Interview: Mamamoo makes US debut in LA, feeling pressure

October 6, 2015
Left to right: Mamamoo members Moonbyul, Solar, Wheein, Hwasa and singer/songwriter eSNa performed at the 42nd Los Angeles Korean Festival Saturday. (Tae Hong/Korea Times)

Left to right: Mamamoo members Moonbyul, Solar, Wheein, Hwasa and singer/songwriter eSNa performed at the 42nd Los Angeles Korean Festival Saturday. (Tae Hong/Korea Times)

By Tae Hong

One of the freshest acts to hit the K-pop scene in years finally hit a chord with mainstream listeners this year, and nowadays it’s their name that’s on the lips of everyone paying attention: Mamamoo.

It’s been just over a year since the four girls dropped their first album, but the vocal-centric team has already covered so much of what was missing in a world of frills, too little clothes and the same-old beats, from vocal-centric retro dance to jazz and electro swing.

It’s the beginning of a Mamamoo moment — the girls have been increasingly visible on television following the success of their latest No. 1 song, “Um Ah Oh Yeah,” including acclaimed appearances on KBS’s “Immortal Songs” and the beloved idol dictionary that is MBC Every 1’s “Weekly Idol.”

The members sat down with the Korea Times ahead of their first-ever U.S. performance Saturday at the 42nd Los Angeles Korean Festival to talk first impressions of the city, their success thus far and where they see themselves years down the road.


Korea Times: How does it feel to be a part of this festival?

Solar: This is our first time in Los Angeles, and it’s an honor to be a part of a festival like this. We’ve prepared a lot.

KT: What’s your first impression of the city so far?

Hwasa: Since we’ve been so busy singing and doing activities in Korea, I think a lot of that time was spent in a blur. Every single day. But we arrived in Los Angeles to see that a lot of people here seem relaxed. Without knowing it, I think we’ve also picked up some of that attitude. It feels like we’re on vacation.


KT: It’s been over a year since debut. You must have learned and felt a lot during that time.

Wheein: More than before, more than when we first began, we’re definitely feeling a deeper responsibility. I think each of us probably have learned different lessons, but as a team we pick up on things just by watching other singers perform. We’re each growing day by day.

KT: And have your values, as in the things you consider important, changed?

Moonbyul: I don’t think so. From the beginning, we paid attention to every little thing, so now we’re paying even more attention. It’s that responsibility. When it comes to performing on stage, we think along the lines of, “We really can’t disappoint them” even more. If anything has changed, it’s that level of responsibility.


KT: Mamamoo’s increasingly gaining popularity, being seen more on TV, becoming familiar to the masses, all of it. Are you feeling pressure?

Solar: A lot of people expect a lot from our performances. We’re always trying something new, so of course we feel pressure from that. But through that pressure, I think we develop as a team. And through seeing us work hard, many people thankfully see us in a good light. So the pressure acts as a driving force in our development.


KT: Mamamoo’s a bit different from other girl groups. That’s something a lot of people say. Your sound isn’t so much trapped within what could easily be written off as “typical” K-pop — how did Mamamoo’s color form?

Hwasa: We each have our own color. And through our individuality, I think we as a group are able to create a really unique sound. We’re not really sexy, we’re not super cute, and we’re not ultra-pretty. But each of us have little bits and pieces of those things.

Moonbyul: I agree. I think it’s fair to say that most groups have a fixed concept. If you’re a pure-concept group, then you keep doing that concept. But Mamamoo doesn’t have that, so our colors show through. Each of us come from different backgrounds and each of us have different personalities. We’re free to show that, and that’s how our color came about.


KT: How would you introduce Mamamoo to someone unfamiliar with the group?

Wheein: We’re a carefree, bright group not trapped within a stereotype.

Hwasa: I would tell them to see us perform.


KT: What will Mamamoo look like in five years?

Hwasa: I think by then, our group will be widely known, even to fans overseas.

Wheein: By then, we’ll each be doing our own activities as well. We’ll be on our way to becoming icons of a generation. (laughs) That’s my hope.


KT: Do you have anything you’d like to say to your fans in America?

Solar: Our fans are called MooMoos. We didn’t know so many MooMoos existed here. We know many of them came today with high expectations, so we’ll continue to work hard to meet those expectations. Please always look forward to Mamamoo and give us a lot of love.