SUNOO always knows just how to smile to put the other person at ease. But even as he smiles, he talks about his concerns—mostly about ENGENE: “I want to be even better for them.”
That hair color looks great on you. How did you feel when you bleached your hair at first?
SUNOO: Actually, bleaching my hair has been on my bucket list since I was in school. It was something I dreamed about. Before I did it, I was worried and asked the other members if it would suit me, but I finally did it and luckily light hair suits me too. (laughs) When you first bleach your hair, you know, it turns sort of orange. I was surprised by the way it looked so I took selfies to document the fading process. And it wasn’t just bleaching—I also always wanted to get piercings, and I’m happy to say that that fit in with the new album’s concept too.
You’ve been wearing a beanie to hide your hair color.
SUNOO: (laughs) I tried really hard to be careful so that ENGENE wouldn’t find out. I was always really determined to surprise everyone with the reveal, so I covered up my ears and sideburns. I was diligent about covering up my hair to try not to show anything. I even wore the beanie to school. But I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention to it during one of our live streams. The back of my hair sometimes poked out slightly while streaming and ENGENE must’ve noticed that I dyed it. I’m personally disappointed I lost the chance to make a big reveal out of it (laughs) but ENGENE really like it at least, so that’s good.
It was worth the trouble—the concept photos and films looked fantastic. (laughs) The HYPE, DOWN and UP versions all have a different feeling, so how do you get yourself in the right headspace while filming?
SUNOO: First, when we’re filming, I try to lose myself to it. As long as I do that, the photos turns out great. I’m not one to plan ahead, so instead of thinking about how I should act in front of the camera, I tried to get into the mood of the set. You get the feel of it naturally when you take a look at the makeup or the set. The set for HYPE was all red, so the whole thing really had a hype feeling. They were using gummy candies as one of the props on set, so I tried eating some, holding a bunch in my hands, and just trying different things while messing things up. I think I managed to look like a bad boy. The costume for UP was like a prince’s clothes, so just putting that on made me stretch out my shoulders and straighten up my posture. (laughs) Anyway, I tried to look relaxed but also serious. For DOWN, the poses and acting seemed most important, so that’s what I focused on there.
I got the impression you’re good at directing yourself under any circumstances. For example, the lead single “Drunk-Dazed” is intense, but you have a soft aura when you sing, “It’s blinding, baby / This light, shining.”
SUNOO: I’ve always had something of a soft tone and image, so I think I’m well-suited for that part right before the song flips. This whole album has a wide spectrum of mood changes in general, so I put a lot of thought into how to express the emotional changes in parts like, “It’s blinding, baby / This light, shining,” or, “My heart’s again in a daze daze daze.” I also practiced a lot more than usual because the vocal range is higher than I’ve had to do before. That goes for choreography, too—there’s a big difference between when I’m fully immersed and when I’m not. I can’t wait to get to record something new. (laughs)
I recall a Dance JAM Live video where you sing the lyrics to Justin Bieber’s song “Yummy” perfectly.
SUNOO: I love listening to music. I always listen to music when I’m in the car or have a little free time in the middle of the day. I’m not picky about the genre, either. I listen to K-pop, American pop, J-pop, New Age—literally everything. (laughs) I listen to music because I like it, but also because I want to develop my tastes by listening to songs other than the ones I already know.
Looks like you’re determined to improve many of your skills. When I’ve seen Dance JAM Live, you’re usually practicing in silent concentration.
SUNOO: I’m more serious than you think. (laughs) The other members play a lot of jokes on me. I take things way too seriously, and they love how big my reactions are. That’s probably why they play so many pranks on me. (laughs) But actually, maybe because of my serious side, I don’t usually pull many pranks myself. If I’m given some work to do, I usually try to concentrate on getting it done quickly. I thought for this album especially I should put on an even better show than when we debuted. It’s no good if you just change your image but don’t improve your skills. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to show off how much I’ve improved.
You must have had to practice a lot to showcase three performances, “Drunk-Dazed,” “Not for Sale,” and “Mixed Up” for your new album.
SUNOO: It certainly wasn’t easy. (laughs) But when I finally try something that I expected to be hard, it ends up working out in the end. So these days I just say to myself, “Let’s just give it a shot!” Since all the other members of ENHYPEN are so talented, I made practicing my priority so I wouldn’t fall behind. I find that, when it comes to dancing, there’s just no other answer but to practice. The members had more time together while making this album and they helped me out a ton. They gave me a lot of feedback, and NI-KI—when we came out after a session with the choreography coach, he would give me pointers on the hand and foot movements, or tell me what he was trying to express. So after practicing and sharing feedback like that with each other, I got even better and our group choreo ended up tighter overall. So I’m really thankful to have these members on my team.
But with that much practice, you must’ve been concerned about your stamina.
SUNOO: Sometimes I’m really out of breath after dancing. Because of that, I’m careful to take care of my health. I try to get a good night’s sleep, have a glass of water when I wake up before I eat, take my vitamins, and cut down on fast food. While getting ready for this album release, I realized that the more I take care of my body, the better condition it’ll be in. But just because you say you can control your emotions or your mind, it doesn’t really work that way. I’m an adult next year, but I still think I need to grow up some more. When I have a problem, I think it over and then try to take care of it by myself, but sometimes I get a lot of help from the other members. But my body—that’s a matter of will, I think.
That makes me think of something you said on ENHYPEN&Hi: “Any time I have a problem, JAY is there.”
SUNOO: JAY’s reallt funny. (laughs) He usually laughs a lot and jokes around more than he has serious conversations, but when he sees I’m having trouble, he comes up to me and asks, “What’s wrong?” Whenever he does that, I get a lot of advice from him. We’re also in the same class together at school. And we’re even closer now thanks to all the time we’ve been spending together. I depend on JAY for a lot. (laughs)
I can tell you’ve grown closer with the other members. Lately on V LIVE you’ve been doing SUNOO’s Curiosity Research Center, and I get the impression that you prepare a lot for your show. Like bringing up the scene in that documentary when SUNGHOON was young and upset, saying, “They’re all girls and only talking with each other and whispering.” (laughs)
SUNOO: Yeah, that scene was so famous. (laughs) ENGENE talked about it a lot and all of us members already knew about it. I thought up some questions and ran them by SUNGHOON first before going live. I’ve learned more about the members by doing this show. We spend a lot of time together but we haven’t actually talked about the past that much. But it was nice to find out details like JAKE playing the violin in Australia or NI-KI’s school carnival in Japan.
I was really impressed the way you transitioned smoothly into follow-up questions. You also reminisced with SUNGHOON on the show about when you were trainees and couldn’t talk with one another. And you talked about how not being able to talk made you feel bad. (laughs)
SUNOO: I like to ask a lot of questions. I also don’t really like awkward situations. (laughs) It’d be better just to be alone, but it’s hard to be together yet not be able to have a conversation just because it’s awkward. It was hard not being able to talk because I knew I would feel better if I just asked him about himself. But I honestly still don’t know myself that well. In some cases I’m quite social like that, but at other times I have an introverted side. On I-LAND I didn’t really play myself up for the cameras. I spent some of my free time alone and showed a brighter side of myself while practicing for the performances. But again, next year I’ll be an adult. I’m thinking how to look cool and show my maturity to ENGENE other than being positive. That’s my goal. (laughs)
So you want to show many different sides of yourself to ENGENE. How did you feel about having video calls with ENGENE during the fan signing event?
SUNOO: I thought it would be good to talk to them like a friend. So I tried to be as friendly as possible. A lot of ENGENE said we’re the first idols they became a fan of. It was a first for us, too, so I think that helped us get along better. (laughs) And I like to meet new people, so it was really fun seeing so many ENGENE.
It must have been very special to see ENGENE in person for the first time at the EN-CONNECT fan meeting performance.
SUNOO: I was really nervous, actually. Thinking about how I had to put on a good show and everything because it was the first time made me incredibly nervous. Right up until we performed “10 months” I was shaking, but then I saw ENGENE waving their light sticks and it was so beautiful that I felt invincible. Seriously. I thought of everything that’s happened since I-LAND—the bad times, the good times, the times we were happy—and thought, Everything we did has been leading up to this feeling. I cried a lot at that performance. (laughs) It was my first time feeling that way, so I couldn’t help it. I found out how empowering it is to have ENGENE around.
And how can you help to empower ENGENE?
SUNOO: It’s hard to have any negative thoughts when you’re smiling. So I hope they can see me and think happy thoughts and smile. When I see ENGENE’s comments, they tell stories like, “I was unhappy at school, but watching SUNOO made me feel better and then I made up with my friends”; “I feel better when I see SUNOO at the end of the day.” The reason I wanted to do this job in the first place was to be able to give people that kind of energy. So whenever I see those comments, I’m really thankful for them.
On March 26, you did a voice-only V LIVE, and talked about how, when you were a trainee, you listened to BOL4’s “Dandelion,” which is about growing pains. How do you feel when you hear that song?
SUNOO: I remember all the times as a trainee that I went back and forth between the practice studio and home all alone, or had to leave school early to go to a lesson or to a photo shoot. It was the first time I did anything by myself. So I found a lot of comfort in listening to music. When I hear that song now, I think about how I’ve been through a lot since then. And I think about how I’m here today because of everything I went through. Everyone has to go through some rough times, obviously. (laughs) You have to struggle a bit to really take off. When I was a trainee, when I got caught up in a certain problem, it was all I could think about. But now when I have a hard time, I look at the positive side and tell myself that there’s something to be gained from it.
You’re going to be an adult next year, but you already sound very mature.
SUNOO: The more I work, the more I realize how grateful I am just to be in front of the camera. It’s not easy to get people interested in me or get their attention. So I think I have to work very hard at it. Because I’m so grateful, and I can’t let this moment pass me by.
Unauthorized reproduction and distribution prohibited.