JUNGWON spoke calmly about all the effort that went into the new album, BORDER : CARNIVAL. Practice, sweat, review, improve, and repeat—all of this comes from “no other reason than a desire to perform flawlessly.”
I heard you went to school today before the interview. How’s that going?
JUNGWON: My school has a lot of singers because it’s an art school, so people at my school aren’t blown away by what I do. JAY has a fan there, though. It’s fun to see them calling out his name. (laughs)
You got four best new artist awards and over 450,000 preorders for the new album.
JUNGWON: More preorders than I could’ve imagined. (laughs) I think it’d feel more real if we could have a concert or see our fans in person, but since it’s just a number it still doesn’t feel real. But it makes me feel good anyway.
You had said in an “-note” that there were parts of your debut album you weren’t completely satisfied with. Do you feel you made up for that with this album?
JUNGWON: We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the last album, so there are a lot of things I wish we could’ve done better. For “Given-Taken,” there was a big difference in quality between the individual and group ability in both the music video and TV performances. We had a little more time to get ready for this album, so we look better prepared in the music video. I think we mostly made up for last time.
In an interview with Dazed, you said you learned a lot from how relaxed some of the more experienced artists looked at the year-end 2021 NEW YEAR’S EVE LIVE concert.
JUNGWON: Their performance was relaxed, but so was the way they talked. I was surprised—when RM talked, he was so comfortable, like he was alone in his room.
Didn’t you also post a photo of you with SOOBIN from TOMORROW X TOGETHER after the concert?
JUNGWON: All of them are so kind and take care of us when we do an event together. And SOOBIN sent me a direct message on my birthday saying happy birthday and asking if it was hard being the leader. He made my day.
How was shooting the concept photos? There’s lots to see, like you skateboarding, wearing masks, and grabbing jelly fruit cake.
JUNGWON: The shoot for the album art was really hard this time. The HYPE version was really hard. We used real whipped cream. And when I grabbed the cake, the jelly oozed out (pointing to elbow) down to here. It got really sticky.
It may have been hard, but the hazy vibe in the HYPE version looked great. Is that the feeling you were going for when you stumble out from the center at the start of “Drunk-Dazed”?
JUNGWON: As the performance director told me, the song is called “Drunk-Dazed,” so I tried to look drunk and confused at the beginning and wanted to keep that feeling for the other parts too. We tried to seem confused and drunk because of the concept, but we’ve never experienced that before, so it’s actually still a bit hard and I don’t think we have it 100% down yet. So I think we have to keep trying to make it better.
I imagine you had to practice a lot to look confused and to sing the higher notes.
JUNGWON: Me and the members all improved while recording “Drunk-Dazed” since the notes are so high. The director told me that singing live and singing on a recording are different and to use my dynamic range when recording, so I’m trying my best to broaden my vocal range. HEESEUNG has great vocals, so I asked him for advice a lot. The vocal cords are muscles, too, so they got better by using them more. So while it was hard even to record at first, later I could even do it live. Like with everything, repetition was the most important part.
I’m sure you must’ve been worried about performing “Drunk-Dazed” live because of the high vocals and intensive choreography.
JUNGWON: I was most worried about doing the part where we jump during the chorus live. When we tried the choreography from beginning to end for the first time, we thought just dancing to it was already exhausting. There was still some talk about how we were going to manage the live performance. It was difficult perfecting the group dance because of how extreme it is. We took a lot of lessons with our instructor when we learned “Given-Taken,” but this time we made a promise among ourselves to get our timing just right. We got it by working together; I think it was a lot of help.
Unlike the lead single, “FEVER” sounds more like an R&B song. What kind of feeling were you going for with the vocals?
JUNGWON: When I first heard the demo version of “FEVER,” the vocals were so good and seductive that I did the parts I could and talked to the producer about the rest so we could change it a little to suit me better. I focused on adding little touches to my vocals like the vibrations and my breathing.
You’re known to practice the different gestures and facial expressions before performing on stage. What goes through your head when you practice?
JUNGWON: I think it’s natural to want to perform well. And it’s more about really wanting to perform perfectly than any specific reason for trying to gesture well. I’m not the only one who’s eager about performing well—everyone’s hard at work practicing their expressions, gestures, and dancing.
That reminds me: In an interview with Dazed, HEESEUNG said you know how to look at yourself objectively and improve your skills by practicing based on that.
JUNGWON: Because you have to really know yourself if you’re going to improve. When I say I’m objective, I’m not just saying that. I think I became more aware of who I am by listening to other people a lot, too.
When you were on I-LAND, you said you don’t express your feelings well. Are you able to express yourself better now?
JUNGWON: Well, I’m the leader anyhow, so I talk about good feelings, but really, there’s no need to talk about the bad stuff. So I don’t exactly talk about that kind of thing. It’s not really hard to be that way; I kind of got used to it. If it becomes a bigger issue in the future, I’ll have to find a solution.
How do you feel about taking on responsibility as the leader?
JUNGWON: Naturally there’s some pressure, but I’m not perfect, and I’m still one of the members of ENHYPEN. Plus I’m young, so I think I’m still in the learning stage. I don’t think the job of being leader is something you do alone. Usually people think of the leader as someone who guides from the front, right? Well, RM said something to me: A leader doesn’t pull from the front; they push from behind. That’s so inspirational that I still think about it.
But it can also be hard supporting all that weight from behind. Has the burden you talked about ENHYPEN&Hi become a little easier to manage?
JUNGWON: Much easier than back then. Before, being the leader, I didn’t know what to do for the other members, how to confront things, what exactly a leader even does—I felt like I couldn’t grasp the main points so I was having a hard time. But now I learned enough to know what I need to do, so it’ll slowly get better. And people trust me.
What does the leader of ENHYPEN have to do?
JUNGWON: All of us have a hidden soft side (laughs) so I think self-care is the most important thing for starters. As you can imagine, after living all together in the same place, it’s become clear there’s bound to be trouble sometimes. I think it’s better to stop it if they can’t control it themselves, but that the best way is for them to work it out among themselves. Otherwise it gets uncomfortable if someone just interrupts and makes a compromise without solving anything. So I think it’s important for the leader to just be there to listen to what happened. If you keep listening to them you’ll understand how to treat them and what you can do, you know? I get that. And handling everyone differently based on their personalities.
I think you need to be quick at understanding the members and the situation if you want to hear out and understand their problems. The members told Seventeen in an interview that you’re very attentive to other people’s needs.
JUNGWON: I can feel it in the air when someone’s in a bad mood. It’s pretty obvious when our members are (laughs) but I can tell quickly anyway. A lot of times when we have a meeting after practice and I bring up someone’s bad mood, they’ll ask me how I knew.
I see you take good care of the other members, but I imagine there are times when they take care of you as well. On ENHYPEN&Hi, you said you rely on JAKE the most.
JUNGWON: The number one reason for that is that I feel the most comfortable around him. When anyone’s around JAKE, they feel really optimistic. Somehow I feel energized when he’s around.
How were the cookies you and JAKE made for your birthday?
JUNGWON: Well, first, the cookies weren’t as bad as I expected them to be. They tasted kind of floury but they really weren’t bad at all. And we lied to the other members, saying we tried to bake cookies but messed up and then went out and bought some instead. Obviously they didn’t believe us. (laughs) But they said they weren’t bad, seriously.
We’ve seen you joking around with JAY a lot, like when you said he had a Doraemon hand on I-LAND, or on V LIVE when you talked about rock chic. How do you feel about JAY?
JUNGWON: I can tell JAY really cares about me. Sometimes I cross a line, and I feel sorry about that. He pays close attention to details and takes care of things but there are times when he can’t keep himself awake. He’s perfect other than that. (laughs) But, you know, everyone has their flaws. I think he can overcome it. (laughs)
After making TikTok videos as a group, you spent 30 minutes making your first solo video: “You’ve never seen JUNGWON like this before! Is that an arm or a leg?!!” What sort of videos do you want to upload from now on?
JUNGWON: I want to practice first and then show off my new moves. There’s so many things to dance to on TikTok. HEESEUNG uploaded one with “Savage Love.” I want to upload lots of videos that demonstrate my singing and dancing abilities.
In addition to TikTok, you use other social media like Weverse a lot.
JUNGWON: Yeah, because it’s fun to talk on there. (laughs) At first lots of people liked every post I made and left their own comments, which was amazing, and it was fun because, even if I just typed one insignificant post, people started having conversations about all kinds of different topics. Sometimes I see what fans post, too—like, one person says, “I’m going to school,” and another fan replies, “Have a good day!” It’s really cool when I think about how those conversations are happening on the ENHYPEN page.
Now that ENHYPEN have debuted, your birthday this year was the first you could celebrate with ENGENE.
JUNGWON: It was the strangest and most incredible thing in my life to be wished a happy birthday by over a million people. It was my first birthday since our debut and I’ll never forget it.
You finally had your first in-person fan meeting performance.
JUNGWON: I was pretty nervous since it was our first time, but everyone liked us so I felt much better. I didn’t even feel tired during the performance. The more experienced artists keep saying they have a harder time than before because everything’s online and I understand that now, because I felt the energy fans can give and now it’s suddenly gone again. We started without fans there so when they finally were there it really hit home.
You said on V LIVE that you want the group to be good enough that everyone understands why people want to become ENGENE. How do you plan to improve to make ENHYPEN something you can be really proud of?
JUNGWON: ENHYPEN didn’t debut very long ago so we’re not that well known yet, so I think we should work on making an image of ourselves as being really talented and good people before we become more famous. But personality is something you’re born with, of course, so rather than trying to change it, it’s better to be kind and to create positive energy as an idol and as a person.
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