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Interview: A year after debut, Got7 looks to the top
By Tae Hong
When’s the first time you heard of Got7?
Was it in late 2013, when JYP Entertainment announced it would debut its first boy band in six years? Was it last year, when member Jackson began popping up all over Korea’s TV variety programming? Was it the second you heard the undeniably JYP-esque beats of “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “A,” “Stop Stop It,” maybe on YouTube or on your favorite online K-pop community?
Whenever it was, you’re not the only one. The seven-member group is young, energetic and eager to follow in the footsteps of the few acts who have found success not just in Korea but across continents.
After an impressive start (their debut EP “Got It?” topped Billboard’s World Albums chart upon release), Got7 — comprised of Mark, JB, Jackson, Jr., Youngjae, Bambam and Yugyeom — have been quick to find their groove in a world of competition.
Ahead of a U.S. tour spanning three cities, beginning in San Francisco and moving on to Chicago and Dallas, this month, the boys sat down with the Korea Times for a chat inside a Hollywood Bowl dressing room following their first performance in America.
Korea Times: You guys were great out there. It’s already been a year since Got7 debuted. What’s the pressure on you guys?
JB: This might be rushing into things, but we want 2015 to be the year we really establish ourselves. It’s only been a year, so we need to be even more nervous, every single time. We have to go up from here taking it step by step, and even when we make it to the very top, I think we should know to maintain that spot through always being nervous for the next thing. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just think we still have a lot of developing to do, and should do.
KT: Your first album, “Identify,” was released last year. What do you want to try with your music from here on out?
JB: All different kinds of music, with a base of hip-hop and R&B,
Jr.: As time passes, we’ll have more solid opinions on where to go. We’re working hard now without knowing much because it’s the beginning, but I think we’ll get to the point where we know exactly what we want to try.
Jackson: I really want the real Got7′s colors to show through.
Jr.: It’s like this. We’re still amateurs now, and have others producing for us. But in the future, after we develop more as artists, we can individually start to show our fans more of our music. I think it’ll help our fans, and the masses, to get to know us better.
KT: Kind of like the input Jun.K had in helping produce “Go Crazy” for 2PM last year.
Jr.: Yes. He’s a hyung I really like. He put his unique musicality into 2PM. Later, I think it would be good for us to release music made and produced by our own members as well. It’s not our ultimate goal, but it’s something I’d like to see.
KT: Speaking of goals, I’d like to hear each of your personal and professional goals.
Yugyeom: I like being a pop singer. I want to be that pop singer who’s good at dancing, rapping, everything. The perception the masses have toward idols is that we’re not artists. I want to help change that preconception.
Mark: I trained for three years. Since one year’s passed [since debut], I want to start making my own music, but I’m not sure where to start yet. I’m still learning. Hopefully in the future, I can make something myself.
Bambam: I have a lot of goals, and this might be overreaching, but I want to become a singer that everyone accepts. I want to hear, “Ah, BamBam is the best nowadays. Got7 is the best nowadays.” I want to become a legend. (laugh) Not only in Korea, but in other countries.
Jackson: You want to be the trend.
Bambam: Yes. Not just someone who gets to the top briefly before falling. I want others to become like us, for them to wait for us.
Jr.: I never want Got7 to end up as shameful people. I never want to hear, “Those kids did really well but have terrible manners.” Or even, “Those kids have such good manners but have no talent.” When Got7 comes back, I want to hear, “Got7 is valuable. I hope they come back.” I want to be the Got7 that people remember and wait for. It’s important to win No. 1 and become famous, but we can’t lose the essentials, the most important things.
KT: What’s most important to you?
Jr.: What’s important to me and the team is, I think, teamwork. It’s good to be good at music and on stage, but our team has to work well together. As individuals, we need to develop more. If we grow as individuals, the team grows too. And my personal goal is that I’d like to become a good father. This might be overreaching, but when I have kids I want them to know that Dad is this kind of person. A Dad to be proud of.
KT: Jr., how old are you?
Jr.: I’m 22.
Bambam: He reads too many books. (laugh)
JB: Everyone has different standards when it comes to regret. For me, I would be regretful if people saw us as just an OK group. Whatever we end up doing, I don’t want regret.
Youngjae: My goal is for us to one day win No. 1 after making our own album — the songs, the concept, the clothes. And personally, I’m going to work hard at singing and at composing. My dream is to become a music therapist. I want to cure people with music before I die.
KT: You’re too young to talk about death, Youngjae.
Youngjae: I want to grow old and happily treat people with music, and then die. (laugh) It’s a far ways from now.
Jackson: I’m with Youngjae. I want us to decide the album jacket, the photos, the concept, the music video, everything. That’s my goal, too. To be honest, a concept that only we have — I don’t think we have that now. I want us to have a very definite concept. I think that’s something all of us should acknowledge.
Jr.: I agree with you.
Jackson: I want them to say with certainty, “Got7 has this style.”
Korea Times: Mark, it must be another experience for you, being able to perform here where you grew up.* And for the rest of the team, this was your first time performing for your fans in America. How do you feel?
Mark: We’ve been to Asian locations like Thailand and Hong Kong, but I doubted whether we could make it to America. So when I heard we were coming to the Hollywood Bowl, I was excited and really happy.
Yugyeom: It’s an honor to be here, I think. My role models have stood on that stage, and that in itself makes me feel good. And this is Mark hyung’s home. As his friends, we’re happy.
Bambam: We had a lot of goals when we debuted, and one of them was to perform in each of our non-Korean members’ homes. I thought we wouldn’t make it to the U.S. until at least three years past our debut, but it came much quicker than I’d thought.
Jr.: Since I was young, I didn’t think I would have the chance to do a performance here. Before I became a trainee, I didn’t even think I’d leave the country. After we debuted, we went to close Asian countries. I was always apologetic to Mark because of that. We’re just thankful to be here, and although it might take very many years, I want to one day hold a Got7-only concert at this venue.
JB: A lot of our fans are here. To be honest, our Korean fans back home have more opportunities to see us perform, but our fans here don’t. It felt like we had the chance to make ourselves more known today by being here. It’s my first time in L.A., and I love the weather.
Youngjae: It’s so fascinating to me that this is Mark hyung’s home. To perform here, to meet Mark hyung’s family, was so much fun.
Jackson: I love In-N-Out.
KT: What do you order?
Mark: Animal style.
KT: It’s the best.
Jackson: Yes, love In-N-Out. And this is not my first time in America, but it’s my first time in L.A. It’s great to meet Mark’s family and go to his house and mess around, and meet his friends. Not many artists from Korea have performed at Hollywood Bowl. We feel really honored to be onstage. Artists like Chris Brown and Usher have been here. Maybe we Got7 can have a concert [at the Bowl] too, after maybe 30 years.
*Mark hails from Arcadia, California.