NICHOLAS managed to catch me by surprise with how funny some of his responses were. That power to keep things fun, regardless of how tough it gets, is what keeps him devoted to his chosen path no matter what.

​I heard you’re really interested in fashion. Do you still make alterations to your clothes like you said you used to do?
NICHOLAS: I do it when I have time. I don’t do anything too difficult though. I’ll look for something I have at home that I don’t wear much and ask myself how I could alter it so I could wear it again, and then I pretty much just cut it up. (laughs) Like take a comfortable jacket and make it a bit shorter or add some rips to it.

What one style or thing would you say you’re into these days?
NICHOLAS: I’m into headphones lately so I have mine with me almost every day. And since the weather’s getting hotter, I’m into sunglasses again. I like unique or interesting things so I want to buy a pair with an unusual design. It’s boring to stick with one style so what I like keeps changing, and sporty fashion caught my eye lately so I’m looking into that. I don’t want to be associated with a single style, but I’d at least like it if people could see something and immediately think, That’s so NICHOLAS! (laughs)

What are you doing to develop your own style?
NICHOLAS: It’s like I always say to the younger members: Every piece of clothing has its own soul. So, if you get to know the soul first, then you should be able to match other things with it better. I don’t think about whether something fits my image—I just wear whatever I want. There’s a way to balance out clothes even if they don’t look good on you, you know? For example, you can balance out bright pink by pairing it with something black. I like taking several contrasting styles and trying them together like that.

Being on &TEAM gives you a chance to wear all kinds of different outfits. Are you happy to have that opportunity?
NICHOLAS: I love it. (pointing to what he wore for the photoshoot) I was actually really happy with today too. (laughs) I tend to dress lavishly so I like when someone thinks it’s my own clothes. I’ll work hard for the photoshoot today. I’ve got hip hop clothes on today so I’m going to try doing some hip hop poses.
​What were you trying to express through your parts in “FIREWORK,” the lead single off your new album, First Howling: WE?
NICHOLAS: I loved “FIREWORK” when I first heard it but it’s not just one emotion so it was hard to express it. I focused on matching the emotion of the words and of the dance moves. That way I could understand what I should be conveying and show it properly. I sing a line that goes, “As the moment our eyes meet,” and for that part I wanted to convey lots of different emotions, like the happiness, anticipation and nerves you feel when you fall in love or see the person you like.

There’s a lot of parts in “FIREWORK” where you’re not only expressing a lot of emotions but dancing with the other members too. Can you tell me about how you practiced the choreography?
NICHOLAS: It was tough to get the timing right for “FIREWORK” so teamwork was crucial. “Road Not Taken” was really hard too (laughs) so at first I wasn’t even sure we could master it. There’s a lot of acrobatic moves in the choreography so we had to do these really intense moves and then go right into another hard one. (laughs) It was quite the challenge. But I think we can do it good now since everyone worked so hard at it. “Road Not Taken” takes a crazy amount of energy to do so I hope that fully comes across.

You have a long history with dance. Do you have any personal goals when it comes to performing?
NICHOLAS: I want to prove that I can perform in a range of different styles. For now, I’m working hard with the group, and I’m making an effort so that someday I’ll be able to put on performances as a representative of &TEAM, even when I’m by myself. And I really want to put on a performance with a hip hop feel if I get the chance. And I feel like I’m good at capturing the intensity of a performance. I hope people can tell it’s me and feel that stage presence when my part comes.
​You have a strong presence in your singing as well. You did everything from rap to hitting high notes. Was that hard?
NICHOLAS: There’s a part in “The moon is beautiful” where I’m singing, not rapping, which was hard because the producer kept asking me to sound friendly and bright. (laughs) I have a pretty low voice so it isn’t easy for me to make my voice sound the way perky or, like, friendly people do. But I think my voice sort of reflects my appearance and personality. This is a little embarrassing but (laughs) people tell me my face makes me come across as tough at first, but I’m kind (laughs) and friendly once you talk to me. My voice might sound tough when I rap too, but I think there’s another side to me.

Your new album has both Korean and Japanese lyrics on it. Have you gotten used to fully understanding and singing lyrics in languages other than you own?
NICHOLAS: The lyrics to “FIREWORK” are similar to the narrative of &TEAM. So I was able to effortlessly immerse myself into the song instead of struggling to comprehend it. Other members help me a lot during recording sessions. I learn Korean from EJ, English from MAKI and everyone helps with Japanese. I’m so grateful that they explain everything in detail so patiently. Although I’m too busy to do it lately (laughs) I practiced rapping my own original lyrics to other songs in my rap lessons. It was hard since the nuance and feeling change depending on the language. I should probably study more.

When you, EJ and MAKI are on Weverse Live together, you use a mix of different languages, and it was really impressive the way you took the initiative during the live video. You don’t find it difficult mixing languages together like that? (laughs)
NICHOLAS: I was actually sitting in the middle for that, so it would’ve been awkward if I wasn’t talking. (laughs) I mean, MAKI gets surprisingly nervous when he does Weverse Live and EJ isn’t much of a talker either. (laughs) For me, when we do Weverse Live with the whole group, just listening to the other members is fun enough, but I can’t just sit there when it’s the three of us. Then I have to talk. (laughs) I still get confused sometimes obviously, and I might feel more comfortable with Japanese one day and Korean the next depending on how I feel. I like to talk but promoting in another country makes me get a little quiet. So my goal while promoting in Korea right now is to talk a lot. (laughs) But I’m not even that good at speaking my own language, come to think of it … (laughs) I just want to be able to speak well, period.
​Have you given the other members any advice for promoting in Korea or ever tried to make them feel better?
NICHOLAS: I … don’t think I can help them feel any better. No one trusts what I have to say. (laughs) Because I’m okay with anything, I mean (laughs) so advice from me doesn’t mean much.

Then are you less nervous about promoting in Korea and more excited about it?
NICHOLAS: Yes, I’m very excited. (laughs)

What are you excited for specifically?
NICHOLAS: I really like the close-up “fancams” they have on music shows so I’ve been watching a lot of other artist’s fancams. I’m excited for there to be a lot of fancams of me after this. I’m going to try hard while we’re promoting here so that more people notice us. I originally became a trainee so I could debut in Korea but I ended up debuting in Japan instead. Except now I’m promoting in Korea too, and I think I’m really lucky to be able to do that.

You had to learn two different cultures and languages to work in both countries. What made you choose such a difficult course?
NICHOLAS: There wasn’t any reason, actually. (laughs) I’m always like, I’m fine with anything! (laughs) When I got the chance to debut with &TEAM, I thought it would be fun to perform in a different country and learn a new language. So I just gave it a shot and … well, here I am. (laughs) I wasn’t worried before all that. It was only after that I started to worry. (laughs)

You said in your interview with MAQUIA magazine that you talk with your family a lot even though you live far apart and that their support has really helped you living away from home for so long.
NICHOLAS: I have a good relationship with my family so we talk on the phone all the time. One time my voice cracked when I was performing and they kept saying to me, “Is your voice seriously still cracking? If you can’t do this, I’ll do it instead!” (laughs) I even poured my heart out on the last talk on &AUDITION - The Howling and they just kept teasing me and saying, “I had no idea what you were talking about.” (laughs) My dad and I have similar personalities. He’s pretty funny. One time he came to the label and said, “If NICHOLAS can’t do it, I’ll do it instead!” Or if someone tells him I’m getting better at dancing, he does the moonwalk and says, “I’m even better.” (laughs) But he supports me more than anyone else.
​And now it’s like you have eight new family members who are just as funny. It seems like you’re growing close in a hurry and that you’re having a lot of fun together.
NICHOLAS: The other members are everything to me. (laughs) It’s hard to explain just how much they mean to me. They hold a special place in my life because they’re like friends and family who I also work with. I watch anime with MAKI and I’m also watching the shows in English lately for English practice. YUMA and FUMA like anime too, and they’re always surprised when they’re talking about it and I say, “I know that one!” because they’ll be anime most people don’t know about, but I know pretty much all of them. And HARUA’s like me in that he likes to wear a lot of different styles of clothing, so sometimes we wear new matching clothes and take pictures of each other.

What’s it like living all together in the same home?
NICHOLAS: I have absolutely no problem with a change of environment. Naturally it’s hard (laughs) but I’m not too bothered because I just like being with a lot of people. I used to play sports so I was already used to living together with a group. We do have some house rules but it’s mostly chill. (laughs) Oh, we make sure everything’s clean though.

There’s an age gap between all the members. As you fall in the middle, what sort of role do you try to occupy?
NICHOLAS: I’m a little like an older brother when I’m with the younger members (laughs) but then I’m totally the younger sibling when I’m with the older guys. I’m actually pretty chill with everyone. I don’t really care about age. Sometimes if there’s some point of etiquette that the younger members don’t know about yet I tell them without giving them a lecture. If someone says something is bothering them, I make sure they’re able to talk openly about it and then think with them about how to take care of it.

Then what about when you’re the one with something bothering you?
NICHOLAS: It’s easy to talk to EJ since we’re the same age. I tease him a bit, even though I’m not sure how he feels about it (laughs) but I like him. We talk about serious things and we talk about our future goals too. Before “Under the skin” came out, for example, we talked about setting some goals. He made his and I made my own and we’re working hard at them.
​So you talk your concerns through with the others and you took the feedback you received on &AUDITION to heart. Don’t you find it difficult to have that kind of attitude?
NICHOLAS: Why would I? I think I should feel grateful when someone tells me what I could be doing better. Wouldn’t it be weirder not to accept it? Whether one of the older members or the younger … Well, if one of the younger members said something, it might … hurt my pride a bit (laughs) but I would still accept it.

In other words, you value high quality. I bet you feel nervous trying to achieve that when you perform, but you also said in a behind-the-scenes video at GMO SONIC 2023 that “being nervous is good.”
NICHOLAS: I think being nervous is good because, without risk, I would start to lack energy and ambition. I feel like I have to go through the hard times in order to put on a better performance. I realized by promoting that there’s still a lot of places I have left to improve as far as performing goes, so I need to practice more. But I also realized what direction I need to move in to put on a better show. So I’m going to keep working harder.

I guess it would mean even more to you to see LUNÉ when you’re putting on a show you’ve worked so hard for.
NICHOLAS: To be honest, the schedule for the fan tour was so packed that some part of me felt like I was losing strength. But as soon as I got up on stage and saw all the signs fans made with my name and “&TEAM” written on them, I felt revitalized. That’s why I love LUNÉ. And these days, whenever I see their faces right there, I feel so happy. I think we’ve actually grown closer since I can see how they feel about our performances right on the spot. (laughs)
​What do you want to try and convey to people next?
NICHOLAS: I want to show them how cool I can be on stage and that I give off good vibes in everyday life. I feel like giving other people good energy and being a relaxing presence is what’s really cool. Everybody thinks doing whatever you want is cool at first, but if you just do whatever you want all the time, it can make other people uncomfortable. I want to be able to do what I want but also take care of the people closest to me. I want to do both.
Article. Yoon Haein
Interview. Yoon Haein
Visual Director. Jeon Yurim
Coordinator. Lee Yejin
Visual Creative Team. Jang Yeaseul, UEDA SAEKO
Photography. LESS / Assist. Lee Sujeong, Park Sunseok, Jeon Junseo
Hair. Lim Jungho, Kim Minyoung, Kim Minwook
Makeup. Baek Hyuna, Lee Jimin
Stylist. Kim Beungkyu