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[Exclusive] Interview: EXID talks expectations, LA and Legoland
By Tae Hong
Three years ago, EXID visited the U.S. on vacation for a short break following a member change and a mediocre K-pop debut in a busy, busy year filled with a-dime-a-dozen newcomers.
Traveling around Las Vegas, the girls hit up Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Hollywood. Back home in South Korea, their singles dropped and went into a pool of relative obscurity.
Then, last year, a fancam of an “Up & Down” performance hit the web and went viral. The song, released three months prior to the video, went No. 1. The entire nation joined the up, down, up, up, down craze. EXID was suddenly the focus of the industry.
It was the birth of a true K-pop fairy tale.
And three years after their first U.S. trip as a team, EXID is back stateside. Members LE, Solji, Hani, Hyelin and Junghwa are here to perform at the Korea Times Music Festival as one of South Korea’s hottest new exports.
Muses of famed K-pop producer Shinsadong Tiger, EXID’s last six months to stardom have been greeted by legions of fans used to an industry topped by big-company releases.
It may have been one masterfully crafted fan video that pushed the group into a viral miracle, but the girls are determined to take the chance they’ve been given to finally — finally! — show the world what they’ve got.
Last month, EXID started a follow-up promotion to “Up & Down” with “Ah Yeah.” It debuted shoulder-to-shoulder with top acts and continues to dominate Korean music programs.
The Korea Times sat down for an exclusive interview with the girls during the festival — minus, regrettably, Hani, who was busy all night emceeing — to discuss their new single “Ah Yeah,” Junghwa’s Hollywood Boulevard star run-ins and LE’s dedication to Legos.
Korea Times: Congratulations on your first-ever U.S. performance.
Solji: Thank you!
KT: “Ah Yeah” is the first song you guys are promoting after the wild success of “Up & Down.” I imagine you faced a lot of expectations, pressure for it to be a great follow-up.
Hyelin: There was a little pressure because we received so much love from “Up & Down.” But we also found that people started recognizing us more, even listening to our older songs. So we released “Ah Yeah” trusting that people would continue to like us if we keep working just as hard as we were. I’m so glad the reception has been good. In the future, we want to solidify our musical color to show off to the masses.
LE: There was a lot of burden, to be honest. We had a lot of discussion with Shinsadong Tiger, a lot of thinking, before the thought came up that we wanted to show everyone an upgrade to what they saw with “Up & Down.” “Ah Yeah” is intentionally an extension of “Up & Down.” We’re so relieved about the great response and are working to do even better.
KT: Let’s talk a bit about how far you’ve come. There’s so many acts coming out in today’s K-pop landscape. EXID spent a few years as a relatively unknown group. What was that experience like for you?
Hyelin: The first thing for me was that it helped me understand what a precious thing it is to be able to be on broadcast. We felt it firsthand. Being able to be on stage is a great thing, and a difficult thing. It makes me try my very best for each performance. I perform with a thankful mind. And we always say this — we hope everyone can gain strength from seeing us.
Solji: I don’t think it’s fair to call them unknown, because none of them think of it that way while they work hard. But it is about not being very well-known to the masses. If you keep going, one day that opportunity will come, so I hope no one gives up on their dreams. And as fellow singers, we’ll try our best to be of strength to them. Because we know. We had that period, too. We’re going to really work hard.
KT: You’ve gone for a sexy concept with both “Up & Down” and “Ah Yeah.” Is there a concept you’d like to try?
Hyelin: I want to try all kinds of concepts. I think Junghwa and I would do cute really well, in the lines of Orange Caramel. We’re the youngest members. And I think the older line, Solji unni and LE unni, could do a collaboration.
KT: I can definitely see LE and Solji doing a really powerful concept.
Solji: That’s why I haven’t been able to do cute. (laugh)
KT: While you guys are here in Los Angeles, was there anything you wanted to check out, to see?
LE: We still haven’t been to In-N-Out Burger.
KT: Oh, no! It’s a necessity. You need to go.
LE: That’s everyone’s reaction!
Hyelin: When we came to America to go to Vegas in 2012, there was so much to see. There still is. But us and Legos –
LE: I really like putting together Legos. So we went to Legoland and bought a lot of Legos.
Hyelin: There’s such a difference in price for them between here and Korea. We were really happy about that.
Solji: I want to go to Santa Monica Beach, and Malibu. Maybe if we have another opportunity to vacation here. America is so big, you know? There’s something so peaceful about it. There’s nothing complicated and congested, so when I come I feel healed. I love how relaxed it is here.
Junghwa: We went to Hollywood last time we were here, and I met Johnny Depp there.
KT: Johnny Depp?
Junghwa: You know those cosplayers? (laugh) I took a picture with Jack Sparrow. Now that time has passed, I want to go again.
KT: EXID stands for Exceed in Dreaming. Do each of you have a dream?
Hyelin: With EXID as a foothold, I think it would be good for us to do solo activities in the future. Our team’s role model is Shinhwa. They each carry out solo activities, but they still come through with releasing music and doing concerts together. That’s my wish.
Junghwa: I agree on the team front. Personally, I’ve always liked acting ever since I was young, so a huge part of me wants to show everyone my acting. Not just acting, but hosting a variety television show as well. I like talking, organizing people’s talking points. It would be nice to show different sides of me in many platforms.
Solji: First, we’re just thankful for everything that has happened to us recently. As a team, I want each of our capabilities to shine through so that we can all be loved as individuals. Personally, because my job title is singer, I want to do more performances in which I can sing for more people.
LE: I write songs for our team. If given the chance, I want to produce for other singers as well, to show a side of me I don’t get to through the group.