HUH YUNJIN: “It’s okay to walk that road, even if it’s a winding one, as long as I’m with LE SSERAFIM”
LE SSERAFIM UNFORGIVEN comeback interview
HUH YUNJIN’s thoughts and feelings roll like waves off her tongue as she speaks, growing ever larger as they spread out into the wide-open ocean—deep and powerful, yet vast enough to embrace herself, her group and FEARNOT.
I saw before that you asked for anime recommendations on Weverse. Which ones are you interested in these days?
HUH YUNJIN: I was recommended Blue Period before. It’s about a painter who gives up on their dream. My friend recommended it because it reminded of me. I’m going to watch it when I get time. (laughs)
I feel like you have a lot of interest in visual and sensory things, animation included.
HUH YUNJIN: There was a time when I was young that I briefly dreamed of becoming a cartoonist, since I’ve always liked drawing. (laughs) I thought about that when I was doing the art for the most recent song I wrote. I don’t remember exactly why but, even since I was young, I’ve always been attuned to visual things and interested in creative work and making things. I even wrote stories and drew illustrations for them. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I was really into fantasy when I was younger so I wrote stories about vampires and werewolf girls. (laughs) Once I got older, I was more into poetry, so I started writing poems. I got into writing short stories and realistic romance stories too.
That explains why you like to read so much. I recall you also recommended essays on FIM-LOG.
HUH YUNJIN: I haven’t been able to read much lately but my mom sent me a Kindle so I’m going to keep that with me from now on and read with that. When I talk with someone, I’m really interested in their point of view and their approach to life. It’s fascinating getting to know other people. I guess that’s why I like essays and practical books I can learn from—books about how to live life, how to know yourself better and how to better understand others.
How have the things you’ve learned while reading influenced your life and experiences?
HUH YUNJIN: There’s so many beautiful, amazing things in the world now that I wish it were possible to experience them all in my lifetime. I think I’m really attracted to the idea that I can see things from different perspectives through books and music. I also get a lot of inspiration from reading fiction. The characters make me think in new ways. I can relate to emotions that I haven’t even experienced and I want to experience that feeling as much as possible.
We’ve seen that you’re good at expressing your accumulated thoughts and feelings through writing. That comes across especially well in the lyrics you write and the “Thanks to” message you write for the albums.
HUH YUNJIN: Sometimes when I write songs, I wonder if it’s okay to say the things I do, but I ended up just being open. Some of the things really happened, and some didn’t, but it was pretty stress-relieving to get it out in the open. (laughs) I wanted to express how I’m just like everybody else, living through the same times. I try to be completely transparent when I write thank-you notes. It’s a great opportunity to express my gratitude and I think I have to be honest if I’m going to make it resonate with people. So I always try to get everything down and express my true feelings. I haven’t been able to say everything I want to yet but I think I’m progressively able to reveal more and more.
The words you wrote in your “Thanks to” message for the debut album were so sincere that they were later used for the lyrics in the new song “Burn the Bridge.”
HUH YUNJIN: I was really, really proud. Everyone, including me, is part of a legacy that includes being influenced by and influencing others. The lyrics were beautifully written to reflect things my father has told me and I found it amazing and powerful that everything’s connected and we all influence each other.
What was it like coming back to things you had said a year ago?
HUH YUNJIN: Overall it’s the same but there are details that have changed. There’s little nuances, like what I wrote before about “a door locked shut”: No matter how much I knock, there’s no answer from the other side and the door doesn’t open. But in “Burn the Bridge,” it changed so that I open it by myself, which was really moving for me. I liked knowing I’m growing and forging my own path.
You must have found “Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s wife” equally moving. It reuses the words, “I’m a mess, mess, mess” that you wrote for “The Hydra” and that got used in that trailer.
HUH YUNJIN: Oh, it was absolutely unexpected and exciting. I think it has more dimension and depth to it. The words in the trailer were, “We don’t dress to impress,” but then in “Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s wife” it’s like, I don’t care what you think, I’m gonna dress this way. I felt stronger and more confident and I loved that. That part’s fast and repetitive so I was worried about the other members, so I practiced over and over with EUNCHAE when we recorded and I helped Kkura too. (laughs) They were really good so I think the song will turn out great. It’s one of my top-three songs on the album.
I’m guessing another is “FEARNOT (Between you, me and the lamppost).” (laughs)
HUH YUNJIN: Yes. (laughs) That song was already done by the time I started writing “Raise y_our glass.” First I wrote a melody and English lyrics over the track and then I recorded a demo. I did it while thinking about something I always say: “We were destined to be together.” I wrote the current lyrics as a very sincere letter about what we say to each other. I’m looking forward to gifting this song to fans and I hope they pay close attention to the lyrics.
I imagine it means even more to you since it’s the first song you’ve produced for LE SSERAFIM and because you collaborated with JUKJAE.
HUH YUNJIN: We worked together last year arranging the song, then he played the instruments on the track and we revised the melody and wrote lyrics together. It was my first time showing my work to someone outside the label so I was so nervous, but I still remember how proud I felt when he complimented me by saying, “You’re good at writing music. I think it’s got an emotion and style that’s unique to you.” I think the approach is a little different when you have to produce instead of just writing lyrics. I was more attached to the process and I was driven to try and perfectly convey what I had in my head right from the beginning. It made me want to make even better songs in the future and learn more too.
The title track, “UNFORGIVEN,” features guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers.
HUH YUNJIN: I thought, “This is so crazy! This’ll be perfect.” (laughs) He’s so cool. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was dreaming. We had a video call where our song was playing, and we were in Japan, and there was guitar from a world-famous guitarist going along with it, and the same producer we see practically every day was right there in the background. (laughs) The visuals and the sound—everything was just incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a single the way I do this one. I love that it’s hip hop and it’s great the way it samples The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme. I like the lyrics too.
What is it about the message in “UNFORGIVEN” that grabbed you?
HUH YUNJIN: I’m always more curious about and drawn in by the villain’s story than the hero’s. It’s like the hero is saying, I’m going to destroy you and save the world, but the villain’s saying, I’m going to destroy the world to save you. (laughs) The latter’s so interesting. And the villain wasn’t always a villain. I also like movies that are told from the villain’s perspective, like Maleficent. Like, I don’t care if I’m a villain or how the world sees me.
I think your choreography also reveals that kind of captivating villain you’re talking about.
HUH YUNJIN: I bend all the way back again in this song too. (laughs) The face I make for that part is key as well. It’s an expression of total hopelessness, like giving up completely—like, I’m all out of options. But then I switch back to the villain: Whatever, I’ll make my own way forward—even if that makes me the villain. I was determined to get all that across.
You always pull off tough moves like bending back or tumbling in LE SSERAFIM’s performances. Does that give you any pressure?
HUH YUNJIN: I didn’t realize it before but I think I like difficult and challenging things. It feels like a missed opportunity otherwise. I’ll think, Oh, I could probably do more than this. I think it’s best to just give things a try when you’re thrown a tough challenge. Even if it doesn’t always work out, I tend to think every experience is meaningful and influences me in a positive way. Without those experiences, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
That spirit of taking on challenges seems to be the core of LE SSERAFIM’s performances and sense of teamwork.
HUH YUNJIN: We always say, “When we’re given an opportunity, we have to try our best. We can’t have any regrets.” Opportunities don’t just appear. My view is that you have to be focused on the present. Obviously it’s not always easy. We’re only human. (laughs) When we were debuting, we couldn’t say anything to each other about having a hard time, but now that we’re closer, we say, “I’m exhausted. I wanna go home!” (laughs) But we still work hard. It’s still hard, but I think it shows real maturity when you work to overcome the difficulty instead of ignoring it. I feel so proud whenever I see how we’re like that and it gives me the strength to rise above even when things get tough.
I think the reason that culture of hard work is possible is that each of you is considerate in your own way. It’s like on LENIVERSE, how you react positively to the others’ ideas or how you cut up pork cutlet for everyone to eat.
HUH YUNJIN: I didn’t even really realize I was doing those things until fans started posting pictures and shorts. How do they even catch that stuff? (laughs) It’s not like I thought to myself, This is the right thing to do! (laughs) I just want to show off how cute everyone is and get people excited to see more from us.
It’s clear the other members feel deeply about your consideration toward them as well—for example, in K-Pop Generation, when you asked KAZUHA if she “felt excitement” about moving on from ballet.
HUH YUNJIN: Zuha and I have gone through a lot of similar things. Come to think of it, I used to get a bit serious whenever I had to talk about when I changed from classical singing to pop music or how I chose to come to Korea instead of going to college. But when I look back now, I wasn’t really that afraid. I was more excited to finally be taking steps toward achieving my dreams. I guessed that maybe Zuha felt the same way.
Where does your ability to understand others through your own experiences and having an eye for taking the lead come from?
HUH YUNJIN: Well, in a visible job like this, you can choose how to present yourself and then focus on that. But people are multidimensional and multifaceted. Of course people have emotions and parts of their personalities that they keep to themselves. The fact that people are aware of that makes me feel a lot better. So I think I want to become that kind of person as well—someone who can see that side of people—for the sake of the other members.
Based on what you said, it sounds like you place more importance on what’s inside a person than what’s on the outside.
HUH YUNJIN: I think I can resonate with people more the more I open up about myself. It’s always nice to be an influential artist, but I really want to be influential on a human level. I want to be like a safe space that people can relate to and come to for support—a person who, no matter how tired and worn out you feel, when you see me, your heart rate slows down and you can breathe a little easier, and you can figure out how to acknowledge yourself. I want to be that kind of person both for myself and for the people who give us their support. I really feel HUH YUNJIN the LE SSERAFIM member was made by FEARNOT. And I like who she is. (laughs) I’m thankful they think highly of me and embrace my shortcomings, and I like that version of myself, so I’m working on making my everyday self more like that—so that she and the HUH YUNJIN that FEARNOT rely on will be one and the same.
Is there a difference between those two versions of yourself in your mind?
HUH YUNJIN: I talked about this in my latest thank-you note, but I’m actually a really, really shy and anxious person. I’m not someone who’s overflowing with confidence and self-esteem. And I mean this honestly (laughs) but I think I have way more self-esteem now and I’m becoming closer to being that person thanks to FEARNOT, and I’m glad that’s happening. I feel like I really changed a lot since a year ago.
It seems like LE SSERAFIM means a lot to you for a variety of reasons. You said in K-Pop Generation, “I felt lost, and I was struggling before I joined LE SSERAFIM. I think it was LE SSERAFIM that grounded me.”
HUH YUNJIN: I think back then I was really confused about who I was and sometimes felt like I was losing myself while pursuing my dream. But it was all thanks to the group that I rediscovered myself and they helped me figure out who I was, who I am now and who I want to be from now on. It also made me realize I wanted to make my dreams come true as a part of LE SSERAFIM.
It sounds like the group helped you make your dreams come true without losing yourself.
HUH YUNJIN: Yes, I think so too.
Now that you’re done meandering, what kind of journey would you like to set out on for your next adventure?
HUH YUNJIN: I used to think, Why do I always have to walk a difficult road? But if I think about it, it’s because I have to take the difficult road to see, learn and feel more. I feel like it’s okay to walk that road, even if it’s a winding one, as long as I’m with LE SSERAFIM. Because we’re taking it together.
Article. Yoon Haein
Interview. Yoon Haein
Visual Director. Jeon Yurim
Coordinator. Oh Minji
Photography. LESS / Assist. Lee Sujeong, Park Sunseok
Artist Protocal Team. Kim Hyeongeun, Kim Ari, Son Nayeon, Shin Gwangjae, Kim Hyeonho, Park Hanul
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