HUENINGKAI flapped his arms as he talked about BEOMGYU’s pet, Toto, and answered each interview question enthusiastically between bursts of that characteristic laugh of his. Then, all at once, he calmly and quietly revealed what he’s most passionate about right now: “These days, what I’m most passionate about is getting ready for promotions.”
It seems like there’s a lot about this comeback that’s different from your past comebacks. You finally held an in-person fanlive event a little while back, for one.
HUENINGKAI: MOA still had to wear masks and weren’t allowed to cheer, but I had no trouble seeing the love they have for us in their eyes. There were more times in the past where we couldn’t see them than when we could. I went out onto the thrust stage at the fanlive to say hi to MOA and it made me feel like a singer again.
You were quite busy even before the comeback, weren’t you? You released a cover of “Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne in February.
HUENINGKAI: Not only was I covering a song by a singer I liked when I was young, but it was also my dream because “Sk8er Boi” is one of the songs you have to do if you make a band. If I remember correctly, BEOMGYU performed the song when he was in a band, too. I thought it would be nice since we were about to do “Good Boy Gone Bad,” another rock-ish song.
That’s practically a spoiler about the genre of “Good Boy Gone Bad.” You dropped a spoiler for the new album at 2021 MMA [Melon Music Awards], too.
HUENINGKAI: We give different little spoilers for our upcoming albums at every awards ceremony. The dance break YEONJUN did at the 36th Golden Disc Awards that he also did for STUDIO CHOOM was a preview of what kind of feel the new album has, too. A young, innocent man finds inspiration somewhere and changes in a way that he wants to become a star, wants to be cooler, wants to be a kind of bad boy, which really suits the vibe of the whole album and the rock feel of the lead single. The reason I chose “Bad Man” out of all of RAIN’s songs to perform for KBS Song Festival was that it is a perfect fit for our album. And actually, as I recall, “Bad Man” and “Candy” were really well received, so I guess that was all part of the label’s big picture. (laughs)
I get that vibe from you from your TikTok, too. For example, you did one video where you asked MOA not to compare themselves to others, and another where you did the “Eat with Me” challenge.
HUENINGKAI: I keep shooting those videos because I want to bring them comfort, first and foremost, and with the hope that they don’t have overly negative thoughts. I guess you could say it’s a simple thing, but I’m happy that I’m helping MOA find some comfort through it. And we were only ever showing ourselves on stage, but I’m sure once or twice MOA wondered what we do when we’re not on stage and what we do behind the stage. I thought it would be new if we showed a different side of ourselves or something closer to everyday life.
Maybe that’s why, in one X:TIME video, there was a clip where BEOMGYU told you that the dance lesson was canceled and you said you would still stay and practice. Did you really?
HUENINGKAI: No. (laughs) But that was in the middle of the dance lesson, so I practiced hard after that.
We’ve seen you wear those same clothes you wore in that video ever since you debuted.
HUENINGKAI: I like hoodies and comfortable pants, personally, and I usually wear the same pair of shoes for a pretty long time, so I wear a zip-up hoodie with workout clothes and those shoes. When I had to quarantine, MOA said, “I miss HUENINGKAI,” and posted a photo of a zip-up hoodie, track suits and shoes, and then when I came back home and I really was wearing exactly the same kind of clothes they said, “Nothing about him has changed.” (laughs)
You’re talking about the video where TAEHYUN welcomed you back, aren’t you? (laughs) You could feel how much you care about each other, even though it was a short video. When you were making gingerbread houses on TO DO X TXT and yours collapsed, TAEHYUN comforted you and said, “You always have a plan,” and YEONJUN made a car out of marshmallows for you.
HUENINGKAI: I can still see in my mind the four of them all making incredibly nice houses, while the instant I touched mine, it all came crumbling down, so I was like, What should I do? YEONJUN was sitting right next to me, and he suggested we try it another way, and then made that car for me. I’m so thankful for YEONJUN. He’s always helping me out. And the other members help me all the time, too. TAEHYUN is my roommate and gives me an answer to anything I’m curious about, and I also learned a lot about how to speak better from him—maybe because we did the radio show Youth Communication Project: Listen together. SOOBIN’s been there for me since we were trainees, and BEOMGYU did so much for me in Daegu, too.
Yes, you went to Daegu to BEOMGYU.
HUENINGKAI: BEOMGYU is from Daegu, so I was really curious what sort of place it was. I ate honey rice cakes and all the other foods they’re famous for and put on two kilograms. The other members tried lifting me up after that and said, “That was hard!” (laughs) And I met Toto, who helped wake us up with the sound he made by lightly flapping his wings.
Sometimes you look out for the other members as well. In the episode “Chef Kang’s Cooking Secrets,” when the other members were trying to get BEOMGYU to eat shrimp, you told him, “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t feel like it.”
HUENINGKAI: I don’t like Dippin’ Dots ice cream, for example. (laughs) It’s not something I really like to eat, since I got a stomachache from eating it before, so I think that’s why I said he didn’t need to eat it—because I know what it feels like.
SOOBIN has said you’re at your finest when you see one of the other members is feeling tired and worn out and you inch your way over to give them a hug.
HUENINGKAI: I feel sad whenever I see someone who’s tired or sleeping and I want to be able to at least do something for them. If someone’s sleeping on the sofa or in the green room, it’s a small but helpful act to cover them with a blanket—one that can help them sleep better, I think. Or, if one of them looks like they’re having a hard time, I pat their back or hug them. I really hope it’s comforting to them, even if just a little. And conversely, there’s lots of times where I’m the one who’s tired or asleep and the other members cover me with a blanket, and times where they pat me on the back, too.
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