Another long hiatus that lasted 1 year and 2 months, reorganization from 5 members to 4. Upon its release, WINNER’s third mini album, “FATE NUMBER FOR” wiped out all doubt that surrounded them and recorded first place on the iTunes Charts in 21 (latest count is 24) different countries.
Even now, two weeks since the release, “REALLY REALLY” refuses to drop from the top of the digital charts. We met with the two people who are at the center of all this talk, Kang Seungyoon and Kim Jinwoo of WINNER. We will suppress the urge to share all the details about how they were deeply natural with each other and how the melodies they hummed together matched so well. That is because it is unnecessary to talk about how WINNER is strong like they always have been and the fact that they still have much to show us.
I saw you two at a restaurant the other day. It was the day after the release of your album and the music videos for “FOOL” and “REALLY REALLY”.
SEUNGYOON: Oh, that was the day we went to eat nasigoreng and pasta!
It was fascinating. Your songs swept the charts and your music videos recorded ten million views in a day but you guys were eating lunch as if it was just another ordinary day. How did you feel?
JINWOO: The amount of attention and love we received for our debut album was unusual for a rookie group. We experienced many different things after that and after a long hiatus, we’re receiving so much love with our comeback so the greatest feeling we have right now is gratefulness.
SEUNGYOON: Oh, could you wait a second? Song Mino just video-called me saying that he wants to be interviewed with us. Hello? Hello? Oh, I can’t hear him well so I’ll hang up.
(Laughing) Is it really Mino?
SEUNGYOON: I just hung up (laughing) Like Jinwoo-hyung said, we received a lot of love with “Empty”, which was in our first album. Personally, I think I tried not to have much expectations for this album (FATENUMBERFOR). I put in the effort not to get excited even when our song got first place on the charts because it might drop soon after.
But even after 2 weeks have passed, it is still at the top of the charts. Is that satisfying?
JINWOO: It is very satisfying.
SEUNGYOON: I am a little satisfied? We were in a situation where we had to prove to people that it was possible for us to overcome the unfortunate things that happened to us and I think that’s been proven to some extent. Also, how it does on charts isn’t very important to me. I’m satisfied that our fans are liking our music.
You talked about which song you liked better in your V LIVE, right? I like “REALLY REALLY” a little more than “FOOL”.
JINWOO: Seungyoon made that.
Seungyoon took part in writing lyrics and composing the songs, right? And Jinwoo shouldered more weight as a vocalist. How did you feel when you listened to the songs for the first time?
JINWOO: Seungyoon usually sings the guide. He knows the color of our group and the vocal tones of the members so he makes songs that suit those things. Seungyoon took a large part in bringing a song that matches my voice well. I practiced and thought about how I should sing it but it feels like I didn’t need to prepare something more than my usual singing voice.
(Laughs) Aren’t you being too thankful to Seungyoon?
SEUNGYOON: I think the reason why “REALLY REALLY” is doing well is because all the members shine in it. For a group to get known by many people and to receive love, it is important for one member to really pull in the attention but the whole group getting shown is also important. I felt that this song could spotlight Jinwoo-hyung so I purposely put a lot of emphasis on Jinwoo-hyung’s parts. When someone thinks, “This person’s voice is pretty good,” then they can comfortably listen to the song while enjoying that vocalist.
Thanks to the start of the song, Jinwoo has also been called the “Where Are You Man” so it seems like what Seungyoon wanted is coming true.
SEUNGYOON: I’m personally very happy because Jinwoo-hyung’s voice tone and singing method and his other styles balance the song.
“REALLY REALLY” is a feel-good love song because it is really honest. Have you ever taken the step forward to honestly confess your feelings like the song?
JINWOO: I did have a time when I was innocent.
Do you think honestly confessing to someone would be difficult now?
JINWOO: No, I think I’ll always be like that…
SEUNGYOON: I didn’t write my experiences into the song. I just wanted to write the feelings I felt when I was very young. In a vague context. If you look at the lyrics, it doesn’t sound like a love story between adults. It has the vibes of a middle school student in a shoujou manga saying, “Where are you? I came because I missed you so come outside.” I purposely did not include the words, “I love you” in the lyrics. It’s not about loving someone, it’s about liking them.
Because you didn’t use strong words, it became a more lighthearted and innocent love song.
SEUNGYOON: It is also my style. I’m straightforward on a daily basis but when I’m confessing my feelings to someone, instead of saying, “I love you”, I say, “I like you” like a tsundere.
So it’s something like, “I love… I love… No, I like you”. On the other hand, “FOOL” is a breakup song. Excluding dating, what is the most regretful thing you have done?
SEUNGYOON: Hmm. You can say that we were at fault for our long hiatus after releasing our second album, “EXIT:E”. That is regretful to me. When I think about our fans who waited for such a long time, I become more regretful about that. I feel like I should’ve worked harder to do something. When I think about it now, I might’ve been blinded by the overwhelming response we got with our first album.
JINWOO: I regret small things. For example, if I had worked harder and studied a foreign language or learned how to play an instrument when we debuted, I would be really good at it now. I regret how I started learning how to play the drums but that has fizzled out now.
You learned the drums? Why?
JINWOO: There were no special reasons at first. But while I was learning it, I relieved stressed with it and my sense of rhythm improved too.
Talking about instruments reminds me about Seungyoon’s guitar. You were always with your guitar when you were on “Superstar K2”. What about now?
SEUNGYOON: I always have my guitars in my room but it’s been awhile since I properly played them. There is a preconceived notion that playing the guitar means that the person does rock or acoustic music. Because of that, I felt that WINNER’s music was getting discolored by me. It’s possible for people to think, “Kang Seungyoon probably does this kind of music. He plays the guitar so he probably can’t do that kind of music.” I wanted to avoid those kinds of obstacles when I’m promoting as WINNER. It is not like I didn’t practice at all but in the past year, I haven’t purposely used my guitar.
There are many people who look forward to your solo activities. Is the music you are working on right now going to influence solo activities?
SEUNGYOON: I think there will be some influence to an extent. Acoustic and rock music will not be completely gone. That type of music is one of the fields I can do. However, once WINNER solidifies as a group more, if I receive the opportunity for a solo album, I have an indefinite wish to title it, “Everything You Want” and include hip-hop, jazz, ballad, rock, and dance songs. I want to make an album that contains all kinds of music so that I can enjoy it, as the person making it, and so that people who listen to my album can enjoy it too.
Both of you are members who act. Jinwoo, do you have plans for any solo or acting activities in the future?
JINWOO: Hmm. Firstly, I’m still scared about challenging myself in releasing a solo song. I lack the certainty in knowing what song or style that will suit me best. I do think about continuing my acting. Since I started it, I want to properly work hard in it.
You made an unprecedented decision to perform in the Korea National Contemporary Dance Production of “The Little Prince” last December.
JINWOO: I really wanted to challenge myself in a new experience. When I was spending my days working out, taking lessons, practicing, and wanting to do something other than those things, I received a very good offer. I thought to myself that I needed to work really hard for it. The Seoul Arts Center stage is not a stage where even modern dancers perform on often. I also received a lot of stress because I was worried that I would be told “he’s like an idol”.
You two are part of a company that is known to make the most “hip” content in Korea. There are sub-labels of YG that produce subculture content too. Is there something you find interesting in the mainstream right now?
SEUNGYOON: DPR LIVE. I think he’s cool because he makes his own music, performs alone, produces videos alone, and just makes everything by himself. I also get inspired by what he makes.
JINWOO: I like DPR LIVE too and contemporary dance is fun too. It’s very liberating. I’m not saying this because I was in “The Little Prince”… (Laughing)
There are many WINNER songs that deal with loneliness and empty feelings. It is a universal emotion but are there times when you are more lonely because you are celebrities?
JINWOO & SEUNGYOON: Yes, very often.
JINWOO: It can’t be helped because there are always limitations on what people do every day and where people can go.
SEUNGYOON: I think celebrities are a little different from people who are recognized by others. We are aware that we are people who are recognized by other people, not celebrities. It’s not just about not keeping ourselves from drinking excessively or having harmless hobbies, we can’t easily do anything. In this context, we ended up growing apart from [non-celebrity] friends and the people who we can meet gradually become limited. It’s not like Jinwoo-hyung and I don’t contact our childhood friends at all but because we can’t meet each other comfortably like in the past, it feels like our surroundings are being compressed.
JINWOO: Once that happens, you naturally end up being alone most of the time. Even if I meet someone, it’s usually my members.
On top of that, both of your hometowns are far from Seoul. Jinwoo is from Imjado Island in Sinan and Seungyoon is from Busan. Do you guys like Seoul?
SEUNGYOON: We really love Seoul! There’s so many things to do here.
(Laughs) That’s a relief.
SEUNGYOON: There are many things to do but there’s not many things we can do. But I like shopping and I can do that to my heart’s content. Most of the friends I’ve met while working are in Seoul anyways so I’ve become comfortable with this city. It’s like my home.
JINWOO: There are really not many people on Imjado Island. I like Seoul because there are so many people. But I don’t like how there are many cars too.
You’ve been to many cities [in and out of Korea]. Is there a city you want to live in?
SEUNGYOON: We went to LA recently. Seunghoon-hyung says he wants to live in LA because the weather is nice and it’s relaxing. But if I were to choose between LA and New York, I would live in New York. For now, I like being in a busy place. I feel like if I live in a relaxing place, I would get depression. I think that’s because I don’t have a peace of mind yet.
JINWOO: I want to live in Sokcho. Unlike my hometown which is in the west coast of Korea, the east coast of Korea has really blue seas. When I saw it for the first time, I was really surprised. I thought I was overseas! I want to live in Korea while looking at a clean ocean. I don’t really like busy cities.
Your choice makes sense.
SEUNGYOON: But I still like Seoul best. New York is nice but Seoul is better.
JINWOO: That’s right. I like being in Korea the best.
I’m going to ask a heartwarming question. What are you to each other?
SEUNGYOON: You go first because you’re the hyung.
JINWOO: Hmm… I’ve been with Seungyoon for a long time. I’ve received a lot from Seungyoon but I’ve never directly thanked him before.
Then can you two say thank you to each other while looking into each other’s eyes?
JINWOO: Thank you, Seungyoon, really! I want to tell my other members thank you too. Hmm. I’m really thankful for them.
SEUNGYOON: I’m also thankful. I get lonely easily and even though we’ll probably live separately in a few years, I feel safe that my family lives with me. Jinwoo-hyung is more special to me because we’ve been together for the longest time.
JINWOO: When I look at Seungyoon, I feel really proud.
SEUNGYOON: Hyung raised me like a parent. When I joined YG, he took care of me a lot.
When Seungyoon joined YG as a trainee, he was already pretty famous but Jinwoo didn’t feel burdened by him?
JINWOO: I thought he would act like he’s all that but he wasn’t like that at all. Almost to the point where I found it fascinating.
SEUNGYOON: I really started from the bottom~
You two are more heartwarming than I expected. It’s a beautiful sight
JINWOO & SEUNGYOON: Thank you!
Translated by @CHRISSY96_| Scans by @GODUANDME5 ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆