Non-Korean, NY-based K-pop band EXP aims to become the next Big Bang

October 28, 2015
EXP (Korea Times)

EXP (Korea Times)

By The Korea Times New York staff

A New York-based “K-pop” group with no Korean members shocked genre fans earlier this year when they debuted with their first single, “LUV/WRONG,” fueled even further by the revelation of their creation by a Columbia MFA student who was using the making of a boy band as a thesis topic.

Named EXP (as in “EXPeriment), the group — comprised of six members: Hunter, Frankie, David, Sime, Tarion and Koki — are back next month with a third single, and scheduled to perform at Asia Contemporary Art Week on Nov. 6.

The group is, in many ways, a social experiment — Bora Kim, the artist and Columbia student behind the project, presents EXP as a “reverse-engineered K-pop phenomenon” and as a “cultural research revolving around the spectacle and performance of Asian femininity.” A Kickstarter to produce the group’s first mini album gathered $30,600 from 192 backers.

The idea of taking the Western-influenced K-pop, laced with Korean ideals of masculinity, and turning it upside down to bring non-Korean Westerners to then produce and recreate the genre in an effort to deconstruct and demonstrate those concepts, had an explosive — both good and bad — reaction from K-pop fans.

The band is now out to convince skepticals of their legitimacy as a K-pop band.

“Most K-pop singers are Koreans, but fans of K-pop aren’t just Koreans and Asians, they’re all ethnicities,” Hunter tells the Korea Times. “EXP is sending a message to those fans, that K-pop stars are not too far away from them and that they, too, can become K-pop stars.”

Members are adopting nuances of K-pop bands as well.

“It was really awkward at first to make what could be perceived as feminine gestures, like making a small heart with my index finger and thumb or using ‘aegyo,’” says Sime, who hails from Croatia. “But through practice, I got used to it, and now it comes naturally.”

The members of EXP are hard at work with practice in an effort, they say, to make a dent in the Korean Wave.

In 10 years, Frankie says, he imagines the band performing at Madison Square Garden on a world tour.

Koki says he recently went to go see K-pop top dogs Big Bang live in New Jersey.

“It left an impression on me to see all those fans gathered in New Jersey, not even understanding Korean, enjoying the concert,” he says. “We’re going to try and become a band with a wide scope and worldwide fanbase like Big Bang.”