“This is how I maintain my sense of self,” JAY said as he made a distinction between himself as an individual and as a member of ENHYPEN. The former is cautious yet free, the latter cheery yet thorough. He claims both sides of contrast as his own, and stretches his self-boundary – freedom and restraint, variables and repetitions, and Jongsung Park and Jay.
I heard you’ve been to school today.
JAY: It’s like going in the morning for attendance, so I don’t get to mingle with friends. There’s a slight sense of regret when it comes to school life. I’m a bit curious about the small routines, like going somewhere to hang out with your friends after school.
You must be very busy, going to school and getting ready for the comeback.
JAY: Having those moments of feeling tired and sensitive made me realize the importance of being healthy; otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to use even half of your capacity. At the time of debut, I was doing each little thing for the first time, so that had me in a frantic learning mode; but after coming back full circle, I think I’ve now got the hang of the workflow.
Among the comeback concept photos, “HYPE” seems to bear resemblance to your situation, being a student and an idol at the same time. There was a scene of you wearing a school uniform and a leather jacket.
JAY: The intent was to show the process where your ordinary routine finishes and gradually spills over into a glamorous space. As no one from our team is the rule-breaker-type,(laughs) I imagined party scenes from a few movies – like in the movie Twilight, there’s at least one student who plays that character. I thought, I’d be feeling that way in that type of place.
So before expressing something, you first go through the process of breaking down the concept logically.
JAY: I try to accurately understand the concept shared with me in advance and adjust the level of intensity. In a chronological order, I thought “UP” was the past, “HYPE” the present, and “DOWN” the future. For the past, I conveyed an image of a respectable young aristocrat, and in “DOWN,” made my overall physical balance crumble to demonstrate being on the verge of meltdown. I paid a lot of attention to the moves and vibes to portray a person reflecting on himself amid chaos.
Did you ever have that confusing an experience after your debut?
JAY: I consider it one of those processes you must experience. I mean you’re going through a steep learning curve; the living pattern and diet and so on, turns out that hearing about what it’s like and experiencing yourself is a completely different story. This album seems to illustrate our circumstances well.
The title track “Drunk-Dazed” sings about wild emotional swings while navigating new experiences. It seems the song’s message may speak to you.
JAY: I tried to pour out my real emotions. I channeled the feeling of going all out – dancing as if I’ve lost my mind, heaving up a storm of emotions, and then hanging loose to display the internal turmoil. Overall, there are many moves with no restrictions in place. I pictured an image of a black panther pouncing on you at the part, "The way you want it, Go as far as you can to reach it.”
So that means it’d require physical strength that defies the limit.
JAY: It is a performance that requires a high level of stamina in both singing and dancing. The intensity was naturally expressed as I didn’t hold back on huffing and puffing with an overwhelmed facial expression while handling difficult moves. (laughs) Since I practiced over and over to be always stage ready, I feel confident about pulling off a better-quality performance than before under our previous album.
“Fever” on the other hand is a track that feels tender and mature.
JAY: It carries on the mood of “Flicker.” I like that sort of vibe, and I really wanted to do a good job, I put in long hours of practice. If the title track is a song that shows who we are, with ENHYPEN’s own storyline at its core, “Fever” is a song that everyone can relate to. It’s a song that can resonate with everyone, so it was a ton of fun preparing for it. Since it’s an intricate song, with detailed beats and tones either making or breaking the proper vibe, I thought the vocal itself required a lot of technique as well. There was a soft breathing sound before the second verse starts in the guide track, and I thought I should include that part too to really nail the vibe. So I did the breathing and continued singing to finish the recording. I’m pretty satisfied with the result.
Your voice is clean and light in songs like “Not for Sale”; you seem to have a wide range of voices depending on the song.
JAY: I do various takes while recording, always striving to expand my vocal range that I can express myself with. I personally put in extra effort for the pre-chorus part of “Mixed Up.” Since a lot of rock is incorporated into the track which I like, I wanted to do a good job.
The song “What Do You Really Want” on the 2021 NEW YEAR’S EVE LIVE was rock as well, what was the feeling then?
JAY: Since HEESEUNG and I were the first people from our team to each pair up with a different artist, I thought, I really should do well. And Len, a veteran artist being there at the scene made me nervous when I’m usually not. While watching the pre-recording, I kept on going through how to move on stage in my head. Personally, I think I could have done better, but the viewers seem to have liked it.
You also posted on Weverse, Ok Taecyeon wearing the same jacket as yours that day on tvN’s Vincenco.
JAY: I saw an outfit that looked familiar; I felt honored and wanted to brag on Weverse. Being a huge fan of Ok Taecyeon and the TV series as well, I was so thrilled. (laughter) I don’t watch dramas that often, but Vincenzo is so delightfully satisfying it keeps me watching. It’s hard for me to relate to anything if I start thinking to myself, here’s no way you can act like that.
You think plausibility is important. Is there any plausibility required in fashion too?
JAY: I think harmony is the most important. If you can create a sense of balance considering the color, fit, material and so on, then whether excessive or simple, you’d look fashionable. When applying this theory, you also have to consider the person’s body type. For example, if you want your legs to look long, then put on a pair of pants that come up to the waist and a t-shirt with patterns on the top.
How do you nurture that sense?
JAY: I look up interview videos of designers around the world. I recently watched Wooyoungmi and Jung Uk-jun interviews. They each had their own thoughts and plans expressed through clothes. It’s like the clothes reveal what’s uniquely yours. Studying fashion also helped me learn about life. I’m going to learn French to seek out more references. Next up is learning Italian.
What’s the signature JAY identity you’d like to convey through fashion?
JAY: Rather than insisting on one style, I want to be a person who presents various ways to express myself. I want to help build a culture that encourages each person to wear clothes based on his or her own thought and belief, not dismissing individuality or blindly copying some celebrity outfit, and one that does not treat people poorly for not keeping up with trends. Since when I was young, I wanted to venture into the clothing industry, so I usually ponder a lot about such values.
Heard you are into “Rock Chic” style lately.
JAY: Tastes can change any time, but it is a category I’m currently studying with the most interest. Even when Rock Chic was widely popular with St. Laurent leading the trend, I had been indifferent; but I began to take interest because of BTS’ Jimin. Through his street fashion, I realized that Korean charm can be reflected in Rock Chic.
What do you think is the charm of Rock Chic?
JAY: “Restrained freedom.” If Funk represents unrestrained freedom, Rock Chic has the “Chic” attached to the end. Taking the previous fashion of rock stars as its motif, this style seems to have harnessed their sense of freedom in modern society. It’s free yet there’s also restraint to the extent people can relate to.
In the sense that it’s “restrained freedom,” you are fully aware that the entire record about you is permanently left behind as you described yourself as, “floating around the Internet, like my spirit.” But, since you’re also straightforward, you must’ve needed to find a middle ground.
JAY: When it comes to areas of personal interest like music or clothes, or work-related stuff, I try to speak after putting in some deep thought, but regarding things outside work I don’t get too serious. I work harder than anyone while working, but when it’s play time, it should be carefree and fun.
It reminds me that your MBTI type is ENTP. We should watch out for putting blind trust in MBTI, but anyhow ENTPs are known to be fact driven and prefer things that are predictable and theoretical. And yet they’re also more spontaneous than deliberative.
JAY: I think they’re mostly right. When certain judgement calls and decisions are needed, I do it based on what already happened and facts that come before and after. I never believe anything other than the facts I’ve directly seen or heard. There was this new artist development team leader, who I could feel really listened carefully to everything we said and saw us as equals. Since I want to be an adult like that, I tend to solely focus on the facts without the “who” factor like “trainee” or “kid” getting in the way. I have strong faith in terms of attitude about life and relationships. And yet, in terms of entertainment, I’m quite anxious to keep dipping my toes in new things, breaking fresh ground. To keep going, I need a variety of refreshing aspects.
So, I’ve heard you had your own method of refreshing since primary school – keeping up on a daily basis: eating samgyupsal and two bowls of rice for breakfast, and dropping by Starbucks, taekwondo class and Cold Stone Creamery (an ice cream store).
JAY: It was a routine I kept with my mom no matter what, vowing to do what I want. (laughs) When we were about to walk past a place we usually go to, then I’d ask, “mom, how come we’re skipping this place today?” Cold Stone was nice because you could customize your ice cream each day depending on what you felt like eating. Even if it’s not on the menu, if you wanted a peanut butter flavor today, then they’d make one for you. (laughs). Heard the stores have largely disappeared in the U.S. too; it’s a bit sad to see the name doesn’t ring a bell anymore for many people. The store holds that much personal memory.
There must be a continued stream of unexpected new work, how are you adjusting?
JAY: I strain to crank up my brain in any way that I can. It seems that my work needs a quick wrap-up in thinking and translating into action. At times, I make spontaneous, bold moves. Some attempts were luckily successful, others not quite so, and the thing that raises the chances of success I think, is what many people call, “experience.”
Is there anything that brings joy in your daily routine?
JAY: Daily routines like listening to music or cooking. Communicating with fans also falls outside the work category and inside my daily routine. I get to pause and smile when I read letters from fans or social media posts. The parody of the movie Extreme Job was also fun. Just like replacing the engine oil for your car, that’s how I release my stress and press on.
In Mnet’s KCON : TACT 3, I remember parts of the lyrics you changed as you sang Block B’s “Very Good.”
JAY: While performing for the fans, I thought it’d be nice to send a message like that to ENGENE, so I changed it to “ENGENE run faster, bang bang” for singing. The original verse, “bees, buzz louder, buzz buzz” is the part that contains the fandom name.
What do you talk about with the members when there’s something tough going on?
JAY: After the debut, there were rarely any conversations like that. Once in a blue moon, maybe a serious one-on-one talk would break out when someone has a problem. Think it was like once or twice ever since ENHYPEN was formed. Haven’t really had anything that felt too hard to handle among ourselves and if there are hardships, we’d mutually work it out easily. So I’m not the type to rely on another person when I’m worried about something.
You said you don’t like showing your feelings, so is it okay for your fans to find out you often have a lot on your mind?
JAY: As long as they don’t get dragged into my deep concerns, I think it will be all right.
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