In the K-pop world, releasing a full-length album is a career milestone and The Boyz should have enjoyed their biggest era yet. After seven releases singles and EPs, the 11-member boy band delivered their first LP in Reveal last February that showcased their growing promise as both artists and one of Korea’s next-generation superstars. But the record battled difficult timing.
From the sophisticated pop style of the title track along with genre experimentations in the AutoTuned alt-bop “Salty” or the synth-R&B groove of “Break Your Rules,” the album delivered the group’s most impressive collection of songs to date along with a new peak on Billboard‘s Social 50 chart, better-than-ever YouTube views, and No. 1 on Korea’s local album charts.
But the LP also dropped just as coronavirus concerns spiked in Korea that forced all television performances to record without audiences (including the music programs that K-pop acts perform on daily while promoting). In that climate, they postponed what would have been their first headlining concert in Seoul (the planned performances for March in Korea and Japan will be rescheduled).
The Boyz tell Billboard that while these setbacks were disappointing, they realize safety and health are bigger-than-ever priorities as they continue to prepare for their next steps as the K-pop industry reportedly gets back on its feet.
Taking time to reflect both on themselves and the world, The Boyz members Sangyeon, Jacob, Kevin, Sunwoo and Eric share what it’s been like actively promoting through a pandemic, how Reveal represents their growth and more.
Congratulations on the release of Reveal. How are you guys feeling about how your promotions went?
Eric: It was fun promoting with our first-ever full album Reveal. I like this concept the most, but it was honestly kind of disappointing to not have the fans with us while we did the recordings for performances on TV, but I know how much our fans loved our “Reveal” performances from online comments so, overall, I think we all did pretty well with the three weeks we had. We liked it and we had fun while hoping everyone was staying safe.
Reveal was released just as coronavirus concerns were ramping up around the world. I’m curious what was it like working in those conditions?
Jacob: When we first started promos, we were hoping it wouldn’t come to that point where we wouldn’t have fans with us. And before it got serious, we were still doing fan-signing [meet-and-greet] events so at least we were with the fans through that, we did perform “Reveal” at the end of the signings. But as it got worse, obviously since health is first priority, we weren’t really able to see the fans because of the large-gathering ban. It was disappointing to learn our concert had to be postponed, we’re really sad about that. But the concert is not cancelled, just postponed, and we will keep getting ready to be able to show lots of our fans Reveal in person for the first time.
Do you have any comforting words to share from your experiences?
Sunwoo: This is a pandemic that’s affecting everyone around the world. As long as we are on the same page and same team, I believe that everyone can overcome this as a human race. It’s a simple fix if you think about the premeditative measures that everyone can take so he hopes that everyone can stay safe and practice social distancing.
Looking deeper at Reveal, the final track “Spring Snow” included all of you as writers for the first time. Can you talk about that process and what it’s like creating with 11 people?
Sangyeon: I like “Spring Snow” the most on the album because we made it. Specifically, we all wrote on it and then Jacob, Kevin and I composed it.
Kevin: Composing-wise, we had a rough version of the track and we made our own melodies, recorded them with mumble lyrics, and mixed and matched them together to find what flowed best. Once the melody was finalized, we gave the melodies to the members and talked about a subject. Sunwoo actually came up with the idea of “Spring Snow,” which is kind of a paradox because you don’t expect snow and spring to go together. But the subject that we were trying to express was our debut date, which is Dec. 6 in the winter, and our fandom name [“The B”], which was announced on April 3 in the spring. We wanted to play with idea of winter and spring being the furthest seasons apart when you look at it beginning to end [on a calendar], but once winter is over, spring is the first season to come after that.
Can you share how else you saw Reveal helping you grow in your careers?
Sunwoo: As artists, this is the album we took the most part in contributing to making the album itself and I think we improved as a group, performance-wise, vocal-wise, dance-wise, and overall expressing ourselves. With the concept, we didn’t go completely “sexy man” — or from The Boyz to men completely — but I think the whole wolf concept [in the song and video] really suited this phase in our career. We’re like a baby wolf growing up, teething and showing its claws.
Kevin: Our plan even before debut was to slowly ease our way into taking more part in making our own songs. Conceptually, we’re not sure where we are headed next we would like to keep our identity as “The Boyz,” and change things up while we can and not stick with one rigid identity for the rest of our careers. All eleven members have very different characteristics that we want to show.
In another moment of growth, this is your first comeback as 11 members after Hwall has exited the group. Have you learned anything or did things feel different this time?
Sangyeon: We all tried our best to make sure that the audience that had been used to seeing 12 people on stage that they wouldn’t feel empty space during our performance as an 11-member group. So we all worked hard to achieve that. Personally, I believe that we’ve successfully exceeded expectations with this promotion with 11 members.
Jacob: Even though I already knew it, I was reminded me once again that health is the most important thing, especially because Younghoon wasn’t able to fully participate with us.
While you’re growing as artists, your online popularity is also growing. There’s many well-known moments with your group on Instagram, Twitter and such. Kevin, fans love the advice you share with them, and many fans think Eric’s so funny. Have you guys seen the reactions you get online?
Eric: We all know about that stuff, some of our fans even will tell us about it at fan signs. But it all just comes out naturally. Like with Kevin, I know he’s a good man and says what he truly wants on V Live. I think the fans like it and it just goes viral naturally. As for one of my most well-known moments, I knew of one camera was recording a video of me running, but I was actually just preparing for the race that was coming up. But apparently it looked different when caught on other cameras — that’s the secret behind one of my moments.
Kevin: As well as messages from fans, I get messages from friends as well. I have a lot of K-pop fans that are friends and our videos show up on their “Suggested Next” on YouTube or the Explore feed on their Instagram or Twitter. Sometimes, they’ll be super out of context and they want to figure out what I was thinking about. I think it’s cool that people appreciate our characters and dialogue. Being a fan of music from a young age, I know what it’s like to know the artist outside of their work.
Sangyeon: I’m just thankful that people are giving us this attention and hope that only the good moments will become “hot,” or viral, issues on social media.
Did you guys see the viral challenge of comparing baby photos to current photos in support of Park Kyung’s “Refresh” single? Going off that idea, is there anything you see stay the same since a young age?
Eric: We did see that and were messaging about that just this morning! Personally, I still have the habit of needing to prepare what I have to wear the next day. For example, when I go back home after practice, I’ll lay out the clothes I’m going wear tomorrow, the bag I’ll be carrying out no matter how busy or late it is. I’ve just had the habit ever since I was a child.
Sangyeon: I believe myself to be the same playful and spirited person I was when I was younger. I was a jokester as a kid and now I still am too.
Jacob: I would agree with Sangyeon about that. Looking back on my pictures from when I was really young, I realized I have a pretty big smile then and I also have a pretty big smile now. Also, I’ve always hated scary movies and spicy food and I think that’s carried on; my taste buds have changed a lot but spicy foods are one thing I cannot handle. Also since I was a kid, I didn’t like sneezing out loud so I would always cover my nose and that’s become a habit for over 15 years. Everyone says my brain will explode but it is still intact.
Sunwoo: I didn’t have double eyelids when I was younger, but I do now. I think it’s early-aging wrinkle lines. [Laughs]
Kevin: No matter how old I become, I want to maintain a certain child-like wonder because with children there’s a twinkle in their eye whenever they see something. I want to keep that for the rest of my life. Even though our routines repeat and things get mundane for us, I want to be able to be grateful for the situation I’m in and not take anything for granted. There’s a Bible verse I think it’s Matthew 19:14 where a bunch of adults disregard the children and Jesus welcomes the children saying, “the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” Even though there will be a lot of non-believers reading this interview, I think that everyone can take something from that and apply it to their lives.
I know we are in uncertain times, but what else do you have to share with us coming up this year?
Kevin: We’re preparing for a program that we’re going out soon called Road to Kingdom. It’s kinda like the sequel to Queendom, but for boy groups so we’re hoping to gain more attention through that program and show more sides of The Boyz that we haven’t been able to do in the past. We’re so nervous.
Jacob: One of our dreams is to hold our own concert, and it’s been postponed, but we’re hoping things will get better and we will be able to hold our concert for our fans as well. One thing I do get excited about as we prepare is that there is a lot of choreography that we haven’t showed to the fans yet. There will be lots of special stages…that keeps us excited through the process. We’re planning to perform a lot of B-sides as well as our Japanese single “Tattoo.” We haven’t done it live for an audience.
Eric: We just want to tell our fans to stay safe from COVID-19 and say thanks for always believing us, staying with us, and supporting our music and what we do. I hope we can perform live in front of them soon when COVID-19 calms down. Until then, I want to tell them to stay safe.