According to SUNGHOON, your fate might be predetermined, but it’s you who must choose your own path and move forward. In the interview, SUNGHOON told a story of meeting the other ENHYPEN members, finding himself, and experiencing the kind of joy only found in dreams—all while following the path he’s set out for himself.
You seem to share lots of hobbies with the other members, like chess, skiing and fishing. What have you been doing the most lately?
SUNGHOON: These days I play chess whenever I’m bored, but only JAKE and I are serious about it. (laughs) And May 5 was a day off, so I went to a mall with him, NI-KI and JUNGWON. We picked clothes out for each other.
You spent time together even on your day-off. (laughs)
SUNGHOON: If one of us wants to do something, we ask each other, like, “Anybody wanna go shopping today? Anybody wanna go skiing?” And if anyone’s interested, we go together. Everything’s more fun together and the same is true for our days-off. We are members of the same group, but also friends… so that makes us… companions? (laughs)
You’ve talked about how you argued one-on-six with those companions (laughs) during the early days of your debut on The K-Star Next Door 3.
SUNGHOON: Everything was new and it was our first time for everything, so I think we were all under a lot of stress deep down. I went about my day not knowing how stressed I was, then it came spilling out all at once. I didn’t have time to unload my pent-up emotions and I didn’t know myself that well back then either. But these days I deal with stress by doing whatever I want on days-off, and I try to regulate my emotions and give myself more time to organize my thoughts. I think getting to know myself is the hardest part of it all, but that too, has gotten much better than before. (laughs)
How do you go about expressing your feelings to the other members these days? In a behind-the-scenes video from your concert in New York, when you expressed your gratitude toward HEESEUNG, he said, “Wow, you usually don’t say stuff like this. Because you’re shy.”
SUNGHOON: I’m trying to express myself more than I used to. But what I consider to be sufficient might be different from what other people think. (laughs) I express only what I think should be expressed, and think everything else through on my own. Everybody gets annoyed or angry sometimes—I just think it’s important to consider whether you’re thinking rationally at the moment. That’s still a hard thing to do … (laughs) I think it’s best just to watch and wait in such situations.
In 2022 ENniversary MAGAZINE, you said you learned how to “loosen up bit by bit” as you became more comfortable with the other members, the staff and ENGENE.
SUNGHOON: I feel comfortable making other members laugh (laughs) but it’s harder with people I’m meeting for the first time. The part in the trailer where I had to make someone laugh was the most challenging part of the whole shoot. (laughs) That’s why I was really grateful that Park Sunghoon—the actor—came up to me first when we first met. I remembered how dismayed I was that I wasn’t able to get a picture with him before, for I suggested we film a TikTok together, and we actually did. It was great. It was fascinating to watch someone I’d only seen on TV acting right in front of me. But it was a bit hard to figure out what I should do at first since I’m not an actor. (laughs)
You tried acting in the DARK BLOOD concept trailer though. (laughs)
SUNGHOON: Yeah … (laughs) The director really helped me get into character during filming. I was instructed to “not try to act,” and keep my face emotionless like bodyguards do. Those directions made me feel more at ease since all I had to do was put on a blank face.
There were many action sequences in the trailer. What was that like?
SUNGHOON: I found doing stunts similar to dancing. I practiced throwing punches over and over to make it look natural and then learned how to time it with another person. You have to take the moves you practiced then coordinate with the other person as to when to throw and dodge so that it’s back and forth. You have to remember what was coordinated, like I punch and JUNGWON dodges, then JUNGWON kicks and I dodge. Stretching out your arm into a punching pose is just another way of using the body, and so is swinging a sword. The difference with dancing is that you can’t make it look rehearsed. I didn’t want it to look entirely choreographed so I tried to make it look as natural and as cool (laughs) as possible.
Conveying the right emotions and the feel must be important for your single “Bite Me.”
SUNGHOON: Absolutely. I like that the idea behind this album is quite explicit. I tried to immerse myself in the concept while I was dancing and singing. We have to do more than just dance with precision when performing “Bite Me”—it’s also important that we get the right mood across. It felt a little awkward at first and I had a lot to think through.
How did you make sure to land it in the end?
SUNGHOON: I thought hard about how to bring the concept to life during the hook after the second verse, when I’m in the center. I like my dancing to look clean. So when I was practicing, I focused on accentuating the mood of the song while also making sure I didn’t add any needless movement. It’s all about eliminating sloppy motions while still allowing the wow factors to come through, like facial expressions and hand gestures.
So you took things a step further while still holding onto your personal style. Was there anything you had to consider that carefully with respect to your vocals?
SUNGHOON: These days I’m trying to find my own vocal style, so I experimented a lot. I sang the hook in the lead single using a voice I never used before. I was able to find a different style that way. My focus used to be on making sure my voice doesn’t sound thin, but this time I thought of my vocals as a stylistic choice and tried to mix and match different tones for variety. I tried to sing each song in as many different styles as possible.
Your efforts certainly pay off in parts like “Dance the dance of death / Drunk in arrogance,” in the song “Chaconne,” where you effortlessly switch between your normal voice and falsetto.
SUNGHOON: I think my vocal cords have improved a bit after singing so much and performing at concerts. (laughs) Touring really helped.
Can you feel yourself improving?
SUNGHOON: Yes! Because we’ve done so many shows. You are bound to improve when you do it so much. I’ve definitely gotten better at getting in the flow of the performance, as well as singing live, dancing, striking poses and facial expressions. I think I have more bandwidth now to think things through, and my skills have improved overall. I’ve come to realize just how important experience is. I think the tour was a positive turning point for us in many ways.
In the interview you did with Weverse Magazine during your debut, you said you “want to put on amazing performances” and “develop a kind of an aura.” Do you feel like you fulfilled those expectations during your first tour?
SUNGHOON: Being on stage is the most fun thing in the world. It’s challenging (laughs) but still, nothing is more fun. These days I’m really itching to get back up on stage and perform our new songs. Other than the single, I’m looking forward to performing “Karma” the most. It’s similar to “SHOUT OUT” but even more energetic in a way, so I have a feeling that ENGENE will love it too.
During the encore for your concert in Seoul, you said, “I only ever dreamed of putting on a concert, and now that we’re actually here, I’m so grateful.”
SUNGHOON: When we had to perform without a live audience, there were times when I found my energy level dipping if I didn’t stay vigilant. I had no idea what it felt like to have an actual audience right in front of me. But now that I’ve experienced ENGENE being right in front of me, I don’t think I could ever go back to the old ways. I think it would be quite boring. It was okay before because I didn’t know any better, but just one taste of that energy, and now I can relate to what other artists had been telling us.
Was there anything different between your tour and when you performed at the KPOP.FLEX festival in Germany?
SUNGHOON: When it’s our own concert, everyone’s there to see us only, so it feels like we’re all one—like we’re all connected. I do get a little nervous at the start of each show (laughs) but once I hear people cheering, I go overboard without even realizing it. So I’ll find myself being even more energetic than usual, but that’s just because I’m having so much fun.
You did another interview with Weverse Magazine about figure skating where you described the sensation of successfully executing a move you had been practicing as “thrilling.” Is that similar to how you feel when you go overboard on stage?
SUNGHOON: When I used to figure skate, I just … I think I liked it because of the sense of accomplishment it gave me. The feeling I get from performing is different. It’s just fun to sing and dance while everybody cheers us on.
If it was the sense of accomplishment that kept you going as a figure skater, then what pushes you forward now?
SUNGHOON: It’s got to be ENGENE. ENGENE. And actually, I don’t think I could even have that much fun if it weren’t for ENGENE. And I imagine that the emotions I’m currently experiencing will only get more intense if more people start to like us. What makes me feel loved the most is when I see people react to our performances or concept photos. It’s been a long time since our last comeback, so reading comments saying “I waited 10 months for this and it was worth it,” made me feel so proud. It makes me feel loved and wanting to push myself harder towards our group’s goals.
So what’s your goal now?
SUNGHOON: Umm … I think my goal is for even more people to like us. I don’t think goals have to always be measurable or concrete. If we manage to be loved by more people, then other achievements will naturally follow.
So love is your goal- it’s reminiscent of the story of your album where a boy learns of his destiny and sings about love.
SUNGHOON: I believe in destiny too. Maybe not destiny to be exact, but … serendipity? The way I see it, destiny and serendipity are similar. They cannot be forced.
What makes you believe in destiny?
SUNGHOON: Obviously my decisions helped lead me this far, but if I’m being honest, not everyone who does training will go on to debut. Some people who are really good never debut only because luck failed them. Seeing that strengthens my conviction that destiny or serendipity could be very much real. But I also believe that at the end of the day, it all starts with you. Surely there are external forces, like luck, that could influence the outcome of my path. But I believe my efforts will lead me to an even better outcome.
It’s like the lyrics in “Karma”: “No matter what they say about fate / I don’t give a what.” You also gave some advice to a 20-year-old ENGENE on Weverse Live: “The way to be truly happy is to do what you want,” and that it’s important to have “a clear goal.”
SUNGHOON: I feel like my generation has lots of options when it comes to achieving their dreams. No matter what they want to be, there’s so many different paths to success. You can be a K-pop singer, an entertainer or master a skill. So I don’t think you have to force yourself to do something you don’t want to just because you are told to. Life’s much more fun when you do something you like.
And why do you feel that people need a clear goal?
SUNGHOON: Because once you’ve decided on a path, you’ve got to excel at it. If you place all your bets on one thing, you have no other choice but to work hard at it. So it’s better to set big goals and give your best shot- you might miss the moon, but at least you will land among the stars.
Are you happy with where things are now?
SUNGHOON: I am happy. There’s still a lot I need to work on but I think I’m headed in the right direction.
A better direction?
SUNGHOON: Yes. (laughs)
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