How is your companion parrot, Toto?
BEOMGYU: Toto’s good. I suppose he must feel a bit chilly with the weather getting colder.
How did you come to have Toto as a pet?
BEOMGYU: I think it was about 10 years ago. Right? (to Toto) How old are you again? (laughing) After begging and begging, my brother and I were allowed to bring a puppy home on my mother’s birthday. Her birthday is on the second of June, so that’s what we named the puppy: June. Every time I came home from after-school classes, I would say, “I’m home!” and petted him. He was adorable. But maybe two days after we brought him home, my parents said we couldn’t keep him because we didn’t have the time to give him our full attention. I was so sad that I held June in my arms and cried for nearly eight hours. We later found Toto and luckily my mother could take good care of him even when she was at home alone. At first it felt a bit strange, but when Toto sat on my hand or shoulder, I became attached to him.
That was a long time ago now. Has Toto had any influence on you while growing up together?
BEOMGYU: No, not really. We each live our own separate lives to our fullest. (laughing)
You’re living your own lives, aren’t you? (laughing) In the “VR” version concept photo, your ID is Angel313.
BEOMGYU: In the photo, my job is “healer”—that’s where the “Angel” part comes from—and my birthday is on March 13, so I added “313” to the end. In gaming, the healer is the most important role. One time, while gaming with YEONJUN, he said he would take care of everything and beat all the enemies. I told him, “That’s why the healer is the most important. Who’s going to help you if you die?” But YEONJUN insisted he didn’t need me, and that I should hide behind him and just stay put. (laughing) So I brought SOOBIN over and asked, if we all fought together, who would be the most important. And SOOBIN said, of course it’s the healer. My point exactly. (laughing)
Is there any member who you think needs healing? (laughing)
BEOMGYU: SOOBIN. Yesterday he told me that he had a stomach ache. He says it comes from eating too much starchy food. He loves bread, you know. He ate too much so I saw it coming. There is a reason for the saying “everything in moderation.” (laughing) Joking. I hope he gets better soon.
Speaking of YEONJUN, there’s a dance move at the beginning of “Blue Hour” where you two dance together.
BEOMGYU: There’s this part where we had to look at each other, but at first I couldn’t look at him at all. I guess it was … embarrassing? (laughing) Then I looked at him like a professional and it was fine from then on. Now? No problem! (laughing)
When I heard how “Ghosting” and “Wishlist” are guitar-heavy rock songs I figured it was your influence.
BEOMGYU: After listening to the demo version of “Ghosting” I was amazed. I couldn’t believe that we would be recording this kind of song. (laughing) I really liked the ’80s and ’90s flair. I listen to the music of that era with my father all the time.
You’re listening to songs like ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” or Billy Joel’s “Vienna,” right? But “Vienna” is from 1977.
BEOMGYU: My father used to race cars for fun, and there were some songs I got to listen to when we rode together early in the morning. Later on, when I was in Seoul for training and missing my parents a lot, the music we used to listen to together came to mind. I looked up the songs on streaming sites and listened along while reading the lyrics to all of them. The ABBA lyrics, though, I already knew.
It seems fair to say you’ve been heavily influenced by your father’s tastes.
BEOMGYU: The reason I’m playing guitar and listening to all the rock and pop music I listen to now is all because of my father. He’s also the reason I became an idol. He told me to become someone who can stand in the spotlight. Coincidentally, today is my parents’ wedding anniversary. I’m really busy so I wasn’t able to talk with them yet, but when this is over, I’ll have to call up my father. (laughing)
BEOMGYU: I have this curse where I always get a sore throat or a cold on the day before any major recording. Before the recording my voice is great and I’m on key, but on the actual day I get sick and my voice starts to quit on me. It really bothers me when I can’t perform at my peak. I was really hard on myself when first learning the choreography for “Blue Hour,” too. I tend to get angry at myself when I don’t perform well. But I got better at it, so I’m not worried.
You seem to be very strict with yourself.
BEOMGYU: I tend to cry when I’m angry at myself or when I can’t accept something rather than when I’m sad. In my trainee days I once cried during choreography lessons because I was slower at memorizing the moves than the others were. But looking back, I was likely being overly strict with myself. I usually think of myself as a free spirit, but in a way I’ve set up a lot of rules for myself to follow.
You once said in another interview that the biggest change you underwent was an increased determination to give a perfect performance.
BEOMGYU: I’m very intense when it comes to performing on stage. Just before I go on, I go through the motions in my head, and I need silence while I concentrate. And when I do make mistakes, I don’t just laugh it off or joke about it; if there’s something wrong, I think it’s better to talk about it seriously and keep reworking at it than to laugh about it. Every performance has to be perfect.
Your standards are very high.
BEOMGYU: Right, so I was the last trainee to make it in. The time I made my biggest leaps and jumps in self-improvement was when I had to stay up every night for nearly a full month for the monthly elevation. I heard that if you manage to practice all night you make better progress. My mantra became, “You’re only as much as you practice.” I heard others say Jimin must’ve practiced a lot because he was the last to join BTS, and that V put a ton of effort into practicing facial expressions and poses. Everyone is born with unique talents but even those have to be worked on if you’re going to bring out the best in yourself.
I heard that while managing both training and school you were writing music on only three hours of sleep.
BEOMGYU: Those days, my whole life was dance lessons, vocal lessons, writing songs, washing up at home, going to school, then back to lessons. Just repeating that over and over again. Writing songs was the only way to express myself and manage the stress. Had I lived in Daegu I would have hiked some mountains, but Seoul is so densely packed with buildings that there’s no space to release your tension.
Are there any songs you wrote recently to express how you’re feeling?
BEOMGYU: I was looking up at the sky, a pink sky. It was really beautiful, just like in “Blue Hour,” and even when I wrote this other song was the same time of the day as in our title song. I loved that moment so much; I haven’t felt that kind of comfort while writing a song in a long time.
On Weverse, you wrote in your diary about walking through the sandy schoolyard during your student days. It made me think that these seemingly trivial moments mean a lot to you.
BEOMGYU: Hiking up mountains at dawn and driving to an observatory to watch the stars with my family—these are the sort of memories that are deeply engraved in my heart. I suppose those memories will never fade, and I certainly wouldn’t want them to. I also have happy memories from junior high. My friends and teachers and everyone at my academies were all good people who always made me smile. But anyway, idol life is preventing me from having a proper high school experience, so my junior high memories are all the more important to me.
BEOMGYU: I’m looking forward to not having to wake up in the morning. (laughing) When the older members have downtime, they normally wake up around noon or one, but the younger members and I need to go to school, so we have to wake up at seven in the morning. It takes two hours to get to school and back.
What do you normally do during that time?
BEOMGYU: I mostly sleep. (laughing) Once the seat heater is on, I sleep. I even turn it on in summer. If my mind is racing then I’ll put in earphones and listen to music.
What kind of music do you normally listen to?
BEOMGYU: My new hobby is looking up new music, so lately I’ve been listening to some foreign artists. For Korean artists, I think ADOY’s music is cool. I tend to listen to downbeat songs, and I like the unique feel and atmosphere of their songs.
How do you usually write songs?
BEOMGYU: To start, I compose a simple melody and write in the guitar lines. After that, the voices of the other members come in and our producer Slow Rabbit mixes it all together to perfection. I often talk with the producer about where I think something might sound good or about other ideas I come up with. Actually, two of my songs were up for consideration for the “Blue Hour” B-side. They didn’t quite fit the general atmosphere, though, so they were left off the album.
That's a pity. It would’ve been nice had they been included.
BEOMGYU: Well, there’s always next time. Every album has its own direction. If my songs fit that direction then they’ll use mine, and they’ll use songs from the other members if those fit better. Our producer even said my songs weren’t included on this album but if they fit the next one then let’s put them in. I said, “cool.” And that’s how it goes. Everyone should just play it cool. (laughing)
You produced the song “Maze in the Mirror” from The Dream Chapter: ETERNITY, which is all about your experience leading up to your debut.
BEOMGYU: Right, and the title was just “Maze” initially. I wrote it when I was in a really, really deep slump. The original melody was different from the final version. After I got the guitar lines down, I went to the producer’s room and we bounced some ideas around. He really liked the song and suggested we make it a group effort. I needed to go to school and it normally takes just three minutes to get to the residence, but that morning I took a 30-minute walk to listen to my new song on repeat. It was really comforting to listen to. Then I gave the other members the details: what the title was, how I chose it, what I was thinking and feeling when I wrote it, what kind of lyrics I needed them to add, etc. Later, everyone contributed their own lyrics and the best ones were combined to make “Maze in the Mirror.”
YEONJUN said whenever he listens to this song it brings him to tears.
BEOMGYU: If I wasn’t able to release that song and then come back to Daegu and listen to it, then I might have cried as well. But I prevailed, and now I can say I released a song all about the hard times I went through to make it to where I am now. I’m not only proud of that song but also very relieved it all came together.
BEOMGYU: Actually, I never had any problems with my friends. But there are moments when even positive people feel sensitive or become weighed down by their thoughts. As I mentioned before, it happens to me when I’m about to go on stage. And when I’m depressed, it’s like the lyrics say in “9 and Three Quarters (Run Away)”: Everybody in the world seems to be happy, except me. I could very much relate to those lyrics.
You played the ostracized main character in the Japanese music video for “Drama.”
BEOMGYU: At first the plot seems to be about friends, but then it’s actually about being an outcast. The story highlights the difference between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. I tried to express how distressed I would feel if that were me. In order for me to get into that feeling, the other members helped out by teasing me with a basketball, which we used as a prop, saying things like, “You want to play too, I bet.” (laughing) They supported me by creating an atmosphere that let me explore my sense of empathy.
You seem to be really close to the others.
BEOMGYU: They mean everything to me now. Every day we’re together is different, and we seem to be good at keeping each other in good spirits.
What did you talk about when you were preparing for the album?
BEOMGYU: We talked about getting back to basics. Things like, “Let’s pretend like we just made our debut and are releasing our first album.” It used to be that, when one of us would think of something, that person would have trouble speaking up because they were worried the group’s opinions might be different. But we realized it’s best just to be open with one another and give everyone their chance to speak.
You don’t seem to be the kind of person who opens up first.
BEOMGYU: In the midst of writing “Maze in the Mirror,” SOOBIN first came up to me in the studio. I remember he was also going through a lot, like me. He was writing lyrics and he suggested we write the lyrics together by taking turns. That was how our conversation started and then we wound up talking about some of our problems. It gave me a lot of comfort. I’m not very good at bringing up difficult topics, so when someone really knows me and starts the conversation, I’m very thankful. Luckily SOOBIN always shows up when I need that sort of friend. (laughing)
BEOMGYU, what kind of person do you want to be?
BEOMGYU: (in deep thought) A warm person. My lifelong motto is “live positive.” But as I go through my daily schedule and spend time together with the other members, I sometimes see a very young side of me I didn’t know was there. I would like to be more mature and become the sort of person who’s warm to the people around me.
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