. There’s so much that we want to do. N.Flying isn’t a group that has a specific color. We have a very wide spectrum. In the future, we hope that we can try out various musical styles.
What are you looking forward to in the rest of 2019?
Seunghyub: Starting from L.A., we want to be able to go around the world to meet all our N.fia around the world and give back to them good performances, and just make good music.
N.Flying is set to release their Yaho album on Oct. 15. Watch a teaser performance of that album’s upcoming single “Good Bam” below.