You’re unable to meet your fans due to the COVID-19.
YEONJUN: When we’re performing MOA can at least see us online. It is comforting to think about it, but it doesn’t really cover the emptiness completely. Inconveniences in daily life are bearable but not being able to meet MOA is a big blow.
“We Lost the Summer” of ‘minisode1 : Blue Hour’ is also about COVID-19.
YEONJUN: I could say that I have enjoyed my school days. We didn’t have COVID-19 then. So when I read the lyrics for “We Lost the Summer” I felt sad to think how hard it must be for students now. But some members were happy not having to go to school (laughing) I was rather relieved. Yeah, better to be positive. Like that (laughing).
Your teaser was the last to be released. The general atmosphere was quite different from the others.
YEONJUN: The other members’ teasers had a bright and soft atmosphere. TAEHYUN’s teaser was especially very cute. My teaser was rather “flamboyant”, that sort of a feel to it. (laughing). I like such flair so I thought it was something different and nice.
How was the video shoot?
YEONJUN: The story is about playing with the other members on a Ferris wheel and then jumping off and falling into an “Alice in Wonderland” kind of a forest. It was my first time jumping with wires attached so that was memorable. I wasn’t actually suspended in the air, I just acted like I was and then it was post-processed later. But it was harder than I thought. It was something new I hadn’t done before so I had fun.
You dyed your hair pink, attached tooth gems and wore cropped t-shirts for the concept photo.
YEONJUN: I like to be bold. I enjoy wearing bold clothing and dying my hair in bright colors. But to wear a cropped t-shirt you need to work on your abs. It was great to show a new look but that was a bit difficult. I had to build up my body in a short time. I enjoy eating but had to keep myself in check before the shooting.
On the “VR” version of the concept photo, “strength” is listed as your best stat.
YEONJUN: Even yesterday I worked out before coming to the photoshoot. Whenever there is spare time or even after practice, I work out. I like the feeling of stretching my muscles after exercising. (laughing) It pumps them up. I feel confident when I see my body and I look more firm and muscular. It’s not that I want to look extremely muscular. I would like to just present an attractive physique. Actually, we weren't the ones who decided on the job or stats that would be on our photos—we chose our ID.
Why is it “Sweet and Soft Cotton Candy”? (laughing)
YEONJUN: You’ll notice my hair is a mix of pink, yellow and blue. I was told from the beginning it was supposed to be cotton candy hair. That’s how I ended up with such a cute name. I once mentioned wanting to have rainbow-colored hair, and this hair is pretty close to rainbow-colored hair, so I’m into it.
YEONJUN: While recording the title song “Blue Hour,” I realized that the key of the last refrain was really high. It moved back and forth between falsetto and my natural voice enough that I was asking myself, “Is that all I’ve got?” I was ashamed at first. It was quite serious then. (laughing) I felt like I better practice harder.
You also helped write the lyrics for the song “Wishlist.” How do you typically approach a topic when you write a song?
YEONJUN: I’ll base it on my personal experience, or if that’s not enough I’ll watch a movie or ask people around me if they’ve had similar experiences. Personally, I don’t think that I really contributed enough to the lyrics of “Wishlist” to say I wrote it. I just thought back to the excitement I felt when I was young and innocent. Also, before “Wishlist” appeared on this album, I was working on a different song of the same title. The story was a bit different: I wrote about the end of the semester, and yearning to go somewhere with anyone while being stuck at home, bored. Our producer Slow Rabbit told me it’s really good and we should include it on this album, but it was too late. It would’ve been nice. It was so good!
Do you ever think about releasing a single or a mixtape?
YEONJUN: Sure I do. (laughing) SUGA recently released a mixtape. I’m really impressed that he keeps making his music even while being so busy. I would really like to release at least one song or mixtape. I believe that TOMORROW X TOGETHER's music explores experiences universal to teenagers that many people can relate to. But seeing as they’re songs that everyone can identify with, it’s sort of difficult to include the details of my own private stories. If I were to release a mixtape, I would like to include those stories. I think MOA would like me to share those honest stories, too.
You have been a trainee for five years. That’s the longest among the team members and as the oldest you must have felt a lot of pressure.
YEONJUN: I’m the only one in the team to have learned to dance at an academy. Some of my friends didn't even plan to become idols and so started up without knowing a lot about dance. They didn't even have any professional singing experience. Once they started to practice, though, they became ambitious about singing and dancing and put everything they had into it. And when they eventually debuted there were all these amazing performers. A part of me became anxious, thinking things like, “I need to be better than them,” or, “I can’t let myself fall behind.” I don’t think that’s a problem, though. You need some pressure to keep growing.
There are usually some requirements to dance well. For example, one movement may demand precise expression, adjustment to strength, and so on. You always seem to strictly abide by these principles when dancing.
YEONJUN: I am not a natural-born dancer. In the beginning I was told that I had a good body shape but lacked muscle. So I worked really hard to build my strength. I also believe the basics are super important in dancing. Even while learning lots of movements, I constantly try to practice the basics with them. I improved bit by bit by copying choreographies in different ways, too, and watching good dancers.
You wrote in your diary on Weverse that you have missed out on your “own dance.”
YEONJUN: What I meant by “my own dance” was about practicing my own dance, apart from the team choreography, because I used to dance freestyle. In some ways, I wrote that entry when I wasn’t feeling totally in love with dancing. There was even a moment there when I didn’t like dancing at all. I felt like I wasn’t any good at dancing and lost my motivation. But that passed and I found myself dancing again. There was never a time I disliked dancing.
During the program The Essence of Dancing on V LIVE, you sounded slightly different and came off as confident, but you were cool-headed while assessing your dancing abilities.
YEONJUN: When I was young, I had very low self-esteem, but I struggled through and have improved a lot since then. Even now I don’t think of myself as outstanding. I still think I fall short but I try to avoid expressing it to others. I try my best to give myself an air of confidence, and that by itself boosts my self-esteem. I put my best face forward while staying objective on the inside. That’s how I plan to improve myself.
You occasionally mention that you used to have a timid and insecure personality. What has happened in the past to make you who you are now?
YEONJUN: I guess I’m able to say that because of everything I have been through and struggled with. I wouldn’t have made it here without the experiences I considered failures at that time. I never liked to lose or be compared to others, but I was timid as a kid and always comparing myself to those around me and putting myself down. At some point I finally thought I should love myself more and tried to fix that about myself.
Is that the reason you said, “First in singing, first in dancing, first in rapping, Choi Yeonjun, that's me,” when you met the other members? (laughing)
YEONJUN: (laughing) I said it once as a joke, but people kept telling me, “be more confident,” and asked, “Why are you so shy?” I had a lot of shortcomings back then. But then I became number one and was so proud. I was bragging: “I’m number one!” (laughing)
YEONJUN: In the past, the way I talked to and even thought about the other members was immature. If one of them did anything I wouldn’t do, I had trouble understanding them and could only see things through my own perspective. But now I accept that we’re all different and I understand them better.
I understand that you lend or give clothes to the other members.
YEONJUN: When my friends buy clothes they sometimes send some to me. If there’s a lot then I share some with the group, and if there’s anything I won’t wear but looks good on another member, I’ll give them that, too. I also give clothes as birthday presents. There’s a fur jacket that BEOMGYU wore on the set today. I don't wear it, so I asked him if he would like to wear it and gave it to him.
Who among the members would you like to makeover the most?
YEONJUN: (laughing) SOOBIN and HUENINGKAI. Oh, not HUENINGKAI—I'll take SOOBIN. SOOBIN is a really pretty and nice guy, but why is he always wearing workout clothes? (laughing) He looked great, even when he just wore a riding jacket, jeans and a black shirt casually to host Music Bank. SOOBIN looks good with just a T-shirt and a coat. Seeing that kind of person always wearing workout clothes—he’s the one I want to give a makeover to. (laughing)
You also started mentioning HUENINGKAI. (laughing)
YEONJUN: HUENINGKAI is still young so he often wears workout clothes too, or primary colors. Yellow, purple, pink, red—like that. But because it is HUENINGKAI they suit him, so I changed my mind and took it back. It’ll probably be faster to dress SOOBIN first. (laughing)
What are your standards when choosing clothing?
YEONJUN: There is an official Instagram account for TOMORROW X TOGETHER. I usually use that account to look up the accounts of other celebrities and stylists. I look around, see what they wear and take note of how they wear it—“Oh, that’s pretty!”—and use them as reference. I also tend to match the clothing I already own to the style I have in mind. I frequently visit the Instagram of a stylist named Dooho whose style I really like.
YEONJUN: I often feel sorry for them. There must be a lot of things they wish they could eat or do, but working from the time they were students they had to give those things up together. I admire how much effort they’re giving every single day. As their older brother I find myself wanting them to challenge each other, feel failure and passion, and grow up together. When we were practicing this choreography together, it started out difficult and physically demanding, but we tried harder so that we can keep up with each other. Everyone followed along really well.
What is the driving force behind TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s ability to adapt to each other?
YEONJUN: The members are really genuine and kind-hearted. They don’t like to fight, and when there is a difference of opinion it really affects them. I think this is how we grow closer, by speaking openly and solving our problems together. That’s why I think conflict is important, too. We all started out differently but through this process we synch up with one another and become one.
It must be challenging for SOOBIN, being the leader. Did you have any advice for him as his older brother?
YEONJUN: I told SOOBIN that a leader does not always have to lead. There are leaders who lead but there are also leaders who support from the rear. He’s doing a great job and I just hope that he doesn’t get stressed.
Then what about you? Where and how do you find support?
YEONJUN: I chat with friends, listen to music, or watch movies to release stress, and I can always depend on the other members for help.
Are there any memorable movies or dramas you watched recently?
YEONJUN: I've been watching a lot of Watcha Play originals recently. When I watch review channels on YouTube and find something fun, I look that up and watch it. The ending of the movie Midsommar was impressive. I tend to enjoy movies that leave room for interpretation, such as Parasite, which was great. I watched the first five episodes of Confession Couple. It’s got an original storyline and the actors are really believable.
Who is the most memorable character in all the movies and shows you watched?
YEONJUN: The character of Ben played by Robert de Niro in the movie The Intern was a standout. I felt we could all learn something about the way to live our lives by watching the way he faced life with passion even in his old age.
That reminds me of the YouTuber Korean Grandma Park Makrae.
YEONJUN: Grandma Park Makrae seems to lead a really fun life too. It’s cool how she seems to have more passion than any of us young people. I remember when Grandma Park Makrae got hurt while trying something new, she said, “It’s okay to get wounds trying something new. They will heal quickly.”
What kind of adult or an artist do you see yourself becoming in the future?
YEONJUN: I hope to be the same person as I am now. I would rather be young at heart and always looking for a new challenge than become some mature know-it-all. And no matter what others think, I want to be someone who stays true to himself. I want to defend what I believe in and break down the wall built of the world’s stereotypes and prejudices any time I come up against it. As an artist, I would like to become someone who can make others feel better through my music. After all, I myself have found comfort in other people’s music. It doesn’t have to be to a ton of people, but I hope the music of TOMORROW X TOGETHER can bring comfort and strength to someone out there.
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