Right from the outset, GARAM’s dream was to be a singer. The same girl who once felt inner freedom just from watching performances on music TV shows is now ready to stand on the stage herself.

The way you look so confident at the beginning of your debut song, “FEARLESS,” is really impressive.

KIM GARAM: I kept thinking, What am I supposed to do here? What if I mess up? I had to be intense to make a strong impression, but I was a little worried since I felt like that didn’t really come across well. Luckily I think I’ve been getting better since I’ve been completely absorbed in the song’s concept while shooting everything lately. Everyone tells me my facial expressions got a lot better, so I’m slowly gaining confidence. (laughs)


Your performance is really balanced and attention-grabbing when you’re in the center during the second time through the chorus.

KIM GARAM: It was hard to express the intended intensity of the lyrics “what you lookin’ at”, and I thought that it was important to act and convey the meaning through dance. So I tried to get into character by watching dramas and movies that fit in with our concept. Looking at Korean movies, the character of Yenicall from The Thieves is both strong and alluring-ish? That’s what I was going for.

Am I correct in assuming that it was your first time creating such a strong presence?

KIM GARAM: Up until I joined the group, I mostly practiced poppy songs. Now I think “FEARLESS” is a good fit for me, too. (laughs)

You must be really busy lately, getting ready to debut.

KIM GARAM: Everything is new to me, so even up until just recently I have been really nervous. I was really looking forward to making trailers and music videos ever since we were slated to debut, so I tried my best, even when it felt awkward. I want to continue taking on new challenges in the future, even when they’re completely new to me. I’m really looking forward to performing, personally. I can’t wait to perform on music shows and in concerts and I want to keep improving so that I can be recognized for my talent someday.


I understand you spent one year as a trainee. How was that?

KIM GARAM: It felt just like I had the same kind of freedom you get from going to an academy. I got out of school early every day to practice, always left at the same time and ate with the other trainees. I remember leaving school early and getting something to eat with EUNCHAE before going to the practice studio and saying things like, “What do you want to do if you debut?” (laughs) There were little things like that. Then I only went to school once or twice a week after joining the group sometime last summer so I could focus on getting ready for the debut.


When did you first start dreaming of becoming an idol?

KIM GARAM: I wanted to be a singer ever since I was in kindergarten. I was really introverted when I was little, so I was way quieter than I am now, but I could feel my personality change a bit whenever I sang and danced. I sang in a school show in kindergarten and on a karaoke machine with my family when we went to a vacation home (laughs) and was outgoing and had a ton of fun instead of sitting around quietly, but only at times like those. Then my friend asked me to go to an audition together one day, and I started to actually work toward becoming a singer, beginning with that audition in 2018.


How did you end up as a trainee at SOURCE MUSIC?

KIM GARAM: Interestingly enough, SOURCE MUSIC was the first label I auditioned for. I didn’t make it in at first, but I got a casting offer two years after that. (laughs) I passed after auditioning again and became a trainee for the first time.


How did you practice when you practiced by yourself?

KIM GARAM: Only my family knew I was preparing to audition back then, so I did whatever I could to practice by myself and asked them to film me singing and dancing. I have a brother who’s 10 years younger than me and sometimes he would follow along with my moves next to me when I was practicing. It was cute. (laughs)


I bet you find him really cute since he’s so much younger than you. (laughs)

KIM GARAM: He’s seven (laughs) but we always played and goofed around together despite our age difference. We were just typical siblings—like friends. (laughs) But we live separately now so I don’t know how big he’s gotten, and we only see each other now and then so it feels weird when we do. We’re a little shy with each other at first but we quickly get back to having fun like old times, but it’s still a little bit sad.


How did your family react to the news that you were going to debut?

KIM GARAM: The first thing I did was talk to my parents. They said they were very happy for me and proud, and said, “I can’t believe it! You did it!” I think my brother sort of understands what I’m doing, too. He was so happy when he heard I would be on TV and said he would have my back whenever I’m having a hard time. (laughs)


How does it feel achieving a dream you’ve held on to for so long?

KIM GARAM: I actually wasn’t confident I would be able to debut, even right up until the last minute. Nobody can be sure how it’s all going to turn out until the debut teaser video is revealed. But I was so happy when I heard we were definitely going to debut, and thought back on all the time I spent practicing. I absolutely love it and it’s what I want to do, and I feel like I’ve been giving it my all and trying with all my heart.

How did you feel when you saw yourself on camera while shooting all those photos and videos?

KIM GARAM: These photoshoots showed me for the first time what I really look like. (laughs) I thought I had fairly tall eyes, but I felt like they’re actually wider than I thought. (laughs) I found out which angles work best for my face and I think I’m progressively learning what to do to make better facial expressions.


It must have been all new for you to record your vocals and hear your own voice after, too.

KIM GARAM: It was the first time really hearing my own voice and it was so awkward. I thought I had a fairly low voice, but I sounded like a baby when I sang. (laughs) And I never knew that I have a habit of not opening my mouth wide enough, so I worked really hard to stop that. At first it felt like I was singing somebody else’s song, even though it was ours, but I’m much more used to it now, so I don’t feel like I’m singing somebody else’s song anymore. (laughs)


It sounds like you’re really getting to know yourself while doing this.

KIM GARAM: It seems like I have a lot to learn. Yesterday we were practicing for live performances and it was my first time wearing in-ear monitors. They’re exactly the same size as your ears so it was super uncomfortable and painful. (laughs) After I heard my voice, um … I felt like I needed a lot of practice. (laughs) I actually didn’t get a chance to show off my vocals much this time around, so later on I want to really nail a song with really powerful vocals, since I’ve never had a chance to try that before, and I want to do a lot of covers, too.

What kind of music do you usually listen to?

KIM GARAM: I listen to a lot of pop music these days. I listen to it a lot to study up on my English pronunciation. (laughs) I found the pronunciation of the word “fearless” in our lead single to be really tricky but luckily YUNJIN guided me a lot when we first went to record it. (laughs)


What’s your first impression of “FEARLESS” like?

KIM GARAM: I thought it sounded a lot different from all the other K-pop I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I really wanted to break through the idea of what K-pop is supposed to sound like through songs like this. All the other members said they liked it as soon as they heard it, too, and kept saying how eager they were to learn the dance for it.


Is there any difference between when you dance to the poppy and bright “Blue Flame” versus when you dance to “FEARLESS”?

KIM GARAM: It’s extremely hard to dance to “FEARLESS” right after dancing to “Blue Flame,” but I think I can express myself more naturally if we dance to “FEARLESS” and then “Blue Flame” since it feels like the emotions are being elevated. There’s something captivating about the two-sidedness of going from a song with a powerful message to one that feels really bubbly, and it ultimately feels like the burst of energy that accompanies you when you set out on a journey, so I think I really liked the way that flows. But, after practicing more and more, I feel like I’m not quite capturing the feeling behind “Blue Flame.” (laughs) It was easy when I first learned it, but after a while I started to worry that I was just smiling a lot. Right now I’m thinking about different ways I can express an upbeat song like that.


It seems like you’re very ambitious about dancing.

KIM GARAM: I pay particularly close attention to the dancing part because I want to be a good dancer. If you can’t dance well, then the taller you are, the stiffer you look. And there are moves that emphasize that when I do “Blue Flame” especially, so I tried to make my movements bigger and gentler. I can also tell when I’m getting tired from dancing because I start to get sloppy, so I want to be more careful about that aspect, too.

Was it fairly simple getting in step with the other members for the performances?

KIM GARAM: Even though we all wanted to get it down quickly, we also wanted it to be perfect, so we could tell what wasn’t working without saying anything just by looking around and then fixed it. We started to figure out which parts needed more attention as we practiced more and more.


It sounds like you got along well straight away. It couldn’t have been easy spending most of your time with new people.

KIM GARAM: I think we naturally became close because we spend practically every waking moment together. It was somewhat awkward living all together at first since I like spending time alone and didn’t know what it means to be a team very well either, but I think I’m slowly changing and am becoming the kind of person who jumps at every chance to do something together now. I feel like our group grew especially close ever since our group photos were released recently. (laughs) There was so much to take care of before the debut, but I really shed my worries and felt reassured thanks to having time to get myself together and talk things through with them. I hope we’ll all be happy.


You probably feel more reassured thanks to having so many older members with experience in your group.

KIM GARAM: It was absolutely amazing being in the same group and practicing with people I used to see on TV. It was like I was looking at celebrities. (laughs) It was honestly a bit awkward at first, but I can depend on them because they take care of all the little things and are really supportive. CHAEWON, especially, usually jokes around a lot, but I thought it was so cool the way she’s so organized and exact with her words when we need to work on something together or she points out that something is wrong.


What would you say your role within the group is?

KIM GARAM: The funny one … ? (laughs) They all say everything I say is funny. I don’t really set the mood in the group and I can’t be funny on command (laughs) but I guess I’m just naturally funny. (laughs)


Even though you’re shy, you seem to have an animated side. Have you joined in on the fad and taken an MBTI test? (laughs)

KIM GARAM: I’m ISTP. (laughs) I need a little time to come out of my shell. I’m animated but quiet, direct but I don’t talk much (laughs). I think there’s a kind of ambiguity about me that way. I’m not very emotional, but there’s an emotional side to me.


Do you have a way of harnessing that emotion to find more energy?

KIM GARAM: Being alone. (laughs) I think I’m the kind of person who recharges herself by lying down quietly or doing something I enjoy by myself. Family is a major source of strength for me, too. Sometimes I felt bad when I was a trainee and I felt like I wasn’t improving at all or I felt physically exhausted, and I even wanted to give up early on, but whenever that happened, my family would support and encourage me and I realized I should see it through to the end.


So what is your source of happiness now?

KIM GARAM: I like bready foods, and cookies, and desserts. (laughs) So I watch a lot of baking videos, and I’m really into clothing these days, too. I started to like to wear pretty workout clothes to make it really feel like practice (laughs) so I had to go out shopping for them, and then I progressively developed an interest in everyday clothes, and ended up searching for the kind of airport fashion idols wear, too. (laughs) I still like simple clothes and a small highlight—the effortlessly chic look. (laughs)

I hope you have many more fun things to come after your debut.

KIM GARAM: I’m worried about having any improvements to show off after the debut and also excited at the same time. “When you feel like you want to give up, remember why you got started in the first place.” That’s my motto. It’s what I always wanted to do, and I’m the one who chose this path, so I’m trying to make sure I never lose my original passion and always try my best.

Article. Yejin Lee
Interview. Yejin Lee
Visual Director. Yurim Jeon
Project Management. Haein Yoon, Jiyeon Lee
Visual Creative Team. Nu Kim, Yujoo Kim, Gabriel Cho, Yoon Cho (SOURCE MUSIC)
Photography. Hyea W. Kang  / Assist.  Heehyun Oh, Yonguk Shin, Jiwon Yang, Dongchan Lee
Hair. Yeojin Jang, Hamin (BIT&BOOT)
Makeup. Minji Kim (BIT&BOOT)
Stylist. Woomin Lee / Assist. Siyoung Choi, Gihyun Oh
Artist Protocol Team. Ah Ri Kim, Nayeon Son, Jeong Ik Lee, Eun Joo Lee (SOURCE MUSIC)